Travel Professional NEWS® speaks with Jamey Cagle, Senior Vice President of Alaskan Dream Cruises. First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to speak with us, we know that 2017 is showing promise as a GREAT year in the Travel Industry, can you give us some exciting things that are new with your line? The Alaska Native-owned, small-ship cruise line Alaskan Dream Cruises will offer guests a chance to combine their 2017 cruise vacations with land packages to Denali National Park and Preserve, Seward, Valdez, Anchorage and Fairbanks through a new partnership with John Hall’s Alaska. Passengers aboard Alaskan Dream Cruises’ “Alaska’s Glacier Bay and Island Adventure” itinerary spend seven nights cruising the famed Inside Passage between Sitka and Juneau on the Chichagof Dream. Now they can extend their stay in Alaska on one of two John Hall’s Alaska land itineraries: the seven-night “Denali Explorer” or the eight-night “Grand Slam Alaska.” Both the seven-night “Denali Explorer” and the eight-night “Grand Slam Alaska” travel by deluxe motor coach and the Alaska Railroad with a group of no more than 42 guests. Spending time deep within the wilderness of Denali National Park and Preserve, both trips explore Southcentral and Interior Alaska and offer a wide-array of premier excursions in Alaska’s larger cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks, as well as in small towns like Valdez, Seward and Talkeetna. Days are filled with activities, such as flightseeing over Denali, North America’s largest peak; visiting a dog mushing kennel; and taking a private jet boat tour into Devil’s Canyon. Meals are included, as well as accommodations at award-winning properties. A John Hall’s Alaska land tour manager accompanies guests on every adventure providing educational enrichment, a local’s point-of-view and assistance in searching for Alaska’s big five: moose, caribou, bear, Dall sheep and wolves. Both land packages begin and end in Anchorage and pair perfectly as pre-cruise tours. After the tour, guests can make a connecting flight from Anchorage to either Sitka or Juneau, where Alaskan Dream Cruises adventures begin. Guests who are looking for a post-cruise tour or who are on other Alaskan Dream itineraries can speak with an Alaskan Dream Cruises reservation specialist about trip coordination. These cruise and land tour combinations are available between June 2 and Sept. 3. Prices for the land tours start at $5,270 and include a hotel night and breakfast during the transition between land and sea. Rates for the seven-night “Alaska’s Glacier Bay and Island Adventure” cruise start at $3,990. Accommodations on the ship, all meals during the cruise, scheduled shore excursions, airport transfers, use of recreational equipment and standard onboard services are included. Detailed information on these land and cruise packages can be found at www.alaskandreamcruises.com/land. Alaskan Dream Cruises is also expanding its seven-night True Alaskan Family Cruises in 2017 with an overnight stay and second day of exploration in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The extra time in Glacier Bay allows families and multi-generational groups to spend more time bonding over wildlife watching, glacier viewing and exploring on foot. They will not only disembark in Bartlett Cove near the park’s visitor center, but also in Reid Inlet, near Reid Glacier, a more remote, wilderness area that cruise travelers typically only sail past. In Bartlett Cove, the only inhabited area of the park, adults and kids alike will marvel at “Snow,” the largest humpback whale skeleton exhibit in the United States. The newly opened Huna Tribal House, the first permanent clan house in Glacier Bay in 250 years, is also nearby. The clan house is a gathering place for tribal members, but it will also be a learning place for visitors interested in Tlingit history and culture. The 74-passenger Chichagof Dream will anchor for the night in the far reaches of Glacier Bay after guests spend the first day in Bartlett Cove and enjoying the scenery and wildlife around the Marble Islands, Gloomy Knob and Margerie Glacier, known for dramatic calving that brings everyone to the deck railing. On the second day, guests will cruise past Lamplugh Glacier and back out of the bay after the stop at Reid Inlet. A National Park Service ranger and a Native Huna Tlingit interpretive guide will be aboard to spend time with families and share unique perspectives on the park’s natural wonders and history as an Alaska Native ancestral home. Kids can even become a Junior Ranger. Family cruises are also staffed with a designated Youth Expedition Leader, who leads activities and educational programs specific for young cruisers. Other major highlights of the family cruises include searching for fossils in Saginaw Bay, whale watching in Frederick Sound, roasting s’mores at Orca Point Lodge and enjoying a DIB (Demaree Inflatable Boat) excursion in Tracy Arm Fjord. Families can also join the Killer Whale Club by taking a refreshingly cool dip in the ocean. There are two 2017 departures: July 9 and July 23. Cruise fares start at $4,390 for adults; children age 15 and under receive a 30 percent discount. Accommodations on the ship, all meals during the cruise, scheduled shore excursions, airport transfers, use of recreational equipment and standard onboard services are included. The family cruises are designed for multi-generational groups and families with children age seven and up, although all ages are welcome. When creating the itineraries, the Allen family, who owns Alaskan Dream Cruises and have raised generations of their family in Alaska, considered the experiences that resonated from their lives and needed to be shared with others. Their goal was to immerse families in the natural wonders and adventures of Alaska, surrounded by wildlife and indigenous cultures. What unique value proposition does your line bring to the consumer? For example, destination, culinary, onboard experience, etc. Alaskan Dream Cruises is the only Alaska-owned and operated cruise line. We offer “True Alaska with True Alaskans” because we specialize in providing guests with our insider’s view and arranging experiences sought out by locals. Itineraries combine not-to-miss destinations, like Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and Tracy Arm Fjord, with more remote natural areas and small Native villages. Wildlife viewing, wilderness exploration and cultural experiences are prioritized, with flexible itineraries allowing ship captains to alter plans when extraordinary wildlife viewing opportunities arise. On each Alaskan Dream Cruises itinerary, guests can take advantage of daily educational presentations by naturalists and cultural heritage guides who share unique perspectives on the area’s natural wonders, culture and history. On board each ship, meals are prepared to highlight local ingredients and wild Alaska seafood, and can be paired with Alaska spirits. Even the soaps and shampoos in guest cabins are Alaska-made products. There is no doubt that one of the major benefits of Small Ship Cruising is being able to go to unique destinations and go where some other lines just cannot get to! What new and exciting destinations and or areas have you been exploring? In 2016, Alaskan Dream Cruises added a “True Alaska Exploration” feature to cruise itineraries. These are unscripted days for adventures, often a hike, wildlife encounters or wilderness discovery that the Allen family, the company’s founders, experienced during their personal explorations and asked staff to share with guests. Often these opportunities are in very remote bays, where guests can kayak or explore in shallow water expedition craft (DIBs). In addition, Alaskan Dream Cruises focuses on taking guests to smaller unique towns, where they can experience Alaska’s culture. These off-the-beaten-path communities include the Tsimshian community of Metlakatla; Thorne Bay, once the largest logging camp in the world; Wrangell, the only city in Alaska to have been under the jurisdiction of three flags and ruled by four nations; and Kasaan, home of the only remaining traditional Haida longhouse in the U.S. Are you seeing an increase in family vacation bookings? Alaskan Dream Cruises is offering two family cruises in 2017 and both are close to sold out already. With the demand of so many multigenerational groups traveling today, it’s not uncommon to have children on many of our regular sailings as well. Alaska is a fantastic destination for multigenerational and family vacations because there is so much to interest and entertain all ages. Do you offer enrichment themed cruises on cultural or other topics? Can you explain what makes these options unique for potential clients? Alaskan Dream Cruises has made cultural exploration a major focal point of every itinerary. Each cruise is staffed with a Cultural Heritage Guide, often an Alaska Native, who teaches guests about Alaska Native culture, including both historical and modern-day customs. Shore excursions often include cultural dance performances, historical walking tours, wood carving demonstrations and time with local residents in Alaska Native villages, like Kake and Metlakatla. Guests spend an entire day in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, cruising through the fjord to see wildlife and glaciers, including Margerie Glacier, known for dramatic calving that brings everyone to the deck railing. A National Park Service ranger and a Native Huna Tlingit interpretive guide both spend the day with cruisers onboard the ship and share unique perspectives on the park’s natural wonders and history as an Alaska Native ancestral home. With Travel Professionals on the rise, will you be offering any new training or incentives for Travel Professionals to focus on your offerings? Alaskan Dream Cruises is developing an agent portal on its website and schedules training webinars for agents on a regular basis. In addition, travel professionals are encouraged to take advantage of discounted 2017 FAM rates, which are available now and up to 80 percent off. The best way to understand a product and be inspired to sell it is to experience it for oneself! What three things would you like to share with our Travel Professionals to assist in selling your line? 1. Alaskan Dream Cruises is a single-destination cruise line with seasonal operations. That makes it easy to understand the product quickly and it’s a worthwhile investment to take one of our webinars.Alaskan Dream Cruises is a small team that works together to assist travel professionals. Our staff is very approachable and committed to working with each agent to get them what they need.3. Our team is service oriented and is always happy to entertain out-of-the-box requests. Small Ship Cruising has come a long way over the years. What do you see as the next advancement in this growing marketplace? As the market grows, there’s a much broader range of small ships and we see the smallest ships advancing. Last year Alaskan Dream Cruises launched the 60-foot Misty Fjord, a blend between a commercial Alaska maritime boat and a modern expedition vessel, with only five guest cabins and a beautiful teak salon. The small size allows us to take guests into these beautiful nooks in the Alaska coastline and maneuver in secluded bays where guests can revel in Alaska’s wild landscapes and get close to the wildlife. Do you have any additional information you would like to say before we end our conversation? Alaska is a bucket-list destination that travelers dream of visiting. As cruisers become more discerning about the companies they travel with and seek to find “locally sourced” products, Alaskan Dream Cruises stands out. We are the only Alaska-owned and operated cruise line. Our motto is “True Alaska with True Alaskans.” Our crew is local. Our guides are there to show you the insider’s view of this magnificent destination.
Written By: Chris Austin, Vice President of Global Leisure and Luxury Sales, Starwood Hotel and Resorts By now you’re sure to have heard the much anticipated news that Marriott International has officially welcomed Starwood Hotels & Resorts into its family, creating the world’s largest and we aim best hotel company. As a combined company, for now, Marriott and Starwood sales teams will continue to sell our respective legacy brands through 2016 and into the 1Q17, which means you can expect business as usual. Our teams are focused as always on delivering extraordinary experiences to our customers and their travelers at our combined company’s more than 5,700 hotels around the world across our 30 brands. Many members of the Travel Professional Community are also active members of our SPG® Pro travel professional loyalty program. Our loyalty programs will run in parallel for the foreseeable future, and we are ready to assist travel professionals with all SPG, SPG Pro, SPG Business, and Luxury Privileges needs. SPG Pro members will continue to earn Starpoints® for any eligible Starwood bookings and as a new feature – you and your SPG member clients are now able to redeem rewards for either Starwood or Marriott hotels, offering our customers even more choice for their rewards. Please make sure that as an SPG Pro, you also link your account with the Marriott Rewards program in order to gain access to these additional hotel rewards. For your clients, we have already addressed the loyalty programs. Loyalty programs are more relevant than ever, and we take loyalty so seriously that on Day One of our united company, we made sure all of our combined loyalty members could immediately link their accounts. Starwood and Marriott loyalty members can link their accounts at www.members.marriott.com to receive a status match from the other program and transfer points. (For example, SPG Platinum members can now enjoy status as a Marriott Rewards Platinum as soon as their accounts are linked. Members can also transfer points between programs with each Starpoint being the equivalent to three Marriott points.) Your clients can also earn and redeem points throughout the entire network. We continue to hear exceptional feedback from members in both programs. We will operate them as separate-but-equal programs for now; it’s still too early to discuss future plans. For those of you who might not have attended the recent American Society of Travel Agents Global Conference, our CEO, Arne Sorenson was presented with ASTA’s 2016 Hotelier of the Year award during the convention in Reno. Being recognized with this award by the travel professional community underscores where we want to be with travel professionals. We cannot emphasize enough that travel pros provide extraordinary value to corporate and leisure travelers, so we want to help them be successful so that we can succeed together. In addition, I was honored to be recognized as Allied Supplier of the Year by the travel professional community. Thanks to all of you who recognized the continued dedication of our team to your business and your future success. We have begun the work of assessing organizational and account management strategies that work best for our customers and guests going forward. As we go through the process of looking at our organizational structure, we plan to engage in a dialogue with the travel pro community so we understand your concerns. This is an exciting time as we form the largest and best hospitality company in the world. We now have more opportunities and more choices for our valued travel professional partners, with 30 brands across more than 5,700 hotels and resorts in more than 110 countries. In addition, we are the largest operator of luxury hotels with nearly 400 hotels in the portfolio and a resorts network that puts us where you and your clients wish to travel. Stay tuned as we will continue to keep you in the know with all of the exciting changes ahead. Thank you for your past, present and future support of our hotels and resorts. Your business is truly valued at this very important time.