Cruise presidents woo travel advisors at Cruise360

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From left, panel moderator Becky Powell and Crystal's Tom Wolber, Norwegian Cruise Line's Andy Stuart and Virgin Voyages' Tom McAlpin on the president's panel at CLIA's Cruise360 conference.
From left, panel moderator Becky Powell and Crystal's Tom Wolber, Norwegian Cruise Line's Andy Stuart and Virgin Voyages' Tom McAlpin on the president's panel at CLIA's Cruise360 conference. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

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," she said.

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."

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