My Cruise Calling … or Not

Monthly Mantra

The Not-So-Specialist…The Not-So-Specialist…The Not-So-Specialist…

My Cruise Calling … or Not

In 2008, I, along with many workers in the United States, found myself unemployed. In my case, it was after nearly 30 years in the corporate publishing world, where I watched as human interaction and creativity were replaced by analytics and demographic study and where everyone suddenly started speaking in a silly corporate language.

At last I was free to pursue a career as a cruise specialist at a prestigious New York travel agency. It would be fantastic! I envisioned myself hopping from one glamorous event to the next, cruising at a deep discount, and developing a stable of loyal clients who’d come to me for multiple bookings, praising my uncanny ability to match their interests and lifestyle with the ideal shipboard experience.

Not so much.

Being a cruise specialist, I was shocked to discover, was a real job and one that required constant education, in-depth research, challenging business development, and, for me, a tiny yet demanding clientele who expected the Owner’s Suite (with complimentary beverage package) for the price of an inside upper and lower. Or they were really, really good at placing $50 deposits, but not so good when it came to paying the balance due.

I sucked at being a cruise specialist for many reasons, but the top three were:

  1. My agency was hidden on the bazillionth floor of a Manhattan skyscraper, so it’s not as though an enticing poster would lead walk-ins in search of piña coladas and a Caribbean tan to my desk.
  2. I’m not an aggressive sales person. In fact, I approached potential clients the same way I approached potential boyfriends in my 20s: “I’m not chasing you. If you’re not interested, it’s your loss.”
  3. It was a business! Who figured that??? Not only were pie charts and PowerPoints part of each workday, but presentations were invariably peppered with the same silly corporate language I’d come to detest: “We will partner with you to explore the competitive landscape and employ our….”—please don’t say data analysis and demographic data—“data analysis and demographic data to elevate your brand.”

Just shoot me.

There are some really, really good cruise specialists out there and, like law enforcement, the military, and firefighters, I thank God every day that he made people who excel at this challenging calling.

Me? I didn’t cut it as a professional cruise specialist, but I’m willing to bet that my shared photographs and vivid accounts of scrumptious cuisine, extraordinary ships, breathtaking scenery, architectural wonders, newfound friends, money-saving tips, and all the stuff I bought has sold more family and friends on a cruise vacation than a pie chart ever will.

That’s the way I like to sell travel. I just don’t get a commission.

— Judi Cuervo

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Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.