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FCCA Platinum Members, cruise lines to convene in St. Maarten

The Flying Dutchman
FCCA PAMAC Conference attendees will get to experience tours like The Flying Dutchman, world's steepest zip line
Some 200 Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Platinum Members, colleagues and families are heading to St. Maarten this week to meet with more than 20 executives from FCCA member lines for the FCCA PAMAC Conference.

The annual event, held this year at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa, features an agenda ranging from meetings and site visits to tours and receptions. The gathering provides a platform to discuss industry trends, regional affairs, product promotion and member-specific topics, while rediscovering St. Maarten.

Post-hurricane progress

The FCCA PAMAC Conference also will display St. Maarten's progress since the tragic 2017 hurricane season. FCCA President Michele Paige credited the turnaround to the community uniting and coming back even stronger with new products and initiatives that have driven higher guest experience scores.

On Thursday morning, the group will gather for a meeting to discuss operations and developments, with select Platinum Members giving presentations and all participants having the chance to forward topics.

Cruise executives

Member line executives scheduled to attend include Carnival Corp.’s David Candib, VP development and operations, and Marie McKenzie, VP global ports and Caribbean government relations. Representing Carnival Cruise Line are Carlos Estrada, director of commercial homeport operations; Nasim Ghannadian, manager of product development and marketing; Ugo Savino, director of deployment and itinerary planning; Fred Stein, VP revenue planning and fleet deployment; and Leon Sutcliffe, director of port operations and government relations.

From Costa Cruise Lines North America is Ruben Perez, general manager and SVP, while Disney Cruise Line is sending Ralph Dahlgren, manager of port operations and development, and Russell Daya, executive director of marine and port operations, port development and itinerary planning. Further cruise executives include Lisa Banner, manager of shore excursions, Holland America Group; MSC Cruises USA’s Albino Di Lorenzo, VP operations, and Paolo Mezzino, port operations coordinator.

Representing Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings are Christine Manjencic, VP destination services; Steve Moeller, SVP commercial development; and Jose Negron, VP strategic port development.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is sending Russell Benford, VP government relations; Jaime Castillo, director of worldwide port operations; Federico Gonzalez-Denton, VP destination development for Latin America and the Caribbean; Miguel Reyna, associate VP commercial development, and Penny Zeilman, product development manager of global tour operations. Attending from Silversea is Arnaldo Zanonato, director of regional experiences development.

Leading the meeting and discussions will be a head table comprised of member line executives and FCCA operations committee members — Russell Benford, Russell Daya, Carlos Estrada, Steve Moeller and Ruben Perez, along with Michele Paige. Additionally, Arnaldo Zanonato is scheduled to make a presentation about the Silversea brand and experience.

Immediately following will be one-on-one meetings between Platinum Members with their selection of cruise executives.

New and renewed attractions

Throughout the event, informal meetings will take place while the group experiences the destination on tours showcasing new and renewed attractions, including a ride on The Flying Dutchman, world's steepest zip line and winner of the 2018 'Innovative Shorex of the Year' Seatrade Cruise Award, at Rainforest Adventures' Rockland Estate eco-park. Participants will also get to race in authentic America’s Cup yachts at the St. Maarten 12 Metre Regatta.

FCCA PAMAC attendees can also visit Emilio Wilson Museum to learn about St. Maarten history and learn about Toppers Rhum Distillery’s 'World’s Best Tasting Rhum' handmade in St. Maarten, as well as some of the destination’s conservation efforts through The WasteFactory, a one-stop shop for information, advice, education, collaboration, instruction, creation and sales of environmentally friendly products.

Ratings exceed pre-hurricane levels

The tours will also give front row seats to some of the reasons why the destination posted a 9.3 out of 10 rating for cruise guest destination experience in April, higher than pre-hurricane levels, along with the results of new initiatives like Aquila’s frontline customer service training program in May, involving 461 hospitality professionals.

The event opens Tuesday with a town hall meeting at Port St. Maarten along with a private dinner for key stakeholders. Wednesday will begin with a breakfast between the executives and Port St. Maarten and tourism authorities, followed by a visit to the port and a private meeting with port and government authorities. Wednesday evening's welcome reception will take place at Roxxy Beach and Thursday evening's function is at Loterie Farm in French Saint Martin, known for its zip line adventures and, more recently, a new par-three, nine-hole golf course.

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