Cruise Planners Travel Franchise Is Growing to Meet 2023 Travel Demand

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Americans are ready for adventure! Travel is back, and travelers are seeking assistance from experienced travel agents. There were millions of people who had to postpone vacations between 2020 and 2022 due to pandemic travel restrictions. Today, those same individuals are ready to cash in on missed vacations and make the most out of their travel investments. Add to that those who simply avoided traveling altogether and are now ready to get away. The Cruise Planners travel franchise is ready to make dreams come true. If you’ve been considering investing in a travel franchise, now is the time to take the leap. 

Recent reports reveal that travel is making a huge comeback. The U.S. Travel Association reports that travel spending is now at its highest peak since the pandemic. Nearly a third of American travelers said leisure travel would be a high priority for them in the next three months, according to Destination Analysts. At the same time, those who faced vacation disruptions are still looking to redeem cruise credits. Many are now choosing to lean on experienced agents to guide them.

“We are light years past where we were throughout the pandemic,” said Michelle Fee, founder of the Cruise Planners travel franchise. “During the March 2022 timeframe, travel took off. It was like a light switch went on.”

Cruise Planners is a home-based travel franchise that offers cruises, guided land tours, and all-inclusive resort vacations to customers throughout the United States. Its nationwide network of more than 2,500 travel agents enjoy open territories and can sell travel to anyone in the United States. Fee, who founded the company in Fort Lauderdale in 1994, said deposits on Cruise Planners vacations are 25% ahead of where they were at the beginning of 2020. Not only are Americans looking to reclaim their lost vacations, but they’re also seeking more upscale adventures.

“People are buying better. Those who waited three years to travel are now saying, I don’t want to just travel in a balcony cabin. I want something on a suite level,” Fee said. “They don’t want to travel to the Caribbean. They want something else.”

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Because travel is such a big investment, it pays to lean on trusted, trained professionals who are experts at creating customized itineraries for clients and also advocating for clients when issues arise. 

Travel agents are back in demand, especially post-pandemic, according to Fee. Those who had dedicated agents helping them navigate their travel during the pandemic were more successful in getting their trips refunded or rebooked than those who relied on online bookings. With direct access to tour operators, agents had a much easier time reaching vendors and obtaining refunds or credit for their clients, she said. In some cases, agents spent up to 6 hours on hold just to get their clients the information they needed. 

“We handle all of the details, no matter how small or large. If you’re doing it all yourself, you’re probably spending too much money,” Fee said. “You might need transfers to a hotel or port, and our advisors handle it all for no extra charge.”

Passion for Travel Turns Into 10-Year Second Career

Rick Saltarelli of Largo, Florida, worked in the coffee distribution business for 35 years when he took the leap and transformed his passion for travel into a thriving business. After his company was acquired by a competitor, he and his wife, Karen, a former occupational therapist, were looking to go into business together. After seeing a Cruise Planners advertisement in a magazine, Saltarelli thought it would be the perfect fit. In 2012, the couple relocated from Boston to Florida, ready for a whole new adventure. 

“We didn’t know our neighbors, we had a brand new business we knew nothing about, and we didn’t have a group of people to lean on locally,” Saltarelli said. “But the franchise model and the coaching, and all of the tools Cruise Planners gave us helped us integrate with our community and build a very successful franchise.”

Since 2019, the Saltarellis have been members of the Cruise Planners’ “Millionaire’s Club,” open to franchisees who’ve booked at least $1 million in vacation travel. Operating under the name Salty Breeze Cruise Planners, the couple employs three associates who help them manage their book of business. Saltarelli estimates that his franchise serves 2,000 active travelers. He credits Cruise Planners for giving him the tools he needs to keep clients happy and remain successful.

“There are so many things that the Cruise Planners franchise provides. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “Our marketing programs are award-winning. I actually had a person who became an associate say, ‘I thought you created all of this stuff yourself.’ But it’s all part of the franchise model!”

Cruise Planners also provides each of its agents with a dedicated coach to help them meet and exceed their income goals. Because franchise owners enjoy open territories, they’re able to grow their businesses as quickly as they like. They can also choose to work their businesses part-time. Despite having no defined territories, Cruise Planners agents often work together to advance their businesses.

“I’m part of a group of Cruise Planners agents in the Tampa Bay area called the Tampa Bay Travel Advisors. We’re not competing; we’re helping each other,” Saltarelli said. “We’re engaging in that positive culture that Cruise Planners refers to as ‘Cruiseitude.’”

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Cruise ships have grown larger and now offer gourmet dining and itineraries that span the globe. Many travelers want to fill their bucket lists with vacations that now include more exotic locales in Europe and Alaska, Saltarelli said.

“We keep up with all of the improvements. Who ever heard of specialty dining on a cruise ship 15 years ago?” he said.

Travelers are also more interested than ever in group travel—whether they’re planning a family reunion, a wedding, or a corporate retreat. Agents are trained to help large numbers of people find cruises or all-inclusive vacations that appeal to various ages and tastes at a good value, Saltarelli said. To be able to serve as many clients as possible, he and Karen have pursued additional travel certifications, including a certification from Certified Accessible Travel Advocates, which helps them better serve vacationers with disabilities.

Should disaster strike, Saltarelli and his team are trained to act quickly and get results.

“When Covid hit, people thought we sat at home. But we didn’t. We came to our office and spent time untangling complicated things,” he said. “It wasn’t our clients’ or our vendors’ fault. The whole world came to a grinding halt overnight, and we spent months tracking refunds and future travel credits.”

Cruise Planners kept its agents abreast of any travel updates and created technology to strengthen communication between agents, vendors, and clients. Being part of a franchise helped Saltarelli and other Cruise Planners travel agents take care of their clients, which is why he says he’d never strike out on his own.

“Thanks to Cruise Planners, I’ve achieved greater success than I ever thought possible,” he said.

Saltarelli looks forward to helping his associates grow, serving new customers, and especially deepening relationships with his existing customers. He urges prospective Cruise Planners agents to jump in now if the idea of owning their own travel business piques their interest.

“Embrace the training. It’s far above what you’ll get anywhere else,” he said.

Ready to Set Sail as a Cruise Planners Franchise Owner?

Cruise Planners agents continue to give their corporate leadership high marks. In a recent survey, Franchise Business Review collected feedback from 53% of its active franchisees (1,076). One hundred percent strongly agreed or agreed that Cruise Planners cared about their success. Ninety percent said they are likely to recommend the franchise to others, more than 18% higher than the overall industry benchmark. At the same time, Franchise Business Review in 2022 recognized Cruise Planners as a Most Innovative Franchise, a Top Franchise for Veterans, a Top Low-Cost Franchise, a Top Franchise for Women, and Top Franchise Culture.

You don’t need to be a seasoned traveler to embark on a new career with Cruise Planners, but you do need to have a passion for travel and for helping others. With a low barrier to entry and no office requirement, Cruise Planners is one of the most affordable franchises available. You can choose to work full- or part-time while you continue to work your day job and ramp up your business.

As part of your franchise fee, you receive training at STAR University, a 6-day in-person training in Ft. Lauderdale. There, you’ll also get matched with a personal business development coach who’ll provide ongoing, one-on-one coaching at no extra cost to you. Additionally, you’ll get access to Cruisitude Academy, an online learning platform that includes hundreds of training videos and learning experiences.

Cruise Planners also provides extensive marketing support, including web, email, social media, and direct mail support.

Initial Franchise Fee: $6,995 to 10,995 (for a limited time, Cruise Planners is offering a $4,000 discount)

Total Startup Investment: $2,295 to $23,465

Royalty: 1-3% of gross commissionable sales

Cruise Planners offers franchise discounts for the military, first responders, existing travel professionals, and others. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and think you’d enjoy helping vacationers navigate post-pandemic travel, Cruise Planners could be the right fit for you.

For more information about franchising with Cruise Planners you may call (888) 582-2150 or visit