This Week in Cruise: Seven Key Headlines From Cruise3sixty

msc bookCruise3sixty wrapped this Sunday -- don't miss this roundup of major announcements from the event. 

MSC Announces New Booking Engine at Cruise3sixty

MSC Cruises announced the upcoming launch of MSC Book -- a completely new booking engine for travel agents.

“As MSC Cruises continues to grow in North America, it’s critical that we provide our valued travel agent partners with the tools they need to efficiently do business with us,” said Ken Muskat, executive vice president of sales, PR, and guest services for MSC Cruises. “MSC Book is being designed with travel agent’s booking needs in mind, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the end-user experience and making the booking process as quick and simple as possible.”

MSC Divina to Return to Miami

Also from MSC, the line announced that the MSC Divina would resume year-round Caribbean sailings from Miami in November 2015. 

“North America is a key market for MSC Cruises as the company works to double its capacity by 2022,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises.  “Since the arrival of MSC Divina in Miami in November 2013, we’ve seen significant growth in the market and strong demand by consumers and travel agents for MSC Divina to sail from North America year-round.”
MSC Divina’s already published November 2015 through April 2016 itineraries will remain unchanged. New itineraries from April 2016 through March 2017 will rotate between Eastern and Western Caribbean routes and include stops in St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, and the Bahamas.

MSC Cruises Replaces Egypt and Ukraine Calls

MSC Cruises also announced that it has suspended remaining 2015 calls in Ukraine and Egypt, replacing them with a number of Mediterranean alternatives.
MSC Sinfonia, MSC Opera, MSC Fantasia and MSC Musica will, from autumn 2015 to winter 2016, variously incorporate the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete, as well as Cyprus and Israel, into their sailings.

"These itinerary changes attest to MSC Cruises’ permanent focus on the safety of guests and crew – the number one priority at all times," MSC said in a release announcing the decision. 

Norwegian Sky Adds Beer, Wine and Spirits to All-Inclusive Offerings

Norwegian Cruise Line made a big product announcement with the news that, beginning January 2016, all guests sailing aboard Norwegian Sky from Miami will enjoy an even more all-inclusive cruise experience with dining, entertainment and now free unlimited beer, wine and premium spirits included.

"We think this is a stand-out change," says Andy Stuart, president and chief operating officer for Norwegian Cruise Line. "The three- and four-day market is an important to us. It's a market where we introduce new people to cruising."

"We really thought it was a way to differentiate Norwegian Sky by making it an all-inclusive product."

Stuart says the line has "no plans beyond Norwegian Sky" in terms of expansion. "It's ultimately driven by demand," he says. 

The new inclusive program will launch for all cruises on Norwegian Sky in 2016, and Stuart says "we've raised prices a little bit in advance of the announcement. Over time, demand will determine price."

Cruise Baltic Launches Agent Training Program at Cruise3sixty

Cruise Baltic, a network of 10 countries and 27 cruise destinations in the Baltic Sea region, announced the launch of an eLearning course for travel agents.  

The course will provide travel agents worldwide with the necessary knowledge and tools to increase their sales of Baltic cruises, Cruise Baltic said in a release announcing the new program. At the same time they will be able to provide their clients with comprehensive product information, combining details of the Baltic destinations and attractions, together with recommended hotel and airline services.

The program will include sales materials and quick facts on attractions and shore excursions for each destination. Upon completing the course online, travel agents will receive a personalized diploma, certifying them as a Baltic Cruise expert. To celebrate the launch, Cruise Baltic is giving away an iPad mini to one of the first 50 travel agents to register and complete the course. The winner will be drawn on June 1.

CLIA Debuts New E-Learning Offerings at Cruise3sixty

CLIA announced a slate of e-learning offerings of its own, with eight new training and professional development e-learning courses for the travel agent community, all of which are available online as of April 29. 

Created by CLIA’s professional development team, the new Career Seascape courses offer business, niche, geography, sales and professional development content. The courses are accessible via computer anytime on CLIA’s website.
The new courses compliment CLIA’s existing e-learning offerings. The new Intro to Cruising series is available to CLIA’s Diamond Travel Agency Members for free as part of their membership or for $25 per course for all other CLIA members. The initial series includes four course offerings, with additional courses launching later this year: Cruising 101; Cruising 201; Power Selling Skills; and Successful Qualifying. Additional e-learning course titles available for $25 per course are What Have You Done for PR Lately?; Eat, Drink, and Cruise; Sell Your Passion; and Put the Person Back into Selling.

CMV to Launch French Cruises

Finally, UK-based cruise operator Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) has announced the sub-charter of the 550 passenger cruise ship Azores from summer 2016 onwards to Rivages du Monde, the Paris-based specialist cruise and tour operator.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages also said that Azores will be re-named Astoria when it completes its UK summer 2015 season. Prior to the start of the 2016 French North European, Adriatic and Mediterranean summer season, Astoria will operate a two-month UK-based spring season.

In 2016 Astoria will commence its French business on May 11 under the Rivages du Monde brand as a home market product operating 14 North European, Greenland, Adriatic and Mediterranean sailings from Le Havre, Dunkirk, Ostend, Bordeaux and Marseille.

CMV’s summer 2016 program goes on sale next month.

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