Carnival Conversations Toronto panel:
Adolfo Perez, Arlene Marichal, Justin French & Vicki Tomasino
Mary Ungaro, Expedia CruiseShipCenters, Rosedale
Ming Xi of Solstar Travel, winner of a Carnival Cruise, is flanked by Adolfo
Perez, Marilisa De Simone & Justin French
In case it’s escaped an Open Jaw reader, Carnival is a big company. Really big. $16 billion in revenue in 2014 (twice that of Royal Caribbean). A 24-ship fleet (23 for RCCL).
And as befits a large company which depends on travel agents for 75% of its sales, a shipload of Carnivalers cruised into Toronto last week to break bread, train and listen.
It’s the 2nd year Carnival has brought its ‘Conversations’ road show to Canada, with this year’s tour including port calls in Montreal, Barrie, Mississauga and Ajax.
The large travel agent turnout at Toronto’s Archeo restaurant in the Distillery District was likely spurred by the attraction of learning about the line’s newest fun ship, Carnival Vista. As the name implies, of the many innovations the ship brings to sea is a pedal-powered open air SkyRide offering a panoramic ocean…vista.
The big news is that the ship’s launch in May 2016 marks Carnival’s return to Europe, with the main focus being on Barcelona and Athens with 8- to 13-day itineraries.
The event was also an opportunity to meet Carnival’s new VP of Trade Sales & Marketing, Adolfo Perez, who talked about the line’s strong results and the key role the agent is playing in the sales process. “Bookings from travel agents are up in Canada, which is helping to drive demand and maintain pricing.”
His reco in continuing the upward swing is to leverage Carnival’s Great Vacation Guarantee which offers a no risk way to break an ITC habitué into the cruise market. Justin French, Managing Director International Sales, explained that “of the 4.6 million passengers we hosted in 2014, only 43 took up the guarantee offer – and of those, the main reason was an emergency. “ French added that “the main reason is that you are qualifying Carnival passengers and selling the right cruise to the right client.”
As the question period began, the first volley unsurprisingly focused on the controversial topic of NCFs. Adolfo Perez fielded that hot potato by saying: “We understand the frustration on your side and we have been looking at the problem from all angles. If we can find a way --- we will.”
On the topic of Early Saver rates offered only in USD, Justin French announced the introduction of a Canadian Residents Rate to be available shortly in CAD.
Overall, the sentiments expressed by agents is that they are pleased with the changes at Carnival. Mary Ungaro of Expedia CruiseShipCentre Rosedale told me that bringing back the print brochure in particular has helped her sell Carnival. “Clients want to sit with you and flip through paper. Especially older clients who come to the office for advice.”