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Archive for January, 2008

Carnival SHOCKER! Vicki Freed jumps ship to Royal Caribbean

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 18 - 2008

Vicki FreedVicki Freed, a 29-year veteran of Carnival Cruise Lines, is joining Royal Caribbean International as senior vice president of sales. Freed most recently served as senior vice president and guest services at Carnival.

She will report to Adam Goldstein, president and ceo of Royal Caribbean International. She starts her new position with Royal Caribbean on Tuesday.

‘Vicki has an outstanding and proven background within our industry and we are very pleased to have her join our team,’ Goldstein said. ‘Vicki’s passionate support of travel agents has been well chronicled and recognized. She will be a great asset to our brand as we continue to grow.’

Freed will take charge of the company’s sales force along with managing reservations, group sales, customer service and loyalty programs.

In a statement, Carnival thanked Freed for ‘the many contributions she has made to the Carnival organization over years and the very valuable role she has played within the company.’

Speculation as to why Freed jumped ship so suddenly has the travel agent world abuzz. Carnival’s long time president, Bob Dickinson, recently retired after 35 years with the company. Under new Carnival president, Gerald Cahill, things seemed to be going well.

MSNBC/Tripso columnist and travel agency owner, John Frenaye, says he thinks Freed’s sudden departure is an ominous sign for travel agents. “I think they are positioning to go direct to the consumer and eliminate all commissions,” he says. Frenaye is blogging his thoughts here http://notravelmlms.blogspot.com

Stay tuned for updates. ExpertCruiser will be onboard the Carnival Freedom starting tomorrow for John Heald’s “Bloggers Cruise” several company executives are scheduled to be onboard. We will keep you updated.

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Celebrity looks to ‘weed out’ the competition

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 18 - 2008

Artist rendering of the Celebrity Solstice (Image courtesy of Celebrity Cruises) When Celebrity Solstice launches in December, the ship will debut “The Lawn Club,” a top deck covered in real grass. The half-acre area will offer bocce ball and croquet, golf putting and a spot to picnic with a basket of wine and cheese.

Dan Hanrahan, president and ceo of Celebrity Cruises, who fittingly unveiled the feature at a New York event last night in Central Park’s Tavern on the Green, says he wants Celebrity’s guests to “experience the unexpected, like the thrill of sinking a putt on a freshly manicured lawn in the middle of the ocean.”

Growing real grass on a cruise ship requires considerable effort. Celebrity worked with design firm Wilson Butler Architects to create the entire club area, then engaged a team of landscape architects and irrigation specialists along with turf and soil scientists at the University of Florida.

Together, they tested a variety of grasses to determine which can withstand the winds, sun, shade and temperature variations that will affect the grass and soil as the ship sails in the Caribbean this winter.

I am sure the other cruise ships will be ‘green’ with envy.

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Royal Caribbean and USA Today team up to “Name That Ship”

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 18 - 2008

Freedom of the Seas (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises International) In an unprecedented move, Royal Caribbean is letting the readers of USA TODAY, pick the name of its next two “Project Genesis” ships that are currently under construction in Turku, Finland.

Launching in 2009 and 2010, the 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger monster-ships will be, by far, the largest in the world. They will also be the most expensive costing a record $1.2 billion a piece

Think you can come up with two suitable names? Just click on the link to USA TODAY and Royal Caribbean’s Name That Ship contest.

If your suggestions are picked, you’ll win a seven-day cruise on one of the new ships, among other prizes. If you’re one of five finalists, you’ll win a two-night inaugural cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, debuting in May.

So, what are you waiting for? Get over there and name that ship!

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That’s hot! 2008 cruise trends

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 17 - 2008

Couples enjoying their cruiseIn a new survey from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) travel agents let consumers know what to expect while cruising in 2008 along with tips on how to best enjoy a cruise vacation.

CLIA is taking the pulse of the rapidly changing and growing cruise industry by surveying its agent and agency members about their outlook for the future and the emerging trends of today. A survey of nearly 1,000 North American CLIA travel professionals reveals a snapshot of the cruise landscape and points toward more varied destinations, more amazing shipboard amenities and a broadening appeal to vacationers. The agents also offered helpful advice on how consumers should plan for and enjoy their trip.

From the latest hot destinations to shipboard amenities, the survey results paint a clear picture of what factors and cruise offerings are motivating vacationers to choose a cruise over other vacation options. Virtually all the results highlight the inescapable conclusion that cruising offers more diversity of product, destinations, activities and experiences than any other form of vacation, and that adds up to unique value. They also help explain why the industry enjoys a 95 percent customer satisfaction rate.

Here are some of the highlights:

Put aside all preconceptions; there’s a cruise experience for everyone.

The fastest growing cruise vacation groups were identified as families/ multigenerational cruisers and baby boomers. Notably, first time passengers were identified as a fast-growing group as were repeat passengers, reflecting not only the initial appeal of cruises in comparison to other vacation choices, but the high satisfaction rate among those who choose to cruise again.

Cruising is global

According to agents, the Caribbean remains the number one cruise market in the world and continues to grow in popularity but other destinations around the world are booming as well. The Mediterranean, Alaska and Hawaii were named as the three fastest growing cruise destinations, with impressive growth indicated for Central and South America, Northern Europe and the Baltic and Australia/New Zealand.

There’s a different cruise type for every taste, interest and budget

While the traditional 6-8 day cruise remains the all-time favorite in terms of numbers of cruisers, travel agents reported that virtually every other type of cruise vacation is also in demand. Showing particular strength (in order of ranking) were: short cruises (3-5 days), river and coastal cruises, longer cruises (9 days or more), theme cruises, small ship cruises, and luxury voyages.

Value is the name of the game

The top three reasons for taking a cruise, according to respondents to the survey are, overwhelmingly: value, the opportunity to see multiple destinations in one trip, and convenience.

The value factor is reflected strongly in other findings of the survey. Consumers, by a large margin, report that the most impressive things about a cruise, in addition to visiting multiple ports, are the onboard experience, dining and entertainment – all of which are typically included in the cruise price.

What are the most popular features of that onboard experience, according to consumers? The increasing diversity and flexibility of dining options, new shipboard active-activities (bowling, ice skating, rock climbing, and aqua parks are among the latest), and connectivity (internet cafes, wireless access and other high tech innovations at sea). But traditional creature comforts also remain high on the list with one of the top rated new amenities being the upgraded bedding found on today’s ships.

Looking ahead to choice, choice, and more choice!

Predicting things to come, travel agents say consumers can depend on finding a cruise to perfectly match any particular interest or taste. With the dominant theme of more casual cruise lifestyles, agents expect more choice in enrichment programs, entertainment, recreational facilities (many new ships are introducing full-service luxury spas and even water parks) and especially dining. Cruisers will have more choice in restaurants, dining schedules and menus, including more healthy and/or vegetarian dishes. Passengers will also find cruise ships increasingly “connected,” enabling guests to enjoy the latest in personal technology, from cell phones to Internet cafes.

Travel agents also offered tips for getting the most out of a cruise vacation. Whether they take it for granted or simply don’t expect it, consumers agents say, sometimes don’t realize that two of the key selling points of a cruise are that there is something for everyone, regardless of age, background or interests and that cruising is ideal for families. They also point out that the old myth about gaining weight on a cruise is outdated: cruise passengers are able to eat what they want but the abundance of healthy menu and fitness choices ensures that anyone who wants to can stay in shape.

The most important tip, according to agents, is to book a cruise as early as possible. The large majority of cruisers make their decision at least five to six months out, and over half are booking cruise vacations seven months in advance or longer. And there are several reasons why: CLIA member lines’ are experiencing record demand so booking early ensures that consumers will have their choice of departure dates, itinerary and accommodations. Agents also advise consumers to consider a pre-cruise stay in order to relax and minimize the stress of traveling to the ship; to try to upgrade their accommodations, and to pack lightly for extra convenience of travel. Finally, both travel agents and CLIA recommend that cruise passengers obtain a passport. The cost and investment in time are well worth it when you consider that a passport opens the door for you to discover the world.

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Port Everglades welcomes a pair of Queens

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 17 - 2008

Cunard’s Queen Victoria sails by the QE2 at Port Everglades (Photo courtesy of Cunard)Queen Victoria made her first official call to Port Everglades on Wednesday, the same day Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) was in port. Both ships have been sailing in tandem since departing Southampton on January, 6. They last met in New York Harbor on Sunday, where they were joined by Queen Mary 2 (QM2).

Queen Victoria is sailing its first world cruise, and QE2 its 26th and final world cruise before it leaves the fleet in November to become a hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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One really horny cruise ship

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 15 - 2008

Voyager of the Seas adorned with longhorns (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line)Talk about being bullish! Check out Voyager of the Seas as it arrives in Galveston, Texas yesterday for its first Winter Season. Take a good look at that photo – yes – the ship is wearing gargantuan longhorns that are 140 feet long and weighing 600 pounds! They are documented to be the longest longhorns ever created. Moo!

They say everything is bigger in Texas and this horny and corny approach to marketing will certainly appeal to those in the Lone Star State. The horns will stay mounted to the ship until the ship heads for Europe in April. Oh heck, keep them on! I think it would play well in Barcelona. Ole!

Voyager of the Seas adorned with longhorns (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line)Gigantic horns aside, Voyager is the largest cruise ship ever to be based in the Gulf Coast and to sail from the Port of Galveston. Voyager will sail seven-night itineraries visiting the Caribbean, South America and Mexico calling on Cozumel, Costa Maya and Yucatan, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and George Town, Grand Cayman through April 2008.

After the onboard ceremony celebrating the ship’s arrival, Royal Caribbean kicked off a week-long charity auction on eBay (www.ebay.com/longhorns) with proceeds benefiting the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation (www.starlight.org), which helps seriously ill children and their families cope with their pain, fear and isolation through entertainment, education and family activities. The highest bidder will win the longhorns, large Texas flags, and a seven-night cruise for two. Great idea for a good cause!

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