Written By: Andy Ogg – Editor for Travel Professional NEWS
We arrived to a drizzly and brisk Vancouver and even with the cloud covered skies, the beauty of this remarkable city shined through. Navigating to our hotel with ease, we checked in and settled in for a busy week ahead of us. Having never attended a Cruise360 event, I was eager to dive in to all that Cruise360 had to offer.
Thursday started off with a series of seminars presented by CLIA followed by workshops on focused destinations. While I got to peek my head into a few of them, I had a schedule of press conferences that kept me busy as the day continued. Travel Professional NEWS was fortunate enough to be invited to the Norwegian Cruise Line press event and what was shared, well it was awesome!
Andy Stuart, President and COO of Norwegian Cruise Lines, was on stage to share some of the exciting things that NCL has in the works. One of the most notable items for Travel Professionals was the Partners-First program. This program is based on four pillars that NCL feels will grow and continue to motivate Travel Professionals to partner with NCL. The first pillar holds the value that NCL wants to continue to be easy to do business with. The second is regarding investments into the health of the Travel Professional channel. The third pillar was in regards to learning and gaining information of the needs of the Travel Professional channel. Lastly, the fourth pillar, my personal favorite, was to never get in between a Travel Professional and their client, thus empowering the Travel Professional to grow their sales with NCL. “We are investing in building the relationship with Individual Travel Professionals,” said Stuart.
On top of the Partners-First program, Andy Stuart shared information regarding the Norwegian Edge program, which entails a $400 Million dollar investment being made into their fleet, destinations, and amenities. The selected ships that will be going into dry dock aren’t just getting new curtains and cleaned carpet. A video privately shown to the press revealed the Norwegian Dawn being taken down to the steel in this massive renovation that will include new staterooms, common areas, features, attractions and activities. Each ship going into the renovation will undergo the same in depth process, ensuring the highest quality ships on the sea.
Continuing my day, the Windstar Cruise press event started and Joe Duckett, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, took the room with some exciting news. The Star Promise, Windstar’s initiative for Travel Professionals, is not only being improved upon but also added to. “Star Promise is the first step in the direction to build and create new relationships with Travel Professionals,” shared Duckett.
The Star Promise contains several parts and the first was that Windstar will continue to promise that a client booked with a Travel Professional, will be taken care of like never before. Windstar realizes that they have a unique and special product, and with that, they are investing into the education, training and information available for Travel Professionals. The third portion Duckett shared was that the sales and support that Travel Professionals utilize is being increased. Lastly, Duckett stated that Windstar’s world class service isn’t just about the guest on board, they are working to make it about the Travel Professional as well.
Steve Simao, CTC, Travel Agent Sales, took the stage next and informed the room of the new Star Service initiative. The Star Service plan is to ensure a response to an inquiry within 24 hours. If you need an answer from Windstar, they are committing to a confirmation of the question or issue within 24 hours, and a response or solution soon after. In my opinion, this is a great step forward for the Travel Professionals that sell Windstar or are interested in selling Windstar Cruises.
With the press events coming to a close for the day, I stopped by a presentation by Travel42 “Travel Knowledge: The Key To Unlocking Success.” The presentation was great and Barry Karp from ShoreTrips took the stage to share the benefits of booking with ShoreTrips. He shared that ShoreTrips offers the same destination and attractions but they work with the local tour operators to ensure that guests have a private and unique experience. He continued to show a comparison photo of Stingray City in Grand Cayman. On the left side was the StingRay City tour offered by the cruise line and showed hundreds of people in the water, the right side was the ShoreTrips experience, showing only 10 people in the water surrounded by StingRays. Barry continued “Our offerings are either the same price or less than what is offered on a ship, but the experience we offer is where the true value is.”
With hunger beginning to settle in, the General Session presented by Royal Caribbean was just in time. Lunch was served and the panel took the stage. The topic of discussion was “The Cruise Industry Evolution,” featuring Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line, Adam Goldstein, President & COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Rick Sasso, President of MSC Cruises and Andy Stuart, President and COO, Norwegian Cruise Line. Hearing the stories of these influential and wildly successful individuals was inspiring and motivating. It’s amazing to think how far the cruise industry has come in the past 10 years, let alone the past 30. The question I have is what’s next? What is the next evolution we will see in the cruise sector of this amazing industry? Only time will tell I suppose.
While the day wasn’t quite over, a break was needed and we headed back to the room for a quick break before the CLIA Hall of Fame dinner that evening. My mother, Joanie Ogg, was inducted into the CLIA Hall of Fame in 2008 and although I was aware of her amazing successes, I was unaware of how amazing this prestigious award actually was for her. We made our way to the convention hall for a hosted cocktail party and had the opportunity to speak with some of our amazing clients and very awesome individuals that work in this industry. Have I mentioned how amazing our industry is yet? 🙂
We had been asked by Mr. Clark Reber, Director of Trade Marketing & Engagement at Norwegian Cruise Line, to join them for this event and we were beyond honored. We took our seats near the front of the room and watched as Andy Stuart started the event off with a fantastic speech, followed by some of NCL’s best entertainment, flown in just for the evening from their ship. The night included more fantastic entertainment and speeches by some of the most powerful individuals in our industry, which just left me inspired.
The awards were underway and started off with one of our fantastic partners, Outside Agents being selected for the Travel Agency Innovator Award. Unfortunately, Chad Burt and Steve Muraca were unable to attend the event but their acceptance video conveyed their enthusiasm through and through.
Cindy D’Aoust, President of CLIA, describes this Award as, “The Travel Agency Innovator Award recognizes an agency that has demonstrated innovation in their approach to promoting the benefits and value of cruise travel.” Outside Agents has done that time and time again with their groundbreaking technology, dedication to their Independent Agents but mostly, their true passion for the Travel industry and Cruising as a whole. “This is an amazing honor,” said Burt. “For us, innovation is a constant part of our day to day operations. We’re committed to building better agents and the only way to do that is through innovation.”
The Rising Star Award went to Christine Brown who works with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers Sumerlin. Christine was able to contain her excitement long enough to get her thank you speech out, but the passion could be felt throughout the entire ballroom as she took and exited the stage. Congratulations Christine!
The CLIA Hall of Fame inductees for 2016 went to two influential men in the Cruising industry. Bill Smith, Vice President of Virtuoso, was inducted into the CLIA Hall of Fame for his years of hard work, dedication and professionalism in his career. The crowd stood tall as Bill took the stage and accepted this great honor, The second inductee was Rudy Schreiner, President and Co-Owner of Ama Waterways. Rudy excitement radiated with this great honor and his gratuity was sincere and truthful. Rudy asked his wife, Kristin Karst to join him on the stage, as he felt he wouldn’t be here, without her. A true partnership of admiration can be seen in these two and we couldn’t be happier for Rudy and Kristin and the entire Ama Waterways team.
A new day began and Travel Professional NEWS was invited to the Crystal Cruises Press breakfast which took place at the Fairmont Hotel, just across the street from the Vancouver Convention Center. Crystal Cruises had a phenomenal breakfast spread available and presented not only the Crystal Difference, but the very unique and exciting additions to their line.
Crystal Cruise Line is working to expand their offering of the most luxurious ships at sea into the River, Air and Land. Crystal Luxury River Cruises, due to set sail July 13th, 2016, will offer clients the same “Crystal Difference,” except with the ability to navigate through the beautiful rivers of Europe and beyond. Edie Rodriguez, President and CEO of Crystal Cruises said, “It’s not a product, it’s an experience.” From the all-inclusive offerings to the unique and luxurious staterooms, there is no doubt that Crystal Cruises has put the same attention to detail in these River Cruises, as they have into the other aspects of their offerings. “We will make it Crystal clear that Crystal River Cruises will be the most luxurious option for River Cruising,” stated Rodriguez. These luxury River Cruises will not only host BMW bicycles for guests to enjoy, but also jet boats for private or guided exploration up river if they desire the spirit of adventure.
Continuing on, Edie Rodriguez shared the exciting new Crystal Air with the room. Crystal Air follows the same luxurious feel that Crystal has branded themselves with and offers guests a unique adventure throughout the world in the most luxurious airplane that may have been created. The Crystal Air Cruise will be launching in 2017 and utilizes a Boeing 737, normally capable of seating 280 guests, will only seat 38 for Crystal Air Cruise. These Air Cruises will be visiting 12-15 destinations around the globe and are completely open for the clients desires. From golf to wine and so much more, the Crystal Air Cruise is truly the first of it’s kind to cater to the traveler seeking a new and luxurious form of travel.
Lastly, Rodriguez shared the future of Crystal Cruises by the announcement of three new ocean builds in the upcoming years. Each ship will be accommodating to their cliental with the best of the best and continued advancements in luxury and comfort for guests while at sea. Each new ship will feature one complete deck of Private Residences, which will be only accessible by owners of the onboard suites. Crystal Cruises plans to have 28 available private residences on these future ships and to continue with their movement of a “life at sea.”
With an overwhelming morning of information, I chose to step out of the business attire for a walk around the beautiful city of Vancouver. If you have never visited, you really need to. The cleanliness of the city, friendly people and utter beauty that captivates this place are just overwhelming. With the infamous Stanley Park just a couple miles away, we made our way for a fun walk followed by a beautiful waterfront lunch in the harbor. This city is just amazing and I highly suggest a visit to those of you who haven’t been.
Back to work, the CLIA Cruise360 Marketplace was next on the agenda. We set up up our booth and awaited the attendees to enter and make their way to our booth. We were happy to see some familiar faces of the past and present but overall, the Marketplace wasn’t as busy as we had hoped. We stood our ground and made the best of the time by visiting with friends and enjoying a break from the standing and walking of the past few days. We were able to speak to some up and coming agents that were very excited to learn about Travel Professional NEWS and while, we wish there had been more, we were more than grateful to be in attendance.
The 2016 CLIA Cruise360 led to some great memories and some new friends that we were able to have the pleasure of meeting. We appreciate the opportunity to have attended the event and to be able to share our experiences with all of you.