Michelle Fee, CEO & Co-founder of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative


Aug 09, 2016

Michelle Fee is CEO of the nation's largest home-based travel franchise organization, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative. She started her career as a full-service travel agent in the 90s and her love of travel and passion for entrepreneurship led her to co-found Cruise Planners as a franchise organization. Under her leadership, Cruise Planners has empowered franchise owners for success through access to award-winning marketing programs, hands-on training and evolving technology, allowing them to operate efficient and competitive travel businesses in a fast-changing industry. 

  1. What is Cruise Planners franchise opportunity all about?
    1. Cruise Planners is a home-based business model and it’s attractive for people who have a passion for travel. Franchise owners don’t need to have travel industry experience to be a successful since we truly are a business in a box. In fact, we teach new franchise owners how to be full-service travel advisors and our award-winning marketing and cutting-edge technology tools to make it easy for them to efficiently compete in the marketplace.
    2. Cruise Planners offers two mobile apps—one for consumers and one for travel advisors, allowing agents to seamlessly run their business from the palm of their hand. With just a few clicks on a smart device, agents are able to book a trip, send an invoice and pull up client information. Clients can access personalized travel information, book shore excursions, purchase insurance and more all from their secure mobile app.
    3. Our Home Office Team of nearly 100 people is focused on each franchise owner’s success since we succeed only when they do.
  2. Who is your ideal candidate for a Cruise Planners franchise?
    1. Someone with a passion for travel and someone who is looking to be in control of their own financial future. We have all types of franchise owners; some are part-time while others make travel sales their full-time career. 
  3. What type of training and support do you offer Cruise Planners franchisees?
    1. We train our franchise owners to become travel experts with Cruise Planners’ award-winning training program. Franchise ownership begins with a 6-day training event lead by industry experts as well as the Home Office Team focused around industry trends and Cruise Planners proprietary tools. Agents become familiar with Cruise Planners University, an online vide-based platform, as well as attend in-person training sessions. We provide franchise owners with the best training tools and opportunities for all learning styles.
  4. What are some of the advantages in being a Cruise Planners franchisee?
    1. There are so many perks when investing in a Cruise Planners franchise since it truly is a business in a box and we provide all the tools to be successful. Also, Cruise Planners pays the highest commissions offered in the travel industry – PERIOD. Because of Cruise Planners’ large footprint and industry prowess, Cruise Planners Travel Agents have access to the highest available commissions and bonus commissions. Plus, traveling is a perk of being in the travel industry. As a Cruise Planner, agents have access to inaugural cruises, seminars at sea and familiarization trips. Last year, Cruise Planners hosted more than 20 FAM trips throughout Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean on land and at sea.
  5. Are you a member of any Associations?
    1. Yes, Cruise Planners is represented on many executive and advisory boards including:

                                               i.     American Express Travel

                                              ii.     Royal Caribbean International

                                             iii.     Norwegian Cruise Line

                                            iv.     Celebrity Cruises

                                             v.     Cruise Lines International Association, Inc® (CLIA)

                                            vi.     Carnival Cruise Line

                                           vii.     MSC Cruises

                                          viii.     Holland America Line 

                                            ix.     Board of Trustees for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)

                                             x.     International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) Foundation Board Member

                                            xi.     Travel Bound Advisory Board

                                           xii.     Executive Forum for Carnival Cruise Line

                                          xiii.     Norwegian Cruise Line Partnership 2.0 Advisory Board

                                         xiv.     Travel Impressions Advisory Board

                                          xv.     Special Needs Group (SNG) Advisory Board

                                         xvi.     DEPARTURES Magazine Advisory Board

                                        xvii.     Regent Seven Seas Council

                                       xviii.     The Travel Corporation - American Express Rep Network Advisory Board

    1. We also have an affiliation with American Express Travel, so our agents get instant credibility and access to exclusive deals – we truly set them up for success and are constantly improving and innovating to be the best in the travel industry.


  1. Tell us a little about the Travel Market?
    1. People are traveling and the cruise industry is growing! More and more travelers are relying on travel advisors when planning their vacations. Cruise Planners travel agents are full-service travel providers and we provide the tools our agents need so they can focus on selling.


  1. How successful is your company today and what are your future growth plans?
    1. We have been a top producer for all major cruise lines, tour companies and destination partners. As such, we have been named the best home-based franchise to own by Entrepreneur magazine for more than 13 years and we are now located in all 50 states.
    2. Cruise Planners has achieved top producer status with every major cruise line. Accolades include numerous Magellan Awards from Travel Weekly for the past seven years, American Express Travel Representative Excellence Award for 11 consecutive years (2004-2014), American Express Agency of the Year (2010), Royal Caribbean International Chairman’s Award (2015), Royal Caribbean International President’s Award for Overall Achievement (2012 and 2014), Royal Caribbean International Home-Based Partner of the Year (2007-2013), Norwegian Cruise Line Franchise Agency of the Year (2011-2015), Celebrity Cruises Field Sales Account of the Year (2015), Celebrity Cruises Home-Based Account of the Year (2013-2014), Celebrity Cruises Southeast Region Travel Agent Partner of the Year (2010), American Express Vacations Best of the Best Globe Award (2008-2015), Globus Family of Brands Premier Agency Partner (2009-2014), Platinum Member of the 500 Club for Sales Excellence (2014), Platinum Circle Member with Viking River Cruises (2009-2012), Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection Top Producer (2008-2014) and Regent Seven Seas Cruises Top Producer. Cruise Planners is one of the Top 50 franchises for Veterans according to GI magazine, the Top Franchise Brand for Veterans according to Franchise Business Review, has been named one of the Top 25 franchises for African-Americans by Black Enterprise magazine and is a member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.
  2. What are your franchisees saying about the business?
    1. They love us! We are the top franchise to own, according to an independent survey by Franchise Business Review of more than 1,000 franchisees.
    2. Here are a few testimonials from our franchise owners:

                                               i.     “Cruise Planners has provided me the tools, training and support to help grow my franchise into more than I ever thought it would be.” – Randy Hobday

                                              ii.     “The destination/supplier training, technology, and agent support are second to none.” – Lorraine Fann

                                             iii.     “I was looking for something where there was a solid infrastructure and marketing tools along with accessible support. I also hoped to make some new friends along the way within the franchise system. Cruise Planners has lived up to that from Day One.” – Teresa Downs


  1. What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
    1. Talk with current franchise owners and due your due diligence to make sure the travel industry is the right fit. Fully understand the franchise agreement and research to understand the industry to make sure you’ll enjoy what you do for a living. Being in the travel industry is a fun and rewarding job.
  2. In your opinion, why do you think that Cruise Planners would be a great opportunity for someone?
    1. Our Cruisitude® - it’s an outlook on life and positive attitude and love of travel. We help franchisees turn a passion for travel into a passion for entrepreneurship. The Cruise Planners family is beaming with Cruisitude and we’re always excited and ready to share our energy with new travel advisors.



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