Edie Rodriguez
Edie Rodriguez

Veteran cruise executive Edie Rodriguez said she's kept up a hectic schedule since October in her new role as Americas brand chair and corporate special advisor for Ponant.

Rodriguez left as president and CEO of Crystal Cruises in September to take up the new position at the French small-ship line. Since then, she's been meeting with agent groups and going to conferences to beat the drum for Ponant.

"A key challenge for us in North America is brand awareness and that is a key function of what I was brought in to do," Rodriguez said in an interview. "We are very agent-friendly and I am very pro-agent. So first of all, what we're trying to do is to make sure the North American agency community knows this brand."

Founded in 1988 in France as Compagnie du Ponant, the company shortened its name in 2014 and increased its emphasis on sourcing passengers outside of France. This summer, it will take delivery of the first in a new series of expedition ships, Le Laparouse.

Rodriguez said the early cruises of the 184-passenger ship are virtually sold out, making it hard to expose North American agents to the new hardware firsthand.

"We hope to do that later this year. In the interim, what we're doing is a lot of webinars, both on our own and with CLIA, and sending our directors of sales out into the [agency] offices to train," Rodriguez said. She said if any agents are interested selling Ponant, they can e-mail their interest directly to her at [email protected]

Ponant's ships are intended to offer expedition itineraries with luxury comforts. Rodriguez said she's met with key agent groups such as Virtuoso and Travel Leaders Group, but would like to reach smaller agencies, home-based agents and independent contractors, too.

"We have a great agent rate. If they're interested in doing a fam they should put in for that. As space opens up down the road, if we can get them onboard we want to do that," Rodriguez said. "It's definitely a brand experience they can sell with confidence."

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