Learning at Home

Online Cruise trainingCruise training makes it easy for agents.

When you’re juggling bookings for multiple clients, trying your best to close sales or networking to promote your business locally, sometimes the easiest place to train is at home. Fortunately, cruise industry and cruise line training is available online 24/7—so it’s easy to take the training on your own schedule, and often, at your own pace.

Most courses are free, and you’ll learn new skills, earn credit toward certifications or even qualify for perks and prizes from suppliers. So what’s new for online cruise training in 2011? Here’s a sampling of highlights.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) fields a robust portfolio of online courses targeted at agents selling cruise. Three new CLIA courses will debut during “live” conference training at cruise3sixty in Fort Lauderdale in April. 

While the courses only have “working titles” at this point, the topical focus of the three-hour course will be specialty or niche cruising, and the two new 90-minute classes will focus on 20 Best Practices for Home-Based Agents and Clever Ways to Close the Sale. By the third quarter, the new courses should be online.

In addition, the online Fleet Review Seminar is being revised for 2011. A new course introduced  in 2010, the three-hour Getting Connected: A Primer to Social Media Networking  class, is already available online, while many other classes will be added  online by year’s end.

Agents may also tackle CLIA courses that focus on effective presentation skills, understanding the luxury market, group sales or creation of a cruise marketing plan.


Beyond Cruising

When it comes to online training and business resources, why not expand your reach “beyond” the cruise or travel industry? Here are some web-based resources to hone your business skills.

The BizToolKit at the James J. Hill Reference Library delivers a wealth of helpful resources, research data and tips. One neat perk? It offers ideas based on the “stage” of your business—whether exploring, beginning, growing, managing, developing or maturing.

If you already have a robust business and want to expand, check the “growing” section for links focused on an e-mail marketing metric report or a video podcast about Relationships Not Rules: Client Talk 101. Many linked resources are free; some carry a fee. Visit www.jjhill.org/business_stages.

SCORE, a volunteer-based business organization, has both working and retired executives and business owners donating time and expertise as business mentors. And they’ll help you for free. Visit www.score.org.

The SME Toolkit, developed as a public service by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and IBM, provides essential business tools designed for Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American and women-owned businesses. But the messages benefit all businesses. Visit www.us.smetoolkit.org/us/en.


For each three-hour online course a CLIA member agent takes, he or she will earn 15 credits toward Cruise Counselor Certification; 90-minute courses earn 10 credits. Completing any of CLIA’s Online Sales Training programs and exams also fulfills the training requirement for CLIA ID Card renewal.

In many cases, courses also count toward elements of a degree program at the University of Phoenix, an option CLIA introduced a few months ago. And, if you’re a CLIA member, you may access the CLIA Member Cruise Line Travel Agent Training & Benefits Center, which displays online links to individual cruise-line member sites and their training.

Those individual lines have a wealth of substantive online information and training. Princess Cruises (www.one sourcecruises.com) fields more than 40 courses at its Princess Academy. Meanwhile, Holland America Line (www.hollandamerica.com) has both introductory and advanced courses, including instruction on how to grow your business through group sales and how to write a marketing plan. Regent Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.com) says it has just updated the RSSC University site and added a new area with premium line comparisons.

What’s new on the “class” front? This spring, Azamara Club Cruises will launch the Azamara World Academy, an online training tutorial for agents. With topics that heavily focus on the line’s product, the Azamara Academy will have four major sections—The Brand, Voyage Highlights, Selling Tools and Policies—with multiple classes in each.

Carnival Cruise Lines launched its comprehensive Carnival Cruise Line University (CCLU) last August and the line told Travel Agent it will introduce a revamped CCLU this spring. Approximately 900 travel agents took Carnival’s online Social Media Webinar last year; a new version of that popular course will be introduced during the next few months.

Beginning in March, Celebrity Cruises will post podcasts on its Five Star Academy portal (http://celebrity5staracademy.com), a learning certification tool for agents. Also new for 2011, Celebrity will be adding new learning games and updates to reflect new experiences across the fleet.

Crystal Cruises unveiled a new Crystal Cruises: A Perfect Choice course late in 2010, and has already updated it this year. Separately, more than 800 agents who have taken the line’s extensive training have been certified by the line as a Crystal Cruises Expert Travel Agent since the beginning of January.

Agents who look up Cunard Line’s Academy will notice that the luxury line has updated The Grills Experience course, which describes amenities available to Princess Grill and Queens Grill Suites guests. Cunard also says other updates will be completed by July.

MSC Cruises USA plans to expand its free online training offerings this year with a new online Exotic Arabia Webinar, but the date for that course’s release has not yet been announced. In addition, the line has enhanced its Yacht Club Webinar.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s NCL U now includes an updated Caribbean elective course and the line will also add a new comprehensive Europe elective this year. Agents who complete and pass the course will be eligible to win a European cruise and other prizes. In addition, “our three courses for CLIA credit are being updated and refreshed and will all be relaunched in the first half of 2011,” says AnneMarie Mathews, NCL’s director of public relations.

But it’s not just the basics. Increasingly NCL and other cruise lines are adding more advanced courses. Mathews says agents can take courses that directly benefit their business, including Social Networking, Public Relations and Marketing. “Plus, very soon we will be launching a very helpful SEO/SEM (search engine optimization and search engine marketing) course,” says Mathews. To take NCL U courses, agents must first register for an NCL ID at www.bookncl.com.

New for 2011, Royal Caribbean International’s Training & Certification portal on CruisingPower.com consolidates all the line’s training resources in one location. For example, its full-bodied webinars are now here.

The line’s newest training module, The Royal Advantage will launch this month. Among other new University of WOW! enhancements is a more interactive and graphically pleasing experience, including the ability to virtually tour a ship, and fun games and activities. A new training resources page is also now loaded; it ultimately will have interactive training demos and simulations.

On the specialty cruising side, Larry Dessler, executive director, Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance (www.nichecruise.com), says NCMA will recreate its online training modules during 2011; there won’t be any “cost element” changes, he adds.

Uniworld says its River Cruise Specialist training program has been redesigned this year with better technology and updated product information. It previously was six modules and is now seven. Now agents may also leave and come back at a later time to complete their training.

Viking River Cruises plans to create some specific webinars this year that focus on helping agents sell more—with a hefty focus on such sales tools as the line’s travel-agent portal, co-branded websites and Constant Contact e-mail programs. “We will focus on how to navigate each of them, how to get signed up, plus insider tips and tricks on how to use them,” says Julie Rosoff, senior director, marketing services. “We have had great success in getting agents signed up for these programs. We are now taking the next step in helping them use these resources to maximize their marketing efforts in a cost-effective and time-effective way.”


 Azamara Club Cruises
This spring, Azamara Club Cruises plans to launch the new Azamara World Academy training program.