NEW YORK -- The Cruise Lines International Association's annual Cruise and Vacation Month media tour in February included a few new spokespeople: travel agents.

CLIA sends representatives from the cruise lines out as spokespeople on a nationwide media tour every February and September. This year, along with those cruise line representatives, CLIA decided to emphasize its travel agent members, recruiting four retailers to join media interviews in their local markets.

New York travel agent Kimberly Wilson Wetty, for example, was invited by CLIA to appear on a New Jersey cable channel with a cruise director from Silversea to talk about the value of cruising.

Wetty answered a question from the show's host about the incidents of Norwalk-like viruses aboard cruise ships -- "The cruise lines have to live up to high standards of sanitation," she said -- and addressed other concerns about travel, as well.

"If you're not comfortable with going to places with these great deals, you should look in your own backyard," Wetty said.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, Mo., Mark Comfort of Cruise Holidays was a guest on a radio talk show with Rose Clark, an onboard cruise consultant with Radisson Seven Seas Cruises; the pair also were interviewed for TV spots with the city's NBC and ABC affiliates.

"[The radio program] gave us a whole hour to talk about cruising," Comfort said. "So that was kind of neat.

"It went really well, because [Clark] could talk about onboard [features], and I could talk about the bookings," he said.

Comfort hosts his own radio show in Kansas City. He kicked off National Cruise and Vacation Month by hosting CLIA executive director Bob Sharak.

In addition to Wetty and Comfort, travel agents David Rojahn of DTR Travel in Denver and Lynda Maxwell of Destinations Inc. in the Washington area participated in the CLIA media tour.

"Typically when the media's calling, it's, 'We need your comments on something that's happened in the industry,' " said Rojahn, who was the subject of a 10-minute radio interview.

"This was more [consumer-oriented]: The value of cruising, very upbeat. We didn't even touch on any of the things with Norwalk."

Sharak said CLIA was extremely pleased with this year's tour.

"And the fact we could bring travel agents with us was like, 'Duh, why didn't we do that before?' " he said.

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