CLIA’s week-long 2021 Cruise360 Conference, held at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, July 27-31, was filled with optimism and excitement as travel advisors from all over the country had access to updates, workshops and selling tips as well as a trade show that featured destinations and cruise lines. Of special note was a keynote address that discussed plans for a “Return to Sail” strategy, plus also provided insight and selling tips from key cruise line executives.
“We have an obligation to mitigate COVID-19 and we’re going to emerge better and stronger,” said Anne Madison, CLIA’s sr. v.p., global marketing & strategic communications. Her passionate speech during one of the conference’s general sessions laid out the path of response, rebuilding, reinvention, and resumption for the organization’s Ready, Set, Sail campaign. “Most importantly, safeguarding the health of our customers and our commitment to rebuilding by following the science is paramount. Also, we must have the government and industry work together.
“Travel advisors are critical, as you give consumers confidence that cruise lines have not only created and adhered to safety protocols, but that our industry is the leader in health and safety,” stressed Madison. She also cited how in 2019, the industry was preparing for a record-breaking year of cruisers worldwide and that looking forward there is growth and optimism for the coming years, noting all the new ships that are forecast to sail and pent-up demand.
7 Cruise Industry Executives Share Updates/Advice
Hosted by Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion Travel Group, seven cruise line executives had seven minutes each to share with the audience news about their cruise line and tips for selling. John Diorio, Virgin Voyages associate v.p., North America sales, had exciting news about the Scarlet Lady—she’ll be leaving the UK on Sept. 2, and sailing to Miami for her inaugural cruise on Oct. 6. Later this year, Virgin Voyages will have its own terminal at Port Miami, and one of its best-selling points is that they offer an adults-only cruise. He added, “Your customers will set sail the Virgin way, with the glamour of a boutique hotel on the ocean, sophisticated, yet relaxed.”
Vicki L. Freed, sr. v.p., sales, and trade support & service, Royal Caribbean International, told advisors how “fabulous our industry is” and how she saw a positive future. She shared some of the positive changes that came to Royal Caribbean with the implementation of upgraded health and safety protocols, adding an ICU for guests, as well as beautiful isolation suites for guests who needed to be quarantined. Also, that “e” mustering had been instituted instead of the traditional muster drills. She told advisors, “Turn the page and feel inspired, have a great attitude and be positive.”
Todd Hamilton, sr. v.p., sales, Norwegian Cruise Line, was excited to tell the audience about the sailing of their first ship sailing this year beginning in Seattle with a cruise to Alaska. And, about their new class of ship, Prima, due out next year on Aug. 17. Michelle Lardizabal, sr. v.p. & commercial sales officer, MSC Cruises, shared how the cruise line has been in growth strategy, which was left intact even through COVID, with new ships coming out, including MSC Seashore, set to debut in Miami this November. She emphasized that MSC had safely cruised in Europe in 2020 and how they are going to bring these high standards from their blue-ribbon panel of medical experts to their ships that sail from the U.S.
Jamie Paiko, v.p. of sales, North America for Cunard, shared that they would deploy 40 new voyages starting in 2022. She told advisors to sell her brand as luxury on a grand scale with signature experiences and events. “Your customer can create their own story on our ships,” said Paiko. She added, “Have a good multi-channel marketing plan and have a deep curiosity about your client so you can deliver the best vacation experience for them.” Carnival Cruise Line’s Adolfo Perez, CTC, sr. v.p., sales and trade marketing, was excited to share details about the new XL class ships—three by 2023. “We are committed to travel advisors in order to grow and are looking forward to continuing to work together.”
Dondra Ritzenthaler, sr. v.p., sales & trade support & service for Celebrity Cruises, shared details about the Edge-class of ships, Apex and Beyond, and noted that Celebrity was the first ship in the water from the U.S. on June 26.
(Special note: John Chernesky, s.v.p., sales & trade marketing at Princess Cruises and Cunard, made a video appearance directly from the Princess ship he was on sailing on to Alaska to greet advisors and share the benefits of Medallion class on all of Princess’ ships).
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