A Planner’s Guide to Top 10 Cruise Event Types

Think cruises are all fun and games? Think again!

There’s some serious business being conducted at sea!

Celebrity Reflection Conference CenterMore meeting and event planning pros are discovering that cruise ships are terrific venues for corporate meetings, incentive travel programs, and group events of all types and sizes.

The Landry & Kling Cruise Event Specialists have been helping organizations plan and operate successful cruise programs for over 30 years. Here is their list of the most popular types of events at sea – including a few you probably never thought of.

Top 10 Most Popular Types of Cruise Events

1. Incentive / Employee Recognition Cruises

Nothing motivates performance like a cruise! Only 24% of the U.S. population has been on a cruise, and the all-inclusive nature of a ship, plus the allure of traveling to multiple ports, make an incentive at sea especially appealing. Read a few incentive cruise success stories.

2. Customer Appreciation Cruise

A ship’s self-contained environment makes cruising ideal for relationship-building. With a variety of on board dining venues, bars, lounges and theaters, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for entertaining your customers.

3. Business Meetings

Today’s cruise ships offer meeting planners complimentary use of dedicated conference centers, flexible meeting space and built-in A/V. Unique spaces and new destinations also lead to creative thinking and increased camaraderie. Read a few meeting at sea success stories.

4. Conferences, Conventions and Trade Shows

Increase attendance, simplify planning and control expenses by booking your conference at sea. With capacities of up to 5,000 people, cruise ships are convenient, self-contained venues.  Read a few case studies of successful trade shows on cruise ships.

5. Continuing Education at Sea

Planners of medical, legal and other professional continuing education programs are using cruise ships to increase attendance and boost satisfaction ratings. And they’re perfect for family-friendly programs! Here are two continuing education at sea success stories.

6. Executive Retreats

For the ultimate in security and privacy, consider a small ship or yacht charter. If a full-ship charter isn’t feasible, take a look at the “ship within a ship” private cruise ship enclaves, offering the best of both worlds.

7. Theme or Special Interest Cruises

An affinity, themed or special interest cruise is the best way to bring like-minded people together to share and celebrate their common interest. Ships provide a budget-friendly alternative to land-based venues – if feasible, consider a private charter to fully customize the cruise experience.  Read about a few successful theme cruises.

8. Fund Raisers at Sea

Universities, hospitals and other organizations motivate donations through travel programs that earmark a portion of the cruise price for a worthy cause. Rock Legends Cruise 3 is a successful example - it’s a sell-out!

9. Full-Ship Charters

For the ultimate security and prestige, charter a vessel for your organization’s exclusive use. The opportunities for customization are limitless – daily activities, menus, even ports of call can be adjusted to support your needs. Read a few cruise ship charter success stories.

10. Dockside Charters or “Floating Hotels”

If there’s a shortage of hotel space for a city-wide convention, sporting event or global gathering in a port city, consider a dockside ship charter to accommodate the overflow. A unique solution that is sure to create buzz! Read about successful Dockside Charter events.

Read more about Top 10 Types of Cruise Events.

More Sneaky and Annoying “Hidden” Hotel Fees

Booking a hotel for your group – or yourself? Word to the wise: pay extra close attention to the fine print.

business woman with luggageAs a meeting & event planner, you travel – a lot - so no doubt you’ve already encountered hotel “resort fees”. These fees typically range from $25 to $50 per day, and cover everything from beach umbrellas and lounge chairs to fitness centers and tennis courts – whether you use them or not. Now, imagine you’re booking an average-size group – say, 100 rooms for 4 nights. Even at the low end, that’s an extra $10,000!

And these supplemental fees continue to creep up. According to a new study by New York University hospitality professor Bjorn Hanson, hotels will rake in roughly $2.25 billion in revenue this year from added fees—that’s 6% more than in 2013 and nearly double that of a decade ago

Lately, we’ve been hearing about other fees you might not expect. Here are:

10 hotel fees that are sneaky, surprising, or just plain annoying.

1. Mini-bar - Mini-bar charges are already outrageous, but now, even moving an item in the minibar can trigger a fee. Many hotels bill items to guests’ rooms if sensors in the minibar note they have been removed for more than 60 seconds.

We read about a Las Vegas resort that goes one step further, charging a $25 a day “personal use fee” if a guest puts their own soda or bottled water in the minibar. A guest in need of a mini refrigerator can have one delivered to their room — for an extra $35 a night.

2. Early check-in / late departure - If if you want to an early check-in or late check-out, it’s fairly standard for hotels to charge a $50 penalty or imposed a “day rate “of about 60 percent of the regularly nightly rate. Now, more hotel chains are imposing the full nightly rate

3. “Urban” Fees - Resort properties are not the only ones cashing in on extra fees.  A $20 per night “Urban Fee” at a hotel in downtown San Francisco includes Internet, local phone calls, newspapers, morning coffee and use of bicycles. Again, you’ll be charged whether or not you avail yourself of these amenities.

4.  Confirmed Bed Type – Prefer two queen beds or one king? A quiet room away from the elevator? That might also cost you – some hotels in Las Vegas charge $30 to guarantee room preference or bed type.

5. Towel Card Charge: Many resorts provide towel cards at check-in that you exchange for a towel at the pool or beach. If you don’t return the card at check-out, expect to see a charge as high as $25.

6. Fitness Center - Want to work out during your meeting or business trip? It will cost you. If not included in the resort fee, expect to pay anywhere from $10 – $40 a visit.

7. Audio/Visual - AV fees can really add up. Meeting planners who want to bring in their own AV company are complaining about hotels that charge a fee for not using that property’s in-house service (much like a restaurant charging a corkage fee).

8. Valet Parking - Some hotels offer self parking (for a fee), but many downtown hotels charge up to $40 a day for mandatory valet parking -tip not included!

9.  Room Service – Figure on a charge of up to $20 for a simple continental breakfast (pastries, coffee, juice) from room service. Delivery charges and 18 – 20% gratuity are usually added on as well.

10. Tax on Service Charge - Our staff reported a hotel that added 22% service to F&B charges – and then taxed the service charge! Thank goodness meals are included on a cruise.

To be fair, not all hotels are guilty of these sneaky “hidden fees”, and many disclose resort fees at the time of booking. But be aware and check your hotel bill or group contract carefully for miscellaneous charges. Demand transparency, especially in regard to resort fees. Better to negotiate these items in advance than dispute them at checkout or while reconciling your group account back in the office.

Want to simplify your budget planning and avoid the whole “hidden fees” issue?

Book a cruise! Save big with these budget items included in your cruise rate: Meals in main dining room as well as casual dining and room service, entertainment and shipboard activities (including sports and fitness center), meeting space and AV equipment.

Of course, additional charges may appear on your shipboard account, but these are transparent and optional, such as surcharges in specialty restaurants, spa services, alcoholic beverages, some fitness/enrichment classes, shore excursions, Internet access, and casino gaming. No big surprises here.

Your Preview of the World’s First “Smart Ship” [video]

This falls in the “Just when we think we’ve seen it all” category!

Cruise ship technology has come a long way in the past decade or so, but Royal Caribbean’s newest ship is taking it to the next level. This isn’t just a big jump forward – it’s a Quantum Leap, making Quantum of the Seas the most technologically advanced ship ever to set sail!

Quantum of the Seas’ Smart Ship Technology

Where do we begin? How about before you board the ship?

SMART Check-In: To simplify the boarding process, your cruise event attendees can upload their own photo and receive digital boarding confirmation. No forms to fill out, no lines to wait in – from sidewalk to ship in 10 minutes! Keeping track of luggage is also a breeze – once their bags are tagged with radio frequency identification (RFID) at the curb, attendees can track them every step of the way on their smartphones via the Royal IQ app.

SMART App: The Royal IQ is a new IOS and Android app that will help your participants manage their time before and during the cruise. Royal IQ includes a convenient calendar that provides at-a-glance views of their program, and keep in touch with one another and home via phone and text capabilities.

SMART Wearable Technology:  A simple tap of their RFID-activated “Wow Writstband” will allow your attendees to quickly navigate the ship and make on board purchases - it even replaces the old key card.

SMART Connection:  Thanks to satellites launched with tech partner O3b Networks, Quantum of the Seas will offer huge amounts of bandwidth – unprecedented in the cruise industry. Your group participants will be able to stream videos and games, upload photos and share to social media – even Skype – at lightning fast speed. To help put it all in prospective, imagine this: Quantum of the Seas will have more bandwidth that all other ships sailing in the world…combined!

SMART Experiences: This ship is set to deliver more Wow’s unlike anything your group has ever experienced – on land or at sea! Such as…

  • Bionic  Bar: “Mixology meets technology” at the first bar in the world with robotic bartenders.
  • Two70: Technology powers entertainment at the smart new venue, where 270-dergree views provide a projectable backdrop and unique, immersive experience. Dancing Roboscreens and awe-inspiring Vistarama join performers to offer the most complex and technologically advanced entertainment at sea – or quite possibly, the word!
  • Virtual Balconies: Are you including interior staterooms in your room block? Not to worry – on Quantum of the Seas, every room has a view! All interior staterooms have virtual balconies that display real-time signs and sounds of the sea through 80-inch LED screens.

Ready for your 5-minute “Smart Ship” experience? Check out Royal Caribbean’s latest video:

The Ultimate Ice Bucket Challenge – 24 Ships in 24 Hours! [Video]

Have YOU taken the #IceBucketChallenge?

Here’s how it works: Participants are encouraged to pour a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenge others to do the same or make a donation to fight ALS within 24 hours.

Carnival Cruise Lines just took it to another level! The cruise line enlisted all 24 of its ships to participate in the icy challenge designed to raise much-needed awareness for the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Breeze was the first ship to rise to the challenge when Cruise Director Matt Micham threw down the gauntlet by dumping the entire contents of the 150-gallon PowerDrencher tipping bucket.  He then challenged the other 23 ships in the fleet- sailing in the Caribbean, Alaska, the West Coast and Australia – to get soaked for a great cause. And they had to do it within 24 hours!

But that’s not all - Carnival is also making a $100,000 donation to the ALS Association. A big cruise company with an even bigger heart – will others follow suit?

Watch the video here:

Onboard MSC Divina – memorable moments, plus more to love

Last week, one of our friends from MSC Cruises stopped by the Landry & Kling office to give us an update on the latest ship developments (one of the benefits of being based in South Florida, “The Cruise Capital of the World”!).

MSC Divina in BahamasA few of us had the opportunity to experience MSC Cruises’ Mediterranean Way of Life last December during an inaugural cruise aboard MSC Divina. We were delighted to learn that since then, new features have been added, making this “dazzling diva” even more appealing for meeting and event planners!

But before we get to “what’s new”, let’s take a look back to what the Landry & Kling team had had to say about their MCS Divina experience:

Our Top MSC Divina Experiences

From Joyce Landry, CEO: I loved the framed diva photographs and biographies throughout the ship – Claudia Cardinale, Gina Lollobrigida, Audrey Hepburn…It was wonderful to have authentic Italian food – rich olive oil, creamy risotto, fresh made pasta, great selection of Italian wines. I liked the concept of cruising Mediterranean style in the Caribbean – it added an international flair and distinguishes MSC from other ships in the market.

MSC Divina Waiters

Our waiters celebrate Italian style in the dining room.

Cyndi Murphy, VP Corporate Planning: Boarding the ship, you enter an impressive Atrium featuring two dramatic Swarovski crystal staircases and a classical quartet… what a way to begin a cruise! I also loved the Mediterranean style and stunning decor of the bars and lounges. With 1600 seats, the Pantheon Theater is a spectacular setting for an awards presentation!

MSC Divina Swarovski stairs

Swarovski crystal staircases

Gretta Roque, Administrative Specialist: I heard great reviews of all the shows, but my favorite entertainment was the Dueling Pianos in the Golden Jazz Lounge. The two musicians were very engaging and funny – they had the crowd singing and clapping along during every show.

MSC Cruises Golden Jazz Lounge

Golden Jazz Lounge

Maureen McKeon, Web Content Editor: The production shows in the beautiful Pantheon Theater were superb – they earned well-deserved standing ovations every night. I also loved the delicious Italian coffee and food products available throughout the ship (I am now obsessed with Venchi chocolates!)

Why Meeting & Event Planners Love MSC Divina

MSC Yacht Club – The premier upscale “private ship” experience on a large ship is available for the first time in North America. Sixty-nine luxury suites with 24-hour butler and VIP concierge service, complimentary wine and spirits, private restaurant, lounge and pool are – available for group buyout!

MSC Divina Yacht Club_TopSailLounge

Top Sail Lounge in the Yacht Club

Meeting & Function Space – The largest theater at sea; dedicated meeting space and an abundance of venues for private events – always complimentary.

MSC Divina Pantheon Show Lounge

Pantheon Theater, the largest at sea

Top 18 Solarium for adults offers relaxation pools and lounge beds, on-deck spa treatments, chilled towels, cooling misters, complimentary fruit skewers and a tiki bar.

Two speciality restaurants by critically acclaimed gourmet Italian food emporium, EATALY – Ristorante Italia by Eataly and Eataly Steakhouse.

MSC Divina Eataly Italian Restaurant

Eataly Italian Restaurant

And Now There’s More to Love!

MSC Divina, dedicated to the North American market, is now sailing to the Caribbean from Miami, but in 21015, the ship will begin offering seasonal itineraries, giving planners a wider range of destination choices. Sail to alternating East and West Caribbean ports November through April, and visit Western Mediterranean ports May through October.

Other new developments:

  • An expanded partnership with upscale Italian food emporium Eataly
  • New menus with more health and wellness offerings
  • New Segafredo coffee bar, plus barista demonstrations and classes
  • New enrichment programs focused on MSC’s Mediterranean heritage, including pizza-making classes with Italian chefs, Mediterranean cooking classes, Italian language lessons and more
  • First-ever Aqua Cycling at Sea
  • MSCinema Al Fresco – New jumbo screen on the pool deck
  • Enhanced entertainment program with more live music and greater variety of activities throughout the ship

Learn more about MSC Cruises and download your MSC Divina Ship Guide for Planners. Do you want to hear more about MSC Divina or other great news from MSC Cruises? Give us a call at (800)448-9002 or +1 (305) 661-1880.

p.s. Stay tuned for updates on new MSC ships, including a ground-breaking new project unlike anything ever before seen at sea!

An unpublished short cruise on a new ship – revealed!

Want a sure-fire way to motivate your sales team and celebrate success? Offer your top performers a “getaway” group cruise to the Caribbean!

You’re the first to hear about this unpublished “gem” cruise

MSC Divina at seaOur friends at MSC Cruises told us about a short itinerary on their new ship, MSC Divina. This cruise is unpublished and perfect for meetings, incentive travel programs, or any kind of group event. Sail roundtrip from Miami to sunny Cozumel with two full days at sea – a “surf and turf” itinerary conducive to meetings, teambuilding, shared onboard experiences, and building stronger relationships.

New 4-Night Cruise on MSC Divina

April 22 – 26, 2015 (Wednesday – Sunday)
Miami – Day at Sea – Cozumel, Mexico – Day at Sea – Miami

Need Exclusivity? Book Your Own “Ship Within a Ship”

MSC Yacht Club Butler

MSC Divina is the first ship sailing in the Caribbean to offer the cruise line’s exclusive MSC Yacht Club - available for group buyout. This exclusive “ship-within-a-ship” complex includes 69 luxury suites, each with private Butler; 24-hour concierge service; complimentary wines and spirits available throughout the day; plus a private lounge, restaurant pool and relaxation area. Reserve the entire Yacht Club to give your group the ultimate exclusive experience!

On Board Facilities for Meetings and More

Pantheon Theater on MSC Divina, Capacity 1,600MSC Divina boasts three dining rooms and a Tex-Mex alternative restaurant, over a dozen bars and lounges (many suitable for meetings), a dedicated conference room, and a 1,603-seat Theater (pictured right), showcasing acclaimed entertainment each evening.

Learn more about MSC Cruises and access your free Planner’s Guide for MSC Divina. To book your meeting, incentive, or group event on MSC Divina, give us a call at 888-713-1371 / International: +1 (305) 403-3002. Or, send an email to Vicki Fernandez: vfernandez@landrykling.com.

Read more about MSC Divina.

A Conference Planner’s Challenge – and Unconventional Solution

Connections are the lifeblood of conferences.

Planners know that in order for a sponsored event to be successful, there must be ample opportunities for attendees and vendors to meet, spend quality time together, build trust and strengthen relationships.

To illustrate this point, we’d like to share a challenge a conference planner faced, and the “elegant solution” that saved the day. The planner needed a venue for her association’s annual conference, but wanted to overcome some stumbling blocks that were issues in the past. Willing to try a different approach, she reached out to the cruise event specialists at Landry & Kling.

Here’s a snapshot of the previous conferences:

  • One day event
  • Vendors have limited time to spend with attendees
  • Some attendees never make it to the exhibit hall
  • Difficult to spend time with attendees’ to learn their real needs
  • Attendees don’t have time to discuss vendors’ products and offers
  • Difficult to build real relationships because of limited time together

Obviously, this association’s one-day event model was no longer working. The Landry & Kling sales associate listened to the planner, and this is what she heard: “Vendors and conference organizers need to spend more time with the attendees.” And so our cruise specialist offered a new concept – one that would solve the planner’s challenge and make her a hero in everyone’s eyes.

A New Model: The Three-Day Cruise Conference

Enchantment of the SeasWe proposed a conference at sea during a 3-night cruise to the Bahamas. Our savvy sales team knew that thinking “outside the box” would bring this planner’s attendees and vendors together and help build lasting relationships (and generate leads for the vendors).

Here’s how attendees and vendors came together:

  • Cocktail Reception on first night of cruise includes attendees and vendors (complimentary)
  • Three Dinners Included – The association could schedule vendors with attendees at the tables rotating each evening (actually, all meals are included with the cruise).
  • A Cruise Ship is a Self-Contained Environment – More time to mingle and network between conference sessions.
  • Days in Port – Those with shared interests can plan activities and share adventures together.
  • Shore Excursions - Vendors could pay for excursions pre-selected by attendees, and include a personal note with tickets. (Examples in Nassau, Bahamas: Organized Golf Tournament, Full day at Atlantis Resort, Rainbow Reef and Snorkel Tour)
  • Event Space – The ship had multiple venues available for association meetings and vendor displays (meeting space and use of A/V is complimentary)
  • Meetings after meetings – Vendors have three days to build trusted relationships (spending more quality time with attendees away from the conference floor).
  • More Entertainment With Less Cost – Actually, no cost! Meals and evening entertainment – including Broadway shows and Las Vegas acts – are included on the ship.

 Additional Sponsorship Opportunities

  • Wine with dinner
  • Special activities or team building event in port or on the ship
  • Special logo gift delivered to attendee cabins daily
  • Special invitation literature delivered to attendee cabins daily
  • Sponsor dinner in Specialty Restaurants
  • Special dessert with company logo
  • Professional photography service (group photo or individual)
  • On-board credit for spa treatment or beverage package

A three-day conference at sea was an “elegant solution” for all

The conference at sea created buzz, boosted attendance, and generated leads. Attendees had more time to enjoy the ship’s complimentary amenities and explore exciting ports of call, while vendors had more opportunities to make solid business connections and nurture relationships with attendees. The shared experiences created lasting memories for everyone. As they often say at Landry & Kling, Friendships made at sea are said to last a lifetime.”

You can read more meeting at sea success stories here.

Need help with your conference or event at sea? Give us a call at 800-448-9002 or (+1) 305-661-1880.

Being Stuck in an Elevator – the Brain Shift

In today’s analytic, results-driven workplaces, you might think “being social” doesn’t play a role in success. But you’d be wrong…

The key to happiness – it’s not what you think

Recent science now proves that our brains are wired to be social, with an urge to connect with others that’s equally strong as our essential need for food and shelter – motivating us to live, play and, yes – even work together.

UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman explores the ground-breaking neuroscience behind our need to be social in his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect. Using new brain imaging tools, he’s shown that developing strong connections in our lives is the secret to making us smarter, happier, and more productive.

The implications for meetings?

Building in opportunities to socialize, connect, collaborate and share memorable experiences during business events just makes good sense.

Cruising – the bold and experiential choice

Group on cruise ship deckBesides the cost-savings (dining, entertainment, meeting space and AV included) and travel advantages (visiting different ports of call), the self-contained environment of a ship brings people together in a stimulating new environment where they will simultaneously experience a deeper level of connecting. The following metaphor will make it clear:

Being stuck in an elevator – a metaphor

Recall that time you got stuck in an elevator?  At first you turned inward – frustrated or perhaps angry, preoccupied with your private thoughts or worried about this disruption, avoiding eye contact with others, wondering how long it would take, etc. But then, as it became clear it wasn’t a quick fix, something shifted!

You realized you’d be together with these people for awhile, so you looked around, really seeing each one for the first time. You smiled, said something funny to break the ice, and all of a sudden you were no longer strangers, but fellow-humans sharing an experience. Feeling closer, you each dropped your guard and prepared to make the best of it together, knowing you’d have a fine story to share later.

Now, I’m not saying that being on a cruise is like being stuck in an elevator! So stay with me and imagine — as your ship gets underway, taking you out to sea, away from your everyday life — your brain immediately shifts into a joyful bonding mode, because you know you’re starting and ending together as colleagues, connected in sharing this exciting new experience!  The brain is such a wonderful thing…

You Can’t Build a Rocket by Yourself

The desire to connect and collaborate is fundamental to success – in life and business. As Dr. Lieberman reminds us in this recent TEDx Talk, “You can’t build a rocket by yourself.”

Why Galapagos should be on your must-experience list [video]

A Galapagos expedition is more than just another travel experience – it’s a life-changing adventure. If you’re looking for a destination to truly inspire and motivate your group like no place on earth, you’ll find it here. Watch this mesmerizing video from Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic and you’ll see why Galapagos should be on your must-experience list.

One minute and 32 seconds of pure enchantment – enjoy!

Learn more about Lindblad Expeditions and what sets them apart.


Pop the cork and release the confetti! [video]

History was made this week as the very first piece of steel was cut for Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ newest ship, Seven Seas Explorer. On July 15th, 2014, construction officially began on what Regent is calling “The Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built” at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy.

When she debuts in the summer of 2016, Seven Seas Explorer will establish a new standard for elegant style and service at sea. Sailing with only 750-guests, the ship will boast the highest space ratios and staff-to-guest ratios in the cruise industry. The ceremonial first piece of cut steel will serve as the foundation for an opulent, one-of-a-kind suite unlike any other afloat.

We are anxiously awaiting more details on this new addition to Regent’s fleet of all-inclusive, mid-sized vessels – another great destination choice for meetings and incentives, and perfectly suited for ship charter! During the steel cutting ceremony, Regent Seven Seas Cruses President Kanal Kamlani said:

Seven Seas Explorer will surpass the current standard in luxury cruising, offering a new level of grandeur throughout the ship from its lavish suites to its elegant public spaces and gourmet restaurants.

Watch the video from the ceremony – can’t you just feel the excitement?

Learn more about Regent Seven Seas and download free planner guides for all their ships.