OOSTERDAM -- As temperatures plummeted across the U.S. this month,
travel agents on Holland America Line's Oosterdam were sipping
Pacifico beer and applying sunblock as the vessel sailed along the
Such is life, at
least for one week each year, for an elite contingency known as the
The name came from
the group once representing HAL's top 100 accounts in the
The line expanded
it to include worldwide partners, and on this trip, its 11th annual
Centurions sailing, HAL's 120 top-producing agencies were
HAL's executive vice president of sales and marketing, said that
each Centurion account did well over $1 million in HAL sales this
While I am a bit
short of that mark -- with zero sales -- the line invited me to tag
After being at a
few of these events, from Crystal Cruises' annual gala to NCL's
Presidents' Circle events, it is clear to me that there are
agencies that are regulars on the top-producing cruise
Whether it's Brad,
Van or Jeff Anderson or someone else, America's Vacation Center is
usually represented at a top producers' gig. Ditto Paula and Jeff
Kivet of Cruise Value Center in East Brunswick, N.J. Expedia's
Koreen McNutt often is in attendance, as well.
So what's the draw?
For starters, with HAL, there's the free cruise for two, air
included. Agents also get $100 in onboard credit; a night of dining
in HAL's alternative restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, normally
priced at $30 a person; and complimentary shore excursions in two
of the three ports.
But this is not an
all play and no work situation.
At 8:30 a.m. the
first Sunday morning of the sailing, a sea day, while most regular
cruisers were just stirring, Meadows delivered the state of HAL
address in the theater, with all Centurions in
The agents then
heard from HAL's new vice president of sales, Paul Allen, and the
woman who replaced him as vice president for Alaska marketing and
sales, Linda Springmann.
Despite the steady
flow of information from HAL brass onstage, the agents and HAL
execs all said that the cruise is about the agents networking with
each other and getting face time with the executives, such as
Meadows, who made time to host individual meetings with any agent
seeking a one-on-one. Many agents said it was in the individual
meetings that they could really speak their mind.
"This trip is a
real gut-check of how we're doing," Meadows said. "They're not a
shy group, and they're incredibly informed."
Noting that every
agency model is represented at the event, Meadows said this group
represented many of the concerns of the distribution system at
Meadows added that
the top producers "need a level of access that is
"If we didn't do
it, I just think we'd run the risk of not being in step with what
contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].