After recently announcing plans to target the Mexican cruise market, Pullmantur is now targeting U.S. passengers - and will also branch out to South America, as the company is expected to have a ship based in Buenos Aires during the winter 2009- 20 IO season.

With Pullmantur sailing out of Aruba, Santo Domingo - and Acapulco in 2009 - the time is right to bring the cruise line to the U.S. market, said Carlos Mena, president of Miami-based Mena travel International, the agency selected by Pullmantur to promote its product to U.S. passengers.

And while the majority of cruisers on the Acapulco itineraries are expected to be sourced from Mexico, Mena thinks that U.S. passengers will be attracted to them as well.

Mena said he will be targeting "the U.S. Hispanic and U.S. general market." As for ages, Mena is looking at "anybody and everybody. The Spanish-speaking cruise market in the U.S. is growing in leaps and bounds," he added.

"Pullmantur is a brand-new company to cruisers in the States," Mena said. "But because it's owned by Royal Caribbean, it's a nice tie-in, and more people are inclined to listen."

So why sail on a Pullmantur ship when a U.S. passenger can sail on a newer North American or European vessel? The answer, Mena said, lies in the  novelty of the Spanish product. Part of the excitement of a cruise is meeting new people and experiencing different cultures, he said. And Pullmantur's crew speaks English as well as Spanish.

Pullmantur cruises are also very affordable, Mena said. "When you combine an all-inclusive product - which includes alcoholic beverages - and the charm of an older ship, these are strong selling points."

Marketing efforts to recruit U.S. passengers have included direct mailings, newspaper advertising, and trade shows. "We are also looking into TV campaigns as well," Mena said. "We have gone after more than 3,000 travel agencies in the U.S. thus far." The sales target for 2008, according to Mena, is $2 million (cruise sales out of the U.S. market). In 2009, he said that number could increase to $6 million.

Next: South America

As for Pullmantur's South American program in late 2009, at press time it was not known exactly what ship would be sailing from Buenos Aires.

However, a Pullmantur spokeswoman did say that any adjustments to the Pullmantur cruise product were expected to be minimal. "(South Americans) are aware of what they will experience - a Spanish flair. And they want that," she said.