Cruise360 Recap: Day One

The cruise industry’s largest conference officially kicked off today and we were there for our ninth straight year.

The morning began with breakfast courtesy of our friends at Windstar Cruises. Throughout the conference, various suppliers will “buy” us breakfast in exchange for a chance to tell us about their products. This was the first of several scheduled throughout the week. Steve Simao, the Vice President of Sales, spoke to us after our meal of scrambled eggs, apple cider infused bacon, and chorizo potato skillet. We also enjoyed coffee, tea, juice, and an assortment of breakfast breads & biscuits.

Windstar Cruises operates a six-ship fleet of small sailing and all-suite ships visiting approximately 270 ports in 2018 sailing throughout Europe, the Caribbean, Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, Asia, Alaska, Canada and New England, and cruising year-round in Tahiti. Windstar’s fleet is the market leader in small ship cruising with a total of 1,242 passenger berths calling on off-the-beaten-path and popular ports in over 60 countries. The boutique cruise line carries fewer than 310 passengers on its small ships and takes travelers on cruises that are 180 degrees from ordinary. They are known for their immersive and authentic experiences, unique, port-intensive itineraries, exceptional award-winning service, and innovative culinary program as the Official Cruise Line of the James Beard Foundation. Windstar Cruises is a part of Xanterra Travel Collection, known for “Legendary Hospitality with a Softer Footprint.”

After breakfast, we went to a couple of private one-on-one meetings we had scheduled with a couple of the CLIA cruise lines.

The first meeting was with Riviera River Cruises, a fairly new member of the CLIA family. This is a British river cruise company and we wanted to meet with a couple of their executives to learn more about their product and how we might better promote it. Riviera has been around for over 35 years, but until recently they have marketed mostly to UK clientele. They are the top-selling river cruise product in the United Kingdom, outselling several other brands combined. Now they are making a mark in the US market and continue to grow. Be sure to ask us more about this exciting new addition to our river cruise portfolio.

Next, we spent some time with our friends from Cunard. While we are more familiar with this brand, we had some specific things we wanted to discuss with them from a marketing point of view, including a great idea for an upcoming client event we are planning. With their help, we have come up with what we think is a really fun idea for a future event and we can’t wait to share details with you in the not-too-distant future. They’re also in the early stages of planning for their next ship, and unfortunately despite our best efforts we were unable to get any details from them. They did tell us, however, that we might be getting some news in about six months. Cunard currently has three ships – Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria. What will the fourth ship be called? Stay tuned!

Following our private meetings, the bulk of the day was spent in CLIA Seminars. CLIA stands for Cruise Lines International Association, and one of the things they do very well is help train us in the latest sales techniques and industry information. On the first day of the conference, they offer a wide variety of training covering a lot of different aspects of the industry. Since this is our ninth time at the conference, we have taken many of their entry-level courses and quite a few of the intermediate ones as well. Each year they do refresh the content and add new courses, so we’re always on the lookout for updated or new info.

Our first session was “Converting Prospects to Customers” and talked about techniques for closing the sale. Although this was designed primarily for newer agents, we always enjoy sitting in on these sessions (especially if we don’t have another commitment) as we can often find new angles to consider and many times other agents will have great tips and feedback.

The next seminar was more web-based – “Cruise Lead Generation – Using Lead Pages.” We design and manage our own website, so this session was invaluable and full of great information for improving our web presence. We’re looking forward to implementing some of the ideas discussed by both the instructor and some of the attendees.

General Session One was next. There are three general sessions each year, each featuring a meal, a keynote address, and a panel of industry executives addressing various topics. Today’s was a lunch session featuring egg pappardelle pasta with braised beef ragout in a wild mushroom and mirepoix cream sauce, plus a dessert of Lemon Mousse with lemon, raspberry sponge cake, and a banana coconut salsa. The keynote address featured Adam M. Goldstein, who is the Vice Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and also CLIA’s Global Chair. Adam discussed sustainability in cruising and put to bed some rumors about cruise ships and the environment.

He was preceded by the Presidents Panel, featuring top executives from several lines, including our friend (and former CLIA President) Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line; Roberto Fusaro, President of MSC Cruises; Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO of Celebrity Cruises; Tom McAlpin, President & CEO of Virgin Voyages; Andy Stuart, President & CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line; and Tom Wolber, President & CEO of Crystal Cruises. The Presidents discussed various aspects of their brands and what they see as hot trends in the industry. Their insight is invaluable for helping us to stay ahead of the curve.

After lunch, it was time for two more CLIA Seminars. The first was one close to our hearts – “Eat, Drink & Cruise – A Focus on Culinary Cruising.” The discussion focused on cruises designed around food and drink, like wine cruises or voyages with celebrity chefs. Many of the cruise lines we work with offer special voyages to great food and wine destinations and of course we can put together a special theme cruise around any food or drink option you can imagine.

The final CLIA Seminar of the day focused again on marketing – “Marketing 201: Implementing Effective Cruise Marketing.” While this was another course that was designed primarily for newer agents or those not familiar with marketing in general, we did find a few “nuggets” of info that will be useful in helping us better deliver our message to our customers.

After a long day of learning and networking, it was time to relax and let them pamper us. We are proud to have two CLIA Certified agents on staff – Chris Grum, ECC/LCS, and Scott McAlister, MCC/LCS. Each year at the convention, CLIA hosts an invitation-only event for CLIA Certification Graduates to congratulate us on our accomplishments. For the past couple of years, our friends at Marriott have sponsored the event and hosted it at their lovely Marriott Harbor Beach Resort here in Fort Lauderdale. They again played host and stuffed us with delicious food and drink. It was also nice to see our fellow graduates, many of whom have become friends over the years.

That’s a wrap on day one of Cruise360. Tomorrow we focus primarily on the cruise lines themselves. Later in the week, we’ll tour some ships. Follow all our coverage (photos, blogs, and more) here: