This year I attended the week-long 360 Cruise Conference in Fort Lauderdale for training, ship inspections and networking with other travel professionals from the United States and Canada. It was a jam-packed week starting around 7 am and ending sometimes around 10:00 pm every evening.
The first day I flew direct from RDU into Fort Lauderdale on Southwest and was picked up by the hotel transfer van for my stay at the Four Points by Sheraton. This hotel was nice and offered lunch and dinner and a snack area open 24/7. I never ate here since most of my meals were included at the conference. This hotel was about a 20 minute walk to the Convention Center and close to many restaurants and shopping. The Sheraton was very close to a CVS for necessary items needed or forgotten at home. The gym at the hotel offered interactive bikes, ellipticals, and treadmills along with free weights. What I liked most was that they had a great water dispenser that filtered the water. So I just filled up one of my water bottles from home. Although, the Sheraton did give 2 bottles of water every day in the room, so I had plenty of water to drink. The bed was very comfortable and the room very clean. The only negative was the shower was a little slippery and could have used a non-slip inside the shower. I informed the hotel so they will address this issue. Overall, it is a nice and comfortable hotel close to the convention/harbor and friendly staff.
So on the first day I needed to get lunch so the front desk recommended I walk over to the Waxy O’Connor Irish Pub. I ordered a pot pie with mash potatoes and it was so good and I was served a good portion so I had enough for dinner. There is a small refrigerator in the room, which was convenient.
The first day of the convention offered Meetings and Events at sea Certificate and Specialty & Boutique Cruise Certificate. I decided to not attend these meetings this year because I am concentrating on completing my ACC accreditation from CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) in 2018. After completing this certification, I will continue on with my Master accreditation from CLIA. My specialty is cruising with a concentration in groups and Accessible Travel. There is such a broad area of travel so it is necessary to specialize in one area; although, I have been a full leisure agent for many years so I can assist my clients with all their travel plans.
The second day of the convention I attended a breakfast with Windstar Cruise lines. Afterwards, I took an Accessible Travel class followed by Developing Group Business. In the afternoon we had our First General Session with many of the CEO’s and VP’s of several cruise lines and powerful speakers. What was evident was how the cruise lines and travel industry are continually growing and many new ships will be sailing in the next several years. After the General Session I attended a Group Management class on group operations and Budgeting followed by a Social Media class.
After my last class I was invited to a cocktail party with my host agency Nexion, LLC. I arrived early since the party was located at the Boatyard restaurant and it was a short walk from the Convention Center. While waiting, I met one of the directors from Avalon Waterways River Cruises and I mentioned that I would be taking a 14-day river cruise on the Danube River this summer. She said she would help me do a ship inspection on Avalon Waterway while in Budapest. After my return she did arrange for me to do a ship inspection on the Avalon Expression the day I arrive! Later on I met several Nexion travel professionals and VP’s from Silversea, Regency and Oceania Cruise lines.
On the third day I took the Cruise Baltic Workshop, Bucket-List Worthy Adventure activities followed by the General Session II. Afterwards I attended the Copenhagen Workshop followed by the Sailing & Selling Premium Cruises. Fabian Cousteau, the grandson of Jacque Cousteau, famed ocean explorer, spoke at one of the General Sessions.
After completing these classes I attended the trade show from 2 pm to 6 pm. So many vendors/suppliers with lots of informative information I brought back to share with my clients. Afterwards I went back to the hotel to rest for the CLIA Hall of Fame Awards Dinner and Entertainment. What a wonderful time to end this fun-filled and informative day!
The following morning I attended the General Session III and afterwards did a ship inspection on Princess Cruise Line’s Coral Princess – in Miami. Afterwards, we had tea, sandwiches and dessert in the main dining room. We were unable to stay on the ship as long as planned so we did not have lunch on this ship due to the port authorities needing to do their required ship inspection. Afterwards I took a Marketing Strategy class and after the class there was a party outside the convention center for all travel professionals offering food, drinks and entertainment. Later I went with two of my new friends to one of the agent’s hotel on the beach and we had dinner overlooking the ocean. A wonderful way to end the evening with new friends and great food!
On the fifth day I did a ship inspection on the Carnival Vista with lunch and entertainment.
On my final day I had a ship inspection on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas with lunch. Afterwards I came back to rest and pack up for my flight home that evening.
The convention was a success and I met such wonderful professionals in the travel industry. Next year the convention will be held in Fort Lauderdale again but I will attend the following year in Vancouver to finish my Masters accreditation with CLIA.
Look forward to helping all my clients traveling to the destinations they want to be and their dreams come true!