Taking part in yesterday’s Carnival Conversations event in Toronto are (left to right) Justin C. French, Managing Director, Canada and International Sales – Carnival Cruise Line, Marilisa De Simone, Business Development Manager, Ontario and Vice-President, Trade Sales & Marketing Adolfo Perez.
Taking part in yesterday’s Carnival Conversations event in Toronto are (left to right) Justin C. French, Managing Director, Canada and International Sales – Carnival Cruise Line, Marilisa De Simone, Business Development Manager, Ontario and Vice-President, Trade Sales & Marketing Adolfo Perez.

Carnival Conversations event plays to a sell-out crowd of Toronto-area travel agents

TORONTO — When Carnival Vista makes her debut in Europe next spring, no doubt many of the bookings will come courtesy of Canadian travel agents.

That’s because Canada is a disproportionately large source market for Carnival’s European sailings. And after a two-year hiatus, Carnival is returning to Europe with Carnival’s Vista debut season starting in May 2016. Sailings range from eight to 13 days, from Athens and Barcelona. The May 1 inaugural cruise sails from Trieste.

There’s also a 13-day transatlantic cruise departing Oct. 21 from Barcelona, when Carnival Vista bids adieu to Europe and heads to the Caribbean for the winter (with ports of call including the newly-built and exclusive Amber Cove in the D.R., no tenders required).

“Canada has always been a big Europe supporter for us,” said Vice-President, Trade Sales & Marketing Adolfo Perez, one of four executives taking part in yesterday’s Carnival Conversations luncheon in Toronto. “We’re counting on you to help sell Vista.”

Travel agent bookings are up in both Canada and the U.S., he added. “You guys are helping us drive demand and that’s driving pricing up, and that’s a good thing.”

Asked about commissions for shore excursions, Perez didn’t rule it out for the future. “Everything is on the table,” he said. “If we can do it, we’d love to do it.”

Perez added that Carnival has been working hard to move the perception of the brand back up and said the cruise line is encouraged by very positive results in 2015. “We wouldn’t have been as successful as we have been without your help,” he told agents.

The 133,500-ton Carnival Vista has space for 3,936 passengers in double occupancy, or 4,980 passengers at maximum occupancy. A second Vista ship has already been ordered for early 2018, as part of the ‘Fun Ship 2.0’ initiative.

Highlights of Carnival Vista include Havana Cabana staterooms and suites with exclusive daytime access to a private pool (and private lanais complete with hammocks), and Family Harbor staterooms and suites with their own 24-hour lounge for breakfast, snacks and concierge service. Carnival Vista will also offer the new pedal-powered open-air SkyRide, an IMAX theatre, al fresco dining and the largest Carnival Waterworks featuring the 455-foot long Kaleid-O-Slide.

Agents at the Carnival Conversations event also heard about fathom, Carnival Corp.’s new ‘impact travel’ cruise line offering voluntourism-themed sailings to the D.R. and Cuba.

There were also details about Carnival Journeys, the new lineup of nine to 15-day sailings in the Caribbean, Central America, Hawaii and Mexico offering Authentic Eats (with cooking demos from local chefs), Local-tainment featuring regional guest entertainers and Throwback Seaday where passengers can indulge in some 1980s-style Carnival fun.

Justin French, Carnival’s Managing Director, Canada and International Sales, handled many questions during the Q&A portion of the event. French told travel agents that Carnival is revamping its air program, with changes to the program expected to be announced in September. Carnival is also looking at Early Saver rates in Canadian dollars.

Agents also asked about pre-payment for the Cheers! beverage program. Carnival would like to offer a pre-payment option for Cheers!, but the process is complicated by minimum age requirements.

The average age of a Carnival Cruise Line passenger is around 47 or 48, said French. The cruise line attracts a lot of passengers who don’t have kids, despite the fact that it carries 725,000 kids annually. “That’s more than Disney,” said French.

French also noted that of the 4.5 million or so passengers who cruised with Carnival Cruise Line last year, only 43 people took the company up on its Great Vacation Guarantee, offering refunds equal to 110% of the passenger’s cruise fare. The vacation guarantee is a great sales tool, especially for clients who are first-time cruisers, he added.