Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

 

And their online presence with Black America Web, Soul of America and AOL Black Voices further extends their reach.  Black America Web was founded by none other than Tom Joyner.  According to their website, Black America Web has more than 750,000 members and 30,000 unique visitors a month.  When you combine that with Joyner’s national radio show, which airs in 115 markets with eight million listeners that sends a powerful signal to the Black community.  It’s a relationship RCCL fully embraces according to Williams and a win-win for both parties.

RCCL also builds it brand awareness locally or as Williams puts it “we get down to the local level and speak to consumers in a relevant manner.”  What she means by that is people tend to trust sources that come from the local level because that’s what they know best.  So RCCL attends local market events where they can work directly with consumers in an environment that they are most comfortable.  RCCL also markets themselves in local newspapers and radio spots.

To further supplement their desire to reach the African-American consumer, Royal Caribbean has created African-American specific promotional brochures and DVD’s.

Let me apologize to you male readers in advance but face if fellas, when it comes to vacations, women make most of those decisions.  It’s a fact that’s not lost on Williams and RCCL.  Whether it’s a couple, a family or girlfriend’s, women are empowered to make these decisions so a great deal of Royal Caribbean’s marketing is directed specifically to the female traveler.

On the public relations front, RCCL pursues corporate partnerships with African-American businesses — it’s a venture that has proven highly successful.  One such relationship Williams’ points to is their relationship with (i)Essence(ei) magazine and the Royal Caribbean Passport to Living Well.  The group was treated to dinner and other ship activities that appeal specifically to (i)Essence(ei) readers such as massages and other body treatments.  That allowed (i)Essence(ei) readers to get familiar with RCCL and what they have to offer without having to set sail.  RCCL continuously showcases their ships in this manner as Williams puts it “to engage the consumer firsthand.”

RCCL continually shows their commitment to the Black community.  In the fall of 2005, Royal Caribbean developed “A Royal Celebration of Art,” a live art auction series onboard cruises ships docked in the port cities of Baltimore, Miami and Los Angeles.  The auction showcased work by African-American artists and was free and open to the public as long as they registered.

            Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd is a global cruise vacation company with a combined total of 35 ships across its many brands.  Those brands include Royal Caribbean International (21 ships and 3 under construction) and Celebrity Cruises.  They have seven new ships under construction at press time.

            Sometime in 2008, Royal Caribbean will launch the world’s largest cruises ship — Independence of the Seas.  Along with new sister ships Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, each ship will hold over 3,600 passengers based on double occupancy.

            RCCL sails to the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Hawaii, Mexico, the Panama Canal and South America.

            According to RCCL, their primary passenger is 30 and older and runs the gamut from singles and couples to family vacation travelers.  Fully half of all RCCL guests have cruised before and a quarter sailed with Royal Caribbean before.  

In addition to shore excursions, RCCL ships offer great spa facilities, fitness centers, rock wall climbing, miniature golf courses and golf simulators, sports courts for basketball, paddleball and volleyball, jogging tracks, ice skating rinks, flat screen TV’s in most rooms, and an enhanced Adventurer Ocean program for the younger travelers. 

And if you want to tie the knot or renew your vows, Royal Caribbean has come up with some rather unique ways to express that love with the Royal Romance wedding and vow renewal program.  You can tie the knot on an Alaskan Glacier, in a hot-air balloon, while surfing on Liberty of the Seas’ FlowRider (a surfing simulator) or SCUBA diving on the ocean bed, to name a few.

Family reunions are an important segment of the African-American travel market and once again Royal Caribbean steps to the plate.  With an interest in genealogy and cultural heritage on the rise among African-Americans, Royal Caribbean offers travelers the opportunity to cruise and connect with their own family history.  RCCL provides experienced planners to help guests create options that incorporate their Afro/Caribbean cultural roots while enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the Caribbean, Brazil and the Bahamas.

            Royal Caribbean is ideal for corporate and organizational meetings.  They have conference capabilities and state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment.  Earlier this year RCCL hosted a multicultural VIP presentation to key members of the African-American and Caribbean leaders of business, social and professional organizations designed to showcase their corporate meetings and incentive programs and group charter opportunities.

            To get more information on Royal Caribbean’s group, incentive and meetings travel go to cruisingpower.org or call (800) 327-2056.

            The ultimate in family entertainment, Disney Cruise Lines (DCL) has two family friendly ships in its fleet, the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder.  Each ship holds 2,700 passengers.  The staterooms aboard these two ships are 25 percent larger than industry standard and 73 percent of their rooms are outside rooms with ocean views.  Disney also did an industry first with most of their rooms featuring a bath-and-a-half and multiple sinks.

            For meeting and incentive planners the Disney Wonder features a 1,387-sq. ft. Conference Center.  Both the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder offer a 977-seat Walt Disney Theatre and a 268-seat Buena Vista Theatre for those special gatherings.  And if you represent a group looking for professional development at sea, the Disney Institute can customize content for your meeting.

Earlier this year Disney announced plans for two new ocean liners scheduled to launch in 2011 and 2012.  At 124,000 tons each, these two ships will double Disney’s current capacity and have two more decks than their current inventory.

Disney set sail across the pond in 2007 calling on ports in Barcelona, Spain; Palermo Sicily; Naples, Italy; and other stops in Italy, France and Sardinia.   These 10- and 11-night cruises proved a highly successful venture for Disney.  If you are looking for something a little closer to home Disney also offers three-, four- and seven-night cruises to the Bahamas, the Caribbean and the Mexican Riviera.  And if you want to take advantage of all that is Disney they offer packages that combine a cruise with a visit to Disney World for a truly complete family vacation.

Part of the Disney Cruise experience is Castaway Cay.  This 1,000-acre private-island paradise offers separate beaches and activities for adults, families and children.  In another industry first, this island has its own dock eliminating the need to tender from the mother ship.
Another innovative move by Disney is rotation dining.  Guests rotate through three different themed restaurants throughout their cruise.  Passengers may also opt to dine at an adult only restaurant that features Northern Italian cuisine.

            As you might imagine from a company that prides itself on entertainment, Disney is the best at what it does — providing a wonderful and engaging experience for each and every passenger.  Disney Cruises offers original family-styled musicals, nighttime entertainment that includes a piano bar, a high-energy dance club and dueling pianos and sing-a-long comedy.

            Disney was one of the first lines to embrace the multi-cultural market and is a great place to have a family reunion.  To learn more about group events, reunions, and ship charters available with Disney Cruise Lines, visit disneymeetings.com or call (321) 939-7221.

Carnival Cruise Lines is the largest cruise line in the world based on passengers carried.  Carnival features 22 ships operating voyages from three to 18 days. Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic, a pair of 130-ton Superliners, will enter service starting in late 2009.  These two giants will hold 3,652 passengers each and will represent the largest ships in the Carnival fleet.

            Europe is becoming a more popular destination for the cruise line industry and Carnival is no exception.  In 2008, the 3,006 passenger Carnival Splendor will make the lines first ever Northern European cruise along with the lines popular Mediterranean and Greek Isle Voyages.

            The ultimate in African-American cruising is the “Festival At Sea.”  In its 17-year history this cruise, hosted by Yarbrough and Blue World Travel has entertained over 40,000 people.  The 2008 event will set sail in August leaving from Miami onboard the Carnival Liberty

            What makes “Festival At Sea” so special?  As Yarbrough simply states “it’s cruising with an African-American twist.”  It’s a cultural experience for African-Americans that includes; bid-whist tournaments, music that appeals to African-Americans, something called “Gospelcise” — exercising to gospel music, bible study, fashion shows, an African-American version of American Idol and the Thurgood Marshall Bachelor Auction.  At press time only 50 cabins remained for the 2008 cruise.

            For those of you planning a meeting, corporate gathering or some other kind of event that requires significant space, several ships within the Carnival fleet have as many as eight meeting rooms that can hold up to 1,500 people.  Each ship is a little different when it comes to meeting space capacity so please ask.  And of course they have all the latest in audio/visual equipment for those special presentations.

            And if you think things like corporate team building events are restricted to land-locked destinations you would be wrong.  Carnival offers plenty of team building exercises sure to build the camaraderie your organization desires.

Under the Carnival corporate banner, are some rather well known and respected lines that include; Holland American Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, and the Cunard Line.  In total, the company has 84 ships under its control and 20 more scheduled to come on line by 2011.  There are over 200,000 people traveling onboard one of Carnival Corporation ships at any given time. 

Planning is the key whether it’s a group cruise or ship charter.  Yarbrough signs contracts with the cruise lines for her charter more than a year in advance of the sailing date and her clients start to pay for their excursion up to a year ahead of time.  It usually involves making an initial deposit of $50 to $100 and then making payments on a monthly or bi-monthly basis with final payment usually two months in advance of departure.  Making payments over a period of time makes cruising more affordable Yarbrough says.  For smaller group such as family reunions Yarbrough recommends working with an established travel agent and setting up a similar payment schedule.

Several cruise lines have travel agent locators, so if you are a travel agent and not on their list and you want to sell cruising, its time to find out what it takes to get on their lists.

Deposit and cancellation polices vary from one cruise line to the next.  So please check with your individual cruise line of choice for their policies.  But here are a couple of things to look for starting with deposit policies.  Within some set time of confirmed group reservations, usually 30 days, a minimum deposit will be required; it could be as little as $50 per person or some percentage of the total amount of space you reserved.

The closer you get to your departure date a series of payments will be due.  It could be six months out then again at three months with the final payment due one to two months prior to sailing.   The percentage of those payments and the interval could vary so please ask. 

Cancellation polices also vary.  If an individual cancels well in advance of departure, and by that I mean at least six months, if not eight or nine months in advance you won’t be penalized.  If you cancel reservations between eight months and six months according to one policy I read, 15 percent of the current space may be canceled without charge.  There is a $50 per person charge for each cancellation in excess of 15 percent.

As you get closer to departure the cost per cancellation usually increases significantly.  Once inside 30 days of departure you can just about forget any refund for cancellation regardless of cruise line, but again don’t be afraid to ask — nothing ventured, nothing gained.

A couple of other things you need to know about both the deposit and cancellation policy.  The length of cruise can, and often does, affect the amount of deposit and when it’s due.  Some cruise lines differentiate between groups over 100 and those with less.  The time of year and destination can also affect costs and payments.  For example, if you plan to book during high travel season or a holiday you will pay more if, for no other reason than it’s high season.  And of course timing is key.  Waiting until the last second to book your group travel will speed up the timetable for deposits and shorten your cancellation period.

And one final thought; if you are forced to cancel some part of your group reservation, make sure you do it in writing.

Below is a list of cruise lines and their meetings/incentive sales and travel agent websites.

American Cruise Lines — americancruiselines.com
Carnival Cruise Lines — carnivalmeetings.com
Celebrity Cruises — celebrityincentives.com
Costa Cruises — costalovesgroups.com
Crystal Cruises — crystalcruises.com
Cunard Line — cunard.com/chartersandincentives
Disney Cruise Line — disneymeetings.com
Holland America Line — hollandamerica.com/incentive-charter-cruises
MSC Cruises — msccruises.com
Norwegian Costal Voyage Inc. — norwegiancostalvoyage.us
Norwegian Cruise Lines — ncl.com (click on meetings and incentives)
Oceania Cruises — oceaniacruises.com
Orient Lines — orientlines.com
Princess Cruises — princess.com
Regent Seven Seas Cruises — rssccharters.com
Royal Caribbean — cruisingpower.org
Seabourn Cruise Line — seabourn.com/charters
Seadream Yacht Club — seadreamyachtclub.com/charters.htm
Silversea Cruises — silversea.com (click on Incentive Group & Charter Programme)
Windstar Cruises — windstarcruises.com/charter.asp

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