Norwegian Cruise Line announced today that its travel partner networking and education online community, NCL University (NCL U), has graduated its first class of more than 900 travel partners who are now Freestyle Certified. By earning NCL U’s Freestyle Certification, travel partners are considered among the most qualified expert representatives on NCL’s Freestyle Cruising. As part of the Freestyle Certification, NCL U also launched its third CLIA-accredited course titled, “Profit Making the NCL Way.”

“Congratulations to all the travel partner graduates who have successfully completed the program via NCL U and become Freestyle Certified,” said Andy Stuart, NCL’s executive vice president, global sales and passenger services. “NCL U has more exciting classes planned throughout the year allowing travel partners to enroll at any time to achieve Freestyle Certification at their own pace.”

Since launching NCL U in June 2008 as part of NCL’s continuing commitment to Partnership 2.0, more than 10,000 travel partners have enrolled. The third CLIA accredited course being offered now titled “Profit Making the NCL Way” focuses on how to define, apply and profit from key marketing concepts allowing travel partners to more effectively sell group cruises. Other courses available include, “Who, What and Where: An Introduction to NCL” and “Selling the NCL Experience.”

Completing all three courses allows travel partners to earn up to 15 CLIA credits toward ACC and MCC certification, the most in the industry, and contributes to them becoming Freestyle Certified. The benefits of certification range from priority invitations to the new NCL U PhD@Sea program and access to NCL’s reduced rates to exclusive contests and Campus Bucks to spend on NCL U branded merchandise.

“NCL U offers travel agents many interesting and innovative learning opportunities while at the same time allows them to earn CLIA credits,” said Gregg Eppleman, independent affiliate of America’s Vacation Center and the first-ever travel partner to become Freestyle Certified. “I’m honored to be the first graduate of NCL U and look forward to the launch of their continuing education program.”

In addition to education opportunities, NCL U also offers travel partners an online community where they can post their profiles, interact with NCL executives, pose questions to experts, get the latest information on NCL cruises, share selling tips and compare success stories via online classes, videos and blogs. As travel partners experience the site, they can earn points by completing courses for CLIA credit, watching video electives featuring The Second City, interviews with NCL executives and successfully completing quizzes and playing educational games.

Future NCL U initiatives include the launch of a continuing education program for Freestyle Certified graduates, and a dedicated area on Norwegian Epic where Stuart will host a blog providing travel partners with exclusive news on NCL’s newest Freestyle Cruising ship set to sail in 2010.