DB: Where are you?
JJ: In Miami, at Carnival Cruise’s headquarters.
DB: What’s going on there?
JJ: They brought in travel experts from around the country — mostly travel-agency owners and managers. They’ve been doing it for 20 years or so. We get the latest information on cruises, new trends, what’s coming down the pike. There’s seminars, plus they have a new management team, so we’re meeting everyone and getting the new directions.
DB: What are the seminars like?
JJ: They’re very informational. Carnival is starting to take direct booking from consumers, and they have a new vice president of consumer sales. There’s a big push to let people know what’s going on in the industry, so we’re mining our lists and not waiting for the phones to ring. The industry has changed, and we recognized a long time ago that it pays to be proactive.
DB: Is there still a supply problem?
JJ: In recent years, you had all these major cruise lines that built huge ships. As a result, the berth rate has tripled, and the industry is sitting on a lot of inventory. The industry has its fixed costs, so they can’t afford to have those cruise ships just sitting there. You can do a three-day cruise for $129, or a [weeklong] cruise for $500, and the product and service is first-rate. It’s really a buyer’s market.
DB: What are the travel trends?
JJ: We’re seeing a shift in Michigan. Mexico was the No. 1 destination, but with the recent flu problem, it’s opening up other destinations [like] Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and St. Lucia. It’ll take a while for Mexico to recover.
DB: What’s the future hold?
JJ: The industry is in good shape, but there’s too much supply, so that’s keeping prices down. People are still traveling, and there are some amazing deals out there.