Cruise Holidays Reborn

Top executive says franchise chain has stabilized with new ownership and is ready to grow

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Cruise Holidays was at its peak in the late ’90s with 210 agencies, but the chain gradually shrank after it was acquired by the now-bankrupt

Today, with 170 agency locations and the financial stability of new owner Carlson Companies, Cruise Holidays is poised for a comeback.

“By the end of the year, we hope to add 18 new stores,” said Charles J. Dunwoody, senior vice president of Cruise Holidays. “Realistically, we’d like to add about 36 stores a year.”

Dunwoody, a former cruise line executive, joined Carlson in May 2001 to run Cruise Holidays, shortly before the Minneapolis-based corporation closed the acquisition of Cruise Holidays, which it bought at a bankruptcy auction.

During the last year and a half, Cruise Holidays has been attempting to resurrect itself as the leading cruise-oriented agency chain.

“When the new management team came in, it was a pretty broken system,” Dunwoody said recently in an interview at the company’s annual convention. “We had to put everything back together.”

Its first order of business was to update the almost-obsolete CruiseWeb, the “backbone of our operation,” Dunwoody said.

Though not a Web-based system with real-time reservations, CruiseWeb is a back-office accounting system that also helps agencies compile a detailed passenger database and keep track of group sales.

“We’re talking to Worldspan about creating a live booking engine through Worldspan and Cruise Path,” Dunwoody said.

Carlson spent $250,000 to update the system, which will be rolled out in November.

The company also implemented what it calls “risk inventory,” in which agencies can sell group space booked a year or so in advance by Cruise Holidays.

“We get advantageous pricing that makes us more competitive,” Dunwoody said. Plus, the risk is spread over participating stores.

Another addition is a full-scale marketing program that will send out 24 mailings a year.

“Agencies can personalize them but we’ll mail them out for them,” Dunwoody explained. “Stores never need to touch the marketing materials. It’s no fuss, no muss.”

Passport Online is a Web site for consumers with a search engine and listings of last-minute deals.

“Every individual store can have their own Web site,” Dunwoody said. “They can customize each e-mail they send out through that.”

Carlson has 12 business-development managers who can help Cruise Holidays stores with business plans and finances. There also are 11 support staffers in Minneapolis waiting for stores to call about programs or supplier resolutions, Dunwoody said.

Cruise Holidays plans to expand its focus to include the luxury lines, as well as the contemporary/premium brands.

“The bulk of our business has been with the Princesses, Holland Americas and Carnivals of the world,” Dunwoody said. “Now, we’re trying to focus more on the luxury market.”

He noted that the luxury line Radisson Seven Seas Cruises is also in the Carlson family, so there’s a natural synergy to working with that company.

By expanding its scope and increasing assistance to its members, Dunwoody said Cruise Holidays is back on track.

“We want to aggressively grow the system now that we’ve stabilized. Next year, we’ll start aggressively marketing,” he said. “Cruise Holidays is one of the best-kept secrets in the business.”


Cruise Holidays honored a number of its member stores at the recent convention aboard Radiance of the Seas. Below is a list of Western agencies recognized.

Top Producer by Region

Northwest Cruise Holidays of Bellevue, Wash., Wayne McCaulley and Dave Taylor

SW/SC Cruise Holidays of San Francisco, Lori Carstens

Western Canada Cruise Holidays of Vancouver, Denis Lim and Blaine Lambert

President’s Circle

Top 20 Producing Stores

Cruise Holidays of San Francisco

Cruise Holidays of Bellevue

Cruise Holidays of Arvada, Colo., Bud and Tami Smead

Cruise Holidays of Beaverton, Ore., Terri Miller

Cruise Holidays of Vancouver

Cruise Holidays of Las Vegas, Bonnie and Doug Crosby

Admiral’s Club

Sailed revenue of $1 million or more

Cruise Holidays of Las Vegas

Cruise Holidays of Scottsdale, Ariz., Diane and Mark Baskind

Cruise Holidays of Anaheim, Debra and Juan Zatarain

Cruise Holidays of Silverdale, Wash., Sue and Al Somers

Cruise Holidays of Upland, Calif., Roslyn Towler and Bonnie Sibley

Cruise Holidays of Arrowhead, Ariz., Sondra Rush

Cruise Holidays of White Rock, B.C., Jill Sanders

Cruise Holidays of Gig Harbor, Wash., Lois Tucci and Melissa Kirkl

Cruise Holidays of Northglenn, Colo., John and Diane Santana

Cruise Holidays of Albuquerque, Patricia Moody

Cruise Holidays of Ahwatukee/Chandler, Ariz., Pat and Keith Gross

Cruise Holidays of Federal Way, Wash., Jerry and Carol Vaughn

Cruise Holidays of Palm Springs, Calif., Patrick and Donna Ratte

Cruise Holidays of Bakersfield, Calif., Harold and Lana Hanson

Commodore Club

Sailed revenue of $2 million or more

Cruise Holidays of San Francisco

Cruise Holidays of Bellevue

Cruise Holidays of Arvada

Cruise Holidays of Beaverton

Best Year-Over-Year Increase

Cruise Holidays of Vancouver