Written By: Andy Ogg – Editor for Travel Professional NEWS®
As the days grow shorter and the leaves drift their way to the ground, two things are certain. Fall is in full swing and it is time for CruiseWorld! With tickets confirmed and bags packed, we made our journey from sunny San Diego to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the 2016 CruiseWorld presented by Travel Weekly. We arrived late on Tuesday and made our way to our rooms for a night of rest before the show kicked into full gear the following morning.
Now, this is my second year attending CruiseWorld, so I had an idea of what to expect this year, however, it was still a shock to see the sheer quantity of Travel Professionals in attendance this year! Arriving for the lunch sponsored by Holland America Cruise Lines, the doors opened to the massive hall completely packed! As the catering service hustled to set up additional tables and chairs, the energy in the room was overwhelming!
As the day progressed, so did the intensity and quality of the offerings at CruiseWorld. After the amazing meal, I was able to attend some of the concurrent sessions taking place, all of which offered valuable and powerful information to assist a Travel Professional to grow their business. The sessions lead way to the General Session of the day for Wednesday.
This General Session began with a great welcome address followed by a CEO Conversation between Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation and Arnie Weissman, Editor in Chief, Travel Weekly. Now, I don’t think that I am the only one that continues to be impressed with Mr. Donald’s presentation, demeanor and amazing advice offered to the huge gathering of Travel Professionals. Arnold Donald shared a bit of his past and the steps that have lead him to his current role with Carnival Corporation. His story is one of a solid plan, hard work and pure dedication and I could feel the entire audience share in the success that he has found.
The CEO Conversation led right into the Host Agency Panel Discussion “What Makes Being a Travel Advisor Awesome!” Hosted by our very own Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC and the beautiful Mary Pat Sullivan, the representatives took the stage and the conversation began. From left to right, Debbie Fiorino, Senior Vice President for Dream Vacations/CruiseOne & Cruises Inc, Jackie Friedman, President of Nexion LLC, Meredith Hill, Founder and President of Gifted Travel Network, Steve Hirshan, Senior Vice President of Sales Support for Avoya Travel, and Jenn Lee, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Travel Planners International. Joanie and Mary Pat have a certain chemistry and this panel was not only insanely informative for Travel Professionals, the crowd was laughing and having a great time through the entire session. All of these Host Agencies on stage are not only serious about what they do but continue to push forward and strive for the next level of success for their Travel Professional community.
I was able to speak with some amazing Travel Professionals during the course of the 3 day show. Christine Bonaventura based in Tampa, Florida is on her second year of being a Travel Professional. She is currently working wth Cruise Planners as her host agency. Christine shared “This is my first time attending CruiseWorld and it is excellent!” She continued, “This show has been very educational so far and extremely well organized.” Christine enrolled with the STAR program, exclusive to the CruiseWorld show, which gives her unique training opportunities, as well as the chance to create some great vendor relationships. With a rich history in the Culinary field, Christine shared “I’m really working hard to develop my niche in Culinary travel. It’s going great so far but I am also excited for what the future has to offer.” We want to wish Christine the best on her career as a Travel Professional .
Wednesday ended with the Think Tank, sponsored by Amadeus North America and Trisept Solutions and moderated by Mary Pat Sullivan and Joanie Ogg. Now I know my job at this particular event and that is to make sure that Mrs. Sullivan and Mrs. Ogg have a nice cold beverage to enjoy as they run relentlessly around the room to enable the interactions of Travel Agents with something to share. John Ische of Trisept Solutions facilitated some fantastic questions regarding how Travel Agents use technology for their clients and what options are out there that may help them save time and increase productivity. Trisept Solutions offers Xcelerator which is a true one stop shop for Travel Professionals. Xcelerator integrates all the systems Travel Professionals need on a daily basis, including business management and client relationship management tools and Discover, advanced trip-planning functionality powered by artificial intelligence. Discover increases value and improves client loyalty as it helps guide Travel Professionals to the most relevant vacation recommendations for their clients. Amazing things happening in this fantastic industry!
Thursday kicked into gear and with the Viewing Launch Party happening on board the newly released Harmony of the Seas in the afternoon, excitement was high from everyone throughout the day. Now, I will be honest and tell you that I took a bit of time on Thursday morning for a walk and some work before arriving at the convention center. I arrived in time for the General Session, sponsored by Discover. The Mastermind Sales & Marketing Secrets of Success, moderated by Joanie Ogg and Mary Pat Sullivan kicked into gear with some of the great minds of the Travel Industry. John Chernesky, Vice President of North America Sales, Princess Cruises and Cunard Line, Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President, Sales and Trade Support & Service, Royal Caribbean International, Nathan Hickman, Vice President National Accounts and Field Sales, Norwegian Cruise Line, Ken Muskat, Executive Vice President, Sales PR and Guest Services, MSC Cruises, Adolfo Perez, Vice President, Trade and Sales Marketing, Carnival Cruise Line, and Dondra Ritzenthaler, Senior Vice President, Sales and Trade Support and Service, Celebrity Cruises took the stage and everyone in the audience was in attention. These powerful minds offered some very unique and forward thinking marketing ideas for Travel Professionals that the audience quickly took note of. Each representative on the stage are such fun people, the session flew by with laughs and fantastic information.
I spoke to Jody Graham, from upstate New York who was attending his 3rd CruiseWorld and it is one of the annual shows he won’t miss. “After 15 years of running our own Agency, we still manage to learn something new every single year here at CruiseWorld.” Jody specializes in Group Travel and finds the education and skill building offered at CruiseWorld is a huge asset to his business.
Thursday afternoon is host to the Exhibitor Showcase and WOW is the word that comes to mind. The entire hall was full of vendors, suppliers, tools and host agencies ready and willing to share their business with Travel Agents interested. The Showcase was packed full of attendees partaking in give-a-ways, live music and snacks as they took the tour through the huge space to better their business. I was able to sneak away from our booth for a few minutes to say hello to some of our great partners and enjoy some of the live Hawaiian music brought to Florida from the HVCB. We had a steady flow of Travel Professionals to our booth and it’s always so awesome to put faces to the names in our Community at www.TravelProfessionalCommunity.com.
The Royal Caribbean Launch Party of the new Harmony of the Seas followed the Exhibitor Showcase and was simply amazing! This ship is the largest at sea at this time and the quality, styling, decor and finish of this amazing vessel is just awe inspiring. The Royal Caribbean staff was courteous and helpful as the CruiseWorld group boarded the huge ship for the party. They hit the ball out of the park with the food and drink selections, as well as the entire vibe that was portrayed on this beautiful ship. Well done CruiseWorld and Royal Caribbean!
On the last day of the show I was able to speak to Toby Tuttobene. Toby resides in Orlando, Florida and is celebrating her 16th year as a Travel Professional. She is currently working with Cruises and Tours Unlimited as her Host Agency and is very happy with their support and services. “It’s my second Host Agency and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with them.” When asked about CruiseWorld, Toby replied, “This is my third year and I absolutely love it!” She continued ” I really like the one on one time with the suppliers, it’s so helpful and I wish there was a little more time for that.”
Friday was another day full of great information and presentations. In fact, Marilyn Macallair from Passport Online and I had a session at 11:40 AM so my morning was spent preparing for the great opportunity to discuss “The Fun Factor of Social Media.” We were able to get our presentation on point and although I was a bit nervous, standing next to a pro like Marilyn eased my nerves a bit. It was a great experience presenting at CruiseWorld and I hope to do more into the future as the overall reaction seemed very positive to the content I shared.
After our session, I was able to chat with Tracy Trewick with Cruise Planners. When asked about her Host Agency, Cruise Planners, she said “They are really great! They support me in many ways and from marketing to social media, they always have support for me.” With over 5 years as a Travel Professional, Tracy has really found her specialty in the Luxury market. “Not only is the commission great, but the experiences I offer my clients just set it apart from anything else.” Tracy started coming to CruiseWorld in her first year in this great industry and has only missed one event but highly recommends them to any Travel Professional that is interested in bettering their business.
Joanie Ogg followed up in the afternoon with her session on “Do What You LOVE, LOVE What You Do, LOVE Working From Home (The AWESOME Side of What You Do)” and she, as always, delivered a fantastic presentation to a great room of Travel Professionals. I know that with anything, experience brings perfection and she has perfected the art of public speaking. Not only did she provide some great information to her room but you could actually see the crowd learning, which is just amazing.
CruiseWorld is truly a unique show, from the presentations, General Sessions, to the Exhibitor Showcase, the show just rocks. The entire show from start to end is well organized and put together with fantastic activities and engagement. As in anything, you get out of it exactly what you put in and if you are willing to put the time, attention and engagement in, you will travel home with an abundance of knowledge and tools to help grow your business to the next level. The 2017 CruiseWorld will be taking place November 15 – 17th in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. If you have not attended, I highly suggest it as the value offered, is more than apparent at this great show.
We look forward to seeing you next year at the 2017 CruiseWorld!