Cruise Update: With Voyages Paused, Lines Offer New Rewards, Training

Carnival Horizon Dr. Seuss WaterWorks
Carnival Horizon (its Dr. Seuss-themed waterpark is shown in the photo above) is among the ships that have returned to U.S. ports or are just offshore, so they're well-positioned when U.S. cruise operations restart. (Photo by Adam Leposa)

Late last week, more cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and others, extended their “pause” in cruise operations well into the first quarter 2021 or beyond. 

Even MSC Cruises—which has successfully carried 30,000 passengers on European cruises since August—was forced to cancel voyages this month and early next, given new severe restrictions by the Italian government for 2020 holiday season travel. MSC plans to restart those European voyages again in mid-January.

Small, Positive Steps

That said, Royal Caribbean International started operations again with Quantum of the Seas' first sailing from Singapore for Singaporeans. That's the first voyage by the line since it ceased operations in spring 2020.

In addition, the cruise industry is beginning to return ships into or close to U.S. ports in preparation for restarting cruises after all U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirements are met. For example, Carnival Horizon is back at PortMiami and Celebrity Edge has returned to Port Everglades. More cruise ships are just offshore, some within U.S. waters and near such homeports as Port Canaveral, FL. 

Cruise lines are also using the “down time” during this non-sailing period for onboard upgrades. Last week, Princess Cruises, for example, said it was adding MedallionClass to all ships, so when it begins sailing again, its fleet will be fully equipped with that new technology that personalizes the cruise experience.

Quick Monetary Reward

A newly introduced “Cruise First” promotion by Norwegian Cruise Line can put a $50 gift card in the hands of advisors who sell an onboard credit to clients at a reduced price, benefitting both advisor and client. Katina Athanasiou, Norwegian’s chief sales officer, talked with reporters virtually last week to explain a bit more about the line’s program.

Katina Athanasiou, Norwegian Cruise Line chief sales officer

Consumers can purchase a $300 onboard credit for themselves or as a gift to someone else. They will receive a 50 percent discount, so they will pay only $150. The onboard credit does not expire, so clients don't have to book their cruise immediately. They can book any time in the future. But the onboard credit can make a great stocking stuffer for clients to give a spouse, partner or friend. 

Best of all, once the client buys that onboard credit (regardless or not if a cruise booking is made), Norwegian will immediately send the travel advisor a $50 gift card. It’s a reward that right now can help advisors do everything from pay bills to buying groceries or holiday gifts. The advisor will still get full commission when the clients sail, as normal.

Atlas Ocean Voyages, Scenic Group and other lines have also introduced gift card rewards for advisors this year.

New Expedition Training Course

Enhancing a skill set is one pandemic activity that advisors are doing so they're "ready to roll" when travel/cruising returns to a more normal pace of bookings.

Expedition cruising is certainly one of the industry's fastest growing segments but not necessarily an easy sell for advisors. Want to learn how to make these types of sales happen, even during this tough era?  

Travel Agent University is offering a new “How to Sell More Expedition Cruises in Five Days” email course for travel advisors. Advisors who sign up for the complimentary course—five days of quick, targeted lessons—will learn about the trends in this segment, the "expedition opportunity," customer and sales insights as well as the must-sell products.

Plus, micro-lessons are geared at helping advisors shorten the sales cycle. Advisors can sign up today at www.travelagentuniversity.com.

CP Technology Update

Also on the education front, more than 2,200 travel advisors are expected to attend the annual Cruise Planners convention this week. This virtual event kicks off this afternoon. 

Techno tidbit? In a pre-conference briefing today with Michelle Fee, CEO, and founder, and Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner, reporters learned what's new including a sneak peek at some new CP Mobile Updates. 

While Cruise Planners has always had a mobile app for clients to communicate with their travel advisor, store information and details about their past trips and future trips, and do much more, clients will soon use new enhancements to that app as well. 

Look for an updated home screen; an all-inclusive resort system; an escorted tour search; a Viator search; access to buckets; and viewing and managing favorite travel/cruise experiences. 

Note: Look for more coverage of the Cruise Planners conference and further updates this week on Travel Agent. 

Santa Arrives Early 

In our feel-good story of the week, more than 5,000 travel advisors tuned into the 37th edition of Vicki Freed’s “Coffee Talk” virtual program last week. Freed, Royal Caribbean International’s senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, was joined by Nick Weir, senior vice president of entertainment, and Michael Bayley, the line's president and CEO, in what can best be described as a spirit-lifting, “holiday gift giving and advisor appreciation extravaganza.”

Throughout the program, the trio thanked advisors for their hard work this year and took turns drawing travel advisor participant names and giving away fabulous gifts including $1,500 in cash, resort and beach getaways, a Universal Orlando multi-day package, domestic airline tickets, $5,000 in cash and a private tour of Royal Caribbean’s entertainment training center in South Florida, and several cruises, among many other lucrative rewards.

The big “win” for all 5,000-plus travel advisors participating on the call, though, came at the program's conclusion when the line said that all travel advisors participating on the call would each receive a $25 gift card. That was a $125,000-plus pay-out by Royal Caribbean. 

Look for our next Cruise Chatter column in two weeks, and meanwhile stay tuned to TravelAgentCentral.com for other cruise updates. 

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