Carnival Site Lets Kin Connect for Group Cruises

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Carnival Cruise Lines takes social networking a step further with the introduction of a Web site to let friends and family plan their vacations and group getaways on one online location.


Created by interactive agency Avenue A/Razorfish's office in Fort Lauderdale, FL, the site at www.carnivalconnections.com is a pioneer in a cruise business highly dependent on viral marketing.


"We weren't potentially top of mind when people were traveling together," said Diana Rodriguez-Velazquez, director of Internet and database marketing at Carnival, Miami. "Word of mouth is still the No. 1 thing travelers tend to take into consideration. We found that the togethering trend was hot enough and technology had caught up in that it could provide us a forum where the two could meet."


Carnivalconnections.com lets a group coordinator invite others to consider cruising, vote on which cruise the group would like to go on, answer poll questions, choose a theme for the event and send messages to all members in the group.


Site users also can access specials from the site at www.carnival.com, get detailed information on ships, shore excursions and destinations. Reviews and postings from Carnival guests will be up for general reading.


Rodriguez-Velazquez noted that the site is unlike www.cruisecritic.com. But it offers a public and private forum to plan group travel or share experiences with kith and kin. It also is a response to a world where word of mouth counts for much among discerning consumers.


"They don't trust the company spin as much as before," she said, referring not just to Carnival but to corporate America.


Avenue A/Razorfish started working with Carnival in 2001. The agency relaunched Carnival.com in 2004 and 2005, with enhanced imagery, better information for cruise vacations, virtual ship tours, streaming video, tailored content capability and a link to offline branding efforts.


Each site revamp inched closer to recognizing the togethering trend.


"The cruise is a very complex, emotional purchase," said Susan Kidwell, vice president of Avenue A/Razorfish in Fort Lauderdale. "There's lots of options, and the consumer wants to make sure they get it right. This is a great tool to get other people's opinions."


Carnival, which owns lines like Princess, Holland America, Seaborne, One Star as well as its self-named brand, has high hopes for carnivalconnections.com.


"We hope to see a lot of groups form, and we hope to get a lot of revenue and reservations," Rodriguez-Velazquez said.


Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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