Headline sponsors are Royal Caribbean and Silversea with both brands focusing on growth. MSC Cruises sponsored the lunch and Princess Cruises sponsored the Gala Dinner. Here’s a round up of the cruise presentations from Jennifer Callister (Royal Caribbean), Amanda Middler (Silversea), Rebecca Kelly (Princess Cruises) and Suzanne Rowe (MSC Cruises).
Jennifer Callister of Royal Caribbean International (Co-Headline Sponsor)
Jennifer Callister, on behalf of Team Royal Ireland – Michelle Ryan and John Booty, thanked the audience for their support & warm welcomes on the road throughout the year.
Two brand new ships will be joining the fleet in 2024. Icon of the Seas is launching early in 2024 and Icon II is already in progress. Icon is also a brand new class of ship. Utopia of the Seas will also join the fleet in summer 2024 and she’s the sixth Oasis Class ship. She will be based in Port Canaveral.
Icon of the Seas
Icon of the Seas will offer 20 decks, more than any other RCI ship. She will have 2,800 staterooms onboard for c.7,500 passengers. She will have eight neighbourhoods with some familiar neighbourhoods plus new ones such as Thrill Island and Chill Island, inspired by Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, CocoaCay which has both Thrill and Chill zones.
Surfside is a dedicated family neighbourhood with a sprawling aquapark, kids club, restaurants and activities plus family cabins will be conveniently located around here.
Her first sailing will be on the 7th of January 2024 and she’s a beauty – here’s a sneak peek of what to expect:
There are seven pools including adult-only plus a swim-up bar and resident DJ. It will be home to Royal Bay, the largest pool at sea with 40,000 gallons of water. The Swim & Tonic will be a poolside bar.
Icon of the Seas will start with Eastern and West Caribbean itineraries sailing from Miami starting at the end of January and all of the itineraries will visit CocoCay in the Bahamas.
Utopia of the Seas
Utopia of the Seas will be sailing in the summer of 2024. She will sail from Port Canaveral in Orlando doing three and four-night sailings so the RCI team are calling it “the world’s biggest weekend”. Utopia of the Seas is going to be Royal Caribbean’s sixth Oasis Class ship and every sailing will go to CocoCay. It has 18 decks and caters for just shy of 6,000 guests.
The Royal Genie
The Royal Genie is “an amazing interactive tool” which creates a personalised digital holiday for a customer within minutes. It brings to life the itinerary, the ship, the destinations and the experiences that the guest can expect. This can have the agent’s details and their logo for their clients.
Amanda Middler of Silversea (Co-Headline Sponsor)
Amanda Middler shared “We’ve had a marvellous year in Ireland”. She thanked the agencies that booked Silverseas (of which there are many) and extended an invite to those that had not booked, to consider this luxury brand.
Silversea went into COVID with 7 ships and came out with 12 split between classic ships covering regular cruising destinations, the Caribbean, Alaska, the Mediterranean and the Far East of Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and New England. Silversea also has expedition ships that offer soft adventure and go to the other ends of the earth such as the Galapagos, Arctic and Antarctic as well as warm water expeditions.
Amanda shared that Silversea offers 900 destinations and brings guests to the heart of destinations. Furthermore, guests get to go to these tiny little ports to really experience the locations.
What sets Silverseas apart from competitors is the size of their ships. The capacity of the largest is just over seven hundred guests. What you get is the feeling of space and the feeling of choice. Guests are offered ten different dining options on board meaning each restaurant feels like speciality dining.
Available on Silver Nova, Silver Moon and Silver Dawn, the restaurant S.A.L.T. (plus S.A.L.T. bar) will intensify your voyage, flavour your journey, balance your cruise, and preserve your holiday memories. It’s described as a new definition of travelling with taste.
Travellers can expect Silver Ray in June next summer with Silversea just welcoming Silver Nova last August. This is a game changer with the ship larger than what people would usually expect with a capacity for over 700 guests.
Door-to-Door or Port-to-Port
Impressively, guest to guest-to-crew ratio is nearly 1:1. The cruise company covers 7 continents and offers guests a door-to-door or port-to-port service.
The Silversea Cruise offering includes Port-to-Port which is a cruise-only fare. The agency books the flights and transfers, especially useful if it is a twin-stop holiday or a stay and cruise. This comes in at c.35% cheaper shares Amanda.
The Silversea Cruise offering also has “Door-to-Door All-Inclusive”. This consists of private executive transfers, international flights, airport transfers and onboard: food & beverages, butler service as well as expedition in-country air & hotel.
Once onboard, shore excursions are included in the price, as is butler service, drinks and wifi. There are no bills to pay when your client gets off the ship (unless you’re getting a blow dry or your nails done!).
As always, Amanda’s presentation ended with her commitment to support any travel agent seeking to sell Silversea.
Rebecca Kelly (Princess Cruises) took to the stage during dinner to update the members on Princess Cruises’ offering – thanks for the double shout-out during the speech Ms. Kelly!
Rebecca shared “Princess is the destination leader. We have destinations all across the world from Asia to Alaska to Australia and the Med”. She offered a long list of why Princess should be a first choice which included: luxury ships, global itineraries and exceptional food & beverages. She highlighted the culinary offering which, having had the benefit of enjoying this summer, is exceptional.
Piazza-Style Grand Atrium
The heart onboard a Princess Cruise ship is the piazza-style Grand Atrium. The space rises several decks and here beats the energy of the trip. This is where you’ll find the entertainment plus the vast array of dining experiences. As a testament to the offering, Rebecca shared how joyful she felt given how many travel agents have cruised with Princess and highlighted the ship, the food and the staff as far exceeding their expectations.
Reminiscing over the past four years (Rebecca started with Princess Cruises the March that Covid impacted the globe), she passionately explained how happy she is that people can see what Princess can offer and the incredible standard greeted by guests. What I loved on board was the interaction with the staff. They had character and banter, they gave what felt like recommendations (rather than generic statements). They engaged with guests and it made it feel local rather than a transient experience. I could have been in a favourite (fancy) restaurant down the road that I’d go back time and time again, not just for the food but the personal service. I truly loved that aspect.
From Inside to Ocean View
There are spacious inside cabins, balcony cabins and a host of premium accommodations onboard Princess with a quick sneak peek:
Kids Club for All Ages
Rebeccas explained, “If you are thinking families, think Princess and if you are thinking premium families, think Princess… our kids’ clubs are absolutely outstanding.”. Princess has “The Treehouse” for ages 3-7, “The Lodge” for ages 8 to 12 and “The Beach House” for ages 13 to 17.
The Sun & the Stars
The latest editions to the fleet are the Sun Princess which sets sail in February 2024 and her sister ship, the Star Princess.
Sun Princess has 2,150 guest cabins with 1,5000 balconies and a capacity for 4,300 guests. She has 21 decks.
Star Princess will join the fleet in 2024 and will have the same number of cabins and capacity as Sun Princess. She will have more than 29 bars and restaurants.
Both the Sun Princess and Star Princess will sail the Mediterranean in 2025
Reserve Collection & Signature Area
For guests looking for an elevated experience, Princess offers a premium stateroom category called Reserve Collection Mini-Suites featuring the best mini-suites with a VIP level of service, exclusive dining and enhanced amenities.
Be Spellbound Onboard Princess
For a magical and mixological experience, try and find the doorway onboard:
It’s the Little Things
Medallion Class technology gives guests the ability to access their cabins as they approach with their Medallion plus this has the ability to order beverages and snacks to your location whether poolside or relaxing in the retreat.
I’ll concur with Ms Kelly, the Crown Grill steaks are outstanding.
Impressively, Rebecca has welcomed 150 travel agent families onboard Princess this year, from Cork, Belfast and Dublin. She’s also given 35 free cabins away to the travel trade plus three fam trips this year for agents to experience and truly enjoy the Princess offering. As always, Rebecca’s passion can be felt throughout the room and you can see how proud she is of the Princess product and how well it has been received by the industry.
MSC Cruises sponsored the lunch at Worldchoice Conference and Suzanne Rowe (Head of Sales for MSC Cruises in Ireland) spoke to the delegates.
10 Reasons Why You Should Book MSC
1. MSC – More Ships Coming
MSC offers a fleet of 23 ships which will soon expand to 25 when the cruise company takes a new World Class ship in 2026 and 2027.
Suzanne explained that Irish holidaymakers love the “shiny new ships” such as the Meraviglia Class, the Seaside Class and the World Class ships. The Meriviglia is 7 years old at this stage – the Bellisima, Grandiosa, Vituosa and Euribia. Suzanne added, “We have absolutely wonderful ships in our fleet… our newest one is coming next year, MSC America, so keep your eyes peeled for that one”.
2. Just Buy the Port
MSC own 50% of the world’s ports. When they had issues getting cargo in and out of a port, they just bought the port. This means MSC have no issues entering/exiting ports. MSC has 14 ships serving the Mediterranean. MSC own 31 different ports. They have 30 itineraries across 22 countries.
3. Fly & Cruise
Suzanne explains they have thousands of flights loaded into their system. The three main areas that MSC fly to are Barcelona, Rome and Venice. MSC World Europa, MSC Grandiosa and MSC Seaview sail from Barcelona, MSC Seaside and MSC Lirica sail out of Venice.
Covering the Arabian Gulf is MSC Virtuosa and MSC Opera and MSC flies directly to Dubai and Doha.
Suzanne states “Sustainability is very close to our hearts and I’m sure it’s close to everybody’s heart. We are working really, really hard to achieve our going in 2050 of zero emissions.
MSC has paired with F1 to see what they are doing and what MSC can do to reduce emissions. Suzanne explained “We started working with F1… We’ve paired up with them because we want to see what they’re doing in that particular world that is reducing the emissions and with paradox with them and we’re spending a lot of money trying to figure out how we can reduce our emissions.
5. Yacht Club
Suzanne enthused, “Yacht Club. This is what I absolutely adore. This is our five-star product and as Alana Byrne will always say it’s like turning left on an aircraft.”. Having had the benefit of touring a few of MSC’s stunning ships in my travels, the MSC Yacht Club is how the other half live.
It’s always located on Deck 18 and Deck 19. It means that when guests arrive at the port, they are collected & greeted by their Butler. They are ushered right up to your club. There’s no hanging around. There’s no queueing. They are given a glass of champagne and everything is looked after. Guests have their butler for the duration of their stay and have 24-hour concierge service. The butler will even unpack your clothes!
There is a top sail lounge for stunning views during breakfast, lunch and dinner and an exclusive bar area. There are specific areas reserved for watching the shows. Even the lifts prioritise Yacht Club guests.
The average price starts from €2,500 to €3,010 so it’s well worth a look!
6. A Place to Rest Your Head
There are balcony cabins and inside cabins. For something more grandiose there is the Aurea suite which is larger than the balcony or inside cabins and has a whirlpool. This also comes with unlimited access to the MSC Aurea SPA onboard.
The studio balcony is for people who want to travel on their own. This is on MSC’s Meraviglia Class ships.
Suzanne explains that there are options for families including catering for those that have more than 2 children (lots of us do!). For a family of six, there are bunk beds and an interconnecting cabin so families are together.
They travel free and we have children’s prices from ages two to 17, which is fantastic. If you have a family of four, yourself and your two children and they’re between the ages of zero and 17, MSC is a very, very good option.”
There is A lot for children to do onboard and MSC offers exceptional value.
8. Great Offers
“If you are a single parent and you are travelling with a child or two children, we do not penalise you for the second person in the cabin,” says Suzanne. She continues, MSC “give you a 40% discount on the second person in the cabin, which I think is a really nice option for anyone travelling on their own.”
If you have a child, or two children with you, you have the first full-paying person then a 40% discount on the second and child prices thereafter.
There are various discounts such as if you are younger than 29; if you are on a honeymoon; if you are in the senior club; or a healthcare worker. There is a discount on complimentary anniversary packages. Plus, all of this does not affect a travel agent’s commission.
9. Status Match
MSC Cruise where clients have a loyalty card with another travel brand (could be a car company, a cruise line or a hotel etc.) – whatever the reward scheme, MSC will match the status. All you have to do is ring MSC and outline the reward scheme and MSC will match it plus they will match it and give you a 5% discount for trying the MSC brand.
10. Dream Team
Suzanne wraps up her presentation by thanking the trade and her dream team of Alana Byrne and Erica Oglesby who form the dedicated MSC Sales Team for Ireland.