The Pirates Are Back

*New Legislation for Cruise Ships
*Southwest Testing Assigned Seats
*New Commission

Last month, Pirates of the Caribbean, the popular Disney theme park attraction brought to the big screen in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” welcomed new characters and elements for the reopening of the ride at both Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and Florida’s Magic Kingdom. The reopening of the attraction was timed to coincide with the release of Disney’s latest pirate film, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” which premiered in the Disneyland park. Disney “Imagineers” have enhanced the classic attraction by adding characters from the movies, an all-new dynamic digital sound design, musical cues from the movie soundtracks, enhanced theatrical lightning and an improved battle sequence. They also updated the gold treasure, as well as the look of the “fire” in some of the scenes. In addition, guests sailing on Disney Cruise Line in the Caribbean will find a 175-foot ghost ship called The Flying Dutchman, anchored at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. The ship is an actual set piece from the latest movie. “Bringing these popular characters from the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ film franchise to Disneyland and Walt Disney World is a great example of how we are bringing new magic to a classic attraction,” said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “Our parks are where the Disney magic comes alive, and we’re excited to give Capt. Jack Sparrow and his cohorts a home in our Pirates of the Caribbean attractions and on Castaway Cay.”

New Legislation for Cruise Ships U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (R.-Conn.) is proposing a bill that will require cruise ship officials to report any incidents or missing persons to Homeland Security within four hours of the master of the cruise ship learning of it. The bill also allows for Homeland Security officials to inspect each cruise ship that docks in the U.S. to check for proper equipment and make sure there are trained personnel available to investigate any crimes. If the bill passes, violators could face up to a $250,000 fine. This legislation comes after media attention focused on the disappearance of George Smith last July while on his honeymoon in the Mediterranean. Last month, Royal Caribbean International reached a settlement with Smith’s widow, Jennifer Hagel Smith, over the disappearance of her husband. At the same time, however, other members of Smith’s family filed a lawsuit against the cruise line accusing the line of “outrageous conduct causing severe emotional distress” in its handling of the incident and its communications with Smith’s family. The International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) is working with Rep. Shays in reviewing the legislation and improving safety and security aboard ships. They stress that they are dedicated to providing passengers a safe vacation option.

Southwest Testing Assigned Seats Southwest Airlines has launched an assigned seating boarding test in San Diego to see if assigned seating can fit into Southwest’s business plan. The test, which begins July 10, will last for several weeks and will affect about 200 departures. Five different boarding methods will be used, but for the trial period, passengers will not be able to select their own seats. Until Southwest’s reservation system technology is upgraded in 2008, the airline must manually assign seats. However, they are committed to seating families and companions together. Southwest selected San Diego as the test site because of its assortment of short, medium and long flights. San Diego’s mild weather also makes for ideal testing situations because it will reduce the likelihood of weather influencing the results. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly wrote on the airline’s blog that “[assigned seating] is not a unanimous request. However, we do listen intently to our customers and do our best to give them what they want, so it only makes sense to extensively research and evaluate this possibility.”

New Commission is offering agents 15 percent commission on every Caribbean and Mexico vacation package and land-only reservation, including many excursions and add-ons. claims to be the only site to offer CheapFinder which searches for the lowest airfares and returns three package prices for the date selected, as well as one day before and after. The company also says that prices on are 70 percent lower than other online and wholesale competitors. Agents can book online or over the phone and must provide their IATA or ARC number to receive the 15 percent commission.


BizDev Central America’s Vacation Center/American Express (AVC) have launched a Web portal that claims to save “hundreds of travel agents thousands of work hours.” Using AVC’s Agent Power software, the new portal, called BizDev Central, will provide “one-click access to templates, booking numbers, vendor policies, letterhead, marketing collateral you name it,” said Brad Anderson, co-president of AVC. Retail travel agents and home-based agents can use BizDev Central for day-to-day tasks or marketing solutions. The portal also offers access to customizable print advertisements, press release templates, greeting cards and personalized stationary. An added perk is the ability to see current vendor promotions and agent incentives.

Ensemble Conference Plans Ensemble Travel Group’s “Star Power - Blending Fire, Brilliance and Imagination” conference will take place in Toronto at the Fairmont Royal York, Oct. 18-22. The event will offer training workshops run by sales, marketing and business experts, as well as supplier exchanges with Ensemble on Location, air, car, cruise and land partners. The Technology Village will also be tripled in size from last year. On Oct. 18, a TRAMS ClientBase Introductory Training will be available for those who wish to enroll. For entertainment, in addition to the Dessert and Cordial Spectacular and the costume dinner party, evening events will include the Circle of Excellence dinner. Early registration until July 31, costs $189. After that, registration will be $249 for members.

ISRAMWORLD Teams With Ensemble Ensemble Travel Group and IsramWorld have teamed up to provide clients with new travel options to Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. IsramWorld’s Latin American division, Latour, was also appointed as a Preferred Supplier starting July 1. “We are excited to have been added to Ensemble’s boutique-style list of Preferred Suppliers,” said Dov Koniak, the newly selected president and CEO of IsramWorld. Founded in 1967, IsramWorld serves 67 destinations in 55 countries.