During today’s opening ceremony of the Cruise Planners/American Express annual convention, company executives unveiled their upgraded Cruise Planners University (CPU) educational program, which now integrates Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and select cruise line and tour company universities with Cruise Planners’ core training modules. Graduating agents will be Certified Cruise Planner Experts (CCPE), the new platinum standard in travel agent accreditation.

“Higher learning leads to higher earning,” said Terri Burke, senior vice president of relationship marketing for Cruise Planners. “This new program gives our agents access to an unmatched curriculum that will put them at the forefront of the industry as top sales achievers. We’re in a competitive industry, so we’re ensuring our agents have the tools necessary to grow their home-based business by providing them with a one-stop shop where they can obtain the certifications vital to becoming top earners.”

In its new virtual form, CPU is now a robust two-year program with more than 40 courses per training level and mandated testing where agents can earn the majority of the industry’s accreditations. It’s the first of its kind in the industry. Unique highlights of the university include a student union with motivating peer-to-peer games, CPU yearbook with seminars at sea, campus blog and a CPU Facebook group, just to name a few.

“At Cruise Planners we pride ourselves on having the highest percentage of CLIA accredited agents in our franchise category,” continued Burke. “We knew we needed to raise the bar and create a career learning path for all of our agents that will set us apart as the most highly-trained in the industry, which was the genesis of the virtual CPU concept.”

Mirrored after user-friendly social networking sites such as Facebook, the online program manages courses taken, videos watched and testing scores so agents have the convenience of continuing their education at their own pace. While CPU is all about access to earning industry accreditations, the main objective for the program is for agents to graduate as a CCPE, the highest certification currently attainable.

“The CCPE certification will be a strong indicator to consumers that they can book through Cruise Planners with extreme confidence,” said Joel M. Wilder, Cruise Planners advisory board member and master cruise counselor. “This program will give the industry a jolt that attracts new talent with the cutting-edge technology, impressive training practices and accreditation that equals high-yielding producers.