No one planning a cruise meeting or incentive program 10 or even ;ive years ago could
have imagined the options now available.
A sea change has taken place by way of the types of ships, itineraries,
venue choices and experiences both on board and off-board. Few in the
industry know more about the evolution of cruise meetings than Jo Kling,
who co-founded the cruise meetings ;irm Landry & Kling, Events at Sea
more than 30 years ago.
Among the biggest changes she’s seen is the way that cruise lines
have come to value a business segment that was once tangential.
“When we started, many cruise lines did not have a meetings and in-
centives department, but now even the smallest cruise line will have
one,” she says. “The ships have become much more like hotels in regards
to meetings. People on staff have often come up through hotels and they
are accustomed to handling the particular needs that meetings have.”
Cruise lines are increasingly equipped to go beyond handling the ba-
sics, working with planners to create unique and customized experienc-
es that rival anything offered by a land destination.
“For groups, we’re always looking to one-up and provide something
exclusive,” says Lori Cassidy (MPI South Florida Chapter), associate vice
president, international meetings
and incentives for Royal Caribbean International. “There’s a dedicated team to focus on group activities both on the ship and on the
shore excursions. Groups want experiences that are extraordinary,
things they can’t do on their own.”
What are groups looking for in
cruise programs these days? It varies according to industry, Kling notes.
For high-end incentives, cruises that emphasize customized and off-the-beaten-track experiences are especially big.
“Insurance and ;inancial incentive groups like luxury and they also
like to charter,” she says. “They might even do a charter to Antarctica or
other off-the-beaten-track places. River cruises are also huge. Anything
Cruise lines have
come to value a business
segment that was once