Travel Weeklys Cruise E-letter: January 31, 2006

CUNARD LINE will give passengers on the Queen Mary 2 a full refund of the cruise fare between their embarkation point and Rio de Janeiro after the ship, which has been slowed by propulsion problems, cut three calls from its itinerary. The line increased its initial offer of a 50% refund last week after some passengers complained that the offer was not generous enough to compensate for the itinerary changes. One of the QM2s four propulsion pods was damaged on Jan. 17 as it struck the ship channel during an attempt to depart Fort Lauderdale. The ship, which is on a cruise around South America, left Fort Lauderdale two days late and missed calls in St. Kitts, Barbados and Salvador, Brazil.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES unveiled what it calls the first social networking/group planning tool in the industry, CarnivalConnections.com, which offers guest-written message boards and cruise reviews to help travelers select the trip that matches their interests and lifestyles. It offers users an electronic invitation tool with which a group coordinator selects the cruise, including ship name, departure point, cruise duration and itinerary, and forwards information via e-mail to group members. Agents can use the site as an electronic groups marketing tool.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL kicked off an advertising campaign in the style of home movies, designed to tell the vacation story from a customers point of view. The four Create Your Own Adventure ads will run on primetime TV, during early and late-night network slots, as well as on cable. Two additional spots are in production and will air later this year.

MSC CRUISES SIGNED UP more than 2,500 retailers to its Web-based Caribbean Select Agents education program and unveiled prizes to promote the effort. The line has developed an agency Web site that provides training program data and marketing tools for retailers at www.msccruisesagent.com. The program ends Feb. 28, and participants are eligible to win prizes, such as bonus commissions, guaranteed availability for agent rates, Starbucks gift cards, logo items and a grand prize of a seven-night cruise for two on the Opera.

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