MIAMI -- Carnival Cruise Lines will roll out in January its version of a "vacation club," where clients pay up-front for packages that include points toward future cruises, plus discount coupons at resorts and other benefits valid over a five-year period.

The program, called the Carnival Vacation Club, or CVC, will be managed by an affiliate of the International Cruise & Excursion Gallery, a Phoenix-based company that manages private vacation clubs, and initially will be sold exclusively aboard two of Carnival's ships -- the Carnival Conquest and the Carnival Legend. Agents identified by their clients during the purchase make 10% on the sale of the vacation packages.

The CVC offers four different packages, ranging in price from $3,495 to $9,995, and they include cruise points; resort discount certificates; Carnival VIP member benefits like priority check-in, discounts at shoreside stores, and other perks. The number of points required for each cruise is based on the ship, destination, season and accommodation type.

Cruise points included in the various packages range from 14,000 to more than 40,000. As an example, Carnival said, a three-day Bahamas cruise in an inside cabin would require approximately 1,800 points per person and a seven-day Caribbean cruise approximately 3,000 points per person.

In a statement, Carnival CEO Bob Dickinson said the 10% pay was a positive because it "locks in" the client for five years, "thus eliminating the incentive for them to purchase cruises from other travel agencies during their membership period."

"Travel agents earn commissions [on the vacation packages] with no marketing expenses," he added.

Carnival said the program was the first of its kind in the cruise business.

To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].

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