Cruise360 Day One Recap

All this week, the Premier Custom Travel staff is attending our tenth Cruise360. You may have heard us mention this conference before or the host – CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association). Each evening, we’ll publish a blog post with a recap of all the happenings at the industry’s largest cruise conference. Today, a look at the first full day.


Today, the bulk of the events were focused on training the 1,000+ travel agents. CLIA-led seminars were available covering a variety of topics and experience levels, from basic 101 classes for those new to the industry, to the more advanced leadership programs for veterans. Since this is our tenth time attending, the PCT team opted for the more advanced training. Each class was around 75 minutes long.

We started with two new courses – Cruise Industry Leadership 501 and 601. Here are the descriptions of these courses:

Cruise Industry Leadership 501 – As a valued and experienced travel counselor, you are a leader within our industry. But how? What are the ways you can exercise your leadership effectively so that it is beneficial to the cruise industry and your business? During this course, you will focus on, but not be limited to exercising responsible and effective leadership within the cruise and travel communities, mentoring agents within the cruise community, and leading across generations to help create future leaders of the industry.

Cruise Industry Leadership 601 – Experienced cruise counselors know the value of their expertise in providing exceptional service to their clients and in planning great cruise vacations. They also recognize the impactful benefits their expertise has the travel industry, as a whole, and the local communities in which they operate their businesses. This course expounds upon the foundation laid in Cruise Industry Leadership 501 to focus on, by introducing agents to topics that will get them go beyond their immediate realm of reach. The topics covered in this course will include, but not be limited to developing and leveraging relationships with C-Level cruise industry executives, utilizing your voice in the right mediums to be heard and seen as a cruise industry advocate, and applying effective leadership techniques to continue growing as an industry leader.

After some excellent leadership training, it was time to focus specifically on the cruise industry. Our next session was also new to Cruise360 this year – “Adding Value to the Cruise Experience.” This session was all about creating the best cruise experience for our customers and how you successfully accomplish that goal. Topics covered included understanding why value adds are important, how to analyze what each cruise offers, and determining what to add to enhance the cruise experience.

In the afternoon sessions, we focused on taking our client parties to new heights with “Cruise Events 201: Taking Your Cruise Event to the Next Level.” Prior to the pandemic, PCT often hosted live events for our customers, often spotlighting a specific destination or travel brand. We can’t wait to be able to offer these again and now we have even more ideas to make them even more fun and entertaining (not to mention informative).

Our final training of the day was the follow-up seminar “Cruise Events 301.” This sequel class to our earlier training focused more on virtual events and had some great tips for making them even better. We’ve all experienced Zoom and other virtual meetings over the last 16 months or so, but this session had great suggestions for taking those from boring, basic meetings to exciting, interactive presentations.

We look forward to applying all of these great ideas to our upcoming live and virtual events.


I was honored to be invited to be one of four ECC (Elite Cruise Counsellor) travel advisors to join CLIA’s VP of Industry & Trade Relations Charles Sylvia on this week’s edition of COFFEE TALK WITH VICKI FREED. Vicki is the face of Royal Caribbean International to the travel agent community and a member of the CLIA Hall of Fame.

Each week, she hosts a “Coffee Talk” for travel advisors, where she offers the latest updates about her cruise line and also talks about ways to help grow your business. As ECCs, we have the highest level of CLIA certification, and Vicki wanted us to share our stories about how CLIA training and membership has helped us grow our cruise business. Unfortunately the webinar is only for travel agents, so I am unable to share the broadcast here.


One of the most exciting parts of Cruise360 every year is the General Sessions. There are three of these gatherings during the conference, and today was the first of the trilogy.

CLIA’s Charlie Sylvia kicked off the festivities for day one and then introduced CLIA’s President Kelly Craighead, who delivered an inspirational keynote about where our industry was pre-pandemic, where we are now, and what she seas (spelled intentionally that way) ahead in the future.

Kelly has a fascinating background. She went to school planning to be in the hospitality industry, but got sidetracked by politics and worked in the White House for over eight years across two administrations. She helped form our government’s travel office and led legislative efforts to help further the travel industry in the United States and beyond. She had just joined CLIA prior to the pandemic but was the perfect person to take the helm and guide us through the cruise comeback. By the end of the summer, we expect 150 CLIA cruise line member ships to be sailing and the work continues to get the rest back in service.

Next up was the current CLIA Global Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago from MSC Cruises, who could not join us in person in Florida but instead addressed us virtually from Geneva and reiterated his optimism for the return of the ships. He cited the numbers from Europe, where ships have been successfully sailing for months without any significant COVID-19 related incidents. When there have been positive test results, they have been managed effectively, showing that the protocols in place work.

Up next was a segment where CLIA President Kelly Craighead returned to answer questions from travel advisors. I was lucky enough to be able to record two questions for Kelly. Watch the video below for my queries and her answers.


After a jam-packed day of training, it was nice to be able to relax with some adult beverages and compare notes with our fellow advisors. Each year, CLIA hosts a “Graduate Reception” to celebrate all of the agents who have earned any of the various CLIA certifications. There are several levels:

CCC is the first level, the equivalent of an associates degree. ACC is next and would be comparable to a bachelor’s degree, while the MCC would be like getting your master’s level certification. ECC is the cruise industry version of the doctorate program. I also hold a different certification that is for C-level industry members called the TAE – Travel Industry Executive.


While today’s events were more focused on us as advisors and not the consumer, the training and tips we get from these sessions allows us to serve you better. Starting tomorrow, the conference’s tone will shift from agent-facing to sessions focused more on things of interest to the consumer.


Now that the conference is in full swing, we can share two exciting announcements:

  1. As we teased in our Cruise360 preview blog, I have been invited to be one of the volunteers onboard Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas for a two-night simulated cruise to “Perfect Day at CocoCay” (Royal’s private island) starting this Sunday, August 1st. During this two-night cruise, everyone onboard (likely around 500 or so) will help the CDC test the various protocols that will be used to safely return this ship to sailing.
  2. On August 14th, I’ll set sail on a 7-night cruise onboard Carnival Cruise Line’s brand new ship Mardi Gras. This will be her third sailing and I could not be more excited to share this amazing ship with you.

For both of these sailings, I’ll be posting daily blog updates, photos, videos, and so much more. So be sure to follow all our social media channels for the latest posts.


Tomorrow, it’s a full slate of Product & Destination Workshops, where we will focus on learning more about specific brands or destinations. We’ll spend the afternoon at the Cruise360 Trade Show, and the day will be capped with the CLIA Cruise Industry Hall of Fame Gala Dinner.

Until then, good night from the beautiful Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida.