Crown, Commodore to stay as two brands

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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Crown Cruise Line and Commodore Cruise Line will continue to be marketed as two distinct brands with different product positioning following the reorganization of Commodore last month, according to Ron Kurtz, president of both lines.

Kurtz, a veteran cruise executive who has been president of Crown since late last year, became president of Commodore last month after Jim Sullivan retired. Marketing, sales and passenger-service activities for the two lines were consolidated under Kurtz.

Kurtz said the previously combined field-sales force for the two lines would continue to represent both products.

Crown and Commodore are owned by Commodore Holdings Limited, based here and launched in 1995 by Fred Mayer, a former travel agent who is chairman and chief executive officer of both lines.

Last year, Commodore Holdings acquired Crown and the 820-passenger Crown Dynasty, built in 1993, basing the ship in Aruba for seven-day winter cruises.

Crown Dynasty sails to Bermuda in the summer from Baltimore and Philadelphia; in the fall, it sails to Quebec from Baltimore. The Baltimore departures are among the few allowed to dock in Bermuda on weekends.

Philadelphia-based Apple Vacations will continue to handle Crown Dynasty's bookings for the Bermuda and Quebec programs, Kurtz said, as well as handle bookings for the Aruba program from agencies in the northern tier of the U.S.

Crown is handling bookings for the Aruba program from agencies in the southern tier of the U.S., he added.

Reviewing the first eight months of Crown's revival under Commodore, Kurtz reported solid bookings for all three itineraries of the Crown Dynasty, with an overall occupancy rate approaching 95%.

Defining Crown's niche, Kurtz said, "It's a premium product at a moderate price, targeted at relatively sophisticated, somewhat younger clients in their 40s and 50s."

Regarding Commodore Cruise Line, with its New Orleans-based Enchanted Isle and Enchanted Capri, Kurtz said, "It's a great value for first-time and experienced cruisers.

"Both Commodore vessels are classic liners in great condition and very reasonably priced, with an emphasis on food and service."

Noting the difference in ambience between the two lines, Kurtz said, "Crown is more stylish, formal and a little more glitzy. Commodore is more casual and laid-back."

Comparing cruise-only, seven-day tariffs, Kurtz put the average per person price of a standard outside cabin on the Crown Dynasty at $900 and $750 on the Enchanted Isle. Crown's roundtrip air add-on to Aruba from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Fla., is $199.

Kurtz reported that the Enchanted Isle is attracting repeat passengers for one-third of its bookings and adding 11- and 14-night cruises to accommodate the ship's growing repeat market.

The Enchanted Capri, out of New Orleans, offers two-night party cruises and five-night sailings to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. This month, Crown launched its first trade advertising campaign in conjunction with Apple Vacations.

Commodore does business with about 4,000 agencies, Kurtz noted, and about 700 agencies are dealing with Crown.

To attract more agencies for both lines, two reference guides for agents have been issued: Top 10 Reasons Your Clients Will Enjoy a Commodore Cruise and Top 10 Reasons Your Clients Will Enjoy a Crown Cruise.

"It's important for us to have a core of travel agents who actually sell us and not just take orders," Kurtz said. "We're trying to make sure travel agents understand our products and feel comfortable recommending and selling us."

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