Onsite: American Express Travel Reports Cruise Growth; New Jet Tour

FORT LAUDERDALE-Travel Agent sat with Audrey Hendley, vice president of marketing for American Express Travel, at CLIA's cruise3sixty conference as she reported findings from American Express Travel's cruise specialists, who say cruising continues to grow in popularity and interest. Cruise specialists are a group of several hundred AmEx agents who almost solely sell cruises.

"More people are seeing cruises as something that could be for them," Hendley said, "as opposed to the past." She pointed to onboard innovation, new and exciting ports of call and a refocus on family travel as reasons for cruising gains.

She also reported that luxury cruising was witnessing an upswing and that the five luxury amenities most requested were: suite upgrades, private butler service, gourmet chefs, expert lecturers and private pools and balconies. "It's the customization," Hendley said. "People like being taken care of."

Meanwhile, cruise ships aren't the only conveyance to see the world. American Express Travel has introduced a private jet tour around the world for 52 guests at a time. The trip, which costs $100,000 per person, is 24 days in length and visits such cities as Sydney, Seville and Jaipur. The first trip leaves January 20, 2009, from Los Angeles and finishes February 13 in New York. Visit www.americanexpress.com/travel. (DE)

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