CARIBBEAN CRUISES said it had begun terminating business
relationships with companies that it considered to be "card mills"
-- firms that RCCL said were "selling ordinary consumers access to
benefits designed for actual travel agents." RCCL sent a letter to
travel agents last week saying that its three cruise brands were
taking the action "in an effort to prevent a growing and troubling
trend within the travel industry." RCCL said that card mills'
activities could have several negative effects, including "negative
consumer experiences with these untrained agents" and creating an
environment where "the traditional and full set of services we
expect a travel agent to provide to consumers are, in fact, not
provided, despite the payment of a full commission."
RCCL would not publicly name the companies
with which it had terminated its relationship, but Kim Sorensen,
CEO of YTB Travel Network, said that he had learned Oct. 8 that
Royal Caribbean was terminating its relationship with YTB as of
Nov. 9. Sorensen said that YTB was hoping to meet with RCCL's top
management and win reinstatement. "It is our position that [the
line's] senior management hasn't taken enough of a look at our
business, and we want the opportunity to show them that," Sorenson
told Travel Weekly. He said that YTB had booked $13 million in
cruises with RCCL so far this year.
CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL will redeploy the Sovereign of the
Seas to its Madrid-based sister cruise line, Pullmantur, in fall
2008. Royal Caribbean canceled two cruises on the Sovereign, on
Nov. 3 and 7, 2008; the ship will sail for Royal Caribbean for the
last time on Oct. 31, 2008. The Los Angeles-based Monarch of the
Seas will assume the Sovereign's sailings from Port Canaveral,
Fla., and as of now, no ship is slated to replace the Monarch's
West Coast itineraries. The Monarch will reposition to Florida on a
16-day Panama Canal cruise on Oct. 17, 2008, and then undergo a
scheduled, weeklong drydock before welcoming its first passengers
for three- and four-day Bahamas sailings from Port Canaveral on
Nov. 10, 2008.
MEDITERRANEA will not return to the Caribbean for the
winter 2008-2009 season, but Costa Cruises said it was not ready to
reveal where the ship would instead be deployed. Costa only said
that the Mediterranea would be placed in "a different key core
market, allowing Costa to reinforce its strategic global
positions." This year, the Mediterranea will continue its scheduled
Caribbean sailings from Fort Lauderdale.
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