In this third part of my series of interviews with Seabourn crew providing insider tips on how to get the most from cruising with them I talk to Jasmin Katterle, Destinations Manager. She shared more about the types of excursions, their alliance with UNESCO and tips on how to make sure you get the most out of every port.
Tips for Travellers: I wonder if you can me about the different types of activities that Seabourn offer and particularly explain the different activity levels.
Jasmin: It depends a lot on the areas and ports that we’re in obviously, but we try to have a something for everybody. We have very mixed clientele, as you’re probably aware. When I started years ago, the clientele tended to be older. We’re talking about mid 60s, even up to mid 90s. The activities were of limited activity to meet the needs of these guests.
We did a lot of panoramic tours, easy tours where you had to get on and off the bus maybe twice, walk for a maximum 10 minutes but still get a flavour of the place. The clientele has changed significantly. We have a lot of people who are what we consider middle-aged or even younger, especially in the summer time. We have a lot of families coming on with teenagers. We have to adjust the program. Overall:
We still have, if we can, an easy tour, like an island drive. However, depending what area we’re in, like Livorno there is no such thing. If you want to visit a site you will have to walk.
Then we have what we call the moderate activity where we have a fair amount of walking but no climbing and not too much standing.
Then we have the strenuous activity, which is usually indicated by three little walking men in the brochure. It can mean different things. It can mean that you go through Sienna and you have to negotiate all those stairs and cobblestones and stand and walk, but it could also be a hiking tour, because that is definitely strenuous. When it comes to sport activities, which we have a lot in the summer, like rafting, kayaking, hiking, and sailing , this is really strenuous activity.
In order to help guests, on our order form we indicate the different levels of activity, do private consulting and offer tour presentations, where I explain the tours in more detail. What I’m trying to do with these presentations is to go into more depth and explain whether you will be going through the Pope’s Palace in Avignon and walking hundreds of steps around the palace, or if you’re going to be hiking two miles through Corsica. We’re trying to help them as much as we can to make that decision, because I think there’s no easy way to explain it in detail to everybody.
Tips for Travellers: I noticed in the brochure that Seabourn has a link with UNESCO and heritage sites. Could you tell us about that program?
Jasmin: We have now an association with UNESCO because we’re visiting these unique places and we want to make sure that our guests get a special experience including tours by people who are specially trained on UNESCO world sites. We want to make sure that they understand what they’re coming to, because a lot of guests have not done any research before going. We’re trying to make sure that they understand how important world heritage is.
The guests can donate a certain amount on certain tours to support UNESCO and keep these sites alive and intact for future generations. Think about how threatened many sites were, say in Afghanistan or now also in Iraq because they’re being destroyed because of conflicts of faith. We don’t want that. We want for all of our children and children’s children to have a world that has special things to see, that has rich heritage. I’m very glad that we have this association with UNESCO, so that we can help and provide for all our guests a very special experience.
Tips for Travellers: Just to clarify, if people go on one of those tours they pay for the tour and have a donation on top?
Jasmin: Yes. It varies between USD $ 5 and $10 per person. Obviously if a guest wishes not to donate for whatever reason that is not a problem, we will remove the charge, but otherwise, yes, the guests donate. Most of them are actually happy to do it, because of all the reasons that I just mentioned. It is just very important for everybody, for this generation and all the coming generations.
Tips for Travellers: If people don’t want to go on an excursion, for whatever reason, and want to self explore, do you and your team give any guidance or help in that regard?
Jasmin: Yes, of course. You find, especially in the summer time when you have families traveling, that they often rather do other activities. If they do not want to do an archaeological tour but want to do something more active like go swimming, we do give on board this information. We give also our guests information from the Internet and from our local tour operators on suggestions of where the beaches are, for example. We can give help with public transportation. Every morning we have a local hospitality person who comes on board and stays in Seabourn Square for at least two hours to help with maps and independent arrangements.
We have to be a little careful with what we recommend, because we can’t recommend or liaise with foreign companies since there’s no insurance. If something happens to the guest, it would be a huge issue because they are not covered by us. We can suggest companies but it has to be very clear that they’re not working with Seabourn, and they are not covered by our insurance.
For example, we do not arrange scuba diving, because that is one of these activities that can be dangerous potentially. Especially when in areas that are not that well-developed. We don’t want to put our guests into that situation.
So, we give help and do research and have our tour operators to assist. It just has to be done with a lot of care.
Tips for Travellers: So if people wanted to do something they’d have to make their booking direct with the supplier, not through yourselves.
Jasmin: That is correct. It is company policy from Carnival, that we cannot liaise with other companies. We are liable for all our guests and we can only use our own tour operators that we have contracted with through the legal department so that everything is safe.
Tips for Travellers: One other thing I noticed was the Seabourn branded guide book in our cabin for the region. Is this done for every cruise?
Jasmin: Yes we do them for everywhere. They give a little bit of history and a few more hints of what you could do independently. When I do my port and excursion talks, I try to give a little more history and background which you find in these little guide books as well, so that people understand why they should be going on this tour or why they even should be going out to have a look at the port. These little guide book helps people to also get more of that and usually they have little maps in too.
Tips for Travellers: So you’ve given some very clear tips for first time cruisers to come to the port presentations, to understand ports and make sure they understand the activity levels. Do you have any other tips if someone is coming to Seabourn for the first time?
Jasmin: I think what is very important for anybody who travels with Seabourn, is to speak to us. That is my biggest request. You have only one day usually in each port, so you need to make the most out of it, whether it’s shore-side activities or whether you decide you want to skip the port and have a day for yourself on board, talk to us. This is a cruise line that relies heavily on personal service.
This is what we’re good at and this is where we’re also different from other cruise lines. It’s not a 5,000 passenger ship, you don’t have to be in line. You’re not just a number.
Read all my Insider Tips and Advice: Exclusive Interviews with the Crew series: