In the News: Mill Creek Franchise Owner Featured in HeraldNet

Expedia CruiseShipCenter franchise opens in Mill Creek

This story appeared in the January 2017 edition of HeraldNet.

Ricardo Pruneda opened an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise in Mill Creek Town Center in August. Expedia currently operates 233 locations in the U.S. and Canada. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Expedia, the Internet’s favorite go-to source for self-booking travel, has found a port in downtown Mill Creek for curious and intrepid travelers ready to hit the high seas with a more personalized touch.

Ricardo Pruneda opened his Expedia CruiseShipCenter in the Mill Creek Town Center at last summer.

An Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise is seen in Mill Creek Town Center. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

“We were the 200th franchise to open” in North America, said Pruneda, 44. “It’s a real honor.”

The Canadian CruiseShipCenters chain was launched in 1987, and acquired by Expedia. in 2007.

Expedia CruiseShipCenters currently have 233 total locations with more than 160 in Canada and five locations in Washington.

(Expedia has only two brick-and-mortar, storefront brands: the CruiseShipCenters and the much smaller Expedia Local Expert storefronts in Hawaii and Florida.)

Pruneda has spent the past 20 years in sales and sales management.

But he wanted to own his own business. He was born in Mexico City with dual citizenship and moved to Florida as a child. His father was a plumber and built his own company.

“What a thing to achieve,” says Pruneda. “It’s always kind of been there for me.”

He moved to Seattle in 2002 to be closer to his sweetheart. They married, and now have a 5-year-old daughter. When describing his job to her, he says, “Now daddy helps other families spend time together.”

Pruneda’s location at 15415 Main St., No. 104, is currently staffed by seven agents, but he hopes to have 20 to 30 in the future.

(Pruneda declined to provide the average monthly revenue, saying its a new franchise.)

He fondly recalled visiting the Vancouver CruiseShipCenters location for interviews and a ‘Discovery Day’ – a corporate visit to help understand the culture for the Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

“It felt like the perfect fit,” he said, describing the passion his colleagues have for planning vacations for clients.

Pruneda hand-picked the location himself, and said he is grateful to the community for being friendly and welcoming. People see the signs outside, stop by, and say hello.

The Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise model isn’t built simply on cruises. Its goal is to be a beginning-to-end travel planner.

A board listing current cruise ship vacation deals is seen at an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise in Mill Creek Town Center. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Although a cruise may be the “meat” of certain vacations, there are travel plans to get there — planes, trains, automobiles — things to do while away from home, and, of course, other sorts of trips that don’t ever entail getting on a ship.

As a full-service travel agency, it also offers services such as planning personal family vacations, wedding locations and honeymoons, business retreats and more.

The Expedia CruiseShipCenters stores can help with overwhelming aspects of planning cruises. Travel agents can save vacationers on average more than $450 on trips and four hours of time on planning, according to the American Society of Travel Agents.

“Giving your trip planning over to another human being is the No. 1 way to feel confident that you are getting the best trip possible,” said Pruneda.

When asked what surprised him the most about his current franchise, Pruneda mentioned that he loves the passion of his clientele.

“Cruisers,” he called them, mentioning that they wear cruises — seasons, trips, lines — like badges of honor. “I love being a part of this club now.”

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