Royal Caribbean International (RCI) expects to complete the merger of the Celebrity Cruises and RCI sales force by the end of September.

Currently, RCI employs 87 district sales managers (DSMs), while Celebrity has 51 DSMs. It is not known how large the resulting sales force will be.

Also scheduled to be combined are the reservations, human resources and purchasing departments, although no timetable has been set.

Expected to remain autonomous are the lines' marketing, marine operations and hotel operations divisions, according to an RCI spokesman.

And, at press time an announcement was imminent about top management changes and appointments at RCI.

In total, RCI employs 1,813 shoreside and 10,700 on its vessels, while Celebrity has 503 land-based employees and 4,050 aboard its vessels.

"We're trying to fill all positions with those people who can best do the jobs," said the RCI spokesman.

What could also impact the merger of the reservations department is the new RCI auxiliary reservations center in Wichita, Kansas, which will launch by year's end and will employ 150 res. agents. Promoted as a move to increase res hours, to service West Coast calls and as an alternative res facility in the event of natural disaster in Miami, the new facility already expands RCI's res staff by 50 percent.

However, of paramount importance to the agent community is how the merger will affect each brand's relationship with retailers. While Celebrity has been regarded as an agent-friendly line, RCI came under recent criticism for its lack of receptiveness to agents' issues and concerns.