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A screen grab of travel blogger Trey Ratcliff of Stuck in Customs showing off his new Phantom 4 drone on Facebook Live.

Visual storytelling for travel brands

April 25, 2017

Today at the Eye for Travel conference at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco, I'm giving a presentation on the subject "Visual Storytelling to grab your customers."

I spoke at Eye for Travel two years ago when Cruiseable was just about to launch, and the gathering for travel executives has come a long way, with a full-fledged startup alley now as well as speakers and attendees from both the travel sector (Trivago, Hotel Tonight, Viator) and outside the sector (AARP, Google, Facebook). 

As I always do, I've made the presentation available for download on SlideShare and embedded it here. (Susie Conley of Viator, Robecta Ma of Cathay Pacific and moderator Dwight Sholes are also on the panel — if you're at Eye for Travel, come on by at 2:50 pm today!) 

Stats on the mobile video tsunami

As our culture becomes increasingly centered on visual media, the need to revamp your content strategy to focus rich visuals, especially mobile video, is becoming more urgent. Consider the 2017 Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast:

  • Today, mobile video content makes up 60% of all mobile data traffic
  • By 2020, that figure will increase to 75% globally, 77% in U.S.
  • Average smartphone usage is growing 38% per year worldwide
  • Key finding: 48% of millennials view video solely on their mobile device
  • Over 36% of mobile users watch videos 5 minutes+ in length on a daily basis, dispelling the myth that long-form video doesn't work online

3 major takeaways for brands

I'm suggesting three major takeaways for travel companies — and, yes, brands in other sectors — to embrace:


Find and activate your Treys. There's only so much of Trey Ratcliff, founder of the travel blog Stuck in Customs, to go around. But there's a universe of visual creatives creating and sharing video and rich visuals on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest.

Blogger Bridge, a platform with more than 4,500 travel bloggers, photographers, videographers and podcasters who've opted in.
Blogger Bridge, a platform with more than 4,500 travel bloggers, photographers, videographers and podcasters who've opted in.

A good starting point is BloggerBridge, founded by my friend and Cruiseable Advisor Chris Christensen. It's a platform where more than 4,500 travel bloggers, photographers, videographers and podcasters have signed up to receive offers to work with brands. Visit Britain used Blogger Bridge to fly fans of the Premier League from the U.S. to Britain and put them up for a week in return for authentic blog dispatches (with an emphasis on video) before, during and after key football games. In a similar campaign, Visit Dubai connected with influencers and invited them to spend a week in Dubai and live stream their experiences via Periscope.  

Make use of Facebook Live, which, when you think about it, is an interactive storytelling platform

Me? I'd probably prioritize Instagram above Periscope. And don't forget the most effective way to connect with your customers today: live-streaming. Make use of Facebook Live, which, when you think about it, is an interactive storytelling platform. 

Depending on whether you have a marketing team capable of handling outreach campaigns in house (most companies don't), you may want to consider enlisting a digital marketing firm like Tradable Bits, Chute or Chris Abraham's Gerris digital or a tech startup like RivetWorks to help create and imlpement a user-generated content social campaign or contest.


Optimize for mobile video. The mobile bandwagon? It's now a tsunami. So make sure videos on your site are properly encoded for mobile devices — including the call to action buttons — and make sure you test and iterate to meet the expectations of the next generation of travelers who will engage with you via their smartphones.


Be human & tell stories. While you should be micro-targeting and tailoring your content to specific subsets, don't forget to Infuse humor (see the travel section of, compassion and universality into your media sharing. These days, we need more media that bring us together instead of pulling us apart. 

Further readings

Top travel bloggers

Morro Castle (Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro, named after the three biblical Magi) is a fortress guarding the entrance to Havana Bay, Cuba.

Bookings open today for Norwegian cruises to Cuba

April 20, 2017

Norwegian Cruise Line will expand its Cuba offerings into next year, adding 33 sailings to the Caribbean island during 2018, most of which will feature overnight visits to the Cuban capital of Havana.

The four-day roundtrip cruises from Miami aboard Norwegian Sky went on sale today. 

A view of the scenic Middle Rhine Valley in Germany — prime river cruising country.

Best 2017-2018 wine cruises on AmaWaterways

April 13, 2017

The fast-growing river cruise line AmaWaterways is celebrating the modern epicurean lifestyle aboard its upscale ships with the announcement of its 2017-2018 wine cruise itineraries and release of its new Wine Cruises Through Europe brochure.

With a new luxury ship in its fleet, AmaKristina, and 95 sailings hosted by celebrated North American wine experts, AmaWaterways invites guests to uncork the traditions of the local culture and experience the wonders of wine along Europe’s legendary waterways.

President and co-owner Rudi Schreiner said that because of high demand, AmaWaterways has more than doubled the number of wine cruises, with the key addition of its new ship AmaKristina and two new itineraries this year. 

In addition to the many onboard activities and immersive shore excursions, AmaWaterways’ wine cruises add a unique, epicurean dimension to a variety of itineraries that immerse guests in the wine culture of the regions toured, such as Austria’s Wachau Valley, France’s Bordeaux region, Portugal’s Douro Valley and more. Tastings, winery tours, private cellar tours, visits to iconic vineyards, and first-hand lessons on the nuances of Old World winemaking encapsulate an enriching, educational experience — all at no additional cost.

Top AmaWaterways wine cruise itineraries

Some of the top AmaWaterways wine cruise itineraries include:

Rhine & Moselle Splendors, a new itinerary that takes guests on a voyage through the pages of a fairytale in cities where folklore and history come to life

Captivating Rhine, one of the new sailings that takes guests along the Rhine through France, Germany and The Netherlands, showcasing historical towns, castles, and vineyard-clad hills as well as wine, beer and coffee from iconic destinations

Taste of Bordeaux, a river cruise through the renowned Bordeaux region of France, punctuated by a comprehensive tour of French culture, food, and wine including vineyard and winemaking excursions, a wine festival and stops in the Loire Valley

A stateroom on the luxury ship AmaKristina.
Courtesy of AmaWaterwaysA stateroom on the luxury ship AmaKristina.

Colors of Provence, a cruise along the Rhône River connecting thousands of vineyards between Lyon and Arles, France, showcasing the distinct wines found in the Northern and Southern Rhône Valleys

Enticing Douro, which travels through the Douro River Valley to sample Portuguese wines from traditional quintas, and can include a three-night stay in Lisbon to sample its Old World architecture, cuisine, and wine

Europe’s Rivers & Castles, including a seven-night cruise from Nuremberg to Luxembourg, travels past picturesque European castles and historic vineyards, including a Kitzingen castle connected through legend to wine and Count Dracula

Hosts serve as onboard wine guides

Bringing the vineyards on board, the wine hosts recommend hand-selected food and wine pairings, lead discussions and offer additional tastings of distinct regional varieties each day. With these immersive experiences lead by experts from California, New York, Washington, Oregon, Virginia, Texas and British Columbia, guests aboard the AmaWaterways Wine Cruises have the opportunity to learn more about their favorite New World wines while indulging in the treasures of the Old World.

As an added incentive, guests that book an AmaWaterways Wine Cruise by July 31, 2017 will receive an exclusive Early Booking Reward of up to $750 off per person. AmaWaterways also welcomes returning guests with its Past Guest Benefits, which includes an additional savings of $100 per person, as well as other loyalty rewards.

AmaWaterways has earned many industry awards and accolades for the unparalleled experiences it offers guests. In the recent Berlitz Guide to River Cruising, AmaWaterways received the highest honors for having the top 10 river cruise ships out of more than 300 that were reviewed. In the river cruising category, AmaWaterways was awarded “Best Overall Cruise Line” and “Best for Onboard Activities, On-Shore Activities, and Food” by Town & Country, recognized in the prestigious “World’s Best Awards” by Travel + Leisure, awarded “Best Onboard Dining” by TravelAge West, named “Best Overall River Cruise Line,” by the Travvy Awards, and honored as the “Best River Cruise Line Overall” by Cruise Critic.

Interested in an AmaWaterways wine cruise?

Interested in an AmaWaterways wine cruise? To claim your Special Savings of $750 off per person, contact a Cruiseable travel advocate at 1-877-322-3773.

The new Sabatini's

Princess Cruises cooks up a new Sabatini’s

April 12, 2017

My cruise partner Richard and I have many fond memories of dining at Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria, the $30 a person alternative dining venue on Princess Cruises. The inviting Italian restaurant has attracted many other foodie fans since it was introduced in 1998.

And now things are changing with new recipes designed to please the palate and the eye thanks to a fleetwide enhancement in collaboration with acclaimed Italian chef Angelo Auriana, who is creating handmade pasta dishes (like my Mom used to do) as well as family recipes curated from Italian Princess executive chefs across the fleet.  

Millennial travelers pose for a selfie in front of the Erechtheion in Athens.

Uniworld targets millennial river cruisers

April 11, 2017

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has put some clout behind its new brand, U by Uniworld. The new river cruise line devoted to sailings that target the desires of millennial travelers has just announced that bookings are open. 

“Uniworld has always strived to lead innovation in the river cruise industry and we saw a great opportunity with U by Uniworld to reach an entirely new audience,” said Ellen Bettridge, President & CEO of Uniworld. “River cruising is the best and most comfortable way to experience all that Europe has to offer, in an affordable way, and we’re incredibly proud to create a brand that will broaden the interest in this type of experiential travel.”

Nine adventures are now available for reservations by travelers ages 21 to 45 years old looking for a new experience in 2018. These include journeys on the Rhine, Danube and Seine rivers that feature overnight stays in major cities such as Paris, Vienna and Amsterdam

Celebrity Summit cruises through open waters. In 2012 she was upgraded with Solstice-Class features, including 60 new staterooms.

2 noteworthy theme cruises for jazz lovers

April 10, 2017

Entertainment Cruise Productions’ 2018 The Smooth Jazz Cruise is already sold out, but the company is putting on two more great jazz sailings to be excited for next year: Blue Note at Sea ’18 and The Jazz Cruise ’18.

Blue Note at Sea ’18

Coming January 27 to February 3, 2018, aboard Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Summit in the Caribbean will be Blue Note at Sea ’18. Already on the docket are improvements over this year with more musicians remaining on board for the length of the cruise and overall more music sets being featured. Blue Note Records, Blue Note Jazz Clubs and Entertainment Cruise Productions are all teaming to select the lineup, and it’s already shaping up to be legendary.

Bill Hare, 73, on the aft deck of Wind Surf during his 99th Windstar cruise in March. He's been sailing on the small-ship cruise line since the mid-1990s.

99 cruises and counting for this diehard Windstar fan

April 5, 2017

You hear stories about cruise passengers who travel so frequently on a particular vessel that it becomes a second home.

If you’re sailing on Wind Surf, the flagship of Windstar Cruises, you’re likely to meet one of those diehard fans.

Bill Hare, 73, of Dallas, will embark June 8 on his 100th Windstar cruise — a Mediterranean itinerary, Barcelona to Lisbon, that’s one of his favorites. With his tousled white hair and gregarious manner, he’s easy to find (“I hide out on the port side”), a pleasure to meet and proud that the yacht’s tight-knit crew considers him family, and vice versa.

Cruiseable caught up with “Mr. Bill,” as he’s known to staff, on a Classic Caribbean itinerary in late March — his 99th Windstar sailing — and wanted to know: Why Windstar, and why Wind Surf in particular?

The advent of MSC for Me promises technological advances for passengers of all ages.

The smartship wars are here!

March 31, 2017

At the Seatrade cruise trade show and conference earlier this month in Ft. Lauderdale, the top brass of MSC Cruises was on hand to outline an ambitious game plan that doubles the size of its fleet and triples its passenger capacity from the current 1.8 million passengers a year to more than 5 million annual passengers by 2026.

MSC's new megaship will have 16,000 points of connectivity, 700 digital access points, 114 interactive screens & 2,244 staterooms that open automatically

Notably, all of the new ships coming online will be next-generation smartships: The sleek new MSC Meraviglia debuts a new class of 5,714-passenger ships in June, MSC Seaside will launch in Miami in December as the first in a new class of 5,179-passenger ships, followed by a Meraviglia Plus class of 6,297-passenger megaships starting in 2019 and a World class of ships starting in 2022. 

What they all have in common is a new set of technologies — rolling out starting in June — that will put MSC Cruises at the forefront of the next generation of smartships. And Swiss-based MSC is betting big that its European stylings, world-class entertainment plus state-of-the-art tech will attract millions of new customers in North America; currently, only 10 percent of MSC’s overall passengers are from North America.

“North America here we come!” MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago declared to the assembled travel writers at Seatrade. 

Riquewihr, a French commune in northeastern France, served as the inspiration for "Beauty and the Beast."

Adventures by Disney offers new theme river cruises in 2018

March 20, 2017

Matching current demand for all things “Beauty and the Beast” with the popularity of its river cruises in partnership with AmaWaterways, Adventures by Disney is preparing for special theme sailings in 2018. Sailings will range from those geared to families to adult exclusives.

"For 2018, we looked to find exciting new ways to make our incredibly popular river cruises even more enticing to every type of traveler," Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Adventures by Disney, said in a statement. 

Canyon Ranch SpaClub aboard Oceania Insignia is a luxurious wellness retreat to help you unwind during your sailing.

Oceania announces tours focused on wellness & healthy living

March 19, 2017

Oceania Cruises, recognized for its culinary-focused voyages and award-winning Canyon Ranch SpaClub facilities, has just announced a ground-breaking wellness and cruise-industry first in the form of exclusive and comprehensive tours focused on wellness and healthy living.

The innovative new tour series, "Wellness Tours Inspired by Canyon Ranch," is the first of its kind in the cruise industry and the most comprehensive. It will debut with Riviera’s and Marina’s sailings on April 9 and April 10, 2017.

Helsinki Cathedral, located in the center of Helsinki, Finland. The church was originally built from 1830-1852 as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, the Grand Duke of Finland, before Finland achieved independence in 1917.

Finland plans special events for centenary

March 18, 2017

Finland, which presented its top cruise destinations with Estonia this week at the Seatrade cruise trade show in Ft. Lauderdale, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its independence this coming Dec. 6. And throughout 2017 the Scandinavian nation is holding a series of special events.

Finland offers a variety of impressive cruise destinations, from the cultural hubs of Helsinki and Turku to getaways in nature in Kotka and Mariehamn. All of the destinations offer special programs and tours during the year.

Oceania Cruises' 1,250-guest Marina sails past El Morro Castle into Havana Harbor.

Oceania Cruises calls on Havana with 1,250 guests

March 13, 2017

Oceania Cruises made history on Thursday when its ship, Marina, pulled into Sierra Maestra cruise terminal in Havana, Cuba carrying 1,250 guests. Oceania made history as the first major North American cruise brand to sail to Cuba.

On board for the historic event was Bob Binder, co-founder and CEO of Oceania Cruises, and Frank Del Rio, Cuban-born founder of Oceania Cruises and CEO of parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. Once the ship docked, Del Rio addressed international media regarding the inaugural voyage. 

Oceania Cruises' Marina makes her final approach to the Sierra Maestra cruise terminal in Havana.
Courtesy of Oceania CruisesOceania Cruises' Marina makes her final approach to the Sierra Maestra cruise terminal in Havana.

The 14-day sailing departed from Miami on March 7 and will now continue on to Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama Colombia and the Cayman Islands. Oceania Cruises has two more sailings to Cuba scheduled this March and six scheduled for this autumn.

— from Cruiseable news services