Cruise ship launches spell busy April for travel agents

Cruise ship launches spell busy April for travel agents

Agents are set for a busy early April if booking forecasts for two cruise ships launching next year are accurate.

P&O Cruises' Azura, launching in April 2010, goes on sale on March 30, with Cunard's Queen Elizabeth, which makes its maiden voyage in October 2010, on sale from April 2.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic, which makes its maiden cruise in July 2010, went on sale to the trade this week, allowing agents to block-book cabin allocations to sell to customers. Norwegian Epic will be on sale to the public in mid-May.

At Seatrade in Miami this week, NCL unveiled more details about the accommodation on Norwegian Epic, including a new category of inside studio cabins.

Despite the recession, all three cruiselines are confident of huge demand for the ships, which between them have capacity for more than 9,000 passengers.

P&O Cruises managing director Nigel Esdale said he hopes Azura bookings will top the 19,000 passengers achieved on the day Ventura went on sale last year.

Cunard vice-president and managing director Carol Marlow said: "All our research tells tell us people still want a holiday and are looking for excellent value. We are confident Queen Elizabeth will be a success."

Sales staff from all three cruiselines are working hard to get brochures and point-of-sale material to agents so they are in a strong selling position. Modules on each of the new ships have gone live on the respective training websites.

NCL general manager Stephen Park said bookings have opened early for the trade because agents drive so much business.

He said the sales force is training agents and emails and e-blasts are being sent to the trade.

A new section on NCL's Travel Partners website features deck plans, prices and accommodation details.

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