Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Seatrade Cruise Shipping Conference 2011 - Where the Cruise Industry Makes Big Announcements

Next week I will, once again, travel to South Beach in Miami, Florida for the annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Conference.  (Yeah, I know, it is tough work, but for you I will go to unlimited lengths!)

This is an industry event; not a travel agent one.  So the information is generally highly technical and focused more on what makes the cruise industry operate and grow rather than how or why to sell particular cruises or cruise lines.  For me (Iamboatman) it is a bit of heaven as I am able to delve into such generally interesting topics as the State of the Cruise Industry (the biggest single event of the Conference) with a panel including all of the major cruise lines to Luxury at Sea with a panel consisting of:

Sebastian Ahrens, Managing Director, Hapag Lloyd Cruises
Richard D. Meadows, President, Seabourn Cruise Line
Gregg Michel, President & COO, Crystal Cruises Inc.
Barbara Muckermann, Head of Corporate Marketing, MSC Cruises
Peter Shanks, President & Managing Director, Cunard Line Limited
Alex Sharpe, Executive Vice President, Signature Travel Network
Kenneth W. Watson, Chief Operating Officer, Silversea Cruises

I am also able to gain incredibly important perspectives from panels such as Spotlight on Europe ("As the driver of global cruise growth and with record capacity deployed, will this be Europe's decade?")

And, I will hit the trade floor and visit with vendors for everything a cruise ship needs...or doesn't.  For example, and I think this is very exciting, I have received word of a major announcement by MTN Satellite Communications, the company that brings you onboard internet and telephone service.  MTN will unveil its MTN Connect Mobile Application - the next generation of how people will consume information and communicate with shipmates as well as friends and family back home, all from the middle of the ocean. The experience will be faster, sleeker and in some cases, more economical. Some of the core functionalities include:

 Internet Access - from anywhere on the ship
 Seamless Content - for passengers to keep up to date while at sea. No latency times in receiving news and a faster way to get the information they are looking for.
 Make phone calls to anyone/anywhere - calling a friend or family member while on the ship, or wanting to reach out back home will now be easier and more cost effective. New calling modules will feature calling a shipmate and creating “friends” based on cabin numbers as well as ship to shore calling.
 Texting - Texting capabilities will be based on a one time subscription fee for the duration of the cruise. Text friends and/or family on the same cruise or back home with a unique number.
 Socializing - Facebook functionality will be offered to passengers at no fee to update the cruise lines specific page in real time on what they are doing and when they are doing it!
 Cruise Activities - Scheduling onboard and shore excursion activities from anywhere on the ship.

I am being given a private demonstration of this system on Wednesday.  Going into it, I am not so sure much of this product will be the highlight of a luxury cruise experience, but I can just imagine the utility and versatility on ships that are the destination like Allure of the Seas or where there are families trying to keep in touch.  (I guess the days of kids carrying around walkie-talkies are just about gone!)

I am also going to be attending some events by Lloyd's Register of Shipping outside of the Conference.  One seminar I am very interested in is entitled "Human Factors in Cruise Ship Design, Construction & Operation".  While that may sound quite boring to many of you, I firmly believe that if you understand and implement great design you can significantly increase the quality of the overall cruise product.  (Ever read about my analysis of a bathroom or tendering operation?)

And, of course, I will be meeting with some of the cruise line executives.

Yes, I report on industry news.  But I do more and, as a travel agent, I make sure I truly understand the cruise industry so that I may be the most effective for you, the client.