Eddie Diaz, CSEP, ACC
Destination Event Producer
Eventful Voyages by Dream Vacations
Belle Isle, Florida
Describe your career as a travel agent. How long have you been in the business? What attracted you to it?
My career as a travel agent completes the full circle, dating back to 1993 when I was working as cruise staff on the famous Big Red Boat by Premier Cruise Lines. I will never forget my first embarkation, what an exciting day! There was something magical about stepping onto this massive vessel bound for new adventures. To this day, embarkation happens to be my favorite day of any cruise. There is a heartfelt rush that makes me feel like an adventurer or an explorer. I can’t deny it, I simply love cruises. Following my passion, in 2013, I decided to enhance my special event company, Encore Creations Inc., with the unlimited potential of a travel agency. Today Encore Creations, Inc. and Eventful Voyages by Dream Vacations provide clients with turn-key destination event services for incentive, social, and corporate; meetings at sea; signature cruises; themed voyages; and much more. My passion is to create transformative and inspiring event experiences worldwide.
What is your approach to serving clients?
When it comes to serving clients, I live by the motto: “We are just as good as our last event experience.” No matter where we are in the world, on land or at sea, we are being immediately judged by our clients’ experiences. It is a very simple concept, if we don’t provide exceptional service they will go somewhere else. Every client looks at us for expertise, abundance of knowledge, and personal experience. They trust we have the answers they need and find comfort in our guidance. I treat each client as if I was the one on the other end of the line and I never forget to smile when I answer the phone. It works!
What are some of your best practices in selling cruise travel?
I get excited along with my clients. I like to envision as if I was going on the cruise with them. This helps me understand their needs, get them excited, and customize their trip to their tastes. It is important to listen to the client’s needs, look for clues in the conversation, and ask questions to better understand what will make an incredible experience for them. High quality information helps me develop a complete picture of how to fulfill their wishes.
What is your biggest challenge when selling cruises and how do you overcome it?
One of my biggest challenges is selling to a new cruiser. Selling to a past client or a seasoned cruiser is much easier. New cruisers have so many questions and misconceptions about cruising. This process takes a bit more effort and requires patience. I try to find common ground by remembering my first cruise and all the unanswered questions I had. I focus on selling the experience, the unique aspects, the value, and what makes cruising the best form of vacation ever invented!
What has been a career highlight, thus far?
My best travel agent career moment was when we first opened my company and launched my very first signature, theme cruise. We had over 100 passengers, it was an exhilarating experience. From creating the registration and embarkation day reception, to handing out goodie bags, to executing the schedule, every moment was a true high! I felt that I was responsible for creating an experience and making a difference in peoples’ lives.
Are you CLIA Certified? If so, what at what level and how has that certification impacted your career?
Yes, I am CLIA certified, my level is ACC. Often, people ask me what the ACC stands for and it helps for me to share the information with them. Both my certification and my CLIA membership have enriched my business with resources, classes, and a powerful network of dedicated industry friends. In our industry, CLIA membership is a “must have” and Cruise360 is a “must attend” event.
How has your CLIA membership and/or professional development helped you in your career?
My CLIA membership has given me confidence from knowing that I am not alone. Just like me, there are other agents, industry experts, and great people from whom there is so much to be learned. CLIA is a true network of information, knowledge base support, and industry professionals willing to listen, help, and support me in my business endeavors.
What cruising trends are you seeing?
One of my favorite cruising trends is the continued growth of themed events at sea. Selfishly, as an event producer and group expert, I love themed cruises. Cruise lines are getting creative with new offerings and unique options. I truly enjoy thinking ahead and finding what cool niches and specialty groups for which we can create amazing experiences.
What is your fondest personal cruise memory?
I can look back and laugh at the time when I was working as staff onboard a cruise ship. There is nothing more alarming than to arrive to the port late and seeing your ship sailing away. I had missed the boat! I then had to catch a water taxi pilot boat and board the ship while it was in motion. I can honestly say it was an exhilarating rendezvous under the Skyway Bridge in Tampa. The Port of Tampa will never be the same!