WHY IT RATES: During this cruise event, travel advisors had the chance to recharge, network and immerse themselves in the world of travel before heading back to their daily routines. —Codie Liermann, Managing Editor
After two years in the making, Cruise Planners’ Elite Summit finally made its way along the Danube River aboard the magnificent AmaMagna for a scenic and productive tour of Eastern Europe. Cruise Planners proudly hosted the event to celebrate the achievements of their top producers at the 2022 Elite Summit on AmaWaterways luxury ship last week. Over 170 travel advisors from all over the U.S. convened on the Danube to network, learn and revel in the fruits of their labor.
Cruise Planners CEO and Founder Michelle Fee hosted the eight-day event alongside Cruise Planners Senior VP of Strategic Development Scott Koepf and Chief Sales Officer Theresa Scalzitti. Although this trip was originally planned for March 2020, it had a spate of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.
“It was definitely worth the wait,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and Founder of Cruise Planners. “These agents are the equivalent of travel advisor royalty. They are successful self-starters and experts in their fields and this summit is a chance to celebrate their achievements in an undeniably difficult year. They have led by example to show that it’s possible to turn lemons into lemonade—topped with a splash of sparkling champagne.”
This is the first time Cruise Planners has had a full ship charter, and the trip began on March 13 in Vilshofen, Germany with stops in Passau, Linz & Grein, Melk & Spitz, Vienna, and Bratislava before wrapping up in Budapest on March 20.
The Elite Summit featured supplier partner presentations and networking. Industry partners in attendance included:
AmaWaterways – Kristin Karst, Co-Owner & VP
AmaWaterways – Diane Marie Curchy Horan, Director, Strategic Partner Networks
Carnival Cruise Line – Jodi Kinmon, Director of Strategic Partnerships
Silversea – Laurie Bohn, Director, Strategic Partnerships
Norwegian Cruise Line – Soleil Domagala, Sr. Manager, National Accounts
Oceania Cruises – Nikki Upshaw, Senior Vice President
Princess Cruises – Mary Irene Jencen, National Account Business Development Manager
Regent Seven Seas Cruises – Lisette Thurman, Strategic Accounts Director
Allianz – Jeff Schafer, Regional Sales Director
Celebrity Cruises – Yolanda Sheppard, Manager, National Accounts
Royal Caribbean Cruises – Vicki Freed, SVP, Sales and Trade Support & Service
Kensington – Stephanie Governali, Director, Agency Sales
Disney – Jodi Bainter, Director, Travel Agency Sales
Seabourn – Wendy Whitener, Director, North America Sales
The AmaMagna features multiple dining venues, and is twice the size of traditional river cruises, adding space and luxury to the river cruising experience. Guests on board also had access to a massage and hair salon, a fitness room, a swimming pool and whirlpool. AmaMagna is also the first of AmaWaterways’ ships to feature a water sports platform complete with the Sundowner boat for evening river excursions.
“The Elite Summit is always one of the most amazing experiences of the year,” said Joel Wilder, who has been on nine top producer trips. “It’s always so uplifting and inspiring to exchange ideas, visit with CP and cruise line executives, see old friends– all while seeing the world! I have sailed on most European rivers onboard Viking, Uniworld and Avalon and now AmaWaterways, which certainly did not disappoint. The AmaMagna is an amazing ship and I’m planning on putting a group cruise together to sail on her.”
The summit included executive presentations, one-on-one meetings with suppliers while also giving top producers a chance to network and immerse themselves in the culture of these historic, top destinations. Sample excursions include, “Hungarian goulash making class”, “wine tasting and castle walking tour”, “Passau River biking tour” and “ Cesky Krumlov Excursion with Czech Beer” to name a few.
“This year feels extra special because 1) the ship was chartered for just Cruise Planners 2) because it feels like we are back on track after the two past difficult years,” said Mellanie Ingle, who is based in Huntington Beach, CA. “I love that all of us have a bond that encourages sharing information, helping each other when we can, and looking forward to our time together each year. We all understand what it takes to achieve this level of sales, and support each other.”
AmaWaterways co-owner Kristin Karst also hosted a special surprise dinner for its top producer and Cruise Planners Executives that included an intimate dinner with Count Carl Philip Clam in Austria.
Cruise Planners hosts two Elite Summits each year, with the second one slated for May 1-5 at the Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau. In addition, there will be a series of five, in-person Boot Camp events including around the country with locations in Las Vegas, Connecticut, Dallas, Chicago and Orlando. To culminate, Cruise Planners annual convention will take place in Miami and culminate on the Norwegian Prima as it makes its inaugural sailing.
“They truly earned this,” said Fee. “You can’t ask for a better setting, for a more dedicated and talented group of travel advisors to recharge, innovate and immerse themselves into the world of travel before they get out there and keep doing what they do best. It’s only going to go up from here.”
Visit our website, www.cruiseplanners.com, for more information or to view the complete list of awards and honors. For those interested in becoming a franchise owner, please visit https://www.cruiseplannersfranchise.com/.
SOURCE: Cruise Planners press release.