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Travel Agent Sales Manual

AdventureSmith Explorations is proud to partner with travel agents. Review our Travel Agent Sales Manual for View our Travel Agent Sales Manual  to learn more about our expedition cruises and wilderness adventures.  Our manual will help you identify and book small ship cruise clients, help you and your clients choose the right adventure, compare small ship cruises to big ship cruises, and provite tips for selling small ships.  We also outline our travel agent commissions and overrides along with other policies and benefits. 

Join the Smith Family

AdventureSmith Explorations is a family business.  We are award winning expedition cruise and wilderness adventure experts with the goal to help your clients find the right trip at the best price.  We invite you to join our family of travel agent partners. 

AdventureSmith Explorations is proud to partner with travel agents and we are dedicated to exceeding your clients’ expectations while helping you earn substantial commissions.  Since all travel agents already have existing clientele interested in small ship cruises, we will help you identify and book them.  Agents who are passionate about adventure cruising find AdventureSmith Explorations to be their one stop resource - saving time, satisfying clients’ needs and earning top dollar for their efforts. 

You will find our website at www.AdventureSmithExplorations.com to be an invaluable resource.  Here you will find detailed information on itineraries, accommodations, destination background, climate and more.  Travelers and agents commonly comment that the detailed information on our website provides the most in depth and detailed information available in the small ship cruise industry. 

Increasingly, our clientele are using social media to research and plan their trips.  We have responded with an extensive blog at www.AdventureCruiseNews.com and our facebook page can be found at www.Facebook.com/AdventureSmithExplorations.  We invite you to become fans of AdventureSmith and we are eager to become fans of your agency. 

Your most valuable resource at AdventureSmith Explorations is our crew of Adventure Coordinators.  Our staff is comprised of former expedition leaders and guides who have lived, worked and traveled at length in each destination. We have cruised aboard or personally inspected every vessel on our website. Our staff has the insight to help you decipher among all the small ship options or find the smaller family owned vessels you have never heard of. We are committed to making sure you are recommending the right trip for your clients’ interest, ability and budget, at the best possible price. 

Contact our Adventure Coordinators at 1-800-728-2875 to answer your questions quickly and accurately with honest, unbiased information.

We look forward to building a successful and long term relationship with you and your agency.  Welcome to our family.  I hope you will spend some time reviewing this guide to gain expertise in small ship cruising. 

Welcome to the family,

Todd Smith
Director and Founder

Contact at a Glance

Toll Free Phone 1-800-728-2875
Direct and international 530-583-1775
Monday through Friday 8:00am-5:00pm Pacific Time
Fax 530-748-0177
Website www.AdventureSmithExplorations.com

About AdventureSmith Explorations

Who is AdventureSmith Explorations?

We are award winning expedition cruise & wilderness adventure specialists.  Founded in 2003 by adventure cruise pioneer Todd Smith, AdventureSmith Explorations has become the global leader in small ship, adventure cruise vacations. We specialize in matching your clients with the top names in small ship cruising as well with intimate, boutique ships that may not make the radar of most travelers. Our style of cruising combines the comforts of a small cruise ship with the adventure of sea kayaking, hiking and exploring remote wilderness areas ashore.

In moving through exotic natural environments and exploring vibrant native cultures seldom associated with more mainstream cruise itineraries, AdventureSmith Explorations dedicates its efforts to small footprint, sustainable travel and has launched a carbon free cruising initiative. Our off-the-beaten-path destinations include Alaska, Hawaii, Baja, Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Peru, the Arctic, Antarctica, Australia, Asia, and the South Pacific. New for 2011 we are proud to introduce our new cruise and land programs to Chile and Patagonia. 

We are proud to have been named by National Geographic Adventure as one of “The Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” and we have received Conde Nast Traveler’s prestigious “World Savers Award.”

What is adventure cruising?

Adventure Cruising combines yachts and small ships, carrying 12-148 passengers with opportunities to get off the boat exploring culture, nature and wildlife up close away from crowded ports.  Walk remote beaches and verdant rainforest, kayak tranquil coves in search of wildlife, snorkel pristine reef or explore wild coastline in sturdy inflatable boats. 

What other types of adventures does AdventureSmith offer?

Our land based wilderness adventures are designed with the same concept as our adventure cruises. We strive to access regions that are off the beaten path, away from tourist crowds where travelers can actively explore in the company of expert naturalist guides.  Our land programs are designed to complement our adventure cruises, although most can stand alone.  Many are independently operated and can depart on any day (based on availability) while others are fully guided with a small group of travelers on set departure dates. 

What does the trip price include?

Your accommodations aboard the specified vessel or lodges, most meals, shore excursions and sightseeing, transfers, expedition leaders, use of kayaking and other equipment, national park entrance fees, port fees and taxes. Trip prices do not include airfare, gratuities, items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, or insurance of any kind.

How strenuous are AdventureSmith Explorations' cruises & trips?

In general adventure cruises and our land programs are suitable for all abilities.  Most trips offer a range of activity from easy to challenging.  Our trips are designed for all ability levels, but many trips also include options for more strenuous activities such as kayaking, swimming, and hiking and can be more challenging than others. Therefore we suggest that you talk to one of our Adventure Coordinators about your client’s current activity level and the type of adventure they are seeking to match accordingly.

Tell me about the trip leaders and guides.

We are a company founded by guides and believe that a professional, knowledgeable and personable guide is the key to a successful adventure travel and small ship cruise experience. Travel with veteran guides and adventure leaders whose experience and insight invariably becomes the most appreciated aspect of the journey

Preferred Partners

We are proud to be preferred partners with many of the best names in small ship cruising including Lindblad Expeditions, American Safari Cruises, Orion Expeditions, and more.  We are equally proud to represent numerous family run yachts and lodges that make our selection of expedition cruises and wilderness adventures the industry’s best.  Our knowledge and experience adds value by ensuring your clients select the best trip for their budget and style of travel.

Sustainable Travel

We are committed to sustainable tourism and contributing positively to the individuals, communities and environments encountered by every AdventureSmith traveler. Our Carbon Free Cruising campaign has offset all carbon emissions created as a result of our cruise passengers. Through a network of local and global conservation partners we provide a means for travelers to make a contribution while at the same time enhancing your own travel experience through education and outreach.

Why don’t I just book direct?

Small ship cruising is a complicated niche within the travel industry and most agents don’t have the time to experience every ship and every destination in person.  There are literally thousands of options.  New ships and trips are introduced every year while older ships are retired.  Our first hand experience and continual research means you have a family member in the small ship business.  Because we don’t own any of the ships we work with we can provide you and your clients with honest, unbiased information to make the right decision.  You will never pay more when booking with AdventureSmith Explorations. In fact you will often pay less! Our sales volume ensures you receive the best possible price. Our knowledge and experience ads value by ensuring you select the best trip for your style of travel. Your clients will be the savviest traveler aboard after reviewing our extensive pre-travel documents including detailed itineraries, maps, packing/reading lists, expert advice and last minute reminders. Book with the confidence that come from experience. 

Can AdventureSmith provide referrals of past guests?

Yes, we are happy to provide travel agents and prospective travelers with the names and contact information of past trip participants who have volunteered to be references.  

Who are your AdventureSmith Clients?

Experienced Small Ship Cruisers

Travelers who are interested in small ship cruising are extremely dedicated to this style of travel.  Once you have experienced travel aboard an expedition ship or yacht, you are hooked.  Identify and market to those clients who have cruised by small ship in the past. 

Big Ship Cruisers

Most travelers are not aware that small ship options even exist.  A considerable percentage of cruise travelers would choose a small ship cruise, if they knew what the options are.  Try to find large ship cruisers who are seeking a more intimate and up close experience.  We have many travelers who have already explored a region by large ship, but want to return to see it up close. 

Travelers of All Ages & Abilities

You do not need to be an athlete to enjoy adventure cruising.  Our trips are available to any traveler with a love of nature and sense of adventure. Most cruises offer easy shore walks and small craft explorations with options for more rigorous activity.  Travelers of all ages will enjoy our style of travel.

Clients Seeking Unique Experiences & Up-close Exploration

Identify travelers who enjoy getting off the beaten path in search of authentic nature, culture and wildlife.  Adventure Cruisers are people who are not content to simply sit on the beach or watch a destination pass by from the deck of a cruise ship.  Travelers will find unique experiences and up close exploration on every AdventureSmith trip.  

Solo Travelers, Couples, Families & Small Groups

We specialize in adventure cruises and wilderness adventures for solo travelers, couples, multigenerational families and small groups.  AdventureSmith offers the most itineraries, ships and departures available exclusively for these clients. 

Others

Specialty cruises appeal to niche travelers including family trips, photography trips, history trips, travel with global luminaries, wildlife viewing, kayaking and hiking, culinary and wine, and more. 

Compare Cruise Ships, Small Ships & Adventure Yachts

In a nutshell, small ships are focused on what is outside the ship while big ships are focused on what is inside the ship. Small ship cruises average 100 passengers and offer daily encounters with glaciers, whales, bears, and eagles. Choose a small ship cruise if you want to experience authentic Alaska wilderness and solitude. Big ships average over 2,000 passengers and offer spacious atriums, formal dining, and Broadway shows. Choose a big ship if you want a resort like atmosphere with glitzy shows and casinos. Use the table below to compare what style of cruising is best for your clients. 

 

Cruise Ship

Small Ship

Adventure Yacht

# of passengers

250-5000 passengers

150 passengers or less

40 passengers or less

Cruise focus

Traditional large ship cruises are focused inward.  The ship itself is the attraction while the destination is secondary. Picture a floating resort, cruising mostly at night, between popular port towns. Go ashore only in ports. 

Small ship cruising is directed outward, with a focus on first hand experience in the destination. Visit smaller ports that better represent a regions authentic culture.  A flexible schedule allows time to cruise close to shore in search of whales and wildlife.  Some cruises explore off the ship by small craft, on guided shore hikes and sea kayaking.

The main focus of a yacht cruise is to get off the yacht exploring up close on guided shore walks and sea kayaking.  Extensive opportunities to get off the yacht while away from ports. Visit the smallest towns and experience the solitude of wilderness.  Improvised schedule is based on client interests.

Atmosphere

Similar to a Las Vegas style resort with shopping, shows, night clubs, casino's and swimming pools. Exciting atmosphere with lots of action. Little connection with the sea or your surroundings.

Up close and casual cruising emphasizing an appreciation of nature, history and culture. Relaxed atmosphere for those seeking a meaningful connection to the region and like minded travelers.

Up close and active cruising with hiking and kayaking right from the yacht.  Fun, almost family-like atmosphere, where you explore at your own pace. Peaceful evenings anchored in quite solitude. 

Staterooms

Much like a standard hotel room.  Expect to pay an upgrade for ocean views or balcony.

Similar size and layout of large ship.  Many cabins located on observation deck for wildlife viewing right outside your door.

Varies by yacht from luxury to simple. Generally smaller cabins, most with portholes. Some yachts have shared bathrooms. 

Dining

Many dining options including formal tuxedo dinners, midnight buffets, specialty restaurants, fast food and room service.  Expect assigned seating at a specific hour for ocean view restaurants.

Healthy and hearty regional cruising served in a casual style.  Choose from a limited menu and sit where you wish in an ocean view dining room. Expect four star quality and plenty to eat. 

Meals are an intimate affair at one or two tables for everyone. Luxury yachts have an executive chef while family yachts share delicious local recipes.  Catch a fish and have it cooked to order. 

Service

Typical hotel service. Often long lines for dining or to disembark the ship.  Must make reservations for dinner, shows and shore excursions.

Personalized service with high crew to passenger ratio. By the end of the cruise you will be on a first name basis with the captain and entire crew.

Luxury yachts offer five star service while family yachts are like a floating B&B. Local crews, with extensive experience in the region, become your personal ambassador to the region.

Amenities

Almost anything you can imagine from hair salons and spas to golf simulators and waterslides. With ten or more decks you are on a city at sea. 

Small ships have plenty of common space including the lounge, bar, library, dining room and multiple observation decks.  Many small ships have a spa and fitness center. 

Everything about a yacht is smaller including the bathrooms, hallways, dining rooms and observation decks. They make up for it by spending more time off the yacht. 

Itinerary

Typical itineraries designed to highlight popular ports on a fixed schedule.  Often cruising at night and in port during the day.  Stays in deep water channels far from shore. 

Cruise close to shore on flexible itineraries designed to take advantage of unexpected sightings.  May feature smaller, more authentic ports and shore landings in remote locations. Cruising highlights during the day. 

Itinerary often not set until cruise departs so the captain can base the trip on the interests of passengers.  Cruise close to shore, visit small settlements, and anchor in quite coves overnight.

Entertainment

There is endless entertainment aboard big ships. Movie theaters, swimming pools, casino's, shows, arcades etc. keep cruisers occupied. There is little, if any, information about the region in which you are cruising. 

Programs led by naturalists, historians and on board experts enhance your understanding of the region through narrative, lectures and discussions. Cruise close to shore and explore even closer on small craft excursions.

Naturalist guides lead daily off vessel activities including shore walks and sea kayaking.  After an active day of exploration enjoy the solitude of wilderness while relaxing on deck watching the sun set.

Shore Excursions

Only in largest ports.  Always cost extra.  Often large crowded bus tours.

Port excursions often included in price. Smaller group tours with no waiting.  Some wilderness activities.

Guided hiking, kayaking and small craft explorations included.  Some port excursions but many towns too small for tours.  

Families

Lots of kid friendly activities including day care, babysitting, water parks, recreation rooms and arcades, movie theaters and kids camps.  Kids activities often designed to give parents free time. No minimum age. 

Designated family departures mean families with kids of similar ages travel together.  On board programs and off vessel activities designed to keep younger travelers engaged, and bring families together. Often feature educational components highlighting local nature, wildlife and culture. Best for travelers 6 and older.

Dedicated family departures and programs similar to small ships with even more time off the boat.   Yachts are the perfect platform for private family cruises, family charters or family reunions. Best for travelers 6 and older.  Private charters accommodate kids of any age.   

Transfers

On your own or pay extra for a transfer to or from the ship.

Included airport pickup on day of embarkation and disembarkation.

Varies by vessel.  Personalized transfers or airport pickups. 

 

AdventureSmith’s Commitment to Travel Agents

We are committed to a long term relationship with our travel agent partners.  Once a client books an AdventureSmith trip through your agency, they become your client for life.  If they contact us directly to inquire about another trip, we will contact you. We offer a progressive commission structure that rewards increased bookings. We provide web based training, travel agent discounts, FAM trips and agent newsletters to keep you on top of the ever changing niche of small ship cruising. 

Helping Your Clients Choose the Right Adventure

Plan Ahead

Space aboard small ship cruises is limited, vessels are small and spaces fill up fast, often 9 - 12 months in advance (Holiday departures can fill up over one year in advance).  Advance reservations are required.

Choosing the Right Trip

The variety of Adventure Cruise itineraries is simply astounding.  We currently offer hundreds of itineraries in dozens of regions worldwide.  When clients come to you with an idea for a destination, perhaps a tropical getaway in Hawaii or a tour of Alaska, ask them if they have considered a small ship cruise.  Once they are sold on the concept of small ships you will need to dig deeper to identify what trip is best for them. It is important to match your clients’ ability level to the appropriate cruise.  In a scenario of mixed physical abilities amongst a group of friends and family, we have seen some passengers push themselves beyond their physical abilities just to keep up with everyone else, or sit back twiddling their thumbs because they couldn’t or didn’t want to participate in a particular activity. In other cases, you find travelers who arrive on board a small ship expecting an active program of hiking and kayaking every day, when in fact the ship does not offer any off-vessel activities. Many small ship companies promote their products as adventure experiences when they are really just wilderness cruising. Experts help you cut through the confusion to find the right trip for your clients. 

Choosing the Right Ship

Ships and yachts can vary considerably in size, amenities, stability, quality of guides, level of service and more.  There is nothing worse than travelers arriving on board a small yacht unaware that they have to share a bathroom. Obviously this can create frustration at the beginning of a trip which may fester throughout. Present all the options and ensure your clients know exactly what to expect when they book a trip and when they arrive at their destination. We travel aboard small ships frequently in order to bring first hand knowledge to you and your clients. 

Questions to Ask Prospective Clients

As you can see there are a lot of options for ships and trips.  Cabin categories also vary widely from simple staterooms below the water line to luxurious suites.  Ask your clients the following questions to help us determine the best trip for their interest, ability and budget. 

  1. Do you have travel dates or a range of dates in mind?
  2. Do you have a specific ship or itinerary in mind?
  3. Have you traveled aboard a small ship before?  If so when and where?
  4. Please place the following in order of most important to least important: Education, Wildlife Viewing, Activity, Comfort, Ship Size, Price?

Custom Trips

We specialize in creating private journeys to all of our exciting destinations. We are experts at crafting personalized itineraries for couples, families and small groups. We apply our knowledge and experience toward choosing vessels and designing trips that are carefully tailored to suit your client’s interests, ability and budget.

Groups & Charters

All of our small ships or yachts are available for groups and charters. Save thousands when you book a full vessel charter.  Groups vary by destination but a group is commonly recognized as 10 travelers.  In many cases travel agents can receive a free berth for every 10 travelers booked.  You can pass this savings on to clients or keep it as commission. Please note that small ships and yachts fill up early.  Once a single cabin is booked the vessel is no longer available for charter.  Advanced booking is required to assure availability for groups and charters.   

Family Travel

Family departures are designed with younger travelers in mind and child discounts are common.  Certain trips have age minimum requirements which are listed in the notes section under the itinerary. Others have specific family and kid departures that are geared towards a more child friendly ship experience. 

Solo Travelers

Many of our adventure cruises offer a share program. Travelers willing to share are guaranteed the double rate.  Many ships offer dedicated single cabins.  Double cabins are available for solo occupancy for a single supplement, which varies by ship.  Land adventures charge single, double, triple or quad/family rates.  Many vessels offer a single share program where solo travelers are guaranteed the double rate if they are willing to share, even if a companion is not found.  Dedicated single cabins are often available.

Tips for Selling Small Ship Cruises

To successfully sell small ship cruises, agents need to actively recruit and direct travelers towards this exciting style of travel. Thinking like a combination of an adventure traveler, a marketing manager, and a customer service representative all tied into one can definitely make a difference when it comes to sales. Following are some tips to help create awareness and draw clients in your agency door:

  • Become familiarized – Our website is our biggest selling tool; taking the time to study it thoroughly will increase your knowledge as well as your selling confidence.
  • Direct business - When your clients say they want to go to Alaska this summer, simply ask “Have you ever considered a small ship adventure cruise?”
  • Target existing clients- Insert AdventureSmith links or brochures with your daily mailings to your clients. Start spreading the word to your clients that you sell active adventure and small ship cruises.
  • Get to know your clients – Spend a few extra minutes learning about their interests and hobbies. Make notes when outdoor activities, luxury travel, and adventure interests are mentioned.
  • Toot your own horn- Be your own publicist and send press releases to local newspapers, magazines, radio and T.V. stations. Get your name and agency out in the public eye and promote this unique style of travel.

Booking with AdventureSmith Explorations

Place a Hold

The first step in the sales process usually begins by placing a hold on your clients’ desired ship or trip, cabin type and departure date.  We can place a hold, with no obligation, while your clients consider the trip, investigate flights etc.  This will ensure that their preferred date or cabin type doesn’t sell out in the mean time.

How to Confirm

In order to confirm a trip with AdventureSmith Explorations we require a completed Traveler Information Form for each traveler and the trip deposit.  Deposits may be made by credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover), personal check or wire transfer.  Deposit amounts vary by trip ranging from $400 per traveler to 50% of the total trip cost.  See our website or contact an Adventure Coordinator for deposit details.  Once reservation forms and deposit are received we will send an email confirmation and pre-departure information. 

Adventure Preparation Packet

Once reservation forms and deposit are received we will email you extensive pre-departure information.  Please notify us if you would like us to email this  directly to your client. The pre-departure information is designed to answer common questions and prepare your client for their trip.  Included is a confirmation letter, invoice, detailed itinerary, trip brochure (if available), terms and conditions, packing lists, reading lists, climate information, conservation information and more.  We pride ourselves on our client preparation and our pre-departure information is an important part of this process.  

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price is due 90 days before the departure date. If the balance is received late a 2% late fee will be added. Final payment must be made by agency check or wire transfer.  This allows you to deduct and receive your commission at the time of final payment.  Final payments received by credit card will incur a service fee of 3% which can be added to the client invoice or deducted from the agent commission.  Commissions for bookings where final payment is made by credit card will be paid within 30 days of completing the trip.

Final Bulletin

A final bulletin will be mailed to your agency office 2-3 weeks prior to your clients’ departure.  Please notify us if you would like us to mail the client copy directly to your client.  The final bulletin contains arrival instructions, travel vouchers (if necessary), emergency contact information, maps and other last minute reminders. 

Evaluations

Client and agent satisfaction and feedback is very important to us.  At the conclusion of your client’s trip we will send a client evaluation and an agent evaluation.  While the experience is still fresh in their minds we are eager to hear your client’s impressions.  Encourage them to take a few moments to explain, in their honest opinion, about what elements they enjoyed and what elements could be improved.  Client input is the most effective way for us to improve guest experience.  We also wish to hear from you, the agent.  Please take a moment to complete the agency evaluation to let us know how we are doing.  If you or your clients wish please do not hesitate to contact your Adventure Coordinator to discuss the trip in detail. 

Cancellations and Terms

Terms & Conditions

A copy of our terms and conditions is included in this packet, please review them.  In addition your client will also agree to the terms and conditions of the operator whom they are traveling with.  A copy of these terms will be included in the pre-departure packet. 

Cancellation Policy

A cancellation by the client must be made in writing. The date that AdventureSmith Explorations or its agents receive the letter determines the cancellation charge applicable. Cancellation fees can vary by trip.  See trip details for exact cancellation terms for each specific departure. 

Travel Insurance

We highly recommend that all travelers purchase travel insurance to cover their upcoming trip.  Please note that some cruises (particularly in Antarctica) require emergency medical evacuation insurance.  We recommend TravelEx Select or Deluxe plans.  Travel insurance information will be included in every confirmation email and pre-departure packet.  It is important to purchase travel insurance within 21 days of booking your clients trip, if the policy is to cover pre-existing medical conditions.  We are not able to offer agents commission on travel insurance.  Please notify us of your clients travel insurance information (Insurance company, phone number and policy number) once a policy has been purchased. 

Travel Agent Commissions

Standard Commission

Standard commission is 10% when you book up to 10 travelers per year.  In rare cased other standard commission rates may apply.  Commission is applied to the trip price.  No commission is earned on domestic or international airfare, single supplements, taxes, port fees, or equipment rentals. 

Override Commissions

Make more than 16 bookings per year and you may qualify for an override commission as follows:

Number of Clients                         Override Commission Percentage

1-19                                           10%

20-30                                         12%

30+                                            13%

Override commissions are based on sales from the previous calendar year.  For instance if in 2011 you had 25 bookings your 2012 commission rate would be 12%. Annual bookings are calculated according to client’s travel dates, not booking dates. 

Taking Over an Existing Booking

Travelers who find us directly are our biggest resource for finding new travel agencies.  This marketing comes at considerable expense.  We believe that the primary responsibility of the Travel Agent is to bring new business to the partnership with AdventureSmith Explorations.  Often travelers will find us directly, call our office, discuss their travel options and choose a trip or even place a cabin on hold before we are made aware that they intend to book through a travel agency.  In this situation, where the client introduces the Agent to AdventureSmith, we are please to offer a 5% referral commission.  Then, as a valued agent partner, we will reimburse the additional 5% commission once a second booking has been made.  If you have already made a booking with AdventureSmith you will receive the standard 10% commission.

FAM Trips

The best way to learn about our style of Adventure Cruising is to experience our trips first hand.  Occasionally, in conjunction with our operators, we are able to offer Travel Agent FAM (Familiarization) Trips.  This is the best way for our partner agents to learn about and effectively sell our style of adventure cruising.  FAM Trips are reserved for our best agent partners and those who continually book clients with AdventureSmith.  Agents must have booked at least 6 travelers with us in one calendar year to qualify.  Contact us to learn about upcoming FAM trip opportunities. 

Agent Discount Rates

If you cannot join an AdventureSmith FAM you may qualify for a 10-20% discount on the trip of your choice.  We do not offer any companion discounts but you will earn commission on any companion bookings.  One travel agent discount is allowed per calendar year, after your agency has made at least one booking.  Subsequently you must sell at least 5 trips per calendar year to qualify for the travel agent discount again.