Sickness Strikes Six Cruise Ships

*Fare Wars
*Croatia a Surprise Hit
*ATAA Education

In yet more unfortunate news for the cruise industry during the month of March, at least six different cruises reported outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness. The ships affected were Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas; Princess’ Island Princess; Holland America Line’s Amsterdam and Volendam; and Celebrity Mercury, which was hit with outbreaks on back-to-back cruises from San Diego to Mexico.
More than 200 passengers and crew became ill on the March 6-17 Mercury cruise. The Mercury departed for a second cruise on March 17, after disinfecting the vessel, but another 100 passengers became ill on that cruise. The Centers for Disease Control took the unusual step of boarding the Mercury in Puerto Vallarta after the second outbreak. They determined that Norovirus was the culprit on the first cruise and are still investigating to determine if Norovirus is also responsible for the second outbreak. The contagious virus causes diarrhea and vomiting for up to three days.
The CDC has also determined that Norovirus was the cause of the outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness aboard Island Princess, Grandeur of the Seas and the Amsterdam. The cause of the illness on the Volendam is still under investigation.
The March outbreaks were the largest number of reported cases in one month since January 2005.

By Ana Figueroa

Fare Wars
When an airline decides to launch interisland service, it’s only natural that a fare war ensues. Such is the case with go!, the Mesa Air Group carrier expecting to spread its wings on June 9 with a $39 one-way special. Hawaii’s two existing airlines immediately matched the fare, and Hawaiian Airlines responded further by adding extra flights in the evening. Aloha officials said they would adjust flight times to remain competitive. Hawaiian, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit claiming that Mesa used confidential Hawaiian Airlines information to help plan its new carrier. Mesa has countersued, saying it used only public data.

By Marty Wentzel

Croatia a Surprise Hit
A recent survey conducted at the European Tour Operators Association’s (ETOA) Hotelier’s Marketplace, an annual event, revealed Croatia to be a surprising favorite among tour operators and their clients lauded for both its excitement and value for the money.
“Croatia comes out on top because it is perceived as European without suffering the pitfalls of EU membership,” said Tom Jenkins, executive director of ETOA. “Because it is not subject to EU VAT laws, Croatia enjoys a 19 percent price break compared with its close competitors, the more established Italy and Greece.”
The UK is considered to be the worst value for the money, though London was rated best for sightseeing, partying and shopping. Italy was voted the best in terms of art, while Paris is the frontrunner for romance.

ATAA Education
The Association of Travel Agents of America (ATAA) is making experience and education available to travel agents again this year through their annual Nuts and Bolts Con-
ference and their Seminar at Sea. Agents can learn how to take their travel consultancy to the next level while earning up to 50 credits toward CLIA certification.
“Travel agents who want to become travel consultants need new skills and a new way of thinking that moves beyond just product training,” said Scott Caddow, president of ATAA’s board of directors. “Because ATAA is driven ‘by travel agents for travel agents,’ we know that continuing education and first-hand travel experience is crucial to success.”
The Nuts and Bolts Conference will be held July 14-16 at the Tucson Starr Pass Resort in Tucson, Ariz. Seminar at Sea will take place Sept. 4-9, boarding in New York and traveling to Saint John and Halifax in Canada, then back to New York. Discounts are available until May for Land and Sea Experiences.

.Travel Extension
Tralliance Corporation, the .travel registry, announced a 30-day extension of governments’ right to reserve their “place names” as .travel domains. While a nation will always have the sole right to their country name in the
.travel space, place names not registered by April 30, will be available to any travel entity with a legal right to use the name. Place names include cities, towns, heritage sites, sacred sites and national parks.
“As more and more tourism entities are actively using their .travel domains in large-scale marketing efforts, nations that have not yet been able to register all of their names are telling us that the additional time is critical,” said Ronald Andruff, president and CEO of Tralliance Corporation.

Total Trip
Marriott is introducing a new service which helps to eliminate uncertainty about the total price of guestrooms at all of its more than 2,700 hotels worldwide with the launch of Total Trip Pricing. The hotel chain factors in all applicable taxes, surcharges and any fees in an easy-to-read, line-by-line layout before customers complete their online reservations. In addition, Total Trip Pricing is available when calling the company’s toll-free reservations line, by contacting a hotel directly or through selected travel agents.
In addition, the company’s Web site allows travelers to view thousands of hotel and resort photographs, as well as book separate air travel reservations.

By Lauren Baratti