NORFOLK, Va. -- When the cruise port here revamped its Web site, it
decided to offer a consumer booking link, so it employed a unique
booking engine: Maria Wallace.
"Booking your cruise from Norfolk is easy," reads the copy on
the Cruise Norfolk homepage, at www.cruisenorfolk.org. "Call ... and ask for Maria
Wallace is a travel agent at CI Travel, a division of Cruise
International and a retail and government travel company
headquartered across the street from Nauticus, the Norfolk cruise
"I really hadn't thought about it," Wallace said about having
her name and work phone posted on a Web site. "I'm just excited
about cruises from Norfolk."
Stephen Kirkland, Nauticus' cruise operations and marketing
manager, said his intent was to personalize the booking option to
make it more user-friendly.
"We said, we need one point person: 'Call Jenny' or 'call Sue,'
" Kirkland said. "We really wanted to focus on the passengers."
Nauticus, which is a city-run pier and science museum (its full
name is Nauticus, the National Maritime Center), does its travel
business through CI Travel. So a partnership with the agency seemed
logical, Kirkland said.
Mickey Hawks, CI's vice president of retail operations, said the
company has "nothing to lose" by posting its name -- and Wallace's
name -- on the Cruise Norfolk site, although Nauticus gets a small
cut of the commission, which Kirkland said will go into
Consumers who contact CI Travel through the site will get "at
least a group rate," Hawks said.
"We block space on every sail date," she said. "Because we are
such a big seller out of Norfolk, we always have enough people to
get [space] onboard."
The new site had been live for only a few days when Hawks spoke
with TravelWeekly.com, and she said she had not gotten any requests
from the site. But Wallace said she'd had a couple of hits -- just
a few brochure requests from potential passengers outside the
The Cruise Norfolk site offers some new features for agents who
have passengers interested or booked out of Norfolk, such as
driving and parking directions and contact information.
It also offers a schedule of cruise departures and Norfolk
The site was redeveloped to focus on selling cruises to
travelers instead of selling Norfolk to the cruise lines, which was
Cruise Norfolk's original focus.
The booking option, Kirkland added, "was spurred from my getting
calls from tons of people -- my name used to be on our Web site --
and I'd get dozens of calls a week from people who'd ask, 'How can
I book out of Norfolk?' "
To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].