The evolution of cruise meetings & incentives

Joyce Landry & Jo Kling behind their Landry & Kling Miami offices, 1990

Joyce Landry & Jo Kling behind their Miami offices, 1990

Cruise meetings & incentives are increasingly popular as planners search for unique, cost-effective venues to deliver memorable event experiences. But the marriage of cruising and business hasn’t always been smooth sailing. In fact, back in 1982 when Joyce Landry & Jo Kling formed Landry & Kling to specialize in this niche market, corporate cruises was still a revolutionary concept.

As Landry & Kling Global Cruise Events celebrate their 35th Anniversary, let’s put things into perspective and take a look back at the evolution of the cruise industry and meeting milestones at sea. Then we’ll peek into the future to see what lies ahead.

A Quick Snapshot of the Cruise Industry: Then and Now

In 1982:

  • Only 7% of Americans had cruised / 93%  had never taken a cruise
  • The Port of Miami had emerged as the cruise capital of the world, with total cruise passengers climbing to a record 880,000
  • The largest new ship launched in 1982 was Royal Caribbean’s Song of America – 32,000 tons / 1,414 passengers

Typical Cruise Ship Cabin – 1982

Holland America cabin, 1982- the year Landry & Kling was founded

Standard Holland America cabin, 1982

In 2017:

  • 34% of Americans have cruised/ 66% still have never cruised
  • PortMiami (formerly known as Port of Miami) still holds the title of “Cruise Capital of the World” with a record 4.98 million cruise passengers in 2016
  • The largest new ship launching in 2017 is MSC Meraviglia – 167,600 tons / 4,500 passengers

Premium Cruise Ship Stateroom – 2017

Holland America Koningsdam veranda stateroom

Holland America Koningsdam veranda stateroom, 2017

The Birth of Contemporary Cruises

People cruised with a purpose during the “golden years” of ocean liners:  to cross the Atlantic. With the growth of commercial air in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, the popularity of lengthy transatlantic voyages began to fade; and by the 1970’s, many cruise lines had gone out of business.

Creative thinking prevailed as lines introduced a new concept: shortened “holiday voyages” to the Caribbean and Bahamas. Three, four, and seven-night itineraries were offered on regular weekly rotations – a bold breakaway from the irregular 23 to 32-night transatlantic sailings. More ships and cruise line headquarters moved to Florida, and the modern cruise industry was born.

Cruise Meetings & Incentives at Sea – A New Niche Market

Recognizing the emerging corporate cruise market,  NCL (now known as Norwegian Cruise Line) became the first cruise line with a Corporate & Incentive Department in the late 70’s. Throughout the 1980’s, ships continued to evolve, as did the concept of “corporate cruises”.

Landry & Kling is Founded

In 1982, former cruise line executives Joyce Landry & Jo Kling decided to tap into this new niche and ignore the naysayers who said “there’s not enough business to warrant cruise specialization”.  Against all odds, they opened a small office in New York City and launched Landry & Kling – the first company to develop and meet the specific needs of the corporate cruise market.

Public awareness of corporate cruising grew as Jo & Joyce were interviewed by the media, appeared on TV news shows, and spoke at meeting and cruise line industry events about using cruise ships as an alternative to hotels & resorts for meetings & incentive travel programs.

In 1988, Joyce and Jo left NYC and moved their Landry & Kling offices to the new “”cruise capital of the world” – Miami.  By the end of the decade, more corporate groups were setting sail for cruise meetings & incentives, and organizations had begun to charter entire ships for optimal exclusivity and customization.

Cruise Lines Catch the Corporate Wave

Royal Caribbean revolutionized the cruise industry in 1988 with the launch of Sovereign of the Seas, (now retired), the first modern mega-ship that boasted a soaring atrium, glass elevators, and a wide variety of theaters and lounges, making it an impressive venue for corporate groups.

The original Radisson Diamond

Twin-hull Radisson Diamond

In 1992, the debut of three brand new vessels offering shorter three, four, and five-night itineraries also marked a turning point for the industry. The Radisson Diamond, Royal Majesty, and Nordic Empress were contemporary ships – a radical departure from the older trans-Atlantic steamships previously deployed for short cruises. And, most important for the corporate cruise market, all three featured purpose-built meeting space, making them suitable for business events. (Nordic Empress has been reborn as Empress of the Seas, now sailing to Cuba.)

Early Technology at Sea: In  2000, Norwegian Sky pioneered the industry’s first Internet Café at sea and in 2002, NCL introduced another high-tech industry first: remote wireless Internet access fleet-wide. Other cruise lines quickly followed suit, making it easier for meeting attendees to stay connected with their office and friends back home.

Cruise Ship Charters & “Floating Hotels” Are Big News!

Jacksonville Super Bowl multiple dockside ship charters

Ships docked in Jacksonville for Super Bowl

By the late 80’s, cruise charters and ships chartered as dockside “floating hotels” during city-wide conventions were making headlines, including:

  • Chrysler chartered the legendary QE2 to sail into New York Harbor for the Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration July 4, 1986
  • Digital Equipment Corp engaged Landry & Kling to charter 2 ships, QE2 and Starship Oceanic, to house customers during their 10-night new product intro (DECworld ‘87) at Boston’s World Trade Center, earning global attention
  • And in 2005, Landry & Kling made history by procuring and managing 5 dockside ship charters for the Jacksonville Super Bowl – the largest multi-ship charter project by a single entity.

Cruising Today: Explosive Growth, MICE-Friendly Ships

The cruise industry is currently the fastest growing segment of the travel industry with an estimated 25.3 million passengers expected to sail in 2017, a strong surge from 15.8 million just 10 years ago.

More ships will set sail as well. CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) reports that cruise lines are scheduled to debut 26 new ocean, river and specialty ships in 2017 for a total investment of more than $6.8 billion. From 2017-2026 the industry is expected to introduce a total of 97 new cruise ships totaling an estimated investment of $53 billion through 2026.

Celebrity Edge - Rooftop Garden

Celebrity Edge Rooftop Garden

Cruise lines continue to break boundaries at sea with innovative design and new technology. Gone are the days when cruising meant shuffleboard, deck chairs, and midnight buffets. Now you can now meet on ships and stay fit on multi-level sports decks; enjoy multiple dining experiences in a variety of indoor & outdoor venues; take a hands-on cooking class in the culinary center; watch a Broadway show, or catch a movie on a giant LED screen under the stars.

Many modern cruise ships are built for business, with complimentary use of cutting-edge A/V equipment and conference facilities. Flexible lounges and dining venues, as well theaters with multi-media production technology, are also used for meetings and group events. Increased cell phone coverage and rapid-speed Wi-Fi on ships now keep corporate groups connected during their cruise event.

A Look Ahead: Cruise Industry Trends

The cruise industry continues to look ahead with optimism and visionary focus. A few notable trends include:

Globalization: The industry’s “global footprint” is growing at a rapid pace. Cruise lines will continue to expand their presence in Europe, and more ships will be positioned in Asia and South America as the MICE market explodes in these regions.

Active Adventures during AmaWaterways river cruise

Active Adventures during AmaWaterways river cruise

Millennials and Multi-generational Cruises: A recent study found that Millennials are embracing cruise travel, rating it better than land-based vacations or all-inclusive resorts. Ocean and river-going ships are being built or refit to cater to younger and multigenerational groups, adding a greater variety of onboard activities and entertainment, plus more active and immersive destination adventures.

River Cruising: More Ships, New Destination Adventures: River cruising continues to grow and evolve, with increasingly luxurious ships, more inclusions, and authentic destination experiences. Due to demand, 13 new river cruise ships – from classic replica paddle-wheelers to all-suite luxury yachts –  are on order for 2017. River cruise lines are also appealing to younger, more active groups, offering bikes that guests can use in port and hiking and kayaking excursions.

MSC Yacht Club Butler

MSC Yacht Club Butler

More Upscale, Personalized Cruise Experiences: The future looks bright for the premium and luxury cruise segment, as well-traveled passengers – and corporate groups –  expect upgraded amenities, personalized service, and upscale experiences. Open-air dining venues, outdoor lounges, world-class entertainment, suite butlers, and exclusive “behind the scenes” excursions are becoming the norm on upmarket ships.

Mid-sized and smaller “boutique” brands will flourish, while larger lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess are adding more perks, exclusive facilities, and upscale experiences for suite guests for a “ship within a ship” luxury experience.

Ready to book your next cruise meeting or incentive (or just want to learn more)?

Give Landry & Kling a call at 305-661-1880, send an email to, or submit a request for a group or charter quote.