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We’ve got advice and updates from key sales and marketing leaders in the cruise industry.

Last week, during a “hot seat” session moderated by travel advisor Lori Speers, CTC, owner & CEO of Levarte Travel, we heard a stellar group of cruise executives tell travel advisors in attendance at Cruise360 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that their industry has rebounded, and with that come some exciting new products, opportunities and tips to keep the momentum going.

Here are some highlights:

Adolfo M. Perez

Adolfo M. Perez, CTC, sr. v.p., global sales and trade marketing, Carnival Cruise Line: As the cruise brand celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, travel advisors should keep top of mind that each client has their own idea of fun and Carnival has something for everyone. So, if your client’s idea of fun is lying by the pool at Serenity on board Mardi Gras, sipping a cocktail and reading a book, or if they want to join a competition or play Family Feud, this is the time to “let go.” The cruise line has special rates for travel advisors, so you can get on board and experience the ships to better serve your customers.


Dondra Ritzenthaler

Dondra Ritzenthaler, sr. v.p. of sales, the Americas, Celebrity Cruises: During the pandemic, the cruise brand reinvented itself. There were many changes, including transitioning into an all-inclusive concept, which is important for travel advisors because you get commission on everything now. With the Edge, Flora expedition ship and the revitalization of our other ships, Celebrity is a brand between premium and the luxury space—“new luxury” mantra. The all-suite Retreat space on board is the brand’s number-one booking category and a way for travel advisors to make more commission. Another differentiator is that the brand has embraced diversity, including having approximately 34 percent female bridge officers. Plus, the sustainability efforts—corporately there is a commitment to have net zero emissions by 2050. Also, exclusive products from Goop, Peloton classes, Daniel Boulud’s only restaurant at sea—these partnerships help travel advisors close Celebrity business.

Kris Endreson

Kris Endreson, v.p. of strategic sales, MSC Cruises USA: So many amazing things are happening at MSC, including Ocean Cay, which was restored by removing 7,500 tons of metal scrap and planting 75,000 trees and shrubs as well as by cleaning up the surrounding waters. It provides a pristine environment where your clients can get up-close to baby turtles, go kayaking and snorkeling, and enjoy pristine beaches. The cruise line calls on this island on every itinerary it offers in the Caribbean. We are so proud of the island as MSC has a commitment to sustainability and to make the world a better place. A few things advisors may not know about MSC is that they are the fastest-growing cruising company in the world, and the world’s third largest by capacity. By 2025 MSC will have 23 ships in our fleet. Lots of new ports, too, including sailing out of New York City starting in April 2023 year-round. The brand is rooted in discovery and its European heritage, which influences the onboard food, entertainment and design. So, this allows MSC to attract a sophisticated voyager.

Todd Hamilton

Todd Hamilton, sr. v.p., sales, Norwegian Cruise Line: There are six new ships coming out and the brand is not successful without the trade, so NCL supported travel advisors during the pandemic and now that the demand is coming back everyone can all reap the benefits. Norwegian has maintained price integrity as they have returned to service, so travel advisors should know that they will make more money, their clients will be more loyal and they will have higher expectations, which the cruise brand is delivering on. You are getting what you are earning. Norwegian values what you do for us, and you should be paid for it. All of us in the cruise industry are getting high guest satisfaction scores and that should be told to your clients, and they should be paying a fair price for it because the experience is so good now and we cannot go backwards, so what NCL has done is convert some passenger cabins and use them for more guest-facing crew, allowing the brand to keep that elevated service level for your clients. Also, NCL offers an air promo—buy one, get one free.

Nikki Upshaw

Nikki Upshaw, sr. v.p., sales, Oceania Cruises: The trends in the industry are bigger, better, longer—Bigger in the sense that there are more vacation dollars, clients want larger staterooms, suites; Better, they are delivering incredible experiences that are tailored for clients, and for Oceania, we find clients want a smaller ship with deeper destination experience; and Longer, our Grand Voyages, 30-, 40-, 50-, 70-day voyages, they are looking to fulfill their bucket list destination. During the pandemic, Oceania introduced all new menus on its ships. The cruise line is known as the cruise line for foodies, the finest cuisine at sea, with new dining concepts and we are also focused on curated travel experiences so travel advisors can focus on their customer’s passion points. For instance, Oceania just introduced Go Green, 150 tours that are sustainable. One of my tips is for travel advisors to find their client’s loves, then their experiences can be customized and memorable and Oceania offers so many choices from culinary, eco, wellness….

Vicki Freed

Vicki Freed, sr. v.p., sales, and trade support & service, Royal Caribbean International: The cruise brand’s newest ship, Wonder of the Seas, the fifth in its Oasis Class, has an eighth neighborhood (the other Oasis class ships have seven)—the Suite Neighborhood. This area is on decks 17 and 18, where all of the luxury suites are (except for the AquaTheater Suites, which overlook the AquaTheater). The Suite Neighborhood is home to a dining room, lounge, pool area, bar; it’s an all-inclusive neighborhood, but clients can also enjoy the same big ship experience. New dining venues include Mason Jar, offering Southern cuisine with a country Western band that plays in the evenings. Families are still the focus of Royal Caribbean; they are the brand’s core market, and it is because RCI can handle children of all ages. They offer many activities for children but one of the things that the brand wants advisors to know is that everyone who works in the Adventure Ocean program, the kids and teens programs, has a 4-year college degree in a field that is related to either physical education, teaching or childcare, so the brand recruits the very best people. Another crucial point is that Royal Caribbean as well as its sister brand Celebrity, prior to the sailing, they send their entire manifest to the FBI, and the FBI lets the cruise line know if there are any sex offenders, and if so, they are canceled off the sailing; advisors will get a call and your commission is protected. We take families very seriously.

John Diorio

John Diorio, v.p., North American sales, Virgin Voyages: The cruise line has launched two ships in the last eight months, Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady, and we just opened our new terminal in PortMiami. Jennifer Lopez is a new investor as well as the entertainment and lifestyle officer, so we have some wonderful things coming soon. Scarlet Lady is in the Caribbean year-round, Valiant Lady sails out of Barcelona starting in May, and the third ship, Resilient Lady, will sail out of Athens, Greece this August. That is three ships in 11 months. What is always included in your client’s fare is $600 onboard credit, all eateries, WiFi and gratuities. It really makes a difference when you are comparing our products to others at sea or on land. The brand is paying 22 percent commission to travel advisors until the end of April.