The 5th annual UK cruise convention got off to a great start with the first day dedicated to ACE Ambassadors - these are ACE members who have achieved over 600 points by training, ship visits and through cruise educational visits. The events for today took place onboard Fred. Olsens cruise ship Balmoral. Guest speakers included Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Kate Scally, Head of Strategic Insight at the The Mail newspapers, Jan Swartz, EVP Customer Service, Sales and Marketing Princess Cruises USA and Andy Stewart, EVP Global Sales and Passengers Service for NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines).
The session started off with some fact and figures about the uK cruise market - it now accounts for 12% of the UK package market and 5% of the overall market. Mike Penning, stated that when he was appointed to his position he knew nothing about cruise, but is now passionate about growth to the UK cruise market, and reminded everyone of the new 5th cruise terminal at Southampton, planned for the near future.
Kate Scally advised the audience that 28% of Mail readers have been on a cruise then wowed us with other stats from various focus groups etc- I couldn't help but feel whilst very interesting, it was a ploy to get us to advertise in her papers! Maybe I'm getting cynical in my old age! She did say that UK passengers are looking for great customer service and added value rather than just a cheap cruise, something that is part of The Luxury Cruise Company's ethos.
Jan Swartz shared with the audience a comparison between the US cruise travel agent market and the UK one - citing that in the US they do not really rebate and that focussed 3-day sales had a great effect. Groups were also big in the US, although US pax tend to take shorter duration trips.
Andy Stewart gave a great talk about social media and Twitter ( @NCLandy if you want to follow him) and how it was the future of interaction and social comment between cruise lines, agents and the ships passengers.
After the fist morning session it was off to the restaurant for a really delicious meal onboard the ship - Pea Soup, lovely succulent Beef Wellington and Chocolate Fondant for dessert (mine was a bit over-cooked to be honest)
Were you at the convention this year? Any thoughts on the first day?