Faced with demands for unique experiences and higher Return On Investment, smart event planners consider cruise ships for meetings and incentive travel programs. But with hundreds of ships already sailing (and 120+ new vessels on order), how in the world can you choose the best one for your group?

Celebrity Solstice incentive cruise
Celebrity Solstice

To get you started, here are 7 tips to help you find the best ship for your meeting, incentive program, or group event:

1. Consider Your Budget

The inclusive nature of cruise ships makes a meeting at sea more appealing than ever. Most meals, entertainment, shipboard activities, meeting space and use of A.V. are included during your cruise event.

High-speed MedallionNet WiFi on Princess ships
High-speed WiFi on Princess ships

Large, resort-style ships are best for planners with multi-generational groups and limited budgets. But keep in mind that many specialty restaurants and some entertainment venues (dinner theater, for example) have a cover fee.

Alcoholic beverages, sodas, and specialty coffee are not included on most contemporary ships. Consider purchasing a beverage package at a reasonable price for your meeting or incentive attendees.

As technology improves, rapid-speed internet is comparable to land. Fees are dropping, but attendees will pay to connect to WiFi.

SeaDream Yacht charters include champagne and caviar served in the Caribbean surf
SeaDream Yacht Caribbean voyages include champagne and caviar served in the surf

In general, upscale ships are “all-inclusive” and best for top-tier groups. Most luxury lines offer complimentary WiFi, all beverages (including wine and spirits), specialty restaurants, excursions, and exclusive shore events during voyages. Gratuities are also included.

2. Size & Type of Ship

Will your group include multiple generations? How about Millennials? What would motivate your sales team to meet their goals? Is it the onboard “Wow” factor, innovative technology and first-at-sea experiences? World-class dining & entertainment? Active adventures ashore, or local cultural experiences?

The Dock Lounge on Scarlet Lady
Virgin Voyages Rending of The Dock lounge on Scarlet Lady

There are 123 new ships currently on the order books from 2019 to 2027. These range from jaw-dropping mega-ships to boutique-sized luxury vessels and everything in between.

Need help? Contact us for a free consultation. We can cut through the clutter to find the perfect cruise ship for your group!

3. Lead Time

Allow as long a lead time as possible to get the best choice of ships for your preferred number of nights, the best selection of staterooms and suites, and confirmed meeting space for your group. Considering a private ship charter? Read on…

4. Does Your Group Need Exclusivity?

Nothing beats a cruise ship charter for privacy, security, flexibility and customization opportunities. Nearly every aspect of the cruise experience can be adjusted to suit your program needs. Even the itinerary, the number of nights and ports of call can be adjusted.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Suite
Ritz-Carlton Yacht with 149 suites – perfect for charter.

Since you are buying out the ship’s entire inventory of rooms, ship size is critical!

Lead time is especially important when considering a ship charter. Once cruise lines publish their itineraries (typically 18 months in advance), bookings are open to the public. Here are more tips for planning your cruise charter.

5. Number of Nights

Looking for ships offering 7-nights (or longer) cruises? You will find them sailing everywhere in the world. But cruise lines are also introducing more short cruises – ideal for meetings and incentives at sea.

Navigator of the Seas Waterslide
Rendering of “Amplified” Navigator of the Seas

For example, Royal Caribbean’s “Royal Amplified” ships Navigator of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, and Explorer of the Seas have 3, 4 & 5-night voyages to the Bahamas and Caribbean. Each offers abundant group meeting space, dazzling entertainment options, a plethora of dining choices, and exciting new features and amenities.

Virgin Voyages highly-anticipated first ship, Scarlet Lady, will offer unique 4 & 5-night Caribbean cruises.

And for west coast groups, both Princess and Carnival have expanded their offerings of 3 to 5-night cruises on meeting-ready ships.

6. Destination

What’s hot in incentive travel? It’s all about unique destination experiences!

Celebrity Flora Galapagos expedition
Galapagos expedition on all-suite Celebrity Flora

Some of the most sought-after itineraries include visits to exclusive “private island” experiences in tropical destinations. Also in demand: premium expeditions offering in-depth exploration and a variety of active adventures.  

Alaska and the Mediterranean continue to entice, inspire and motivate. European river cruises on upscale, all-inclusive vessels are ideal for those who prefer a more intimate and immersive travel experience.

7. Meeting & Event Space

What are your meeting facility requirements? When planning a cruise ship meeting, flexibility is key! Do you need general session seating for 1,000, or a variety of smaller breakout rooms? Large ships can accommodate groups up to 1300 in state-of-theart theaters with complimentary professional lighting and sound equipment.

Celebrity Edge Meeting Space theater style
The Meeting Space on Celebrity Edge, set up theater style

Many new ships, most notably Celebrity Edge, have purpose-built conference centers that can also be converted to smaller rooms, plus boardrooms, beautiful lounges and other flexible spaces that connect to the sea.

Added bonus: Never a fee to meet at sea – meeting space and use of A.V. are included!

Bonus Tip! Talk to a Cruise Event Specialist

No matter what your group size, budget, or meeting requirements, Landry & Kling can help you find the perfect ship for a flawless event! Just give us a call at 305-661-1880, send an email to inquiry@landrykling.com, or request a group or charter quote.