Carnival Cruises Adopts Social Networking

Carnival Cruise Lines has launched a microsite with social networking features to encourage and aid groups planning a cruise excursion. Avenue A/Razorfish developed the tools for Carnival, which is the world’s largest cruise line.

The new site, CarnivalConnections.com, employs Evite-like invitations and list management to gather a group of friends or family to schedule a cruise. Once people accept the invitation, the moderator can conduct polls to determine the logistics like best date and cruise route or destinations for the selected group.

“When people take a cruise it’s an emotional, enjoyable vacation,” said Susan Kidwell, VP of Florida and the Carolinas, Avenue A/Razorfish, adding that it makes sense for people to invite others to join the fun.

The idea for adding social networking features came from Diana Rodriguez-Velasquez, Carnival’s director of database and Internet marketing. According to Kidwell, Rodriguez-Velasquez recognized that people were organizing group travel and realized adding social networking elements would be a natural for Carnival.

Besides the social networking features, the site has a Cruise Talk section where customers can post endorsements and advice. They can also connect with other cruise-goers. Kidwell noted that a family might look for others with children of the same age so they could organize play and plan off-boat excursions together.

CarnivalConnections.com is currently in beta. “It’s kind of following the Google tradition of announcing products in beta to the market,” said Kidwell. “[Carnival is] definitely the first in the cruise industry to do something like this. It is a beta site so I’m sure there will be adjustments along the way.

Avenue A/Razorfish’s relationship with Carnival dates back to Web site initiatives in 2001. In December, the two collaborated on a refresh of the Carnival.com Web site, closely followed the CarnivalConnections.com site.

The cruise line is promoting the social networking site on its main Web presence. Kidwell wouldn’t divulge the number of visitors to the site thus far, but said it received significant traffic during the soft launch period. With Carnival’s busy, or “wave season,” underway, the cruise packager hopes new users will swim into its site.

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