Karen Devine (MPI Chicago Area
Chapter), president of 3D Cruise
Partners, also says the incentive market is ;locking toward river and expedition cruises, a trend that is bolstered by an explosion in the number
and type of these cruises now available.
“The product in river cruising has
really caught up with demand—
there’s literally a choice for every-
body, especially in Europe,” she says.
“It’s now much like the resort market,
whether you prefer a Four Seasons,
Hyatt or Marriott, there’s a right ;it
At the same time, Devine sees groups going for more adventurous
options, including expedition cruises to the Arctic or the Galapagos.
“There’s a lot more out there for the younger, more adventurous
crowd,” she says.
The growing interest in adventure cruising is not lost on the major
ocean cruise lines, according to Lisa Vogt (MPI At Large), associate vice
president, corporate incentive and charter sales for Celebrity Cruises.
The cruise line, which already operates a 100-passenger ship on sev-en-night itineraries in the Galapagos, is adding two 48-passenger
yachts in the region, which Vogt says will be a great charter option for
“People are looking for authentic destinations and great land ex-
cursions where you can really delve into the destination,” she says.
“There’s also a growing interest in charters, which allow planners to
really tailor a program.”
At the same time that incentive travel is growing more adventur-
ous, the duration of itineraries is also starting to lengthen, according
“Most of our incentive business is seven nights, not the three to ;ive
nights you would expect,” she says. “Groups can take that amount of
time and they are going for it.”
Like Vogt, Cassidy sees a growing interest in charters, an increas-
ingly accessible option as cruise lines expand their ship inventory. Not
only are charters popular for small incentives, but large corporate and
af;inity groups are also going for them. Recent charter groups on Roy-
al Caribbean have included everything from a four-night cruise for a
Chick-;il-A group to one for a global law ;irm that brought in people
from 50 countries.
“We are doing from 25 to 35 full-ship charters a year—it’s great
when people are looking for a single housing destination for 500 to
1,500 people,” she said.
VENUES AND CONNECTIVITY
For meetings held on board ships, perhaps the biggest evolution in recent years is the quality of meeting and event space. Increasingly,
cruise ships, most notably Royal Caribbean, have dedicated conference
space that is comparable to hotels with collapsible air walls and state-of-the-art audiovisual. Celebrity plans to have dedicated conference
space on its new Edge-class ships, the ;irst of which is launching in
SAFETY AT SEA
With travel safety of utmost concern these days, the
cruise industry has worked hard to position itself as
a secure alternative to land-based travel.
“We truly believe and the data supports that
cruising is one of the safest travel options in the
world,” says Lisa Vogt (MPI At Large), associate vice
president, corporate incentive and charter sales for
Celebrity Cruises. “We have security teams on board
the ship. All of the luggage and everything else is
scanned before it’s on board. There aren’t any guns
The flexibility that cruise lines have in moving
their ships away from trouble spots is an advantage
over fixed locations, she adds.
“For example, we could see that Turkey was
volatile, so we removed our itineraries from Istanbul,”
Vogt says. “We made this change before the terrorist
incidents at the Istanbul airport.”
Another point of emphasis is that cruise lines
are vigilant about monitoring everyone who gets on
and off the ship.
“Everyone is accounted for on board,” says Lori
Cassidy (MPI South Florida Chapter), associate vice
president, international meetings and incentives for
Royal Caribbean International. “You cannot just walk
on board a ship. And we monitor the watch lists.”
“Say, if you have a large incentive group of a
thousand or more, we might recommend doing 10
separate sailings for groups of 50,” he says. “It not
only reduces visibility, but you can really customize
things for each group. With all the safety issues,
there’s a need for something like this.”
Far from discouraging interest, Milo believes
that concerns over terrorism are actually making
cruise meetings a more attractive option.
“Now there is a lot of concern with the safety
of being somewhere that is a soft target,” he says. “A
cruise ship is not a soft target.”
While the Zika virus is a growing concern for
travelers, particularly in popular tropical cruising
regions such as the Caribbean, it is not something
that appears to be affecting cruise bookings.
“So far we have had only one group switch from
the Caribbean to Alaska because of Zika concerns,”
says Karen Devine (MPI Chicago Area Chapter),
president of 3D Cruise Partners. “At the same time,
interest in the Caribbean for 2017 is up.”
Similarly, Milo has not seen Zika negatively
affecting cruise business to the Caribbean, aside
from one pregnant attendee declining to go on a
shore excursion. When clients express concerns over
Zika, he responds by helping with precautions and
pointing out the fact that mosquitos are not found