Carnival Tightens Agent Discount Requirements

Carnival Cruise Lines is revamping eligibility requirements for travel agents to qualify for reduced fares on its ships. Effective immediately, an agent must make a minimum of five Carnival bookings within a year's time to qualify for a discounted rate.

"It is increasingly important to ensure that only professional travel agents who are actively promoting and selling cruises receive travel agent discounts," said Vicki Freed, Carnival's senior vice president of sales and guest services. Freed stopped short of calling the move a measure to control the proliferation of so-called "card mill" agencies, which extend membership to consumers so they can receive travel agent discounts. "It could be any agency with a certain number of outside agents. We want to make sure the people sailing at a reduced rate are the professional travel sellers."

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd. last year became the first cruise line to publicly rail against card mill practices. Yuval Nissan, manager of Las Vegas-based Prestige Travel & Cruises, backs such moves. "It's about time," Nissan said. "It's a good policy. Carnival should grant special rates only for those who support them. Eliminating those who don't qualify also will increase the chances for those agents who truly sell the product to get onboard, as the number of cabins allotted to each sailing is limited."

Reduced-fare agent reservations are handled through Carnival's Promotions Desk. The five qualifying cruises must sail or be fully deposited within a 12-month period. Visit www.carnival.com. (DE)

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