Nothing could be more quintessentially British than afternoon tea, complete with scones, cake and cucumber sandwiches.
It’s a tradition that’s been passed down the generations and is a particular highlight when holidaying in hotels the UK.
I have a particular favourite, the Royal Hotel in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, which serves up the most scrumptiously extensive afternoon tea ever. Apparently Queen Victoria used to pop in for a cuppa on her regular sojourns to the island and the tradition has been maintained ever since.
But afternoon tea is not just the preserve of landlubbers. Tea is also a key ingredient when taking a cruise, with many lines making elaborate arrangements with various varieties of teas, towers of cupcakes and even musical interludes to create a gentile atmosphere.
Cunard Line’s famed service of tea is particularly notable as is sister company P&O Cruises, who both use their British heritage as a pull to draw in customers.
But they are not alone in proving Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Green or perfumed teas on the high seas. Most ships cater for the mid-afternoon urge for a hot pot of tea and accompanying sweets and savouries.
It is in this vein that travel agents across the country are being urged to host afternoon tea for customers and potential cruisers as part of this year’s National Cruise Week.
The annual promotion about all things cruise includes September 20, the date when all agents are being encouraged to lay on tea and cake as a convivial way of introducing the concept of cruise holidays to those who may be have never stepped on board a ship before.
The Afternoon Tea Challenge initiative is being promoted by the Association of Cruise Experts, part of cruise industry body the Passenger Shipping Association which helps train and educate travel agents about the benefits of selling cruises.
Besides laying on tea for their clients, travel agents are also being encouraged to share their own experiences with the public via a soon to be launched website.
The Greatest Cruise Journeys site is designed to provide inspiration through blogs, stories and pictures supplied by agents about their time either at sea, on shore excursions or pre- and post-cruise adventures.
The aim is to get Britain talking about cruising in a positive way again after the unfortunate events of earlier this year.
The ‘journeys’ site is due to be online by the end of August in time for National Cruise Week, which runs on September 15-23. There will also be a linked Facebook page and a dedicated Twitter account as the industry makes the most of social media to spread the word about cruise.
As always, cruise lines are being encouraged to support the week’s activities with special offers and deals.
Launched in 2009, National Cruise Week offers the industry the impetus to talk to customers about the benefits of holidays at sea.
Details of this year’s plans emerged at the sixth annual UK Cruise Convention which took lace last week in Southampton.
The sell-out two-day event attracted almost 300 travel agents together with representatives from cruise companies, ports and destinations. More than half of the agents had not attended before, highlighting a continued interest in the sector.
It was a great opportunity to learn about all that’s new in the industry and participate in all-important networking as well as having the opportunity to visit four ships which were in port on turnaround days – P&O Cruises’ Adonia, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess and Royal Caribbean international’s Independence of the Seas.
Taking the theme of ‘thinking differently’, the conference sought to confront many preconceptions about cruising and armed agents to 101 cruise sales tips to help remind customers about the unbeatable value and experience taking a cruise offers.
Cunard president and PSA chairman Peter Shanks used his keynote address to capture the conference theme to encourage non-cruise holidaymakers to think differently about the sector.
He called on agents to recommend cruise holidays and offer reassurance about the industry’s strong safety record.
“We will continue as an industry to improve safety and as agents we will look to you to communicate that reassurance message,” said Mr Shanks.
He also challenged agents to work harder to find first timer cruisers.
“Agents have a unique advantage and a tremendous opportunity to say ‘Have you ever considered going on a cruise’,” Mr Shanks told delegates.
“First timers see you as a source of recommendation and reassurance. You can encourage British travellers to think differently – and they won’t be disappointed.”
While confidence in the industry may have been temporarily knocked off course earlier in the year, any downbeat feelings have vanished to be replaced by a new air of optimism, judging by the feedback from the convention.
Yes, there may be more work to be done, but cruise lines and agents are collaborating to put together great added value offers designed to entice people on board this summer in particular.
These range from free shore excursions for under-12s on all Norwegian Cruise Line ships for families who book a 2012 cruise by May 13 through to cabin upgrades, free flights, port car parking, complimentary transfers and the like being offered by other companies.
I’ve been doing my bit when talking to all my friends by explain that this year of all years has to be the time to take a cruise as the value on offer for summer 2012 is unlikely to be repeated.
I’ll raise a cup to that!
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