arren Titus has retired -- and this time he means it. The last time Warren retired was in September 1987, but he went back to work in November of that year, becoming the founding president of Seabourn Cruise Line, a position he held until becoming chairman of the line in 1994.

When Seabourn was merged with Cunard in 1998, he joined the executive committee of the new Cunard Line Ltd. and took the role of chairman of Seabourn and Cunard's guest loyalty programs.

It's hard to overestimate the impact that Warren has had on the cruise industry and travel agents who sell cruises. His career has paralleled the history of the cruise industry because, time and again, he was at the center of action when major directional changes were taking place.

His involvement with shipping companies began in Hawaii before World War II, when he was a freight clerk for the Inter-Island Steamship Co.

Following the war, he signed on with Theo H. Davies and Co., among whose interests was a steamship agency. He worked as a rep for Cunard and Holland America Line, whose around-the-world itineraries included stops in Hawaii, and became head of Davies' steamship department and, ultimately, vice president of the company.

In 1959, he was recruited by the Orient Line to set up an office for the company in North America. Shortly after, Orient merged with P&O Steam Navigations Co., and he stayed on with the new company, being named president of P&O Lines Inc. (North America). At that time, the company's fleet of 10 passenger vessels was the largest in the world.

He eventually was lured away by American President Lines to manage its passenger ship operations.

It was during his tenure at APL that Titus grabbed hold of the idea that the passenger ship business, which at that time was represented by two separate trade groups -- the Transpacific Conference and Transatlantic Steamship Conference -- should come together in a single organization to promote the concept of cruising and to help educate travel agents to market and sell cruises more effectively.

The idea was not accepted immediately. The traditional role of these groups was regulatory, and many of the lines couldn't see the sense of an association that was designed primarily to promote their industry.

In fact, Titus had to fight for the creation of the Cruise Lines International Association -- CLIA -- for 10 years.

In the meantime, he was contacted by a consortium of shipping lines in Norway and was invited to participate in the formation of Royal Viking Line. Before Royal Viking had even designed its first ship, he was made president of their U.S. company.

At RVL in the early '70s, Titus helped create the forerunners of the modern cruise ship. Until that time, most passenger ships were built to cross oceans and were quite heavy. RVL commissioned ships for "cruising" -- the cabins were modular, the ships were lighter, and the idea was that they would follow a touristic itinerary rather than haul people from one continent to another.

While building a very different type of cruise line, Warren continued his efforts to organize the new cruise association.

Eventually, thanks largely to his exhaustive efforts, CLIA was born in 1975, and 22 of the 28 major shipping lines joined.

Titus became CLIA's first chairman, focusing the new organization's efforts on educating travel agents on how to sell the new type of cruising that was emerging.

He was asked to stay on as chairman year after year, and ended up leading the organization through its first critical five years of existence.

He didn't do too badly at his day job, either, and was named chairman of Royal Viking Lines in 1982, a position he held until his first retirement in 1987.

Warren Titus is a visionary, a word I don't throw around lightly. And that self-described "ancient mariner" has always believed -- and believes -strongly in the value of travel agents.

"With CLIA, I envisioned that our primary function was to train travel agents, to develop educational programs for them," Warren told me shortly after his retirement dinner earlier this month in Florida.

"The training programs, the education -- I think that's the contribution to the industry that I am most proud of."

Clearly, both the cruise lines and the agents who sell them benefited greatly from Titus' efforts. He not only helped define the modern cruise industry, he had the sense to see it would succeed only by educating its sales and distribution force: travel agents.

Warren, you will be missed.


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