As you all know, October is Plan a Cruise Month, and so what better way to celebrate all things cruising than talking to the king of cruising, a man who’s literally sailed more than 100 times!

The man, aka James King, is also a Travel Counsellor, and he sat down with KarryOn to talk about his love affair with cruising, his passion for selling cruising holidays, and the importance of receiving CLIA training and getting certified.

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James King, Travel Counsellor

Take it away James.

When and where was your first cruise? What was it like?

My first cruise was in 1986 on Pacific Princess, the original love boat! It was a 7-night cruise from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the Caribbean. I was 12 years old and I was bribed to join my mother in return for a trip to Disneyworld.

I loved the cruise more than Disneyworld. I loved the kids club and ended up with a pen-friend for about five years afterward. I was fascinated by the fact that you could eat as much as you wanted and ice-cream was on free flow – something I’d never experienced before!

The youth organisers were a couple called John and Darleen (I still remember their names even now!) and most memorably, we visited a small island called Mayreau which was owned by a Princess.

What are the common misperceptions the public have about cruising?

The common misconceptions are probably that I’m going to get sea sick or that there will be nothing for me to do onboard. This is something that a lot of people think will happen to them.

Another misconception is that it’s full of “old” people. If you choose to cruise to a particular destination or during low season, then yes, the clientele is older. It also depends which ship you’re on.

I’ve just come off Pacific Aria to Papua New Guinea and because of the school holidays, the average age was a little younger. Cruises to the South Pacific during the holidays are full of a mix of ages, mostly due to families taking a cruise together.

How many cruises have you done? Any milestones coming up?

I’ve recently completed my 101st cruise. This seems impossible, but it happened. My 100th Cruise was on a cruise line called Genting, which operates out of Hong Kong and I was on the cruise to do my CLIA masters certificate.

I have another few cruises coming up this year. From February to December I’ll have completed 11 more cruises. The next big cruise is on Silversea from the Seychelles to Cape Town for 18 nights, via some wonderfully exotic locations.

How has completing CLIA certificate programs helped you?

Completing the CLIA program for me has shown to my clients that I truly understand the cruise industry.

It’s like going for a job: most people want you to have experience and qualifications. By having that extra certification, I can confidently say to my clients that I know most things about the cruise industry.

How can travel agents feel more confident in booking cruises for their clients?

Travel agents can feel more confident in selling cruises by doing several things.

Firstly, I’d suggest they go on a small 4-night cruise so they get a hang of what a cruise is all about. Secondly, they can complete the CLIA training and get certified. Finally, I’d suggest doing the training courses offered by each line.

Obviously, the best answer is to take a cruise! And if they’re after a free cruise, all they need to do is complete the Princess Commodore Training and they will be given a free cruise. I was lucky – I got a 19-night cruise from Perth to Sydney via New Zealand on Diamond Princess a couple of years ago.

What cruises are you most looking forward to ticking off your bucket-list?

There are a couple of cruises that I still want to do.

Firstly, a trip to the Antarctic on an expedition ship. I hate the cold, but would still love to experience the natural beauty.

The second trip I’d love to do is a trip around Cape Horn. I’ve stood on the continent of South America, but have only transited the Panama Canal.

For river cruising, I’d love to take a trip on the Nile.

What is it about cruising that brings you back again and again?

The thing about cruising that brings me back again and again is the fact that I can disconnect from the outside world. I’m pampered with all sorts of food and drink and I can visit many different destinations in one holiday.

I rarely take land based holidays anymore, as they aren’t as exciting and you get to meet lots of nice people.

What is your favourite cruise line? Why?

My favourite cruise line has to be Silversea because of the high levels of comfort and service offered. It’s the little things they do, such as bringing me a coffee without having to ask, and generally the people on board are delightful and easy to chat with.

How will you be celebrating Plan a Cruise Month?