MAC Chat: An interview with Mark Carlson, Star Clippers

by Sheona 6/15/2010 5:23:00 AM

A series of 5 minute interviews featuring travel industry leaders. 



This week's MAC Chat features our interview with Mark Carlson, Director of Marketing for Star Clippers. 

For more information:

What makes your cruise line unique from others?
Star Clippers is a cruise line that operates a fleet of authentic tall ships. The unique four- and five-masted vessels boast wide-open decks and the thrill of cruising under sail. Yet the ships have all of the modern luxuries travelers have come to expect. 

The size of the ships — they carry just 227 or 170 passengers — enables them to call at lesser-visited ports and exclusive harbors that the larger ships can’t visit, allowing guests to become totally immersed in the regions we explore.

Water sports also play a big part in our experience. With plenty of water time on many of our itineraries, guests can take advantage of complimentary water sports directly from the ships’ aft marina – including snorkeling, water skiing and wind surfing; and Star Clippers also offers scuba instruction. 

On our ocean crossings, Star Clippers even allows guests to go for a swim in the middle of the ocean, weather permitting, of course!

What destinations do you visit?
Our itineraries are extremely diverse. There’s something for everyone, from tropical to historical to nature infused. 

In the summer, all three ships explore the eastern and western Mediterranean, calling at ports in Italy, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Spain, Morocco, France and Turkey, to name a few.

Come winter, Star Clipper and Royal Clipper cruise the Caribbean, while Star Flyer heads to Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua.

We also offer grand ocean crossings that are about more than simply getting from here to there — they are journeys that allow guests to experience the thrill of traversing an ocean under sail, to look out onto the horizon and see nothing but a blue backdrop behind the billowing sails. 

What should clients expect to experience on your ships?
A Start Clippers cruise is like taking a vacation on your own, private mega-yacht — with 170 or 227 of your closest friends. On board, guests dress in resort-casual attire and dine in a single, open seating. And passengers are exposed to an authentic clipper ship experience, whether they enjoy the bowsprit net suspended over the sea, attend a knot-tying class, help raise and lower the sails or climb the mast for a panoramic view.

Staterooms are elegantly appointed, with all the amenities one has come to expect from a fine resort. The decor is tastefully traditional. Guests will find the accouterments of a luxurious classic yacht. Burnished brass fittings and mahogany brightwork recall our nautical heritage. Soft natural fabrics reflect the colors of the sun, sea and sky. Prints of famous clipper ships and sailing yachts grace the walls.

Most days guests can be found lounging on our expansive teak decks with swimming pools and plenty of space to relax and read a good book.

What are your key selling features?
Authentic sailing adventure. 
Just 170 or 227 pampered guests. 
All the modern amenities of a private mega-yacht. 
International cuisine complemented by fine wines. 
Dine with whomever and whenever you want. 
Casual, relaxed ambience – no need to dress up. 
Off the beaten path ports of call. 
Sail in full harmony with the environment. 
No crowds or long lines. 
Full range of water sports. 

Who are the best target customers for travel agents?
Passengers who love to sail or who are looking for adventure. Passengers looking for an intimate experience. We offer a unique vacation, from the type of ships we operate to the intimate mature of our line. Also, travelers who are social. We do not have a casino or show lounge on our ships. The evening entertainment may consist of local performers coming on board or music from our on-board musician, but most of the time our guests socialize with each other in the Tropical Bar in the evening. Our guests are extremely friendly and by the end of the voyage everyone knows each other.

Thank you Mark for that great interview!





MAC Chat: An interview with MailPound's May MVP, Craig Stevens Corey of Craig Corey Vacations

by Sheona 6/8/2010 7:26:00 AM

A series of 5 minute interviews featuring travel industry leaders. 



This week's MAC Chat features our interview with MailPound''s May MVP, Craig Stevens Corey of Craig Corey Vacations.. 

In 1995 you won "Best Office Design in the Nation" from Travel Weekly Magazine's annual Travel Agency Achievement Awards. What attracted you to the renovated loft space off the beaten track? 
When I worked for another agency, one of my customer's, James Dodd Brown, a brilliant architect, took me to lunch. He had just purchased this old warehouse building and was in the process of converting it to a loft space. He invited me to launch my own agency and be a tenant there. I resisted. Jim had been terminally ill, and a year later he died. I then heard that the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitor's Bureau was going to move their offices into the building. I was getting antsy to move on at my existing job, so I contacted Jim's business partner and she met me at the building. It was so hip and beautiful! I rented the last space right-then-and-there, and gave her $100 as a deposit. I knew I needed to make the office really different from other travel agencies, so I flew to New York and went on a shopping spree at Conran's which at that time was in the Citcorp building (today it's The Conran Shop at ABC Warehouse), buying furniture and objets and had the stuff shipped to Lansing. It turned out to be really worth it. 

Why did you decide to become involved in the travel industry and were you in a different industry prior?
 I was an "office boy" at a well-known travel agency during my senior year in high school. I ended up being accepted at Michigan State University in my hometown, Lansing/East Lansing. So, my boss encouraged me to become a travel agent, and go to school at the same time. So I juggled work and school and supported myself until I graduated from college. It took a lot longer because I was also doing an amazing amount of foreign travel at the same time. The agency I worked for was "leisure oriented" and believed the agents should be well-traveled and knowledgeable because it would ultimately translate to "sales". So, I was in a lucky space. When I finally graduated from MSU, I really wanted to leave Lansing, but realized that over the years I had developed a healthy, loyal clientele. At about that time, the company I worked for was sold to a corporate agency from Ann Arbor who had a different philosphy about travel. They were 100% corporate. It wasn't my cup of tea, so I knew I had to skidaddle! And that's when I decided to venture out on my own. When I opened my doors on November 1st, 1991, I could not believe the flood of calls, and the customers that had intentionally waited for me to open (I had sent announcements, but as per "non-compete clause" protocol I was unable to "invite" them to my agency) so they could book their trips! It was so exciting. And of course that will never happen again!

What is the best marketing technique that you use to reach your clients and how do you get them to become repeat clients? 
You have to give "uber, lengendary, outstanding, amazing, remarkable, impressive" customer service! This is what brings them back most of the time. And right now customers are so mind-boggled with all the garbage on the internet that it's not that hard to hook them. I also send out weekly e-mail blasts that advertise the gamut of travel from bargains in Cancun to trips to Outer Space. The outer space trip cost $1.2 million dollars and I sent it out last year when the market was so pitiful. I anticipated that I'd receive some angry protest, but instead I received feedback from customers suggesting that at best they were "vicarious" travelers and loved the info, or enjoyed discussing it at cocktail parties! The point is, it creates imagery that brings people to you, that makes them remember. Half the time when I advertise, I receive responses from people asking about entirely different trips, but because that ad appeared in their e-mail box at the right time, it reminded them to contact me! 

What do you enjoy the most about this industry and what is your best advice for travel agents just beginning their career? 
Even after all these years (34 of them!) I find that I am still drawn to the mystique of travel. And I still think about places I'd like to go. When I'm selling a destination confidently, it's second-nature to become enthused, and help the customer become enthused. And when they return more-than-satisfied, it's a reminder that I still play a very legitimate role in the process. My advice to new agents is to try to travel as much as they possibly can. Nothing makes an agent more valuable than the first-hand knowlege gained from a real (not virtual) experience. People are still human, and travel still conjures up "fear of the inknown". They'll always respond to a "knowlegeable" agent. 

Thank you Craig for that great interview!



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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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