This month, John Honeywell, AKA Captain Greybeard, summarises the exciting forthcoming events hosted by CLIA, and enjoys a taste of luxury on Viking Sea.
CLIA’s recent cruise conference in Southampton was billed as the largest-ever gathering of UK travel agents under one roof – with more than 650 attending the ship visits and conference sessions.
Now it seems CLIA itself is turning into a travel agent, with an ambitious programme of international events in the coming months.
First up will be Cruise360, a collection of masterclasses, ship tours, excursions and a gala dinner taking place in September.
The organisers are undeterred by the embarrassing failure to launch a similar event last year. Scheduled for Marseille, it was cancelled due to lack of response – partly blamed on agents who were reluctant to travel to France in the wake of terrorist attacks – not much of an example to set for their clients!
The 2017 event will be in Copenhagen from 9-11 September, and includes sessions on board Majestic Princess and Norwegian Getaway. There’s an optional tour of Regent Seven Seas Explorer – billed as the world’s most luxurious cruise ship – for delegates arriving early on 8 September. Guest speakers include Seabourn’s expedition team leader, Robin West, and Cruise Trade News contributor Jane Archer. Sessions include How to Sell a World Cruise, Selling Cruise Holidays To Asia, and River Cruising.
The first day’s proceedings will conclude with an evening event at the Tivoli Gardens, seen by many as the inspiration for Disneyland.
The second night will conclude with a grand gala dinner at Copenhagen City Hall, which will be familiar to fans of Scandi-Noir TV series The Killing and The Bridge.
Incessantly enthusiastic SVP membership & director of CLIA UK & Ireland, Andy Harmer, says: “We’re excited to have agents join us to not only learn more about Copenhagen as a destination, but to experience excursions offered to customers first-hand.
“We’re also busy planning the additional masterclass sessions which will enable agents to learn new skills and information to grow their cruise sales.”
Barely pausing for breath, the roadshow will move on in November to the annual River Cruise Convention in Amsterdam, where about 200 agents will be able to visit seven vessels – if they can drag themselves away from the city’s other attractions.
Amadeus, Scenic, A-Rosa, Tauck, Uniworld, AMA Waterways and CroisiEurope will all be showcasing their vessels at the event, on 22-23 November.
But CLIA’s most ambitious move is yet to come. The 2018 River Cruise event is to be in Ho Chi Minh City
(Saigon). Two days of conference sessions from 10 April will be followed by a sailing on the Mekong.
It remains to be seen how many agencies will be able to spare members of staff for all these events – and how the delegates will be selected from the multi-outlet conglomerates.
But it does go to show that working in travel does have its perks. I can’t see many similar opportunities in retail – unless unlimited supplies of toilet rolls, dog food or sandwiches past their sell-by date count for supermarket check-out staff.