UK Cruise Convention 2007

Two cruiselines from different ends of the market have joined the newly named Association of Cruise Experts, formerly the Passenger Shipping Association Retail Agents’ scheme.

Crystal Cruises has joined to take advantage of ACE’s new focus on the luxury market.

Speaking at the UK Cruise Convention, vice-president sales and marketing Europe, Middle East and Africa Philip Ordever said Crystal had not been a member before because it did not cover the luxury sector.

He said: “ACE has brought in a luxury training programme, which is what we wanted. It makes commercial sense for us to join. Through ACE we can reach homeworking agents we couldn’t get to before.”

Economy cruiseline Island Cruises, which operates Island Star and Island Escape out of Palma, has also joined. It sees the opportunity to work with independent agents through ACE as a big advantage.

Director of sales Leslie Peden said: “In the last 18 months we have really broadened our distribution to work with cruise specialists and independent agents.

“Independent agents come to us as they feel less intimidated than working with larger cruiselines.”

He added: “If they are not ready to take that step we can help them get on that ladder. That is why it was important for us to join ACE.”

As part of its trade commitment, Island Cruises has pledged to take more than 400 UK agents for educationals on board its ships.

The cruiseline is also focusing on promoting group sales to agents, so much so, it has doubled its group sales force to six staff.

“We have already exceeded what we did [in sales] in 2006 this year,” said Peden.

Meanwhile, Crystal plans to launch an online training programme and dedicated UK website with an expert agent search facility, said Ordever. It is also piloting a web-based booking tool for the trade.