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TRAVELSAVERS Urges Royal Caribbean to Reconsider Thresholds
Another travel agency group has come out swinging at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. after the cruise company, which operates the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises brands, confirmed that in order for non-affiliated travel partners to maintain a 16 percent commission level, they would have to raise revenues from $1.25 million to $1.5 million in sales for the three brands.
It's the first time since 1999 that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has raised its sales commission thresholds and we speculate that an increase in capacity has something to do with the decision.
TRAVELSAVERS, a major agency consortium, joined ranks with Vacation.com, another major agency group, questioning the cruise company's decision to increase sales thresholds. Jim Mazza, COO of Oyster Bay, NY-based TRAVELSAVERS urged them to reconsider.
"Although we understand and can appreciate the factors that led to this decision by the Royal Caribbean brands to increase their revenue thresholds, we don't feel that it was in the best interests of the travel agent community (who are their primary sellers) or the suppliers themselves, in the end,” Mazza said.
“The Royal Caribbean brands have demonstrated their support of travel agents in the past, and we encourage them to reconsider the impact of this or any future revenue restructuring. Cruising is still one of the best vacation values in the industry today, and with new ships being built each year, every supplier needs motivated travel agents pushing their product out into the marketplace, both to repeat and new cruise clients. Given the implications of the current economy, isn’t this the perfect time for cruise suppliers to strengthen, not diminish, their relationships with travel agents?" Mazza asked.
On Wednesday, Vacation.com’s Steve Tracas, president and CEO expressed disappointment with Royal Caribbean's move and reaffirmed the value of travel agents to Royal Caribbean and the industry. Visit www.travelsavers.com and www.vacation.com.
NCL & Carnival Readjust Fuel Supplement
First Carnival Corp. again raised its fuel supplement from $7 per person, per day to $9 per person per day for all new bookings beginning June 12 for six of its brands—Carnival, Costa, Cunard, Holland America, Princess and Seabourn. Then, one day later, Norwegian Cruise Line is doing the same, increasing its from $9 per person per day to $11 per person per day for first and second passengers in a stateroom, and $5 per person per day for additional passengers in the same stateroom.
For NCL, the adjustment will apply to new individual reservations made on or after June 20, 2008. For group reservations, the increase also goes into effect on or after June 20, but will also apply to group space held before June 20 without specific names and a full confirming deposit by June 19. Back in April, NCL first adjusted its fuel supplement to $9 per person per day, up from an initial $7. Visit www.ncl.com.
Meanwhile, Carnival also is increasing the fuel supplement on third, fourth and fifth passengers in a stateroom from $2 to $4 per person, per day. The fuel surcharge will not exceed $126 per person, per voyage for first and second guests and $56 per person, per voyage for the third, fourth and fifth guests in a stateroom. Carnival first implemented a fuel supplement in November to the tune of $5 per person, per day, raising it to $7 in April.
Costa Fills Sales Slot
Costa Cruises has named Scott Knutson vice president of sales, replacing Joni Rein who left for Carnival Cruise Lines. Knutson previously was regional vice president of sales for the Southeastern United States at Carnival Cruise Lines. In his new position he will head up sales for Costa's North American region, overseeing both field and group sales. Knutson began his career in sales at United Airlines.
Additionally, Costa announced it had promoted Ruben Perez to the role of senior vice president of guest services and revenue management. Perez has been with Costa for 24 years, most recently as vice president of passenger services.
British Celeb Selected As Splendor Godmother
With Carnival Splendor calling Dover, England home, it's only fit that its godmother be a Briton. Carnival has given the honor and duties to Myleene Klass, a chart-topping British musician, singer and TV personality, who also hosts an entertainment program on CNN International. The 4,914-passenger Carnival Splendor will be named in Dover on July 10, 2008, and, in a turn from tradition, the ship will be christened using Nyetimber English sparkling wine instead of the usual champagne.
"Myleene is the perfect godmother to name Carnival Splendor, with her many talents complementing the many features of the ship, which is already attracting a broad passenger base—from families to couples to groups of friends," said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. "The British cruising market is growing fast, with over 1.3 million taking cruises from the UK last year, and this is why we have chosen Britain for our inaugural summer season for Carnival Splendor."
Following the christening ceremony, Splendor will set out on a three-day mini preview cruise to Amsterdam before returning to Dover for its inaugural 12-day Baltic cruise. Following its summer European program, Splendor will reposition to Fort Lauderdale for seven-day Caribbean itineraries. In March 2009, Splendor will operate year-round, seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach, CA.
Meanwhile, Carnival also has announced that Carnival Freedom, whose title as Carnival's newest ship will be relinquished once Splendor is unveiled, will operate year-round, six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale beginning this November. The ship was scheduled to operate the same itineraries, but on a seasonal basis. Freedom's Mediterranean program ends in October.
Star Clippers Opens Tahiti Bookings Through 2010
Travel agents can now book Star Clippers' Tahiti voyages through spring 2010, as the line of tall ships has just unveiled its Tahiti Cruise Atlas for Star Flyer's itineraries from fall 2008 forward.
Star Clippers said it is opening bookings so far down the road based on the line's "history of solid advanced bookings." As an added bonus, guests who book by September 30, 2008, will be awarded a one-category cabin upgrade.
"The Tahiti cruises are so popular that we wanted to get our upcoming itineraries out to the public and travel agents as soon as possible," said Mark Carlson, director of marketing for Star Clippers. "We don't want our guests to have to go with their second choice of sailing date or not get the cabin they want, so we're giving them plenty of time to make their booking."
Star Flyer is currently operating its first full season in French Polynesia with seven-, 10- and 11-night itineraries to the Society Islands and Tuamotu Atolls.
Agents can request a new Tahiti brochure by calling 800-442-0556. Visit www.starclippers.com.
Cruise West Adds Departures on Columbia and Snake River Cruises
Citing strong demand from consumers, Cruise West is adding 20 additional departures of its Columbia and Snake River cruises in 2009, bring the total to 35 departures. By adding departures, the season will now run later in both the spring and fall.
The Taste of the Pacific Northwest itinerary has a choice of four departures int he spring and six in the fall aboard the 84-guest Spirit of Discovery. Prices start at $3,299 per person.
The Voyage of Discovery itinerary, offered on the 96-guest Spirit of '98, the 78-guest Spirit of Columbia and the 78-guest Spirit of Alaska, will have 10 spring and 15 fall departures with prices starting at $2,199 per person. Visit www.cruisewest.com.
Crystal Cruises Offers Low Business-Class Air to Europe in 2009
Crystal Cruises is offering low Business-Class air from select U.S. gateways for all summer 2009 Baltic, British Isles and Mediterranean cruises. The rates are available on cruises beginning June 18 through the end of August 2009. Upgraded service starts at only $799 one way, $1598 round trip, to the Baltic and British Isles, and $899 one way, $1798 round trip, to the Mediterranean - up to 75% lower than unrestricted published business class fares.
In the summer of 2009, Crystal Symphony will make five seven- and 11-day cruises to the Baltic, including overnights in St. Petersburg, Russia, and one 11-day cruise around the British Isles. From June through August, Crystal Serenity will make five seven- and 12-day Mediterranean cruises departing from Barcelona, Rome, Venice and Athens. Visit www.crystalcruises.com.
European Barging FAM Cruise on Danube
Europeanbarging, which helps market a slew of European river cruise lines, is offering a four- and five-night FAM cruises on the Danube for dates between September 7 and November 7 on the Premicon Queen, which sleeps 100 passengers and will cruise between Regensburg and Budapest. Outside junior suites are going for $1230 or $1513 per person. Visit www.europeanbarging.com.