Cruise411 launches affiliate program for agents

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KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. -- Cruise411.com, the online cruise seller minority-owned by Lee Rosenbluth, launched an affiliate program for agencies and other businesses that want to refer their Web visitors to the site.

The Affiliate Cruise Partner Program enables agents and others, including nontravel sites, to establish a link on their sites to Cruise411.com's cruise inventory and BookItNow reservations engine.

When consumers click through from a referring partner site and book Cruise411.com cruises, the referring site receives 2% commissions on the gross cruise revenue, including the air component, when applicable, but excluding fees like port charges and taxes.

As an introductory promotion, it is doubling that rate to 4% for cruises booked before March 1.

The four major CRS companies already operate Web-based cruise booking tools that offer agents higher commissions than they would get through a 2% commission affiliate program.

David Lucas, chief executive officer of the online cruise seller, acknowledged the relative attractiveness of the CRS offerings but said the affiliate program would benefit agencies "that do not have an especially strong presence in the cruise category" and want to give clients an online platform with real-time availabilities.

Just started, the affiliate program has more than 20 participants, including the AARP, The Knot (a wedding planning portal) and the Washington Post, who were on-board before the official launch.

The affiliate program, which is free to join, includes two options, Lucas said. Agents can establish a site link to the Cruise411.com booking engine or they can use frames that provide similar access, but have the agency brand on every page.

Cruise411.com's BookItNow reservations technology interfaces with Sabre, which acts as a switch to the cruise lines.

Majority-owned by TL Ventures, Cruise411.com, said it has booked $40 million in cruises since 2000.

Lucas said the firm achieved "profitability" in June, but fell into the red after Sept. 11.

Bookings "are creeping back up to those levels," Lucas said, adding that January through March have "tremendous potential."

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