Apr 04, 2011

Rick Sasso of MSC Cruises, Michelle Morgan of Signature Travel Network, US Coast Guard to be Honored during April 16 Gala at cruise3sixty

Fort Lauderdale, FL — April 4, 2011 —

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has announced the 2011 inductees into the Cruise Industry Hall of Fame who will be honored on April 16 at a gala evening during cruise3sixty in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This year’s select group of inductees includes Michelle Morgan, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network; Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA; and the United States Coast Guard.

In its seventh year, the Cruise Industry Hall of Fame honors those individuals, past and present, whose efforts and accomplishments represent a significant contribution to and positive impact on the development and growth of cruise vacations. They are selected based on nominations from CLIA's membership, review by a nominating committee made up of Travel Agency Advisory Board (TAAB) and cruise line members, and approval by CLIA's Executive Committee. This year inductees were chosen in three categories: cruise retailer, cruise line executive, and an "At Large" category that may be any individual, such as an additional retailer or cruise line executive, a politician, publisher, or shipbuilder, whose accomplishments warrant nomination.

Michelle Morgan
A thirty-three year travel marketing executive, Michelle Morgan will celebrate 20 years with Signature Travel Network this year having joined the organization in 1991 when it had 30 locations in Southern California. Established in the early 1950’s, Signature is the oldest retail travel consortia in the U.S. Today, as a member-owned co-operative of the travel industry's leading retail travel agencies, it brings together more than 7,000 travel specialists, across 365 retail locations in the US and Canada, generating over $4.5 billion in sales.Collectively, Signature also provides content for more than 1,200 consumer web sites, and offers superior technology solutions to today’s travel retailer. 

As president and CEO, Morgan maintains the overall responsibility for the co-operative and has been instrumental in framing the organization's strategic direction.  Morgan has been instrumental in charting the company’s course in the areas of partnership development, marketing, technology and member services programs, and especially takes pride in the fact that her company has the lowest attrition rate of any network.

She has received several accolades within the industry including Luxury Travel Advisor’s Retail Travel Partner of the Year and was named one of Forbe’s 25 Most Influential Women in Travel.

Prior to joining Signature, Michelle was a marketing executive for Carlson Travel Network (Carlson Wagonlits Travel) for 13 years and was involved with the executive team that launched Ask Mr. Foster’s retail franchise program in 1984.

Rick Sasso
One of the most popular and well-respected figures in the cruise industry for almost 40 years, Rick Sasso was named president and chief executive officer of MSC Cruises (USA) Inc. in April 2004, charged with establishing a strong position for MSC Cruises in the North American market as the line dramatically increased its fleet to make MSC Cruises the fastest growing cruise line. 

Prior to joining MSC, Sasso held key positions at Costa Cruises and Chandris Cruises, and was part of the senior management team that launched Celebrity Cruises in 1990. He served as president of that line from 1995 to 2001 and was instrumental in establishing it as a top premium cruise line.

In 1999, the National Association of Cruise Only Agencies (NACOA) honored Sasso as “Cruise Industry Executive of the Year” and a leading travel industry trade magazine named him its “Cruise Industry Executive of the Year.” In 1999-2000 he also served as chairman of both the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and, in January 2009 was named chairman of CLIA’s Marketing Committee, a position he held for the customary two-year term.

U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast is an invaluable partner with the cruise industry in the important areas of safety, security and environmental stewardship. As the only armed forces organization within the Department of Homeland Security, and for over two centuries the Coast Guard has safeguarded the nation's maritime interests in the heartland, in the ports, at sea, and around the globe. The service's motto is Semper Paratus, meaning "Always Ready," ready to protect the maritime economy and the environment, defend 
America's maritime borders and save those in peril from the sea.

Among its many functions, the Coast Guard works closely with the departments of Defense and Justice at home and abroad, saves thousands of lives each year, performs safety and environmental examinations of commercial vessels, issues credentials to merchant mariners and grants for boating safety, services aids-to-navigation such as buoys and beacons, and plays a major role in responding to natural disasters wherever they may occur.

Today's U.S. Coast Guard, with nearly 42,000 men and women on active duty, in addition to the nearly fifteen thousand civilian and reserve members, is a unique force that carries out an array of civil and military responsibilities touching almost every facet of the U.S. maritime environment. Through close and ongoing coordination between the cruise industry and the Coast Guard, the highest levels of passenger and crew safety, security and environmental stewardship are ensured.

Accepting the 2011 Hall of Fame Award on behalf of the Coast Guard will be Rear Admiral James Watson, Deputy Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area .

The 2011 gala Hall of Fame Dinner is a centerpiece of cruise3sixty, following three days of general sessions, seminars and workshops, ship inspections, a trade show and other social events. A highlight of the evening will be showcase performances of shipboard entertainment offered three lines. Celebrity Cruises will present its unique, sea-going European-style circus spectacular. Norwegian Cruise Line will introduce “Legends in Concert,” with live celebrity impersonations of iconic performers. And, Royal Caribbean International will present Mosaic, the Las Vegas-based, prize-winning A Cappella singing group.

For more information about CLIA and the Hall of Fame, please visit

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