FORT LAUDERDALE -- Six cruise line presidents pitched their
companies to hundreds of travel agents gathered at CLIA's Cruise360 conference
here, the 15th consecutive year the show has been held.
Becky Powell, CEO of Protravel International, who moderated
the panel, began by showing photos submitted by panel members of what they were
doing 15 years ago. Most were pictured with young families in some nautical
setting looking more youthful than they do now.
Andy Stuart, president of Norwegian Cruise Line, made a plea
for agents to use all training materials available at NorwegianCentral.com. "Anything
you can think of to market our experience is there on Norwegian Central. If you
don't use it, we're wasting each other's time."
Of WiFi on ships, Stuart said he discourages his
device-addicted kids from using his account. "Every now and then, they
look at me. It's like 'Oh, you can look up!' They talk to me. Three days in,
they're civilized human beings again."
Virgin Voyages president Tom McAlpin, fresh from signing a
berthing agreement in Havana, said the mid-sized Virgin ship due next year will
be the largest ship docking in Havana "and the newest." He said the size of the line's ships was set
by passenger preference for smaller vessels, and its five-day itinerary from
Miami to Cuba by their expressed preference for shorter itineraries combined
with late-night or overnight stays.
On WiFi, McAlpin said Virgin sponsored the free WiFi at the
conference. "So for those of you who aren't listening, who are checking
your emails on your phone, you're welcome," he said.
Roberto Fusaro, president of MSC Cruises USA, said late
nights are also on the agenda for MSC's private island in Bimini, which opens
in November. Its nearness to Miami lets ships stay until midnight and still
make it back to dock in Miami by morning.
Crystal Cruises president Tom Wolber said Crystal is
combining longer stays in port with high demand "signature events"
such as the Formula One car race in Monte Carlo, or the Royal Edinburgh
Military Tattoo in Scotland. "The luxury travelers are telling us they
want exclusive experiences, and they want easy access to those experiences."
Celebrity Cruises president Lisa Lutoff-Perlo noted that
Port Everglades, next door to the conference site, completely rebuilt its
Terminal 25 for the new Celebrity Edge debut last year, incorporating much new
technology, including facial-recognition scanners for speeding guest entry on
and off the ship. "It made a huge difference in their experience,"
Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy said her line
has recently made its Hub smartphone app active for use before guests get to
the ship. "One of the fun things, as you all know, about planning a
vacation is the planning and the anticipation. With so many different things to
do onboard a ship, I think that people are really engaging up front and then
that also helps with [easing] embarkation."