‘We’re the largest provider of independent, commissionable cruise tours and activities in the world,’ said Rinat Glinert, chief operating officer. ‘It’s a whole portfolio of carefully curated experiences that meet every budget and every interest, so there’s something for everyone and things people didn’t even know they wanted. We have an amazing product we’re so excited to share with consumers and with our trade partners.’
Formed from the UK’s Cruising Excursions and US-based ShoreTrips, Venture Ashore is part of the City Experiences portfolio of Hornblower Group, the parent of American Queen Voyages and numerous other companies.
Small group, immersive experiences
Why book an independent tour?
‘Cruise lines do a wonderful job providing mass-market tours. We do a much better job providing individual experiences, encounter travel and small group experiences,’ said Glinert, a Royal Caribbean veteran.
As the world opens after the pandemic shutdown, small group, immersive experiences are what people want, she added.
If a family reunion group on a 4,000-passenger ship wants to plan a special excursion for grandma’s 75th birthday, ‘we can make that happen in every single destination and we can do it in a way that’s automated, that’s easy to search and find, and we’re going to have the best guides available,’ Glinert said.
Partnerships with host agencies and consortia
Cruising Excursions and ShoreTrips both did about 80% of their business with travel advisors, and she expects that to continue. The company will soon announce preferred partnerships with key host agencies and consortia.
Ventureashore.com is a whole new site that leverages City Experiences’ intuitive booking platform, Anchor, to deliver end-to-end experiences. Users can search by cruise, port or region.
The site features new trip planner tools and a travel advisor portal with group tools, access to reports and marketing tools. Via the trip planner, users can save tours of interest to share with other members of their party or their travel advisor. In the portal, travel advisors can input their clients’ sailing information and preferences such as all private tours or water-based activities and with one click, they can generate a PDF for clients to peruse.
Venture Ashore also has a call center to service advisors and direct bookings.
Small group tours accommodate six to 25 people. Parties of 12 or more can take advantage of a dedicated groups service.
‘We will hold your hand every step of the way,’ Glinert said. ‘We take care of all the details, craft bespoke itineraries appropriate for the ages in the group and have different price points.’
An extensive selection of private tours is available, too.
A new Essential Collection of almost 300 curated tours provides the ‘must-see’ attractions in each destination to maximize time ashore.
For example, ‘Istanbul Highlights’ features the Blue Mosque, St. Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Hippodrome Square and the Grand Bazaar with entrance tickets pre-arranged and an expert guide who helps participants navigate the Grand Bazaar so they can find what they’re looking for in one of the world’s largest covered markets.
Personally vetted guides
According to Glinert, all Venture Ashore guides are ‘personally vetted, well-trained and really experts in what they do so they can make an experience really exceptional.’
Other offerings include hotel and airport transfers. ‘Tour and Go’ lets travelers take advantage of their last day. Venture Ashore takes care of their luggage and shows them a destination’s highlights before delivering them to the airport.
Travelers can secure bookings with a 25% deposit. With add-on ‘Ticket Assurance,’ they can cancel up to 24 hours ahead of the tour for any reason and get a full refund. The company provides 24/7 customer service and a ‘back-to-ship’ guarantee.
Hornblower Group’s shared services marketing team is supporting Venture Ashore. And executives within the group who enjoy high profiles with the trade include Joe Jiffo, VP sales for American Queen Voyages stateside, and Kirsty Bachelor, previously head of trade sales for Cruising Excursions in the UK. The company plans a road show to meet travel advisors in key cities and intends to be visible at upcoming events like Seatrade Cruise Global and those of Cruise Lines International Association.
Glinert said Venture Ashore will be expanding its offerings, particularly in the Essential Collection, and is keen to partner with high-quality tour operators who can deliver immersive experiences. The company is also looking to grow its product team.