Wayne Heller
Wayne Heller

Wayne Heller, who founded the Cruises Only travel agency, died on Thursday. He was 58.

Heller and his wife, Judy, were inducted in the CLIA Hall of Fame earlier this year, honored as cruise sales innovators. In its April announcement of Hall of Fame inductees, CLIA said that Wayne Heller “has had a professional and personal passion for cruising for most of his adult life.”

After graduating from Florida State, Heller worked for Norwegian Cruise Line.

In 1984, Heller opened Cruises Only in Orlando, and shortly thereafter was joined by Judy. By 1997, Cruises Only was North America’s largest cruise agency, according to CLIA.

In 1997, the Hellers co-founded Travel Services International with four other entities. The company went public and Wayne was on the board of directors and senior vice president of TSI’s cruise division.

By 2000, the division had purchased more than 20 companies and generated sales of more than $500 million, making TSI the largest seller of cruises in the world, according to CLIA.

In 2000, U.K.-based Airtours acquired TSI, and the Hellers sold their shares in the company.

After leaving TSI, the Hellers created Origin Cruise Group and acquired the Orient Lines brand from Star Cruises in 2008. In 2011, they restored the 130-year-old Riverview Hotel & Spa complex in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International’s senior vice president of sales, called Heller “a man of remarkable talent and just as big a heart” on her Facebook page.

In his memory, Freed shared the Hall of Fame speech she gave to honor Wayne and Judy Heller earlier this year.

“I hope those of you who knew Wayne will share your own memories of a notable contributor to our industry, and a great friend to many,” Freed said.

On Judy Heller's Facebook page, fellow CLIA Hall of Famer Rod McLeod, an executive who spent most of his career at Royal Caribbean, called Wayne Heller "a unique, larger- than-life personality who will not be forgotten for his innovative contributions to establishing the cruise vacation industry. A good person. Gone too soon."

This article was updated on June 15, 2015, at 5:37 p.m. Eastern.

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