The meeting planning industry can unanimously agree on at least one key pain point – the rise of food & beverage costs. Factors associated with this continued increase include rising production prices, environmental conditions affecting supply, and changing attendee preferences – reflecting increasing demand for gluten-free, low-carb,  and vegan options, all of which are costlier to source and prepare.

So, what is a meeting planner to do in order to deliver dining experiences that satisfy and impresses attendees – without allocating a disproportionate amount of your budget to dining? We’d like to propose 3 key solutions that are inherent to a very unique event venue: cruise ships.

Qsine Restaurant

Qsine specialty dining on Celebrity Summit

1) How to Accommodate Dietary Preferences at No Additional Cost: Cruise ships can accommodate most special diets at no additional cost – ranging from vegan to gluten-free and peanut sensitivities. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines and its extended cruise brand ships offer gluten-free pizza, pasta, bread and buns, as well as cake, desserts and yoghurt. All items are freshly prepared. Even gluten-free beer is available for guests’ enjoyment.

Cruise lines are attuned to consumers’ shifting dietary preferences, and have shifted their sourcing and food preparation parameters to account for this – with no additional cost to your program.

Holland America Koningsdam Dining Room - always complimentary

Holland America Koningsdam Dining Room – always complimentary

2) How to Avoid Cutting Your Reception Short Because of Cost: An advantage of working with an experienced partner is that cruise ships will often negotiate with them to include a one-hour welcome reception with hot & cold canapés and open bar. An additional “farewell” reception can usually be negotiated, as well.

Azamara Club Cruises deck party-solution to Meeting planner challenge to find unique venue

Reception on deck during Azamara Club Cruises Mediterranean voyage

This is driven by the fact that – unlike at hotels – labour on a cruise ship is a given, vs. a fluctuating factor. While a seated dinner may be more labour-intensive at a hotel, it is not on a cruise ship. As cruise meeting planners with over 35 years of experience, we have negotiated hundreds of contracts for large-scale Global and corporate events on cruise ships – with overall costs that can be 30% less than hotels.

Oceania Marina

Dining on Oceania Marina

3) How to Offer Attendees a Variety of Menus: On cruise ships, guests are afforded a variety of menus in main restaurants – offering everything from spa-inspired selections and international specialties, to salads, steak and seafood. Unless you are dining at a specialty restaurant (which incur a minor surcharge), all meals – including dinner – are included in the cruise fare.

In other words, the solutions often proposed to control rising F&B costs at hotel venues – including locking in menu prices, working with the chef to develop specific menus, reducing reception times, and minimizing attendee options – do not apply when you plan an event on a cruise ship.  

Anthem of the Seas Wonderland Restaurant

Anthem of the Seas Wonderland Specialty Restaurant

We invite you to learn more about the different types of meetings & events possible at sea – and to download our 35 cost-savings tip checklist with multiple solutions to reduce costs and add impact to your meetings and events. At sea, of course!