An independent meeting planner who resisted our cruise conversations for 10 years finally took a chance with a cruise when he needed a fresh, unique idea for a high-end program. What happened with his 5-night charter from Athens to Istanbul?
For 10 years, Lance Wieland resisted holding a meeting on a cruise ship. “Every year Joyce Landry called to talk about cruises, but I was never interested,” says the director of meetings, incentives and travel for Unum Corp., an insurance company based in Portland, Maine. That resistance broke down, however, when he needed a very high-end and unique incentive program two years ago.
“We chartered Seabourn Sprit, a 100-cabin vessel, for a cruise from Athens to Istanbul for our top sales reps from around the world,” says Wieland. “It was the most incredible experience and the highest-rated program we’ve ever run. We had super deluxe, five-star accommodations and service, and the crew took care of our people like nobody could. It was a real education about what cruising could do for us.”
Back to the Sea
Our meeting planner returns to book an Incentive Cruise for group of 500.
Won over by the previous success of Unum’s full-cruise ship charter, Lance Wieland booked the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess for another incentive program. During the seven-day cruise, his 500-person group attended two general sessions and an award show in the ship’s “very sophisticated” 748-seat theater. “It was a fairly turnkey operation, as most of the audio-visual media you’d consider using were already on ship. That was very nice. We brought aboard our own stage manager, lighting designer and producer for all three events, but used the ship’s very professional technical staff.”
Wieland says his meeting background didn’t prepare him for the fact that the names and responsibilities of a ship’s departments are different from those of a land-based hotel.” (Landry & Kling) gave us guidance in a lot of areas we might not have thought of, such as what ship would best match our group’s needs and cabin assignments and what to ask for during negotiations and while on board.”
His advice for other planners considering taking a meeting on the seas? “Although my ship experiences so far have been limited, they’ve been really overwhelmingly positive. I highly recommend cruising. I wouldn’t say it’s better than a land program, but it’s a fantastic part of the incentive mix for us. It’s like asking if chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla ice cream; they’re both good. Variety is good, and cruising adds a whole new dimension to the incentive experiences we can offer.”