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After what she describes as an instant meeting of minds, cruise veteran Joni Rein has come onboard Scenic as its vice president of U.S. sales and marketing.
Rein most recently served as vice president of worldwide sales for Carnival Cruise Line. She had never experienced river cruising until she came to Scenic last month, when she promptly set forth on Scenic Amber on the Danube River, also going onboard Scenic Ruby and Emerald Sky before arriving at her desk in Boston.
“I was completely wowed,” she said. “They are completely committed to the luxury experience, retrofitting their ships when they make new additions to the hardware. That level of dedication really enticed me.”
She is also impressed by the line’s all-inclusive aspect.
“I went onboard to check in, and they didn’t ask for a credit card — my first experience in my life of travel where that happened,” she said. “The inclusions are amazing for ships that size — the dining, the technology.”
Among Scenic’s big distinctions, Rein cites its new dedicated culinary centers.
“So many of the guests on the cruise wanted to go on the market tour with the chef,” she said. “And then they came back, and the buzz filled the whole ship.”
Rein also views the sophistication of Scenic’s well-traveled guests as a strong selling point for the company.
“This is the first time I’ve seen the guests meandering around and chatting over cocktails as a real feature of the trip,” she said.
Rein praises Scenic’s new river cruising travel insurance, which automatically covers guests against delays or canceled cruises due to weather, natural disasters, breakdowns or strikes.
“They are working to remove the barriers to river cruising,” she said.
Rein believes Scenic’s insistence on complete control of the product shows on the Douro River, where the company has bypassed the usual relationship with DouroAzul on river cruising in Portugal, which impacts the design of each cruise line’s ships operating there and alters the nature of the onboard staff.
“Scenic has its own dock in Porto, and its own infrastructure and offices in Portugal,” she said. “It is operating completely independently.”
Rein is coming in at a pivotal time for Scenic, as it prepares for the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse, launching in 2018 as the brand’s first seagoing luxury yacht, with an array of features the company could not possibly place on river cruise vessels. With a double hull and A-1 ice rating, the newbuild will extend Scenic’s itineraries into polar regions.
“This will be top luxury,” Rein said. “Scenic’s customers will be able to follow the brand to some of the most sought-after ocean cruise regions.”
Rein’s vision for Scenic is to be fully engaged with the agent community; she expects to have more face time with agents and to expand brand awareness of the company through its agent portal and newsletters, and by paying careful attention to agent input.
A step in that direction is a river cruise booking contest for agents. (Brochures are being distributed now by BDMs for new deposited 2017 bookings.) Agents who register and meet a minimum booking level are eligible to win a Scenic cruise for two on the new Eclipse, with business-class air travel included.
“Everyone wins on this,” Rein said. “The agent has a high awareness of an amazing product and gets a fantastic reward, the client has a superb experience, and Scenic has increased brand awareness.”