June 17, 2009
Out and About in Juneau
On my recent Holland America Veendam cruise, I created my own self-guided tour of Juneau. I walked off the ship, grabbed a free map at a downtown visitor kiosk, and headed for the Alaska State Capitol Building, originally the U.S. Territorial building before Alaska achieved statehood in 1959.
Few cruisers get this far up the hill in Juneau. Yet, the capitol is only a few blocks from the downtown cruise piers. While the House and Senate chambers were closed during our visit, I enjoyed roaming the halls to peruse artifacts and old photographs. I also encountered many cruise travelers eagerly snapping photos of Gov. Sarah Palin's office entrance on an upper floor.
Next, I headed for the modest Juneau-Douglas City Museum; admission is $4. The docent pointed out highlights on a spectacular, black-and-white historic town photo above the information desk. I viewed an excellent film on the city’s Gold Rush history and browsed through several small rooms filled with artifacts and historical photos, including a 50th anniversary exhibition of Alaska’s statehood. The museum’s showpiece is a native American fish ladder that’s 600 to 700 years old.
After a walk of a few more blocks, I arrived at the Alaska Governor's Mansion, built in 1912 as home for the Territorial Governor. A stately home, it boasts 10 bedrooms, six bathrooms, eight bedrooms and an impressive location above the harbor. No public entry is allowed but I snapped a few photos.
The Alaska Governor's Mansion in Juneau
Then it was on to the historic 19th century St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church. Interestingly, there were no Russians in Juneau when the church was founded in 1894 and Alaska had been under U.S. control since 1867; native Tlingit people established the church.
Finally, I circled back through Juneau’s more touristy downtown, stopping in to glimpse the lobby of the Baranof Hotel; this Westmark Hotel exudes the feel of a bygone era. Outside again, I window shopped, photographed more historic buildings, bought a $2 bottle of water, stopped at an ATM and headed back to the Veendam for lunch. Total cost for my morning of self-exploration was $6. And the day had just begun!
April 07, 2009
cruise3sixty Shows Industry's Mettle
When the cruise line executives walked to their seats on stage for the first General Session of CLIA’S cruise3sixty conference in Fort Lauderdale on April 3, they were eager to focus on how important it is in today’s marketplace for agents to be aggressive and enthusiastic on the sales side. After all, the program was aptly entitled, “Maintain Course and Full Steam Ahead – When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Keep Selling.”
But the executives quickly discovered a tremendously enthusiastic trade audience with a decidedly more bullish attitude about marketplace conditions, cruise selling opportunities and their future success than anyone might have thought possible. Overall, “positivity and hope were the common themes and mood of the conference,” emphasized Jeffrey Anderson, vice president of marketing, America’s Vacation Center.
Moderating the executive discussion was travel expert Dr. Lalia Rach, divisional dean at the Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, New York University. She bluntly told agents that consumers have learned two big lessons in weathering economic woes over the past few months. First, they have learned to “trust no one” including businesses. Second, she said consumers now know the difference between “wants” and “needs.”
Using electronic voting equipment, she asked the agent audience, “What is your greatest concern for the future?" The audience selected from these choices: (1) People will take fewer leisure trips. (2) Technology will make what I do less valuable. (3) Supplier-agent relationships will become less important. (4) To earn a living as a travel agent will become more difficult. (5) There will always be challenges but I remain optimistic.
The overwhelming majority – nearly 89 percent – voted “there will always be challenges but I remain optimistic.”
Addressing this go-getter agent group were Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines; Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International; Carol Marlow, president and managing director of Cunard Line; Rick Sasso, president of MSC Cruises USA; and Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line.
The core message delivered by executives was that agents should show their passion for the cruise vacation product, keep promoting and look for sales opportunities in new places and in new ways.
Sasso said agents might seek out clients who may have had a budget of $10,000 to go to Europe on a land vacation this year, but don’t want to spend that. Perhaps they’d consider a cruise to Europe for $5,000?
Another creative option is to upsell to a higher cabin category, given the pricing changes of most lines. As with many lines, Carnival has re-categorized its ships – changed pricing levels and gaps between categories. “Even during the past six months when the economy has been as ugly as I can remember in my lifetime, we’ve seen a 50 percent increase in the sale of higher cabin categories versus the same time last year,” stressed Cahill. “So that’s another opportunity for you to do better and for us to do better too.”
What’s the cruise industry’s greatest strength? Agents were asked to choose between the following: product innovation; extraordinary value; value of the destinations/itineraries; level of customer service; and diversity of products from contemporary to luxury.
Not surpringly, “extraordinary value” was cited by more than 74 percent of the attendees. The variety of destinations and itineraries came in second with nearly 21 percent. But Sasso stressed that the cruise industry’s greatest strength is really a combination of all those attributes. “It’s the 360 of [the industry’s] brand development,” said Sasso.
Rach said she’s talked for a decade about the cruise industry being the most innovative travel industry segment compared with other segments including the hotel industry. “Why do you ‘get it’?” she asked the cruise executives. “Why are you so innovative?”
“We truly feel it is in our DNA,” said Goldstein as he described a process that began with a simple blank sheet of paper and resulted in the design of the innovative Oasis of the Seas design. “We need to be a compelling force that drives our company, and to some extent this industry, forward,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein also pointed to history. From the industry’s inception, “right at the top was an absolute focus to create new products that would entice customers so we could grow the market from a little niche thing -- that in 1970 had 500,000 customers -- to become a mainstream vacation option with well over 10 million [customers], which is what our industry has accomplished,” said Goldstein. “And there was always a sense that innovation would pave that path.”
“Innovation is trying to find things your guests would love but can’t get anywhere else,” emphasized Marlow. She said she recently introduced 35 of Cunard’s top guests to Her Majesty the Queen, Prince Phillip and Prince Charles. “That remains with our guests, and they have been telling everyone about it,” she said. “And that’s different and that’s new and that’s innovation.”
Citing his line’s cruise3sixty press conference about Norwegian Epic with a series of new innovations, “I think it gets back to the industry itself, and we all have to keep very crisp and sharp – because we’re competing with each other to differentiate our product offerings so we can stand out from the rest,” said Sheehan.
Often describing ships as works of art, Sasso stressed that every single space, every detail, every design feature, every soft good is thought about months in advance of design and delivery.
Rach asked the group about what advice they’d offer to travel agents to prepare for the next 18 months? Cahill advised agents to first do what’s needed to survive and then position themselves for the long term.
“The last thing anybody should do in this world is cut back on their marketing expenditures,” Cahill stressed. “You hate the pricing, we hate the pricing, but this is an opportunity to attract a whole bunch of people who have never gone on a cruise vacation before.”
Keep costs under control, run a tight ship, and most of all, “stay close to your customers, keep understanding what they want, and make sure you ask them what they want to do,” said Marlow. Use technology, take advantage of it…you need to leverage the technology, become more efficient,” said Sasso.
“I think it just gets back to keeping on the top of your game,” said Sheehan. Prior to his involvement in the cruise industry, he planned a personal cruise and wasn’t sure how to proceed with the transaction – but knew he wanted the entire trip to be perfect. His agent helped him through the transaction and he urged clients to do that with their own clients.
Be optimistic, noted Goldstein praising the attitude of those in the audience. He also said agents must remember that the end result of what they do is to make people really happy. “We have the best industry in the world for doing that and we need to keep doing that,” he said.
In terms of supplier/agent relationships, “you’re more important than you ever were before,” Sasso explained. “Because we keep building the ships. They’re not going to stop coming. And every time we have a little blip, a little turbulence, we need you more than ever.”
When the conference concluded, agents seemed pleased. “I believe participants walked away excited about the rest of 2009 and for being a part of this incredible industry,” said Anderson.
April 06, 2009
Royal Caribbean Unveils New Features, Cites Positive Gallup Survey Results
Perhaps no line has shown more improvement in recent years in its trade programs than Royal Caribbean International. This month, the line will celebrate Travel Agent Appreciation Month by introducing new fam weekends and enhancements to the line's University of Wow as well as new features on e-Connect.
Talking to reporters at cruise3sixty in Fort Lauderdale, Vicki Freed,
Royal Caribbean's senior vice president of sales, support and trade
services, said the new enhancements will empower travel agents and
generate more sales. For example, new e-Connect enhancements will help
agents create highly interactive and personalized eQuotes, which now
will include full travel agency details and logos; dynamic pricing; the
ability of clients to send the offer to friends; and single, triple and
quad pricing in a professional design. Visit www.cruisingpower.com for details.
New fam weekends across the country also will bring agents to embarkation ports to meet with executives, learn more about the cruise line and tour Royal Caribbean's ships. A nominal participation fee will cover the cost of transportation, lodging and most meals during the weekend.
Agents will also be able to explore a city for pre-and post-cruise potential. Travel agents will earn two CLIA credits upon completion of a fam weekend or up to 40 CLIA credits and 10 Travel Institute Credits for a Seminar at Sea.
This month, the line also will launch a new consumer radio program, "Why Not Talk Cruise with Ken Muskat," the line's vice president of sales. The first show will be April 10 at 2 p.m. Eastern time or 11 p.m. Pacific time on VoiceAmerica.com.
The radio program— expected to feature Royal Caribbean executives, travel agents, industry partners and media experts— is designed to drive traffic to the trade. Shows will stress the benefits of using travel agents.
Starting earlier this year, Royal Caribbean said it would begin calling on all agency partners, including agents affiliated with host agencies and home-based travel agents. Freed says that agents may register at www.cruisingpower.com to assure that the line knows about them so they can receive sales support.
The line is also offering several travel agent appreciation promotions in April including travel agent rates of 25 percent off and two additional Group Amenities Plus points on many itineraries from September 2009 onward. New Webinars are helping agents not only learn about brand attributes and product information but also about sales tips and techniques.
Royal Caribbean's sizable trade initiatives appear to be generating concrete results in the trade community. Freed announced that a 2009 Gallup survey of travel agents who rated major cruise lines showed a much improved and, in many cases, an industry-leading rating for Royal Caribbean.
For example, when looking at how well agents like working with particular cruise lines and whether the line is easy to do business with, Freed said Royal Caribbean now ranks in first place. In terms of having knowledgeable and helpful field sales personnel, Royal Caribbean has shown a three-point lead year-over-year, said Freed, and "we now lead in this category."
And in the one category agents had greatly criticized in the past— the way the line handles group bookings— Freed said the line improved by 13 points and now leads in the category. "This one we're particularly proud of," she emphasized. Through agent suggestions, advisory board feedback and the line's own efforts, Royal Caribbean recently introduced two different group policies (deposit and no deposit) that are agent friendly.
Freed was unable to reveal the other specific lines from the Gallup poll data, which she characterized as proprietary research provided to the lines for a fee. But she showed reporters the soaring line representing Royal Caribbean on the charts and how it surpassed the lines of other "unnamed" cruise operators.
In other news, Royal Caribbean is re-launching www.oasisoftheseas.com with a new series of Webisodes about the making of the ship. In addition, the revamped site will feature a weekly "Chairman's Blog," a personal blog by Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Royal Caribbean's parent company.
Agents and media attending cruise3sixty also attended a spectacular reception showcasing the Oasis of the Seas Aqua Theater Experience. During that program, Adam Goldstein, Royal Caribbean International's president and CEO, inducted more than 900 travel agents as ambassadors of "The Nation of Why Not." From Freed's perspective, "we do believe [agents] are the ambassadors because they are the gateway to the consumer's vacation." Agents were viewed attending the many conference events wearing their Why Not tee-shirts.
What's to come? Free said one new Royal Caribbean
program not yet announced is an individual incentive award program. The
technology to implement the program will be ready in May and more
details will be revealed at that point. Essentially, though, Royal
Caribbean plans to
offer eight different incentive cruise certificates, which travel agents may sell to companies, associations, small businesses and any type of organization that wants to buy an award certificate.
said the incentive award will be packaged to include the total price of
the cruise locked in, based on length of cruise and cabin category;
noncomissionable fees and gratuities will be built in. "So when they
are giving the award certificate to someone else, it is
truly an all inclusive award," Freed said
March 26, 2009
Day One Aboard The MSC Lirica
by Sherry Laskin Kennedy
Counting down the miles as I drove from my home to Port Everglades, I was anxious to begin my 10-night southern Caribbean cruise aboard the MSC Lirica. Walking into the terminal at 1:30PM enabled me to just miss the embarkation crunch. I breezed through registration and was onboard within ten minutes. As guests enter the Lirica’s lobby, as on all MSC ships, they are greeted and escorted to their staterooms by a white-gloved staff member.
I am in cabin 10010, a mini-suite of over 250 sq. ft. There is more storage and closet space than I have seen on any ship, ever. My stateroom has a walk-in closet with a built-in bureau. As you walk into the cabin, on your left are floor-to-ceiling cabinets flanking a mirror and glass shelf. More storage. There is the triangular desk over which is a huge mirror which cleverly conceals more storage and a safe. Near the sliding veranda door is credenza which houses the mini-fridge and two more storage cabinets. Even the two night stands have sizable storage compartments. The veranda is a very nice size, with two faux-wicker upright chairs and a smoked-glass table; perfect for having my morning coffee.
Right after a very painless muster drill (one of the advantages of a 59,000 ton ship with only 780 cabins) it was time to become familiar with my new, albeit temporary, home. Starting at the top and working my way down deck by deck, I have to say that this is a very uncomplicated deck plan. There are four, count ‘em…four elevator banks. For someone who may have trouble walking, you are never far from an elevator.
Moving ahead to dinner, my table is comprised of five more solo travelers. Comprising a mélange of nationalities, there are three men and three women. In the male category is a Swiss banker, a Lithuanian-America (haven’t learned his occupation yet), and another man who excuses himself for not speaking because only knows German. The female contingency consists of a young woman from Provence who is somewhat fluent in English, a recently retired Italian-American Florida transplant from New York, and myself. Once again, I have been randomly seated with group of strangers who could easily resemble characters in an Agatha Christie novel.
After dinner, four of us made our way to the Broadway Theater. A troupe of very skilled precision dancers and operatically trained singers entertained us for over 45 minutes. Definitely a smaller scale compared to the mass market mega-cruise ships, but never a dull moment and very crisp performances. I am actually looking forward to tonight’s entertainment…something I have become very jaded about attending on other cruise ships.
Just before midnight, waiters are passing through the lounges with trays of small snacks; little sandwiches and slices of Italian bread with different cheeses. Each evening, the late-night treats will feature different Chef’s Specials. I was looking for the 24-hour coffee/tea stand which I found on Deck 11, La Pergola. More on this lovely sheltered outdoor eatery later.
March 23, 2009
Case Studies: Royal Caribbean Environmental Policy
This week, Senior Editor Mark Rogers is attending the two-day Green Travel Summit at the Fairmont Hotel in Newport Beach, CA.
Costas Christ (left) moderates the discussion between David Jerome of InterContinental Hotels and Jamie Sweeting of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd
During the "Case Studies: Royal Caribbeans's Environmental Policy:
Challenges & Successes" panel at this week's Green Travel Summit in
Newport, CA., Jamie Sweeting, vice president of environmental stewardship and global chief environmental office for Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., summarized the cruise line's green accomplishments and hinted about new initiatives
Sweeting began strongly as he outlined Royal Caribbean's environmental programs. He pointed out positive achievements from the company, that one of its ships was managing to recycle 65 percent of its waste. Sweeting acknowledged that similar ships in the fleet were only recycling 10 to 15 percent, and the next challenge was bringing these other ships to a higher level.
He also mentioned some creative solutions on a smaller scale that were impressive for their creativity. “Instead of presenting our food on a bed of ice, we instead use sterilized, cooled river stones,’ he said. “This is not only more aesthetically pleasing, it’s cheaper also.”
Sweeting noted that it was challenging trying to meet the full range of environmental regulations imposed on cruise companies. "Even the water from deck run-off when it rains is regulated," he said.
Moderator Costas Christ, of Brooksville, Maine-based Beyond Green Travel commented that he picked up a hint of defensiveness in Sweeting's arguments. Although it was obvious that Royal Caribbean was deeply committed to green practices, Sweeting was, after all representing a cruise company, considered by many to be more guilty than green. Christ shared a comment he heard from a European cruise company exec at
an earlier event: “If we’re not careful, we’re going to become the new
tobacco – something you want to do but that you know is bad for you.”
"We've done things wrong in the past, but we have a commitment to improvement," responded Sweeting. “People may say we have Web 2.0 – now it’s time to move to Green 2.0.” Sweeting revealed that in an attempt for greater transparency, in the second quarter of this year Royal Caribbean will begin releasing its green initiative figures and results to the public.
"Ultimately we want to be part of the solution," said Sweeting. “The problem is many people think we have a tarnished environmental record. We conduct our business in the marine environment and in the destinations we visit. We have to look after the oceans and the communities we do business with.”
By: Mark Rogers
March 19, 2009
Florida's Terminal 18, New Look For Queen Elizabeth Ship, Headline Cruise Shipping Miami
The vibrancy of the cruise industry was evident last week in myriad announcements and news from the Cruise Shipping Miami conference in Miami Beach (also known as the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention). One of the most interesting “reveals” was a look at the new state-of-the-art Terminal 18 at Port Everglades, FL, set to handle Royal Caribbean International’s 5,400-guest Oasis of the Seas, the world’s soon-to-be-largest ship, later this year.
Already under construction to triple its existing size, the terminal will become the largest in the world designed to serve one ship at a time. The 240,000-square-foot layout will allow guests for one cruise to check in before debarkation is completed for the previous cruise, thus expediting the boarding process.
With exterior colors of blue and green that mimic the sky and sea, Terminal 18 will also feature natural lighting from a 4,000-square-foot skylight; 1,010 parking spaces within walking distance; and a children’s play area. The centerpiece of the interior will be artwork from Michele Oka Doner.
In another major development, Cunard Line rolled out its itinerary and design plans for the new Queen Elizabeth, scheduled to enter service in October 2010. Officials said the style and some public areas of the ship will evoke memories of the 1930s-1950s era of luxury transatlantic travel on the original Queen Elizabeth. For example, a Midships Bar will pay homage to that historic ship with memorabilia. Also, Cunard will introduce the flavor of that era with country house parties, lively piano evenings and dance marathons.
Queen Elizabeth will also feature several venues reminiscent of the Queen Elizabeth 2, including The Yacht Club with 270 degree views, and a Games Deck with paddle tennis, croquet and traditional British bowls. Check out this slide show below of the new areas of Queen Elizabeth.
Take a close look at the Queen Elizabeth in the slide show below:
Here’s a sampling of other news briefs from Cruise Shipping Miami.
Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival, the cruise line that’s home to the John Heald Bloggers Cruises, will host the first “Twitter by Sea Cruise” August 29 to September 2 on Carnival Destiny. It’s designed for users of the Twitter social networking site.
Costa Cruises: Costa unveiled preliminary details on a “Send us a sea of names” contest in which travel agents worldwide will suggest names for Costa’s two new sister flagships. The 114,500-ton ships will become the 16th and 17th in the Costa fleet. In North America and elsewhere outside Italy, the agent promotion will begin on March 31, with a closing date of June 5. Finalists will receive a thank you kit, plus the top three suggested name pairs will be awarded prizes and those agents will be honored guests at the christening ceremony for the first of the two flagships. A special website will be set up to host the initiative.
Crystal Cruises: This summer Crystal will offer guests the thrilling opportunity to participate in the annual Fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona, better known as the “Running of the Bulls.” Cruisers will watch from an exclusively reserved balcony directly above the action. This activity is part of a four-day optional land package that precedes Crystal Serenity’s July 16 voyage from Barcelona.
Louis Cruises: Charis Papacharalambous, general manager for sales and marketing for Louis Cruises, told Travel Agent that his line now operates three different regional cruise offerings – two vessels sail from Cyprus; two vessels depart from Genoa, Italy and Marseilles, France; and two sail from Piraeus, Greece. Papacharalambous reports that North Americans comprise about 50 percent of the clientele on the Piraeus-departing cruises. He is “now looking to the U.S. market” for greater sourcing for the line’s western Mediterranean sailings. Louis’ itineraries are sold through tour operators, who often include them in a combination land-sea itinerary.
Norwegian Cruise Line: NCL rolled out certain reveals for staterooms onboard the new F3 ship, Norwegian Epic. The 150,000-ton, 4,200-passenger ship will be the largest Freestyle Cruising vessel. It’s slated for launch in spring 2010.
Princess Cruises: Princess is sailing to 23 new ports worldwide this year including Sochi, a Russian resort on the eastern shores of the Black Sea; Murmansk, also in Russia and the largest city north of the Arctic Circle; Barrow for visits to England’s picturesque Lake District; Klaipeda in Lithuania; Lulea in Sweden, the gateway to Lapland; and Mariehamm in Finland, a charming destination on Aland Island.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Regent offered free unlimited shore excursions and free air on 59 departures this year and plans to expand that program in 2010. Every designated sailing features some free shore trips and others highly discounted. In addition, the line has expanded butler service for categories A and B to include C as well.
Sea Cloud Cruises: Given market conditions, Sea Cloud Cruises is avoiding the term “luxury” in many Sea Cloud promotions – instead focusing on the emotional experience and such value-added offers as shore excursions or onboard credits.
Silversea Cruises: Silversea announced it will provide butlers for all guest accommodations throughout its fleet. The line’s newest all-suite ship, Silver Spirit, will feature this new service when it launches in December. Currently, butler service is available in Royal, Grand and Owner’s Suites on the line’s other four ships. By June 7, butler service also will be available in Silver and Medallion Suites on those ships. Butler service will then be extended to all accommodations on Prince Albert II by September 21; Silver Cloud by October 9; Silver Whisper by October 24; Silver Wind by November 9; and Silver Shadow by December 2.
Copenhagen: This year, the destination is working to improve access to cruise piers, and a new cruise pier will open in Copenhagen’s North Harbour in 2012. To help speed cruise passengers on their way with ease, SAS will begin trialing a new check-in system onboard select cruise ships this year, allowing SAS and Star Alliance passengers to check bags onboard prior to their flights.
Mexico: Mexico stressed that areas frequented by cruise tourists are safe and that it’s strongly cultivating additional cruise growth from the U.S. market and globally. Thirteen new cruise facility projects are either just completed or under way including projects in Puerto Cortes, Cabo San Lucas, Loreto, Guaymas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Punta Brava. A new pier and terminal at Guaymas opened in October 2008. A newly refurbished terminal is opening in Acapulco in April 2009. By year-end Cozumel’s upgrades will allow it to berth an Oasis-class and a Freedom-class ship simultaneously. Progreso is one of the fastest growing Mexican ports, posting a 43.5 percent growth in passengers for 2008 versus 2007. Costa Maya is one of only four ports worldwide with the capacity to welcome the largest F3 and Oasis-class ships.
New York City: NYCruise, a unit of the New York Economic Development Corporation, signed an International Sister Seaports Agreement with Stazioni Maritime S.P.A. of Genoa, Italy. The goal of the agreement is to increase traffic and operational efficiencies in ports that share a common cruise operator – in this case, MSC Cruises. MSC’s New York visits alone will bring more than 23,000 visitors to New York City in 2009-2010, with an estimated impact to the city of $3.5 million.
San Francisco: Plans are advancing to replace San Francisco’s aging Pier 35 with a single larger berth at Pier 27, which is currently used as a secondary facility. Pier 27 has handled big ships like Queen Mary 2. However, the project is not going to happen overnight. A preferred site plan must be selected, and funding must be secured for what’s estimated to be a $60 million project.
Scotland: A new Cruise Scotland Marketing Group launched at Cruise Shipping Miami; the three-year marketing strategy looks to expand the market by 10 percent year over year.
Southampton, England: In May 2009, the Port of Southampton will open a new two-story Ocean Terminal able to accommodate 4,000 passengers at Ocean Dock; that site is opposite the old Ocean Terminal, once home to many transatlantic liners of the last century.
St. John, New Brunswick: The Saint John Port Authority announced completion of a new multi-million dollar cruise terminal. The grand opening is set for June 8 with Alan Buckelew, president and CEO, Princess Cruises, as the guest of honor. The first call in the new terminal will be the Carnival Triumph on June 9.
Taiwan: Michael Chang, director of the Taiwan Visitors Association, believes Asia is the up-and-coming cruise region – equating it to what Europe was to cruising just 20 years ago. He said cruise lines are more interested in Asia as relations with China continue to improve. Approximately 450,000 cruise clients are expected to visit Taiwan this year, up 15 percent from last year. New agreements now allow ships to sail directly between Taiwan and China. Keelung Harbor, Taipei’s home port, will be home to a new $78 million multi-functional building that will integrate cruise traffic, an exhibition center, shopping mall and port offices. Construction will be completed in 2013.
The Hague, The Netherlands: A $1 billion dedicated cruise facility will open by 2013-14; it will be able to accommodate two mega-ships.
British Virgin Islands: Cruise visitors arriving at the Port of Tortola now have a new destination option for shore excursions – a beach with several watersports activities.
France: Le Havre joined the Atlantic Alliance, a marketing organization comprised of European cruise destinations. A favorite port call for day trips to Paris, Le Havre is working on new passenger facilities to accommodate turnarounds by cruise ships carrying up to 500 passengers; the facilities will be ready in spring 2010. By the end of 2009, direct TGV trains will carry cruise travelers between Le Havre and Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport, enabling easier transfers to and from the French capital.
Halifax, Nova Scotia: In July 2009, Halifax harbor will host the largest gathering of Tall Ships in North America as part of the Tall Ships Challenge Race Series.
Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Tourist Board has launched a new Cruise South China website – www.discoverhongkong.com/cruisesouthchina. The joint initiative between the HKTB and several provincial tourism administrations, the site promotes the development of southern China as a cruise hub. It includes tourism information as well. Separately, a new Hong Kong cruise terminal is scheduled to open at Kai Tak in 2013.
Japan: The Visit Japan Campaign is revamping its website to include information about cruise ship travel to Japan.
Key West, FL: The tourism council for the Florida Keys and Key West has updated its marketing plan to be prepared for any change in U.S. policy for travel to and from Cuba. The port of Key West is just 90 miles north of Havana. Besides developing cruise itineraries to include both Key West and Havana, the tourism council hopes to take advantage of Americans’ desire to travel to Cuba. The council’s tag line – Two Nation Vacation – is waiting in the wings.
Rome: Luxury car enthusiasts debarking their cruise in Rome might want to check out the new Red Travel Roman Tour, allowing six participants to drive three different sports cars – a Ferrari, a Lamborghini and a Maserati – in a four-hour tour over the Mille Miglia route near Rome. Departures are twice daily from Civitavecchia. Price is 900 euros per person.
March 18, 2009
Cruise Executives: Stay the Course
Urging the industry to take a page from Apollo 13, Stein Kruse, president and CEO, Holland America Line, recalled a famous movie line as the damaged spacecraft is overdue in contacting Mission Control during a communications blackout. The mood is gloomy with NASA staff believing the worst had happened. Then, the mission control manager director confidentially stands up, straightens his tie and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, I believe this will be our finest hour.”
| Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA
Speaking on the “State of the Industry” panel at the annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention in Miami Beach on March 16, Kruse and other executives said such a confident attitude is needed throughout the industry despite a barrage of doom and gloom in the media about housing foreclosures, loss of jobs and financial portfolio losses. While acknowledging the difficult economic plight of many consumers, Kruse also said it was important to recognize that 90 percent still have jobs and 90 percent own homes. For them, he said a vacation is still an entitlement and what the cruise industry offers is a fantastic product.
As chairman of CLIA’s marketing committee, Rick Sasso, president and CEO, MSC Cruises USA, cited the industry’s strong history of growth despite past obstacles like the Iranian oil crisis of 1982, the beginning of Desert Storm in 1990, the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the fuel escalation and credit crisis of 2008. He noted that CLIA member lines introduced seven new ships in 2008. In addition, the CLIA fleet posted 104 percent occupancy in 2008 (reflecting third berths in some cabins).
He noted that while media stories focus on big business bail-outs draining taxpayer funds, in contrast, the cruise industry’s positive economic impact was $38 billion in 2007, with more than $18 billion of that in direct spending. Sasso and other executives cited value as the prime message for the industry this year.
Top cruise destinations this year are the Caribbean, followed by Alaska, the Mediterranean/Europe and Mexico. Sasso said half of all agents in a recent CLIA survey expect 2009 to be a very good or good year, compared with 2008. He also said 92 percent are optimistic about the cruise outlook over the next three years.
Describing cruising as a magnificent art form with ships as gorgeous works of art, Sasso cited these as prime factors in the industry this year: significant value packages and promotions; 14 new ships joining the fleet; the continued evolution of shipboard facilities; diversification and global expansion; development of year-round markets; voyages to new, exotic remote ports and the continuing growth of domestic home ports.
The CLIA 2009 passenger forecast is for 13.35 million passengers, up 300,000 from 2008, said Sasso. In addition, there are 21 new CLIA-member line ships representing a $14 billion investment on order for delivery in 2010-2012. As with other cruise executives, he cited the importance of maintaining course and moving full speed ahead.
Industry executives said unprecedented cruise deals, an inclusive value proposition, and intense marketing are all helping build bookings. “We’re living in unprecedented times, and with that I believe we are facing unprecedented challenges” said Kevin Sheehan, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line. But he also noted that more than 130 new vessels come online this decade, more than in the previous two decades, and that the industry has proven it can absorb the added capacity. New exciting onboard features, a greater pool of past guests, and a significant number of people who have never cruised are positives, he said.
Still, Sheehan noted that the economic challenges are sizable, with reduced ticket prices, a shorter booking window and softer onboard spending. But “we are doing a good job – in partnership with our travel partners – in filling our ships, albeit at never-before-seen-prices,” said Sheehan.
Sheehan said 2008 was the year of notion of the staycation and some analysts believe 2009 will be the advent of the No-cation of 2009. Sheehan said he believes “2009 will not be a lost year, but instead will bring about a more cautious traveler. We have to work to ease the consumer’s skittishness about committing to big purchases such as a vacation.” He said the industry is already doing that offering lowering deposit requirements, relaxed cancellation policies and offering insurance in the event of a job loss.
Gerry Cahill, president and CEO, Carnival Cruise Lines, said that two years ago, in his former role as CFO of Carnival Corp., he would have typically faced a difficult economic year by slashing the marketing budget. But now running the cruise line, he has a different view than he had just two years ago: “I think it’s the biggest mistake we could make if we were to cut the marketing in this time,” said Cahill. Emphasizing the importance of agents, Cahill said marketing is the engine that will cause consumers to go to a travel agent and to book.
“One of the most critical things we can do is to maintain our consumer marketing spend, because it drives people to [do that].” said Cahill. Citing confidence in the distribution system, Cahill said the value in the marketplace should be viewed as a real opportunity for cruise lines, travel agents and those who are able to take a cruise for the first time.
“I think the spending of our advertising dollars has to stay where it is,” noted Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. “I think the way we spend them is more important than it’s ever been before. I think in the past people cruised because they were coming back again regardless of what marketing they saw. And today, it’s important that we spend our marketing dollars extremely efficiency. So while we’re not cutting any marketing dollars at Celebrity, we’re trying to be a lot smarter about the way we spend the money and to be a lot smarter about the way we approach past guests and new guests. It’s a different kind of marketing that’s taking place today.”
In addition to great pricing, great value and the ability of marketing to deliver more cruisers, Adam Goldstein, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International talked about the advantage the industry has right now: “We are largely in competition with land-based travel and tourism products, [which are] in tremendous disarray right now because it seems the United States government has decided that it’s apparently not acceptable business behavior to go to meetings like this [referring to Seatrade].” He said the cruise industry has an advantage in terms of the simplicity and nature of its cruise products.
Cruise executives noted that not only ticket pricing has softened but onboard spending too has softened, as people have less disposable income. The dilemma of whether to fill a ship at a lower price, or let some cabins sail empty surfaced. “We manage day to day, cruise by cruise, but not filling ships does not make sense,” said Kruse.
As for destinations, “research has always shown and still shows today that people really care a lot about what destinations they're visiting on their cruises.",” said Goldstein, who noted that many Caribbean destinations are making investments to upgrade their facilities, making it easier to welcome cruise ships and their guests. Kruse and Goldstein both cited St. Maarten as one of the best for that, and Goldstein also mentioned the positive attitude in Jamaica. Executives criticized Alaska for onerous state regulations that are not only nearly impossible to meet and exceed what any other Alaska industry is required to provide.
Moving forward, “the main message … is that we’ll continue as an industry to evolve, we’ll continue to diversity, and diversify not only in the experience that we offer but in where we source our guests from and how we innovate and build our ships,” said Hanrahan. Sheehan said travel agent partners need to continue to get the word out of what a big bang consumers get for their buck. “There’s no crystal ball or recipe for success in these times. We have to focus on the opportunities and stay on message about the value our industry offers.”
February 25, 2009
90 Minutes In New Orleans
An amenity-laden cruise ship is “the destination” to many cruisers. I definitely get that. After all, today’s ships are modern floating resorts, so why should anyone want to leave?
That said, I’m among those who view an amenity-laden cruise ship as a fun, pampering means to the destination. Seeing the world’s sites is to me, the greatest joy of cruising.
So, when a recent Carnival Fantasy five-night voyage from New Orleans to Mexico was over (and a great experience it truly was), I bemoaned the fact that my flight was leaving just after mid-day. I was headed to the airport – without seeing anything in the Big Easy.
So Close, Yet So Far
Along with dozens of other Carnival passengers, I dutifully prepared to board the airport-bound motorcoach. It was about 8 a.m. I knew that upon arrival at the airport, I’d have hours to wait.
If my flight would have departed a bit later I could have booked Carnival’s half-day, post-cruise tour excursion and airport transfer, a relatively good value at $55. But that would have been too late for my flight.
I was caught in no-man’s land – that unfortunate circumstance in which one has too many hours at the airport and not enough time to book a half-day tour of the destination. But from the ship, I could almost see the promised land. I knew the French Quarter was just a mile or so from the pier.
Alas, I was here and I was going to miss it. Or, was I?
In a split second decision, I asked the Carnival representative at the motorcoach parking lot where the cabs were. She pointed me in the right direction, I slid into a cab and boldly told the driver, “Café Du Monde!”
Off we went – motoring through the warehouse district, by Harrah’s Casino and along the fringes of downtown. I had one impression: “clean and neat.” No signs of Katrina’s visit here.
Café and Beignets
Within 10 minutes, I was seated at my own table at Café Du Monde, a French café near
Jackson Square. It was a gorgeous day with temperatures in the 70s. I had a blessed sense of appreciation for the simple joys that travel delivers for any of us in the travel business. Even grabbing a few minutes here or there in an exotic locale is simply priceless.
Soon, I was savoring Café Du Monde’s house specialty -- three flaky beignets, basically square French-style fried fritters (aka donuts) topped with powdered sugar. Café Du Monde has been serving up this fare since 1862. The bill itself seemed stuck in time. One order of beignets was $1.82. Including coffee, my tab was $4, a bargain.
Café Du Monde isn’t so much a place as an experience. Beyond the beignets, it’s a great place to watch people. New Orleans has its share of quirky types in the French Quarter, making the “watching” even more enjoyable.
The locals were out in force walking their dogs, many of which comically resembled, not surprisingly, the owners themselves. A street entertainer created colorful balloon art. Tourists snapped photos.
But after a half-hour of bliss just watching life in the French Quarter unfold, I knew the clock was ticking. By 8:45 a.m., I headed over to Jackson Square. While I wanted to just stroll, I also was toting a carry-on suitcase and a computer bag.
Carriage Ride into History
Presto, in front of me at the curb appeared a lone red-and-white carriage. It was early yet, so the long line of carriages that typically wait there hadn’t yet materialized. The mule seemed healthy and well-groomed.
“I usually take four people at $60 apiece, but because it’s early and there aren’t a lot of folks lined up, I’ll take you solo for $50 if you like,” volunteered the go-getter who was the carriage driver. Fondly remembering similar rides in 1998 and 2003 with relatives and friends, I agreed and hopped onboard.
Usually, these rides can stir up some incredibly tall tales. Blessedly, this driver was entertaining and highly informative, but he stuck to the facts – a treasure trove of dates and happenings – and left the jokes behind, which I greatly appreciated.
In about 30 minutes, I received a wonderfully comprehensive carriage tour of the French Quarter. The experience flew by quickly as the driver talked, the mule traveled and I snapped photos. It was a whirlwind tour.
From Bienville’s statue to the Bonaparte House, from St. Louis Cathedral to Pat O’Briens, from Antoine’s to the Cabildo, local bars, historic buildings and the French Market, the city’s history and soul came alive with every turn my carriage took. Gold, green and purple Mardi Gras banners fluttered in the soft breeze. My driver explained the meaning – gold is power, green is faith, purple is justice.
I savored the sights of lovely wrought-iron balconies; historic homes; and French style buildings with open-air courtyards. I glimpsed the bar where Harry Connick Jr. got his start. And without the driver’s banter, I would have missed noticing an innocuous, multi-million-dollar French Quarter home owned by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
Impressions of a Cabbie
Around 9:45 a.m., my carriage driver – who went the extra mile for service – was kind enough to hail me a cab. He volunteered. I did not ask. It’s the kind of proactive service you’ll find from many in this city during these times.
Soon I was en route to the airport. On the way, I chatted up the cabbie about tourism. When you want to know what’s really happening anywhere you just ask a cabbie.
My cabbie came to New Orleans 30 years ago to attend Tulane University’s graduate school, but let the good times roll, as he explained it. He never did go to Tulane, but he partied hearty. He’s now married and lives in the New Orleans area, and loves it – save the economy.
His view was that the city was doing remarkably well in its post-Katrina recovery when the economic melt-down hit. A working class guy, he sadly noted that there were some 1,600 cabbies pre-Katrina, but today that number is down to 800 or so, with more dropping out daily due to the economic crunch.
One problem, he noted, is that New Orleans isn’t just a tourist town, it’s a convention city. And lately conference participants – already booked to attend – simply are failing to show up. For the auto dealers’ convention, for example, thousands simply didn’t show up – likely a fall-out of closing dealerships across the nation.
That said, my cab driver along with everyone else I met during my short foray into New Orleans clearly appreciated tourists and convention goers. These folks know right in their pocketbook what travelers and conventions mean to the city’s economic engine. So if your clients want to mingle with “friendly” folks in their vacation destination, they’re likely to find them in New Orleans.
Never a Better Time
Today, many hotels and cruise lines have great deals. The city isn’t overrun with tourists, so your clients generally will have a less crowded experience, except during big event periods.
Appearance-wise, the French Quarter, the Warehouse District and downtown looked terrific. I know some residential areas remain in serious need of repairs and help is still needed. Fortunately, people are still coming to work in the recovery effort. The bloggers participating in the second annual John Heald Bloggers’ Cruise on Carnival Fantasy, for example, came in pre-cruise to assist with local clean-up and repair work in one of the hardest hit areas of the city.
Safety issues? I didn’t have any concerns based on what I saw in my short time in the city. Perhaps the best advice is what my carriage driver volunteered: “Just be aware of your surroundings. Don’t flash money.” That’s good advice wherever one travels in the world.
New Orleans still wows tourists. It definitely had me at the taste of that first beignet. Of course, my tally for my short foray – about 90 minutes in the French Quarter – was more expensive than the motorcoach tour offered by Carnival. Other, more affordable options such as grabbing a shared van from a French Quarter hotel to the airport, may have saved some bucks. But in my case, speed was crucial.
My tally for the morning excursion totaled $109. That included $10 for the cab ride and tip from the pier to Café Du Monde; $4 for beignets and coffee; $50 plus a $10 tip for an excellent carriage ride tour; and $35 including tip for the cab ride to the airport.
A New Perspective
Was it worth it? That’s a resounding “yes.” Prior to this brief excursion, my impressions of New Orleans were rooted in the pre-Katrina past. Today, I have an updated view of the city’s tourism heartbeat.
I arrived at the airport a comfortable two hours before my flight. I could have stayed even a bit longer downtown, but I didn’t want to be rushed and chance missing my flight.
Upon arrival at the airport, I immediately noticed two bloggers from my cruise eating beignets at an airport restaurant. They bemoaned that their beignets definitely weren’t as tasty as the beignets from Café Du Monde. They were shocked to hear I’d actually gone to the French Quarter from the ship on my own. “We should have done that,” they responded in rousing unison.
People sometimes are skittish about trying something not on the schedule in an unfamiliar destination. But as long as your clients don’t cut the return ride to the airport too close, it’s possible add on a quick, mini-excursion.
Ninety minutes in the French Quarter certainly isn’t a lot, but in my case, it was a blessed fun. The experience reinforces my view that cruising – in this case on Carnival Fantasy -- is a great vacation. It delivers pampering and inclusive value onboard. It also gives travelers access to the world’s great destinations. New Orleans is certainly one. And the Big Easy unfolds just a short cab drive away from the pier.
February 03, 2009
To Serve or Not to Serve
One recent weekend, a friend and I walked into a run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant on New York's west side.
"Two for dinner?" we were asked.
"Yes," our reply.
"It'll be about 15 minutes," the host said.
In front of us, a table was vacant with four seats, so we inquired as to why we couldn't sit there.
"It's used only for four people," we were told. At that, we turned around and left.
This got me thinking: In today's economy, can you afford to turn anyone away, regardless of what they are looking for? If a customer is looking to book a Carnival cruise and you are used to selling higher-end cruises, would you not take that customer's business? Is this the dawn of a new era, which demands a new business model and service paradigm?
Readers, what are your thoughts? Do you have similar experiences where the amount of time put forth isn't worth the money in return? If you sell exclusively luxury products, can you really forego the lower-end market?
By: David Eisen
January 15, 2009
Incredible Wave Deals Kick-Start Consumer Demand
While the last quarter of 2008 was a difficult “sell” for client bookings, initial reports in early January indicate that this month’s Wave Season bookings— while still below the norm for many agencies— are on the rise. Agents say that’s attributable to shockingly low cruise fares, reduced deposits, elimination of fuel surcharges and supplier creativity in rolling out value-added perks.
“There are a ton of promotions out there right now, making cruising an even better value than it already was,” stresses Steven Hattem, vice president of marketing for CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. “These offers are certainly helping stimulate activity.”
Similarly encouraged is Michelle Fee, CEO of Cruise Planners, who says, “I’m happy to report that our agents’ phones are ringing – Yeah!”
“It's still too early to tell [about whether consumer demand will continue to build] but clearly there is some activity,” acknowledges Jack Mannix, president and CEO, Ensemble Travel Group. Mannix says he suspects the phones are ringing in response to the supplier offers, rather than signifying the beginning of a true economic recovery. “That said, we are delighted to see at least some call volume following a very quiet fourth quarter,” Mannix notes.
Starting January 5, most of AAA Auto Club South’s 70 locations in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have reported increased customer vacation requests, according to Jim Sweat, managing director of travel agency services for AAA Auto Club South. “We also have seen an increase in the amount of consumer attendance and interest in our consumer events which have taken place over the past week.”
Princess Cruises reported its biggest booking day ever on January 12, with volume up 17 percent from the previous top booking day. Yes, skittish consumers remain worried about their personal financial situation, say agency executives. But the executives also report many consumers are finding the extraordinarily lucrative perks and deals just too good to pass up.
In Princess’ case, a Balcony Bonanza program is helping drive bookings. Valid for most summer sailings this year to Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean, that promotion enables agents to provide a free upgrade to a balcony stateroom for the price of a standard oceanview stateroom. Clients reap a savings or up to $1,200 per cabin.
Industry-wide and for Holland America, “pricing is unprecedented,” acknowledges Rick Meadows, Holland America Line’s executive vice president of marketing, sales and guest programs. He believes savvy agents who aggressively promote, communicate effectively with clients, and hammer home the value message will succeed.
Holland America offers a Vacation Stimulus Plan with such perks as reduced deposits, cancellation protection plan savings and lower fares. For example, several 10-day Holland America Noordam cruises this year in the Mediterranean are priced at just $999 per person for an inside stateroom. That compares with last year’s lead-in pricing for a similar cruise of $1,799 per person or peak season pricing of $2,149 per person.
In late 2008, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity and Azamara Cruises introduced its Agent Support Action Program, which began this month; the consumer promotion is labeled as Amazing Ships, Amazing Perks. Reduced deposits and onboard credits are available for many 2009 and 2010 sailings.
New enticements from suppliers pop up almost daily. This week Costa Cruises debuted its Wave Season “So Much More Amore" promotion for select Mediterranean sailings. Guests will enjoy free upgrades; a $200 onboard credit; kids sail free specials; and 60 percent off regular fares.
A few other recent offers?
Carnival Cruise Lines launched Early Saver, offering fares up to 25 percent lower than the best generally available rates; the program also provides rate protection if rates later drop below what the consumer originally paid.
Celebrity Cruises launched the Celebrity Triple Star Celebration; this booking promotion rewards travel agents and guests for booking (over the next two months) cruises in Alaska, the Caribbean and Europe. Travel agents who book at least one Celebrity cruise for each of those destinations by February 29, 2008, will qualify to be entered into a drawing for prizes.
Norwegian Cruise Lines expanded its Wave Season Freestyle Resolution Sales Event with 50 percent off the standard cruise booking deposit for all sailings fleet-wide for a limited time – through January 17.
Niche and river lines have also sweetened the value proposition for clients. Among the many examples? Cruise West’s Stowaway Program allows guests to travel on short notice and receive 25 percent off the cruise-only brochure rate for spring itineraries to Japan, Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, the Columbia & Snake Rivers, British Columbia, Costa Rica and Panama.
AMAWATERWAYS just announced a free air offer from its guests headed to Europe during April. It’s available from the gateways of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
“We’re very excited that the first part of January has really started off with a bang here at AMAWATERWAYS,” says Kristin Karst, vice president of sales and co-owner. “The public is ready to cruise.” The river line plans fam trips for agents this spring and other promotions soon.
From one trade perspective, “I’ve checked our numbers and comparing the first two weeks [of January], it looks like we may be back on track,” says Fee. She says that’s a good thing, as the comparison of the last quarter of 2007 with the last quarter of 2008 “was scary.”
Hattem too is encouraged: “We have seen some very positive upward movement over the last week and we are pleased that business is coming in at increased levels.” But he says it’s “still too early to tell” if the Wave Season uplift will continue. He points to both up and down days over the past few months.
One positive factor spurring some bookings is the elimination of fuel surcharges. While fuel pricing is once again inching upward, fuel costs still remain much lower than last summer. Most major lines have— at least for now— dropped the surcharges. For example, MSC Cruises, which also offers a Kids Sail Free program and advantageous pricing to entice clients onboard, dropped its fuel surcharge in mid-December.
As bookings rise, however, Hattem and other agents say more consumers are waiting until the last minute to book. The booking curve has shortened considerably. During last year’s Wave Season, many Alaska and European cruise ships were already well booked for the coming summer. That isn’t the case this year.
Aggressive marketing, though, is helping fill cabins. For the first time in years, Cruise Planners continued to market to customers through the entire holiday season. “I do believe that has helped us kick start the year, and with the cruise lines offering great deals with lots of perks, it should help us recoup and get back on track,” Fee stresses.
Agents, however, probably can count on lower commission per sale – given the shockingly low pricing being offered on many cruise promotions. Yes, “we all know this will be a challenging year, and prices are below market value, but our mindset is, a sale is a sale,” emphasizes Fee.
AAA Auto Club South plans nine upscale special-invitation events for consumers in the next few weeks. Multiple travel suppliers will participate. “The RSVP’s for those events are coming in at a very optimistic pace,” says Sweat, “so I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to have a small wave of business activity over the next few weeks.” Leveraging your partner relationships is “super smart,” notes Meadows.
Ensemble is conducting training for members on how to proactively stimulate sales. “We are going to pay out about half of our anticipated 2008 profit sharing to members within the next couple of weeks (to ensure that we help them should cash flow be an issue for them),” stresses Mannix. Normally, Ensemble would not pay it out until later in the year following auditing of 2008 results.
What are agents doing to keep the phone ringing? “They’re very busy cooking up business, they’re not lying down,” says Meadows, who says “It all comes down to both adding and communicating value.” Do that with your prospects, stresses Meadows and “he or she will buy now.” But, he says, agents also need to make a strong and compelling case; stress inclusive value; and compare a cruise with land-based options.
Mannix sees it this way: “The travel professionals who are aggressive and proactive will survive and many will even thrive. Those who wait for the business to come to them will find 2009 a very difficult year and some will not survive. It's that simple.”
He says comparing this year’s Wave Season to last year’s is difficult, as bookings were exceptionally strong last year. In contrast, “2009 is a year in which we're all doing the best we can to mitigate very soft demand by maximizing sales while managing expenses more closely," Mannix says. “No one thinks for a moment it will be a record year - but the good ones will survive and many will actually prosper.”
Moving forward, “we are optimistic and like what we are seeing now in regards to bookings and prior Wave Seasons,” says Hattem. “It it a trend? We will see.”