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July 10, 2008
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Sean J Mahoney:Choose to cruise




More and more meeting planners and corporate decision makers are considering cruise ships for international meetings and events. That’s probably because modern ships are like resorts and hotels in many ways.

They feature comfortable accommodation, fine restaurants, luxurious spas and an endless array of onboard activities. Some ships even feature sophisticated meeting facilities, wireless technology and other services designed specifically to support business events.

However, there are a variety of unique features that truly distinguish cruise ships from other land-based options.

Better value and variety
The economic environment and stagnant budgets in recent years have converted many non-believers to cruising because of exceptional values. Overall cruise programme costs are considerably lower when measured against comparable resorts, including meals, entertainment and the multitude of services and activities offered onboard most vessels.

Inclusive prices also make cruises easier to budget – there are few hidden or extra costs. Major cruise lines accept US dollars eliminating worries about fluctuating currencies and exchange rates, value added taxes and tariffs in other countries.

Variety is another important reason many organisations chose to cruise. Guests are transported from one exotic destination to the next without the hassle of packing and repacking. A single voyage could include ports featuring exceptional golf, cultural, historic, beach and adventure opportunities. Guests can choose from several different restaurants onboard, featuring extensive a la carte menus (versus catered banquet menus).

Cruise ships also offer a wide assortment of entertainment and other complimentary activities, from sophisticated stage productions, dance parties and variety acts, to lectures, culinary demonstrations and fitness classes. Cruise lines are able to exceed expectations by accommodating a wider variety of personal interests, which leads to higher rates of total guest satisfaction.

A safer haven
Political instability and threats of violence have caused some organisations to change or cancel their international travel plans. Safety and security are top considerations when selecting a destination. Executive decision makers and planners have turned to cruise ships in the last few years to address their growing concerns. After all, a cruise ship is a self-contained environment.

Access to the vessel is permitted via a single guest gangway, and all guests are required to show a boarding pass to enter or exit the vessel. What’s more, some planners appreciate the ability to re-position the vessel if a destination experiences trouble – cruise lines simply adjust the itinerary if necessary (try moving a land-based resort).

Full ship charters are becoming more popular because they provide organisations with exclusive use of the vessel. It’s much easier to protect high-profile attendees and proprietary business content when you control everything that happens onboard and access is restricted to your guests only.

Cruises have been popular among automotive, insurance, financial services and other dealer/distributor type industries for incentive reward programmes for some time, and cruising is now gaining ground among other industries for meetings, seminars and conferences. And as you can see, it’s no wonder.

Sean J Mahoney is vice president of worldwide charter and incentive sales at Silversea Cruises.


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