When we visited Marseilles, France, 18 months ago, it was a city under construction. It seemed we couldn’t find a street that wasn’t torn up or a building that wasn’t being renovated. Fast-forward to the present—a New York Times article (“Cultured Traveler: Marseille Polishes Its Image”) nearly gushes about how fresh and appealing the city is, just brimming with new cultural institutions. Turns out, Marseille was polishing up in part because the European Union had named it the European Capital of Culture for 2013, a designation that often spurs redevelopment of public spaces and a renewed focus on the arts.
What does this mean to me? I have to go back.
My list of “must-visit” places seems to be getting longer and longer. I’m not crossing destinations off my bucket list as much as adding them to a new roster of trips I must take a second or third time, either because I didn’t see them at their best the first time or because I love them so much I have to see them repeatedly from now on, preferably at least once a year (hello, Savannah!).
When we sailed into Vienna on a Viking cruise this summer (see pages 48-51), I was delighted to be seeing a city that I could cross off my bucket list. We went into the town in the evening to enjoy a classical music concert. I saw the Ring Road, several historical buildings and liked what I saw. I felt like I pretty much “got” Vienna. The next day, we took a city tour and saw how many beautiful buildings there are in the city, how many cultural institutions. I was overwhelmed with how large and polished Vienna was. When we had some free time, we found a department store, went all the way up to the top and there was a sophisticated café with a terrace overlooking the city. The locals ate there. We searched out Hotel Sacher and browsed the historic photos in its lobby. After exploring some more we sat in a busy shopping area and had a glass of wine. “I love it here,” my husband and I said at the same time. “We have to come back here, always,” I added. My new list had grown once again. I almost felt dismayed; where would I find the time to keep nurturing the bucket list and the “must-return-to” list? It doesn’t matter; we’re still going back to Vienna.
The common ground our excursions in Vienna and Marseille share is that we visited both cities on cruises: Marseille on a Mediterranean ocean voyage and Vienna on a Danube river cruise. Surely your clients are sailing as much as we are. Are they discovering new places they’ve absolutely fallen in love with? Or did they get a taste of something they weren’t sure about at the time but which has undergone a change so dramatic (as Marseille) that you can probably tempt them to go back to it?
When you follow up on your cruise passengers’ trips, quiz them on what they liked, so you can send them off to enjoy the destinations again from a different perspective. Break it to them that they’ve not only got to tick the boxes off the bucket list you’ve created for them, but they’ve got to give real attention to their “must-return-to” lists as well. They’ll love you for it.