Charles Sylvia, CLIA's New VP of Membership, Prepares for cruise3sixty


Helping agents sell more cruises is the goal of Charles Sylvia, CLIA's new vice president of membership. Above, cruisers are shown returning to Norwegian Breakaway in Bermuda. // Photo by Susan J. Young

Cruise3sixty, the annual trade conference of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), gets under way April 22-26 in Greater Fort Lauderdale at the Broward County Convention Center, Port Everglades, FL 

More than 1,300 travel agents from all 50 U.S. states as well as Canada will attend the show, now "sold out." Read more at


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Earlier this year, Charles Sylvia, a 20-year cruise industry sales and marketing executive, joined CLIA as its new vice president of membership. Here's a look at CLIA's announcement:

Heading to cruise3sixty? Agents will see Sylvia on stage co-leading one general session, moderating the luxury cruising panel, possibly facilitating other panel discussions and co-hosting the Hall of Fame Dinner.

A Love for Cruising

Interestingly, Sylvia’s been cruising since 1978 when, courtesy of his great aunt, he enjoyed what's often considered the industry’s iconic historic experience – sailing a Mexican Riviera cruise on the original “Love Boat” of TV fame -- Pacific Princess. Sylvia quips that he actually has 81 episodes of the Love Boat on his DVR.

Charles Sylvia, CLIA's new VP of membership has spent more than 100 nights on Cunard's Queen Mary 2. // Photo by Cunard Line

“The experience on the Pacific Princess instantly instilled in me a lifelong love affair with cruising and all the romanticism associated with it,” he says. Since then, he’s sailed on 74 cruises and on Princess Cruises at least a dozen times.

Between 2004 and 2008, he also spent more than 100 nights on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2. Sylvia says: “I was really addicted to Queen Mary 2 for awhile because it’s like going back in time – transporting yourself back to the golden age of transatlantic ocean liners.”

He’s also cruised on the Oasis-class and other ships of Royal Caribbean International, and the Solstice- and Millennium-class ships of Celebrity Cruises. Every four or five cruises, he likes cruising on Carnival Cruise Lines to enjoy the fun atmosphere, and, with the same frequency, on Holland America, because he’s particularly fond of that line’s aft pools.

Engaging and Retaining 

Sylvia certainly knows the "cruise experience," and, now on the business side, is working to help cruise agents sell more voyages and enhance their business revenue.

Now responsible for CLIA's agent engagement and retention, he's out and about meeting and talking with travel agents, agency owners and consortia and host leaders – a process he’ll continue at cruise3sixty.

Charles Sylvia is shown above in "cruisin" vacation mode during boarding for one of his 74 past cruises. // Photo courtesy of CLIA

“The face-to-face engagement with the travel agencies and our communities is actually the part of my role that I’m most looking forward to,” says Sylvia. “That’s really the most important part of my job."

What will he ask agents? He's interested in learning what factors make CLIA membership the best "value proposition" and how CLIA can help agencies grow their businesses. Simply put, Sylvia says: “At the end of the day, we’re here to help them sell more cruises.”

Sylvia also is the primary liaison with CLIA's new Diamond and Gold Premium travel agency members – the largest travel agencies, hosts and consortia, and the sales and trade relations executives at CLIA member cruise lines. He's already conducted a group conference call and has been doing individual "meet-and-greets" to get better acquainted.

Agents likely remember the “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” segment on NBC’s "Today Show." Sylvia so liked the concept that he created #cruisingwithcharlie as a Twitter hashtag. You'll also find him on Twitter at @cliaveep.

He’s also created an Instagram account. “I’m going to be posting photos of all the people that I meet as well as all the places that I travel to,” says Sylvia.

“We’re really going to engage with our membership community, share what I’m up to, and it’s going to be a great way for followers of the campaign to see their friends and colleagues and maybe themselves," Sylvia says.

The Power of Partnerships

Agents can read about the full schedule of cruise3sixty events at Throughout the conference, the CLIA agenda is likely to touch upon the power of partnerships.

The association recently reached out to ASTA and other travel industry organizations to seek out new ways to cooperate, utilize resources and create a stronger value proposition for their memberships.

“Those groups don’t just represent cruise lines, but also airlines, hotels and tour operators, as one of CLIA’s primary responsibilities is to help round out the industry for our travel agents and agency members,” said Sylvia.

His philosophy in a nutshell: “If we can learn [via sister industry groups] ‘what are the best practices for empowering travel agents to develop their brand, communicate their value and build their business,’ well then we’ll have a responsibility to share that with our membership and we fully intend to do just that.”

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