The 1,200-plus attendees to CLIA’s Cruise3Sixty event in Ft.
Lauderdale, Fla., last week heard mostly positive news for agents.
With a record number of cruisers last year the majority of which
used a travel agent and 85 percent of the total U.S. popula-tion
having never cruised, the potential cruise market has room for
growth, and there is certainly cause for optimism. While the
conference also explored some challenges agents face, through the
seminars, panel discussions and trade show, they were given tools
meant to help them sell more cruises.
The daily general sessions included panels with many of the
industry’s top cruise executives from most of the major lines,
in-cluding Princess, Oceania, Carnival, Celebrity, MSC, NCL, Costa,
Regent Seven Seas, Cunard, Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal and
Windstar. While the panels featured some lively and not always
genial exchanges between the executives, they also examined trends
and chal-lenges in the industry.
One of the most thought-provoking and original panels included a
group of seven consumers that have not taken a cruise before. The
panelists’ opinions of cruising ranged from moderately interested
to strongly opposed. Some of the guests were concerned about the
safety of cruising, others were turned off by a negative image of
cruisers. One consumer stunned the audience by saying that he felt
he could do just as good as any agent by booking a cruise himself
on the Internet.
“You are wrong,” Dr. Marc Mancini, one of the panel moderators,
told him to the delight of the audience.
The following day, Terry Dale, president and CEO of CLIA,
announced that CLIA would team each consumer from the panel with a
travel agent and send the consumer on a cruise. Then the person
could come back to next year’s conference and report on what they
thought of the whole experience. It was yet another innovative way
to help agents understand the challenges they face.
Emphasis on Education
One of CLIA’s main missions is educating agents so that they
will be better at selling cruises. Beyond the panels with top
industry execs, attendees were also able to attend educational
seminars and a trade show.
The seminars were on subjects such as “Creating a Cruise
Marketing Plan,” “Managing your Time Effectively” and “How to Find,
Train, Motivate and Keep Your Employees.” The classes were lively
and very well attended by agents.
The trade show had a wide variety of exhibitors that offered
agents a great opportunity for mingling with bigwigs in the
industry while taking home the latest materials. Also, some of the
booths were just plain fun. One of the most popular was from
Carnival, as they brought agents into their “Comfort Zone” booth
for a free massage. Another unique giveaway was from the Greater
Fort Lauderdale CVB. They were giving away beta fish in a plastic
container suitable for the flight home.
Hall of Fame
A highlight of the week was the formal Hall of Fame dinner. At
the event, Bob Dickinson, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise
Lines, was inducted into CLIA’s Hall of Fame for his many years of
service in the industry.
Another inductee was actor Gavin MacLeod who played Captain
Stubing on the hugely popular TV show “The Love Boat.” The show,
which became a staple of ’70’s television, had a major hand in
popularizing the notion of cruising to U.S. consumers. After the
show, continuing to this day, Macleod has had a long-standing
relationship with Princess Cruises.
Finally, at the dinner the crowd was entertained by various
performances by several entertainment acts that currently appear on
several different cruise lines. Particular crowd favorites
included, Cirque du Soleil (Celeb-rity) and the comedy improve
group Second City (NCL), as well as a lavish finale from Disney
In addition to everything else, Cruise3Sixty also offered agents
product and destination workshops, cruise ship inspections and lots
more. When the show was over, agents definitely left South Florida
with plenty of information to help them sell cruising in the year