Phonetically speaking

Travel ConfidentialMaybe the first thing United and Continental need to do to get lawmakers onboard for their proposed merger is to teach House and Senate committee members how to correctly pronounce the last name of Jeffery Smisek, currently CEO of Continental (and, if approved, CEO of the future merged United). It's "SMY-zek," as was so clearly, phonetically spelled out in one testimony handout. But the airline executive had to endure at least four versions over two days of grueling hearing rant. After being grilled about his airline's record on safety, training and business sense, though, perhaps Smisek was hoping lawmakers would just forget his name.

Buzz is rampant among ocean liner aficionados about which British royal will name Cunard Line's upcoming newbuild, the Queen Elizabeth. Scuttlebutt is that Queen Elizabeth II has agreed to do the honors, just as she did for the Queen Mary six years ago and for the QE2 in 1967. One thing is certain: Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson is not on the short list.

Facebook "friends" of Crystal Cruises' Bill Smith must have wondered if the gregarious senior vice president of sales had bumped his head during CLIA's Cruise3Sixty event in Vancouver earlier this month, when his Facebook status read: "I think Regent Seven Seas is the greatest cruise line in the world because Alex Sharpe is the best salesperson." It turns out that Sharpe, Regent's senior vice president of international accounts and a good buddy of Smith, had gotten his hands on Smith's BlackBerry and posted the ode to Regent himself.

Feeling left out of the Mississippi River discussion, Blount Small Ship Adventures reminded TC that it's been in that market for two decades continuously and that, little-known fact, its 68-passenger Niagara Prince is the only overnight vessel that can transit the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal connecting the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River by way of the Illinois and Des Plaines rivers.

Perhaps nothing gets a message across better than a bright-yellow smiley face. That's the image David Sheatsley, U.S. Travel Association director of research, used to forecast travel in 2011 at the recent California Travel Industry Association conference. For consumers surveyed this spring, it seems that "frugality continues to reign," he said. However, he said that could change in 2011, when pent-up demand for travel might be unleashed. There were plenty of real-life smiley faces in the audience with that news.

This column appeared in the June 21 issue of Travel Weekly.

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