"Inspire" Conference Debuts New Tech, Agent Programs and Products

One thousand CruiseOne, Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc. agents are participating in the "Inspire" conference onboard Norwegian Bliss // Photo by Susan J. Young

More than 1,000 CruiseOne, Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc. agents, corporate employees of World Travel Holdings, trade media and invited guests are sailing on Norwegian Bliss this week for their annual conference, themed “Inspire.”

But as Hurricane Willa—now a dangerous Category 5 storm—threatened the Pacific Coast of Mexico over the weekend, Norwegian Cruise Line changed the ship’s itinerary.

Instead of calling at Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan, the revised itinerary headed north to San Francisco on Tuesday, with calls planned later in the week at San Diego and Ensenada, Mexico. However, most in attendance took it in stride. 

Inspire and Motivate

On Sunday, the first General Session of the “Inspire” conference kicked off in Norwegian Bliss' theater. Hundreds of CruiseOne, Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc. travel agents attired in blue tee-shirts sporting their brand logo attended.

Speaking to a “Go Anyway” theme, Debbie Fiorino, senior vice president, World Travel Holdings, talked about trusting one’s instincts and having the courage to take a chance, using the example of how people start their own travel agency business.

Photo by Susan J. Young

Fiorino also reviewed significant technology and marketing launches, awards, and sales results from the prior year. When discussing how to measure oneself and set personal and professional goals, Debbie reminded the audience “Don’t try to be better than someone else—try to be better than you were the day before.”

She praised the return of Dustin Jones as vice president of engagement. Plus, she noted that the three cruise selling brands are posting record numbers for agent attendance at summits, regional meetings, the national conference and training programs.

Fiorino also talked poignantly about the aftermath of the Parkland, FL, school shooting. The home office for CruiseOne, Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc. is in Broward County, where Parkland is located.

No one should ever have to experience a tragic school shooting, she emphasized, and also thanked the travel agents for their words of support in the aftermath of that. She also mentioned that as a community, “we are bigger and better than any tragedy that this world can present to us.”

Strong Growth, New Offices

On a different topic, Fiorino asked the audience: “Did you know that CruiseOne, Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc. are now, once again, the fastest growing divisions of World Travel Holdings?” That’s true, and brought wild applause from the audience.

She also talked about the groups’ christening of new office space in Fort Lauderdale, with sponsored space within that by such cruise lines as Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International.

Describing the three cruise-selling brands as “powerhouses” in the travel and franchise industries, she talked about technological enhancements and programs that have debuted in the past year, most notably a promotional engine on agent websites and group registration payments.

“Most websites show the best price,” Fiorino stressed. “We show the best price, plus additional values like onboard credits, upgrades and more—giving us a significant competitive edge like no other.”

In addition, she noted that $4 million is spent annually on promotion by World Travel Holdings on behalf of its three cruise-selling brands.

In addition, a new Loyalty Cruise Perks and Vacation Super Hero Referral Program debuted this past year. The loyalty program has already reaped a 26 percent increase in repeat bookings.

More than 4,000 people also have signed up for the Vacation Super Hero Referral Program and that's resulted in approximately 41,000 clicks on shared links.

Fiorino talked about giving back through the organization's veterans program and to Gold Star families, relatives of military members who lost their lives in service.

Using the Inspire theme, she then told the agency group: “Don’t think you have to be like anybody else—like this or like that. Understand that what inspires each of us is different…Remember, we’re not all the same. We’re not driven by the same things. Our goals are different. How we measure those goals are different.”

Most importantly, Fiorino urged the agents: "Don’t try to be better than someone else. Try to be better than you were the day before.”

Norwegian Update, Panel Discussion

During the Monday session, Camille Olivere, senior vice president of sales, Norwegian Cruise Line, who officially hosted the agent group onboard, also provided an update about Norwegian's plans for itineraries and programs in the coming year. Look for our separate story on that this week.  

And during a panel discussion by top cruise sales executives, moderator David Crooks, senior vice president of product and operations, World Travel Holdings, fielded questions submitted by conference attendees to the executives.

Photo by Susan J. Young

Participating (shown left to right in the photo above) were Adolfo Perez, vice president, trade sales and marketing, Carnival Cruise Line; Lori Sheller, senior vice president of sales, North America, MSC Cruises; Vicki Freed, senior vice president, sales, trade support and service, Royal Caribbean International; Olivere from Norwegian Cruise Line; Eva Jenner, vice president, sales, Holland America Line and Seabourn; and Keith Lane, vice president of field sales and national accounts, Celebrity Cruises.

Stay tuned for more details and inspirational/motivational messaging this week from the Inspire conference. 

A Little Hiccup

Hurricane Willa did throw a bit of a wrench into Norwegian's plans for the conference. Overall, we found that most agents were adapting well to the itinerary shift, buying cool weather attire in the onboard shops and heading out to explore San Francisco.

Drew Daly, general manager, network engagement and performance for the cruise selling brands, characterized the necessary port changes as “a little hiccup,” noting that “at the end of the day, our content and our 'inspired conference' hasn’t changed.”

However, due to the unexpected schedule changes, some conference participants, trade partners or speakers who weren’t planning on staying onboard the entire week didn’t or won’t have a foreign port call—as required by the Jones Act—prior to disembarkation. That's a U.S. law, so fines will result. 

Fortunately, Norwegian Cruise Line voluntarily will absorb those Jones Act fines for conference participants getting off before the foreign port call. That’s estimated to cost $17,000 total or about $800 per person.    

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