From Oct. 19 to 27, 30 travel agents and their companions embarked on the Ultimate FAM trip with MSC Cruises and Thomas Cook’s Sunquest, ALBATours, and Encore Cruises.
The trip took place on board the MSC Splendida and sailed through the Mediterranean making stops in Civitavecchia, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; La Goulette, Tunisia; Valletta, Malta; and Messina, Italy.
Although the group had leisure time to explore the ship and destinations, the goal of the FAM was to promote the partnership between MSC Cruises and Sunquest, and to update the agents on changes and products available through Thomas Cook Canada.
MSC Cruises and the Yacht Club
MSC Cruises is located in 45 countries; has more than 12,000 staff in the Naples, Italy head office; and in ten years, it has increased its berth capacity by 770 per cent. This is according to Phyllis Fragiorgi, regional sales manager, MSC Cruises (USA) Inc.
The company travels throughout North Europe, the Mediterranean, South Africa, South America and the Caribbean. A new Red Sea itinerary has also been added and includes stops in Jordan, Egypt and Israel.
Fragiorgi said that MSC is the fastest growing cruise line in the world, with another ship addition, MSC Preziosa, expected to arrive in March 2013. It will be part of the Fantasia class and include the MSC Yacht Club option which is available on the Splendida and Divina.
“The Divina,” Fragiorgi said; “will be debuting in Miami in winter 2013-14... It will sail from Rome (Civitavecchia) in the Mediterranean, and Sunquest and Encore are already selling [it].”
The MSC Divina is named in honour of MSC Cruises’ godmother, Sophia Loren. In fact, one of the staterooms on the ship is designed by Loren and includes black and white photographs of the actress and a library of her films.
The ship weighs 139,400 tons and is 1,094 feet long. It has 1,751 staterooms and can hold over 3,000 guests. There are also 25 elevators; seven restaurants; 18 bars and lounges; five swimming pools, a garden pool, the MSC Aurea Spa and the MSC Yacht Club, as mentioned above.
As Fragiorgi puts it, the Yacht Club offers guests more privacy on the ship.
“It’s a ship within a ship,” she said. “It’s very exclusive for a ship of this size and yet, [guests] have the option of enjoying the rest of the [venues].”
During the MSC workshop, Fragiorgi told the agents to up sell the Yacht Club because of its value and exclusive offers such as: 24-hour butler service and concierge; express check-in; complimentary en-suite mini bar and fresh fruit; daily newspaper and ship newsletters; private pool and sundeck; custom excursions; inclusion of all alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages; private shopping and dining; and front row theatre seats.
The Ultimate FAM group was actually part of the MSC Yacht Club and Fragiorgi said that it’s the best way for agents to promote the product.
“You’re seeing touching and feeling the Yacht Club,” Fragiorgi said. “When you go back you can really explain it to your clients and tell them what you experienced... It’s one thing to read [about it in] the brochure but there’s nothing like experiencing it yourself.”
“That’s where we invest our money: in the agents,” Fragiorgi added. “We put our money in you hoping that you’ll go to the client and represent MSC.”
Aggie Stoduto, product manager, Sunquest and ALBATours, announced that Sunquest will be offering summer Mediterranean cruise options from March to October 2013 in line with its partnership with MSC Cruises.
|Phyllis Fragiorgi, regional sales manager, MSC Cruises (USA) Inc. and Aggie Stoduto, product manager, Sunquest and ALBATours
All trips include seven- and 11-night itineraries; packages with airfare from Alitalia and post-land packages in Italy.
“We’re not just doing a cruise, we’re doing so much more and this is the so much more,” Stoduto said. “Where we have the edge is that no one does [this kind of] pre-packaging - it’s one stop shopping.”
The Eastern Mediterranean program sails from Venice onboard the MSC Fantasia. It’s a seven-night cruise going from Italy, the Greek Islands and Montenegro. Eastern Med also offers a seven-night cruise onboard the MSC Divina with stops in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Croatia.
The Western Mediterranean program from Rome offers a seven-night cruise on the MSC Splendida with stops in Italy, France and Spain; and a choice of two 11-night cruises on the MSC Lirica with stops in Italy, Turkey, Ukraine and Greece or Italy, Turkey/Greece, Cyprus and the Greek Islands; or the MSC Magnifica with stops in Italy, Gibraltar, Canary Islands, Portugal and Spain.
All variations include different package options. Option one includes air; a seven-night cruise; and transfers from the airport to the pier or vice versa.
Option two with MSC Splendida, Magnifica and Lirica includes air; a seven- or 11-night cruise; all transfers; and a post-cruise package of two-night accommodations at the four-star Grand Hotel Beverly Hills in Rome with dinner and a tour. Option two with MSC Divina and Fantasia includes air; a seven-night cruise; all transfers; and a post-cruise package with one-day in Venice; flight to Rome; and two-night accommodations at the four-star Grand Hotel Beverly Hills also with dinner and a tour.
Sunquest is offering Mediterranean Cruises from January to April 2013, which include the Divine Mediterranean Odyssey program with 17-, 18- and 19-day options, and the Transatlantic Crossing with 18-, 22- and 27-day options.
Commission is eight per cent on cruise packages and 11 per cent for groups.
For more information, visit thomascookagent.ca.
ALBATours recently launched its Italy brochure which features new tours in Northern and Southern Italy including Tuscany, Calabria and Sicily. Package options include air and tour, or tour and land only from six to 15-days.
Featured in the brochure are seven fully escorted coach tours running from April to October.
They include: Italy’s Dolce Vita in Tuscany - a nine-day specialty tour that includes cooking and wine tasting; Italy’s Jewels - a nine-day specialty tour through Calabria and Sicily focusing on temples, culture and southern Mediterranean cuisine; Artistic Italy - a six-day tour through Rome, Florence and Venice; Highlights of Italy - a nine-day tour through Rome, Florence, Venice, Verona, Stresa/Baveno/Lake Maggiore, Lugano (Switzerland) and Milan; Best of Italy - a ten-day tour through Rome, Florence, Venice, Verona, Stresa/Baveno/Lake Maggiore, Lugano, Venice, Verona, Stresa/Baveno/Lake Maggiore, Lugano (Switzerland), Milan, Siena, San Gimignano, Chianti, Assisi and Rome; the Grand Tour of Italy - a 15-day tour through Rome, Florence, Venice, Verona, Stresa/Baveno/Lake Maggiore, Lugano (Switzerland), Milan, Siena, San Gimignano, Chianti, Assisi, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Montecassino, Roman Countryside (Castelli Romani) and Rome; and Italy South - a seven-night tour through Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Montecassino, Roman Countryside (Castelli Romani).
For more information and full itinerary details, visit our Brochure section.
Jennifer Matthews, supervisor, inside sales and national training, Thomas Cook, shared some of the updates that have taken place at the company in the past six months.
"We now have dedicated sales teams for each of our brands: Sunquest/ALBATours, Independent (Holiday House/Fun Sun Vacations, Intair/Network), Encore Cruises, and Exotik/Boomerang," she said.
She mentioned that the company will publish a new travel agent guide in the next few weeks that will feature a breakdown of the different departments and brands.
|Jennifer Matthews, supervisor, inside sales and national training, Thomas Cook
"This tool is a great reference guide for agents on our various departments, websites, the Thomas Cook Loyalty program and more," she said.
Secondly, Sunquest has partnered with WestJet for the winter 2012-2013 season. Sunquest flies from 15 Canadian gateways and all flights are direct.
Next, Matthews outlined the hotel additions. Ninety-five per cent of the new properties are four-star or higher, have been hand-picked by buyers and endorsed by its management team.
Matthews said that the company is continuing with its club concepts including the Family First, Plus and Elite programs, as well as the Club Diamond program at Bahia Principe resorts.
As for the Holiday House and Fun Sun Vacations booking website, thomascookagent.ca, it has been updated to include search functionality by city centre, airport, and points of interest. Also included is pricing for alternate days and a comparing functionality.
Also, the air booking system for Intair and Network is offering seating in business and the new premium economy classes. It also includes a new summary tool and paired itineraries; detailed flight information and filters; and more US border cities flights. Intair is also offering new Domestic Tango fares with Air Canada.
Lastly, Matthews outlined Encore’s new cruise magazine and enhancements to its booking website. Now, agents are able to compare and book multiple staterooms and view special offers.
Also featured are new cruise and transfer packages with MSC this winter season.
"There is a seven-night Western Caribbean Cruise departing on Jan. 12, 2013, with a sailing price starting from $491 per person plus taxes," Matthews said. "Encore also has an air/sea contract with WestJet that allows clients to receive a 100 per cent refund if they have to cancel outside of 30 days of travel and a $50 non-refundable penalty inside 30-days."
For more information, visit thomascookagent.ca
It ends in Rome
The FAM trip concluded with a day in Rome, Italy. The group stayed at the four-star Grand Hotel Beverly Hills and enjoyed a three-hour tour led by an English speaking guide from ALBATours.
Stops included a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica, Lungotevere, the Colosseum, Castel Sant’Angelo, Isola Tiberina, Piazza Della Republica, Via Nazionale and Trevi Fountain.
In the evening the group headed to Meo Patacca restaurant for a three-course farewell dinner accompanied by wine and music.