By Paula Mitchell Manning
(The phrase "perfect storm" originates from the 1997 book The Perfect Storm, which refers to the simultaneous occurrence of weather events which, taken individually, would be far less powerful than the storm resulting of their chance combination. Such occurrences are rare by their very nature, so that even a slight change in any one event contributing to the perfect storm would lessen its overall impact. [Wikipedia])
What we encountered during our OSSN Celebrity Cruise Seminar at Sea to Alaska was a positive twist to the term “A Perfect Storm.” It’s rare that you have all the elements line up and result in the AMAZING experience that my fellow OSSN members, their companions, non-member attendees, and I had during our recent Seminar at Sea training. Our seven-day Inside Alaska Passage took place June 14-21 on the Celebrity Cruise ship “Mercury.”
Our OSSN Seminar at Sea was poetry-in-motion, and it was because as a GROUP we all shared. The group consisted of 34 agents and companions with the perfect mix of "seasoned pros," "newbies," and non-travel industry companions. Thanks to the group’s openness, candor, and willingness to trust, everyone (agent and non-agent companions) walked away with new information, ideas and contacts.
The objective of our first day was for us to discover innovative ways to identify new group business and sell them the Celebrity Alaska Cruisetour product. We began with an Elevator Speech Contest. The attendees were given 30 seconds to introduce themselves and make us want to take their business cards – and use them. Within our group, we had agents who specialized in horticultural travel, African cultural travel, large-family vacations, China, and European river cruises, among other niches. As each attendee or companion took center stage, we all found ways to improve our own introductions.
During our OSSN Benefits and Services presentation, a couple of our members shared how they use OSSN’s extensive website to help them build their business. Several members explained to us the Group Cruise and Tour Marketplace tool and showed the way they used it to save their TCs and/or amenities when they were short by a few cabins/rooms. We learned how TRUE gave a number of members the means to gain their independence and allowed them to open their own agency.
Using the Selling Groups 101 PowerPoint presentation as a guideline, we did an overview of group sales. This section of our training turned into an electrifying and enlightening exchange, as our “seasoned pros” found new and innovative ways to attract group business while our “newbies” learned how to polish their approach from their travel veteran peers.
We then had an intensive training of the Celebrity Alaska Cruisetour product. Thanks to several attendees, our Celebrity Alaska Cruisetour video and PowerPoint presentation was accompanied by a spirited exchange of information about the Celebrity Cruisetour product. Luckily, we had agents with firsthand knowledge of Celebrity Alaska Cruisetours, while others had taken a competing cruise line’s Alaska Cruisetours. The input by our attendees allowed us to compare the two cruise lines and deepen our training experience. You’ll be impressed to hear that Celebrity was shown to offer a fantastic Alaska Cruisetour experience.
We ended our all-day training by breaking into four groups, and each was given the same newspaper and Celebrity Cruise materials. With the clock ticking, the final contest began, and there were two categories to win the contest - the most potential cruise groups found in the newspaper and the most innovative presentation. I purposely made sure that friends and spouses were on opposing teams. It was wonderful to see the various teams work together to prepare for the final presentation. We wound up having a winner for each contest category. The day ended with wine being served at dinner, great stories to share, and new bonds made within our group.
On our other sail days, we had private ship tours set to help us learn more about the Celebrity Cruise ship “Mercury.” We had the following tours: Backstage Tour, Bridge Tour, Galley Tour, and Spa Tour. We also had a visit from Future Cruises to explain Celebrity’s new future booking policy to our group.
While in port at Sitka, Juneau, and Ketchikan, I had the pleasure of being invited by one of our agents, Janette Jahoda, to meet with the tourism board for Sitka and Ketchikan. This meeting proved to be one of the most educational experiences of the trip for myself and my business. Please take a moment to look at the pictures with this article. In Sitka, we learned that Tribal Tours, a company that uses locals to conduct tours, offered off-the-beaten path experiences. In Juneau, we rode the tramway to the top of Mt. Roberts. In Ketchikan, we met with the tourism board and rode the FREE shuttle around town. For $1, the local bus will take you to many of the sites so you can to rub elbows and enjoy the flavor of the local town’s people.
If you ever find yourself on a cruise to Alaska, do take the time to contact the local tourism boards. It’s a great way to build your business and expand your knowledge of this beautiful locale.
I’d like to thank Celebrity Cruises and the dedicated staff and crew of the "Mercury." What I admire about the travel industry is how we “travel professionals” are always open to learning, so thanks also to our amazing Seminar at Sea group attendees for living up to my admiration of travel professionals. I also appreciate OSSN for continuing to offer its membership the opportunity to explore and experience our allied supplier members' products.
Our arrival-night cocktail party allowed us to meet in a very relaxed atmosphere.
Carmela Tarce and Sharon Oberritter shared ideas as they prepared for team presentations.
Suzzette Baumann won our Elevator Speech Contest.
OSSN was given a private tour of the dressing room areas during our backstage tour.
Four Celebrity "Mercury" performers did a Q&A for OSSN during our private backstage tour.
We enjoyed our peek behind the culinary scenes during this tour of the ship's galleys.
We were amazed at what it takes to run a cruise ship while we toured the bridge of the "Mercury."
Here's our ship docked safely in Ketchikan.
This injured eagle and other birds have found safe haven at the Alaska Raptor Center.
This Ketchikan landmark - "Eagle Mooning the Town" -
is where you can catch the local bus and free shuttle.
You'll find this totem pole in front of Sitka National Park.
The traditional Tlinglit dance from the Raven Clan is performed at
Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House.
These two cubs at the Fortress of the Bear lost their mother
when she was shot looking for food for them.
Paula learns how to stay warm with Celebrity's special blend of hot chocolate.
Notice that she's the only one without a coat!
Paula Mitchell Manning serves as the director of the OSSN chapters in Los Angeles and Orange County. You can reach her via her listing on the OSSN Chapter Directors Roster.
(Credits: Larry Mitchell Photography; Celebrity Cruises)