By Jo Kling, President, Landry & Kling
Don’t Let Cruise Meeting Hesitations Hold You Back!
Recently, I chatted with a long-time client about all the cruise meeting hesitations he had before he finally chose to plan a meeting at sea. Of course, hindsight is 20-20, and we shared a few chuckles as we recalled his list of pre-cruise impressions (circa 1996):
- Cruise ships are old-fashioned – just a bunch of old people playing shuffleboard
- Cabins are too small and we’ll feel confined
- Attendees will be bored – there’s nothing to do after meetings but play bingo
- They’ll have to wait on long lines for everything
- No one wants to get dressed up every night for dinner
- There’s no place to meet and no privacy
- What will we do in the evenings? Listen to boring lounge music?
Remember, that was before he had ever experienced a cruise!
Once our planner stepped out of the traditional venue box on got on board a ship, he was convinced. Today, he’s one of our biggest meeting-at-sea advocates.
Here’s what the planner had to say after his first incentive cruise program:
- The best part was having your bedroom travel with you. You could visit a different country or city every day and never unpack.
- Entry and exit from different countries were so simple. No waiting in lines, no passport control.
- You always feel safe on the ship. Security is top priority, and there’s no way to get on without being detected.
- Feedback was overwhelming! Compared to doing the program on land, it actually was less expensive.
Hesitations are normal!
As a planning professional, it’s your job to continually evaluate new venues and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each. If you’ve never taken a group to sea, it’s reasonable (in fact it’s smart) to have hesitations about challenging the status quo. But given the cost-savings and other benefits of cruising, it’s worth exploring the feasibility!
There are still many misconceptions about cruising, and it’s time to clear these up. We would love you and the organizations you represent to begin enjoying what so many others have already discovered, much to their delight!
Fear of the Unknown
For some people , the unknown is uncomfortable, because it’s something new and different, But that’s just what your participants want: New Experiences, not the “same ol, same ol’” every time.
Your stakeholders may be drawn to the familiar, but if you’re trying to recognize or motivate attendees, give them what they want… something NEW and unknown, something stimulating, exhilarating, inspiring.
A big misconception we hear from C-suite decision-makers concerns the perception of a cruise – that’s it’s too elitist, too luxurious, or not serious enough for a business event. But just as with hotels, there’s a wide range of cruise brands that cater to widely different markets. The same people you see at your chosen hotels or resorts are also cruising on ships that cater to their lifestyle – whether it’s a luxury, all-suite, all-inclusive small ship; sophisticated boutique-style vessel; or a dazzling new mega-ship with lots of bells and whistles to keep your attendees wowed throughout their cruise.
There’s no Meeting Space, Ships Not Appropriate for Business
People who have never cruised, or did so many years ago have no idea how business-ready today’s cruise ships are! You’ll find a range of function space – from flexible conference facilities with air walls and cutting-edge A/V, to beautiful lounges that stimulate creative brainstorming sessions.
Instead of a “naked ballroom”, you can invite your attendees to a beautiful, multi-tiered theater (accommodating up to 1,600 persons). No need to spend thousands of dollars on staging, lighting, A/V, or risers – some ships even have revolving stages or other high-tech, theatrical elements that add extra pizzazz to your awards or meeting functions.
Ships also offer total privacy for your group – you won’t find “reader boards in the lobby. In addition, today’s cruise ships offer WiFi and Internet packages so your attendees can stay connected. Many cruise lines now include free WiFi for suite guests, and some upscale lines include free WiFi for all.
My Meeting Agenda Won’t Fit on a Cruise Ship
One of the biggest cruise meeting hesitations planners express is how their typical meeting agenda will fit into a cruise. It’s easy, as long as you communicate your needs and plan ahead. Planning your cruise meeting agenda is similar to what you always do – you anticipate how to schedule your key group events on a grid with morning/noon and evening activities.
With a cruise, however, your planning is simplified: you can offer everything that’s happening on board, including evening entertainment, deck parties, sports, and daily activities. All meals are provided, as well as visits to one more ports of call, depending on your itinerary. It’s an abundant program and attendees usually feel they’ve received more than on your other programs, even when you likely have spent less!
Want exclusive access to all the ship’s facilities and freedom to customize the entire cruise experience? Depending on the size of your group and lead time, a full-charter might be just the thing!
It’s too Expensive
Another huge misconception! A cruise event can save you money – in fact, up to 30% when compared to a comparable land-based property. Virtually all the basics are included, like meals and snacks, and attendees have a wide variety of evening entertainment and shipboard activities to choose from every day.
You’ll also save on transfers, menus and entertainment for off-site events. No linens to rent, no pricey floral arrangements, no A/V costs, and no mysterious resort fees – just highly satisfied participants who want to do another cruise program. Whether it’s a upper-premium or basic level cruise, the value is greater and the price less than a comparable quality land-based program.
It’s too Different
Yes…a cruise environment is very different, but that’s what makes it exciting! You’ll find that it’s actually simpler to plan a cruise event because everything you need is already on board. Now factor in the time you save by not having to plan menus or special dining requests.
Just think of how special your group will feel dining in beautiful restaurants, ordering whatever they desire from multi-course menus, and enjoying the company of their colleagues. And after dinner, they can choose from a myriad of entertainment options – from Broadway shows to intimate nightclubs.
We’ve heard that some Executives fear being “stuck” with attendees, unable to leave whenever they want. These are normal hesitations, simply arising from a lack of information. There are so many beautiful areas on board cruise ships, and people have so much to do and talk about, boredom doesn’t have a chance to step in. And for those Execs who value their privacy, the level of comfort, space, and technology in shipboard suites today will exceed their expectations.
Won’t I Feel Confined?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that ships are confining. Maybe…if you’re thinking of a submarine, haven’t cruised, or haven’t seen photos of today’s majestic ships! Many are as large or larger than land-based resorts, with just as many open spaces and things to. And with most contemporary ships offering private balconies, you have the whole world, the moon and the stars with your ocean view stateroom. With several ports of call in most cruise itineraries, confinement is rarely experienced these days.
Will I Get Seasick?
Another lingering hesitation is the fear of seasickness, but the stability of ships today eliminates most concerns. We’ve discovered the surest solution is the wrist band with a small electric shock (looks like a clunky watch – but it works!)
Aren’t Cruises too Long?
Trip length also impacts your choice, ranging typically from 3 to 7 days. The 4 & 5-night itineraries seem to be the most popular for meetings at sea. Often, you can provide a 7-night trip for what you normally spend on 4 or 5 nights, and given that many attendees extend on their own, they perceive this as a real perk — important especially for your incentive programs. By the way… those extra days often fall on a weekend, so no additional business time is lost.
Landry & Kling has collected short & unusual “cruise gems” – many of them unpublished – to give you more options.
Need to Convince Others?
Now that we’ve addressed some of your cruise meeting hesitations, you might be wondering how to convince your boss or the organization’s stakeholders to consider a meeting at sea. Don’t worry, there are plenty of resources to help you in the Landry & Kling’s Resource Section!
Download and share our free cruise event ebooks and slideshares. To hear what our clients have to say about their group cruise experience, check out our video library. And read a few meeting at sea, incentive cruise and ship charter Customer Success Stories.
And of course, I’m always happy to share my passion, experience and “insider” information about meeting at sea! Feel free to send an email or call me at 305-661-1880 for a free consultation.