GAC in Action

No time to snooze on cruise

Cruise Manager issues call to action to become world leader serving flourishing global industry

The cruise sector is big business and getting bigger. In 2016, according to the Cruise Line international Association, 24.7 million people took a cruise – half a million more than predicted. Passenger numbers are expected to top 25.7 million this year.

Unlike some beleaguered areas of shipping, confidence in the cruise sector is high. 75 new ships are on order, at an estimated total cost of USD 48.5 billion. This will add more than 200,000 passenger places to the global cruise fleet.

While traditional cruise destinations like the Caribbean and Mediterranean still hold more than half the market share, newer areas are fast gaining in popularity.

One of those is Asia, which has grown 38% in the past two years.

Global Cruise Market by Sector

Growing market share

That growth in Asia is not lost on GAC. Our growth in the region has been even greater than the general trend. We handled 65% more calls there in 2016 than in 2015, largely due to a concerted effort by GAC companies to woo cruise companies and win their business. There is also growth in the UK, Scandinavia and the Middle East, and renewed interest in both India and Sri Lanka. Overall, the Group has seen a rise of about 47% in the volume of cruise calls handled worldwide over the same period.

Cruise Manager Fergus Poole says there is a clear appetite for cruise business in GAC offices round the world but warns: “We need to raise our game in terms of market intelligence about cruise lines and our competition. And we need to work to make the cruise industry see GAC as a viable contender for their business.”

One way to do this is by attending key industry events like Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Indian and Sri Lankan colleagues received many enquiries from contacts made at this year’s conference. Those contacts need to be nurtured and strengthened to form the ties that will lead to new business.


“With the continuing rise in the sheer volume of cruise calls, variation of port itineraries and the increasing inclusion of lesser known destinations, the cruise industry covers the globe,” adds Fergus. “With GAC’s global network, there’s no reason why we should not be the world leader in this field, but the truth is that we are still an unknown quantity to many in the sector.

“By harnessing our global identity and working together to apply it to the cruise industry, we can start to increase our market share. We know the players, the competition, and what is required. We just need buy-in from all and we can push forward and make a difference.”

Waiting game

He admits that cruise lines generally only tender for agency business if they are unhappy or wish to benchmark existing services, but insists that is all the more reason to continuously promote GAC and keep our profile high.

“It’s waiting game: waiting for the first line to break ranks and declare unhappiness with their current agent; waiting for the review of agency procedures; waiting to get on the tender list.

“The potential is massive, the business is there. That’s why we must remain as close as we can to the main cruise lines, and attend as many high profile industry events as possible. We need to take every opportunity to deliver a hard-to-ignore visible reminder that GAC is here for the cruise sector, ready and willing to serve today, tomorrow and for years to come.”

Fergus Poole has been in the cruise business for 20 years, joining GAC UK in 2015 and now heading the Global and European Strategy Team focusing on the sector.

During his time in the business, he has provided a wide range of services to cruise vessels. Some of the more out of the ordinary requests he delivered on include: a complete cricket pitch and gear; a full drum set; and a live goat for a Rastafarian ritual slaughter (that request was refused by health authorities but Fergus did have freshly butchered goat meat from a local butcher delivered to the vessel by tender).

  • Tick Boxes
  • There are a lot of boxes to tick in the cruise agents’ To Do list. Here are just some of them:
  • Liaise with and advise cruise lines on itinerary planning.
  • Reserve berth or anchorage with ports or harbour authorities for proposed port calls, up to three years in advance.
  • Submit all pre-arrival documentation.
  • Act as link between immigration authorities and the vessel to facilitate immigration formalities, including advance declarations and face-to-face inspections or interviews where required of all passengers.
  • Cater for needs of vessels once in port including provisions (foodstuffs, fresh water, newspapers, etc.), ship spares, chandlery supplies, joining or departing passengers, etc.
  • Handle crew transfers, including accommodation and transportation, particularly at ports where cruises start or end. On larger vessels, up to 120 crew may leave or join in a single port call.
  • Arrange offloading and loading of passengers’ baggage , and hiring of handlers.
  • Take care of unforeseen passenger issues including crime and deaths on board.
  • Cash to master
  • Arrange medical appointments and medication for crew and passengers, when needed.
  • Repatriate sick crew or passengers.
  • the list goes on…
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