Incentive cruise program for a world leader in supplemental insurance. (1800 people)

Planners wanted a ship large enough to house all 1800 participants and stage a black-tie awards presentation with celebrity entertainment. The seating capacity of the show room on our recommended ship was only 1300 (the largest of any ship’s theater at the time), so we scouted a suitable awards venue in Miami, port of departure. But how to schedule a black-tie dinner and awards/entertainment ashore on arrival day, given the ship normally sails at 4 pm?

“Flexibility Creates Unique Programs”

by Irene Corn, Incentive

“With so many different ships to choose from, there’s very little that can’t be arranged for a group,” says Joyce Landry, Partner and Co-founder of Landry & Kling, Miami-based corporate cruise specialists.

On the rare occasion that a ship can’t accommodate the original idea, a little creativity can lead to a bigger and better concept. That was the case last October when one of the world’s largest insurance company chartered Carnival’s Ecstasy for a combined incentive/convention. “Although the ship could accommodate the 1,800 participants, it didn’t have one place large enough for everyone to attend an award ceremony together,” says Landry.

Working closely with Carnival Cruise Line, Landry arranged for the participants to board earlier than normal and for the ship to depart later than usual. In between, participants attended a black tie dinner held in three different areas of the ship. “We used both dining rooms and transformed what’s normally a more casual restaurant into a formal dining experience.” When they were finished, every participant disembarked the ship to be escorted via shuttle buses to the Jackie Gleason Pavilion in Miami for the formal awards presentation.

“It required so much flexibility on the cruise line’s part to be able to work out this solution,” says Landry. Because the ship departed later in the evening than normal, the cruise flip-flopped its regular itinerary to start in Key West and end in Cozumel. “With cruise incentives, we almost always want to do something that’s outside the norm,” says Landry. “We like to work with cruise lines that are willing to be flexible and accommodate special needs, and Carnival is great for that.”

The program was such a success that the company has booked another Carnival cruise ship, the Imagination, which departs from San Juan, for another program. “It’s normally a seven-night cruise,” says Landry, “but the company only wanted it for four nights. We booked with enough lead time that Carnival agreed to the four-night cruise and is setting up their own special three-night cruise with regular passengers to make up the difference.”

In addition to standard ship amenities, such as all meals, activities, and nightly entertainment, Landry & Kling can provide a number of special options to customize the cruise for incentive groups: personalized letters from the captain, name plates on stateroom doors, and special flower arrangements and pre-selected wines at dining tables. Customized banners, matchbooks and individual bon voyage gifts such as gourmet foods, fruit or other items, can all be made available. When it comes to special events, possibilities range from come-as-you-are pool parties to black-tie receptions, with rented tuxedos thrown in, if necessary.

Production lighting, sound systems, and professional entertainers are already on board and can be customized for special presentations, while high-tech capabilities allow all the public rooms to be electronically connected for simulcasts of audio-visual programs throughout the ship. And if meetings are on the agenda, ships provide a range of meetings facilities and professional equipment.

Although smaller groups and partial charters are still common, Landry says there has been an increase in full charters for incentives. And with a reputation for being a children-friendly cruise line, Carnival has recently seen an increase in the number of incentives interested in family programs. “We haven’t seen much of that in the past,” Landry says, “but it seems to be a direction some of our incentives are taking now.”

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