Success Story

Cruise3sixty is a hit in Florida

By: Marcia Levin

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) threw itself a mega 30th birthday party with a conference of 1,600 agents, suppliers and media taking part in the celebration. The sold-out event, dubbed “cruise3sixty,” took place at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center in Florida, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

The “first-ever global cruise event” was a success, based on the enthusiastic response from travel agent attendees.

“It is clear travel agents have a high regard for CLIA’s programs and services and cruise3sixty presents a great opportunity to join industry stakeholders to celebrate three decades of partnership,” said CLIA president and CEO, Terry Dale.

Agents had the opportunity to earn up to 115 CLIA Cruise Counselor credits and attend 13 training seminars at the event. The seminars included Effective Presentation Skills, Principles of Professional Selling, Direct Mail that Sells, Psychology of Selling and Creating a Cruise Marketing Plan. Attendees could also visit an exhibition of more than 200 leading travel destinations, suppliers and providers; tour ships in Port Everglades and Port of Miami; and watch an entertaining Geography Bowl hosted by TravelAge West’s own Dr. Marc Mancini. Featured speakers included Nancy Novogrod, editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure, who spoke on the topic of “How Cruisers Spend Information to Increase Your Sales.” Rod McLeod moderated a panel on the outlook for cruising that included Carnival’s Bob Dickinson; Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Adam Goldstein; Radisson’s Mark Conroy; MSC’s Rick Sasso; Dick Knodt,; and Audrey Hendley, American Express Travel Related Services.

One of the highlights of the event was Terry Dale’s interview of some of the industry’s top visionaries: Micky Arison, president and CEO of Carnival Corp and PLC; Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Colin Veitch, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Group. Florida governor Jeb Bush also addressed the group, noting with gratitude the $457 billion impact cruising has had on his state. Fifty-eight percent of CLIA’s cruises leave from Florida ports.

Arison told the group the best feedback his company receives is from agents, and that business is “pretty much back to pre-Sept. 11” numbers. He also announced the previously ordered 112,000-ton cruise ship to be built by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri will be used in Carnival’s North American market. Expected to enter service in spring 2008 the ship will have the largest spa and children’s facilities in the Carnival fleet.

Fain talked about innovations on cruise ships and “new ways to entertain” guests, pointing to a new surfing attraction entailing 500,000 tons of water on the top deck of the line’s newest vessel, Freedom of the Seas (set to debut in 2006).

“We’re continually trying to get better on new as well as older vessels,” said Fain.“No one buys a cruise based on a 20-second TV or print ad.”

That may bring them in, he said, but the travel agents’ knowledge and expertise is what sells.

Veitch pointed out that NCL’s positioning of ships has brought out first-time cruisers from Hawaii as well as the New York City area. As for NCL America, the line’s American-flagged brand in Hawaii: “Big picture, it is going well,” said Veitch. He added that although there were some hiccups, the product is highly appreciated by the public.

Another cruise3sixty panel featured travel agents and public relations professionals, including Bruce Good of Seabourn Cruise Line, Mimi Weisband of Crystal Cruises, Erik Elvejord of Holland America Line and Christine Fischer of ICCL. The panel focused on crisis management, all agreeing travel agents are the first line of information for the public. The panel provided agents with an idea of how to publicize themselves in the media and offered tools and strategies for serving as the “middle man” in dealing with customers.

Travel agent attendees, such as Caroline Washington of Ships and Trips Travel in Sacramento, Calif., came away impressed.

“I really liked the show and I didn’t know what to expect. I loved the Visionaries Lunch, because I always love to hear what the top executives have to say. The seminars were very good and I love being able to take CCI-accepted courses at a trade show,” she said.

An evening out on Fort Lauderdale’s famed Las Olas Boulevard, with dining costs paid for by American Express, and a Hall of Fame Gala Dinner rounded out the events.