Cruise Meetings: Tips for Smooth Sailing

Norwegian Pearl

This story is the third in a series that focuses on meetings and events at sea. Parts 1 and 2 highlighted some of the unique benefits of having a meeting on a cruise ship.

Planner Checklist

-There are a few things planners should take into account when considering a cruise ship for a meeting or event.

-Every ship requires that the planner submit a detailed manifest listing all passengers and some personal data about them.

-Most cruise itineraries require that passengers have a valid passport.

-Most cruises are not tax deductible for U.S. companies, so planners should inform executives of that and check deductibility for the itinerary they’re considering before committing to a cruise meeting.

-A small percentage of attendees tend to take longer than others to acclimate to the motion of a ship; in light of this, have Dramamine available. “Don’t hold your opening-night reception in the back of the ship,” Punke warns.

-Also, every cruise line brings something different and special to a program, so make sure you find the right fit to accomplish your meeting goals and provide the right types of leisure for your attendees, Athanasiou says.

Site Inspections Still Important

Cassidy urges planners to “do their homework to understand what each cruise line and ship delivers in terms of onboard experience.” She says it’s a mistake to look only at destination and price.

Punke strongly suggests that planners do a site inspection whenever a group will use a particular cruise line for the first time.

“Six months out, I went with a few committee members on the same itinerary we looked at for our meeting,” Punke says. “If we didn’t do that, our event would not have gone nearly as well as it did.”

Flexibility is Key

Interestingly, a midsized hotel company recently altered its typical meeting practices and had a successful event on a cruise ship. Debra Punke, senior vice president of human resources for Concord Hospitality in Raleigh, North Carolina, coordinated an event for 275 attendees, plus another 250 family members. Using a vessel for the first time, Punke admits that the ship didn’t offer a ton of dedicated meeting space. But during the group’s four-day, three-night Caribbean itinerary, she varied session times. One day the group met from 7−9 a.m., another day it met from 9−11 a.m. The group also used the ship’s main theater for a memorable recognition event and celebration.

“We couldn’t do an exclusive group dinner because of our size, so instead we conducted a Hollywood-style awards ceremony that worked out so well that we’re doing it that way at next year’s land-based event,” Punke says.

As Punke points outs, groups use a cruise ship to promote objectives such as the value of face-to-face interactions.

“We emphasized to our attendees that this event was about connecting with the people on the ship, not with others off the ship,” Punke recalls. “So for those four days, [we said] let’s not worry about being connected to email and social media so much.”

Further Reading:
Get On Board with Cruise Meetings
Cruises Offer a Fresh Take on Meetings

Rob Carey is a business journalist and principal of Meetings & Hospitality Insight, a content marketing firm for the group-business market.