People Making Waves / Riviera River Cruises’ Marilyn Conroy

ShipsAhoy chats with Marilyn Conroy, Executive Vice-President of Sales and Marketing of Riviera River Cruises, to talk about the latest developments.

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By: Ilona Kauremszky

Marilyn Conroy once was preparing for an onboard seminar during a riverboat cruise in France when she was abruptly broached by a client with what appeared to be an urgent plea. “Do I have to come to your seminar?” he alerted her.

“Yes.”

He responded, “I have a massage planned then.” The feisty cruise professional deadpanned back. “Well move your massage time. I don’t care if you arrive wearing your bathrobe.”

He did. She laughed.

ShipsAhoy spoke to Conroy who is Executive Vice-President of Sales and Marketing about some of Riviera River Cruises’ latest developments and personal views.

What’s new?
The longest running English river boat company, the Riviera is coming into the North American market. This past spring they hired David Morris and I to launch it in North America.

What sets these river cruises apart?
The company is a good value product and prides itself on using British products. Our custom tour program “Personalize Your Vacation” provides clients bespoke itineraries customized on board with the cruise director.

Are there any incentives for agents?
We work closely with agents and offer a 15 percent commission from the get go and never go under.

Do you have any selling tips?
I call it the come-along-with-me group booking or the pied piper where the travel agent is hosting the group. It’s one free cabin per 10 cabins.

Upselling, do you encourage it?
Upselling on a riverboat, that’s tough. I would encourage clients to go out and be creative with their shore excursions and use our “Personalize Your Vacation” starting at $100. Our standard shore excursions by the way are included.

What’s been your favourite trip?
The Rhone River, Lyon to Avignon. I love flying to Paris, stopping for a couple of days then taking the TGV to Lyon to spend time in France’s Gastronomic Capital then sail the Rhone to see charming towns that go back to Medieval times.

What’s one quirk agents don’t know about you?
My passion of horses. I grew up in England and enjoyed horse riding whenever possible. When my daughter was one I stuck her on a horse, probably the most expensive ride of my life. I put her onto horses. She has her own riding and training stable.

What’s a pet peeve of yours, could be professional or personal?
When I give a presentation on a cruise product and the first thing an agent asks is, “What about a FAM trip?” that irks me. Rather than saying, “If I support your product I would really appreciate being able to see it,” or, ‘how about if I produce a group would you let me go on later?’

What would you like to see happen in the cruise industry?
River cruising is only getting bigger and there are only so many rivers. I’d like to see limitations, maybe a quota on how many boats can be docked so it doesn’t disrupt the guest experience. 

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