CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — 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 13th in Vilshofen, Germany with stops in Passau, Linz & Grein, Melk & Spitz, Vienna, and Bratislava before wrapping up in Budapest on March 20th.
The Elite Summit featured supplier partner one-on-one meetings 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, Senior Director, National Accounts
- 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 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 four, in-person Boot Camp events including around the country with locations in Las Vegas, Connecticut, Dallas, and Orlando. To culminate, Cruise Planners annual convention will take place in Miami and complete 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.”
About Cruise Planners
Company Background: Cruise Planners, an award-winning American Express Travel Representative, is the nation’s largest home-based travel agent franchise network. Cruise Planners positions a nation-wide network of 2,500 franchise owners for success by providing innovative marketing programs, proprietary and cutting-edge booking and technology tools, as well as professional development and hands-on training with the industry’s top executives. The company continues to be an industry leader and was named the No.1 travel franchise by Entrepreneur magazine for 18 consecutive years and awarded by Franchise Business Review as “Best-In-Category” for 2 years. FBR also ranked Cruise Planners #3 OVERALL on their list of Top 200 Franchises of 2022. Cruise Planners was recently featured in Entrepreneur as one of the top 30 franchise innovators in technology, has been consistently named as one of the Top Women-Owned Businesses by the South Florida Business Journal, is on the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America, and was recognized as one of the Top Workplaces by the Sun Sentinel.
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/.