Seabourn signs for two new ships
Biras Creek Resort
set for upgrades
Biras Creek Resort on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands was
acquired by Victor International
Corp., a real estate, resort development and management company
in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
A rendering of the design to
be used to build two 225-
suite ships for Seabourn.
Biras Creek Resort is on
Virgin Gorda, B.V.I.
By Johanna Jainchill
MSC makes good
on shore promise
MSC Cruises’ finally implemented
a commissionable shore excursion program after announcing
its intention to do so in 2004.
MSC President Rick Sasso said
at the Cruise Holidays conference
in Miami that agents will get 5%
commission on all pre-booked
MSC excursions. Agents can book
on the Web or by phone.
The 33-suite resort, one of four
Relais & Chateaux properties in
the Caribbean, is Victor International’s first in the region. Plans
call for a renovation of all suites by
December and, later on, a new spa
and the addition of a luxury villa.
Icelandair to boost
U.S. service in ’07
Icelandair will add new summer, daytime flights from Boston
and New York as part of a major
schedule expansion next year, but
the airline said it will discontinue
San Francisco service.
Icelandair will increase its number of flights worldwide by 17% in
2007. The airline also will increase
summer capacity at Baltimore-Washington by replacing 757 aircraft with a 767s.
Seabourn Cruise Line ordered two ships for delivery in spring 2009 and 2010, representing the first
new ship order for the small-ship, luxury line in
more than 15 years.
The line signed a letter of intent with shipbuilder T. Mariotti of Genoa, Italy, for an all-in cost of
$250 million each. The two 32,000-ton, 450-pas-
senger ships would more than double Seabourn’s
current capacity of 634 berths.
The two ships will be all-suite vessels, and 90%
of the suites will have full-size balconies, a feature
most Seabourn accommodations now lack.
Micky Arison, CEO of parent company Carnival Corp., made the announcement during the
Seatrade Med Convention in Naples, Italy.
In a statement, Arison said, “This order represents our confidence in the luxury segment of the
cruising market, which has shown significant and
consistent revenue growth in recent years.”
Seabourn President Deborah Natansohn said
that 2006 was the line’s best year in terms of yields
“We worked hard in the last two years since Seabourn became independent from Cunard to show
that we were a strong brand with a strong future
and that the luxury market itself was growing,”
Natansohn added that the line is capacity-con-strained, an assertion echoed by agents.
“We get a lot of requests, and the ships are just
sold out,” said Susan Reder, president of Altour/
Classic Cruise and Travel in Woodland Hills, Calif.
“It’s a great product.”
Natansohn said the new ships represent the
“next generation” of luxury cruising, but she declined to reveal their features, other than to say
they would employ “green” technology.
Ron Kurtz, president of the American Affluence
Research Center and a former cruise line executive, said last week that “the luxury market is underserved.”
Kurtz said the purchase of two new ships is the
first indication that Carnival Corp. is seeing a financial return from Seabourn.
“Up to this point, the corporate people at Carnival were more enamored with Seabourn as a
place they liked to cruise themselves,” he said.
“This is evidence they actually think they can
make money with this company, and in this segment of the market.”
Disney unveils new
Walt Disney World revealed more
details about new attractions.
Guests waiting in line for “
Monster, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy
Club,” opening at the Magic Kingdom in January, can text-message
jokes that may be incorporated
into the show by the cast. “
Finding Nemo — The Musical,” soon
to premier at Animal Kingdom,
will showcase live performers op-
An act from ”Finding Nemo — The Musical.”
GTI comes off Marriott’s card mill list
erating Michael Curry-designed
puppets, similar to those he created for the Broadway show “The
United to add
United began taking reservations
for a proposed Washington Dulles-Rome service to begin next April 1.
The flight will operate daily with
Alaska Web site
now in Spanish
Alaska Airlines and sister carrier
Horizon Air introduced a Spanish-language Web site accessible
from their home pages and plan
to add a Spanish-language option to check-in kiosks by early
Alaska also plans by mid-2007
to more than double its number
of Spanish-speaking call center
agents and replace in-flight interpreters with bilingual flight attendants on flights serving Mexican
By Nadine Godwin
Marriott International now has a supplier-agent
relationship with Global Travel International of
Maitland, Fla., a large host travel agency that does
more than $125 million in sales per year and, in
Marriott’s view, was previously better described
as a card mill.
At ASTA’s annual convention in Montreal last
November, Marriott declared it would no longer pay commissions to firms whose businesses
matched a set of criteria defining them as card
GTI landed on the list along with more than
a dozen others, said Fred Miller, Marriott vice
president of global sales. However, he added, GTI
has worked to revamp its business plan as of this
summer, proving that it had implemented substantive changes that were confirmed when Marriott conducted its own research, which involved
test calls to the company.
For example, Miller said, GTI now requires
its independent travel sellers to participate in
a specified training regime and to have errors-and-omissions insurance that the agents pay for.
“We like that,” he said, because those steps are
evidence that its independent sellers want to sell
to someone besides themselves and their friends
Also, he said, GTI’s advertising for agents no
longer emphasizes outsized travel benefits for
those who sign on.
Miller said one other travel agency had come
off the card-mill list, but he declined to name
Marriott has, since 1998, attempted to weed out
card mills by denying them access to its discounted, agent-only Fam-Tastic hotel rates. Under its
“ratio policy,” Marriott tracks trade production to
determine what portion of each agency’s sales are
at Fam-Tastic rates. When the Fam-Tastic portion
surpasses a set threshold, the agency loses access
to the discounted tariffs.
Marriott would not reveal the level at which
Fam-Tastic sales disqualify an agency for discounts. Even before Marriott canceled commissions for GTI and others, GTI was cut off from
Miller said Marriott wanted to monitor GTI’s
performance after commissions were restored
this summer, but now “there is no reason to withhold” Fam-Tastic tariffs much longer.
He said Marriott also may offer training opportunities specifically for GTI agents next year.
Ambassadors Cruise Group acquired the 150-passenger Columbia Queen. The river vessel will
debut as the seventh member of
Ambassador’s Majestic America
Line fleet in 2007, cruising the Columbia, Snake and Willamette rivers from April through October.
OneLink in talks
over loan default
OneLink Corp., the San Francisco firm that last year acquired
Reservation Center and its CCRA
preferred-rate hotel program, was
negotiating with a lender that had
declared it in default, to the tune
of $4.3 million, on loans related to
the acquisition. According to an
SEC filing, the loan was secured
by Res Center stock.