FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. – COVID-19 forced many organizations to pivot their in-person conferences to a virtual environment and the 2020 National Conference for home-based travel agencies Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. was no exception. Yesterday kicked off the four-day virtual conference that features celebrity guests, replicates the onboard experience in terms of content and engagement, and creates an even more personalized experience for attendees.
“As the week unfolds, attendees will be inspired to control their destiny and vision for the future with motivational presentations from our leadership team and cruise line executives, as well as workshops designed to cultivate action,” said Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.
Since the pandemic began, Chief Operating Officer Debbie Fiorino has been writing a weekly inspirational blog post called Debbie’s Take which she posts every Monday. Fiorino shared this week’s message live as part of her opening keynote address. She shared her interpretation of vision and how to prepare for a future that is unknown – by reflecting on lessons learned this past year and being forward-thinking, proactive and intentional.
The Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. National Conference always attracts the who’s who of the travel industry and this year will be no different with several high-profile executives taking the virtual stage. Today, Richard Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Group, who has been a voice of reason during the pandemic, sat down for an exclusive conversation with David Crooks, senior vice president of product and supplier relations for World Travel Holdings. In addition, special video messages from Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc; exuded gratitude for the travel agent community, as well as a sense of optimism and resilience for the industry.
On Tuesday, Crooks will be hosting his famous Cruise Line Executive Panel featuring the following industry leaders:
- Dondra Ritzenthaler – senior vice president of sales, trade support & service, Celebrity Cruises
- Adolfo Perez Senior – vice president, global sales & trade marketing, Carnival Cruise Line
- Katina Athanasiou, CITP – chief sales officer, Norwegian Cruise Line
- Vicki Freed – senior vice president, sales, trade support and service, Royal Caribbean International
- John Chernesky – senior vice president, sales & trade marketing, Princess Cruises and Cunard Line
- Michelle Sutter – senior director of national accounts and field sales, Holland America Line
- Michelle Lardizabal – senior vice president & commercial sales officer, MSC Cruises
Daly adds, “Even though we could not be sailing aboard the beautiful Celebrity Apex, we created a robust and fun-filled agenda, complete with our famous theme parties, that will have our attendees feel like they are cruising from the comfort of their home.”
This week there will be many engaging and unique activities that attendees can participate from right in front of their computer, which are only possible because of this virtual setting. Culinary highlights include mixology classes with GOGO Vacations and bartenders from the Caribbean, and with Princess Cruises starring celebrity master mixologist Rob Floyd; cooking demonstrations from Virgin Voyages’ John Diorio, who will prepare Pink Agave's Guacamole and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Gina Garrett, who will cook Mushroom Risotto; and a fun wine tasting where Daly and Fiorino will share their favorite wines.
Conference attendees are normally treated to a special production from the onboard entertainment staff; however, this year attendees will get a special treat as they are transported to the English Pub on Royal Caribbean to watch musician Toby-Joe Reilly perform, and Carnival Cruise Line’s Punchliner Comedy Club to laugh with comedian Tommy Drake. Another famous guest taking the stage will be reality TV star Captain Lee, who sits down with Drew to discuss yachting, the pandemic and more.