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May 19, 2015

Sub-Saharan Africa: Cruise Conferencing and Incentives Create a World of Opportunity at Sea

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Cruises have always been synonymous with luxury, glamourous travel and, it would seem, old age. Most of the people I’ve met along the course of my life who’ve been on cruises were well into their 50’s or 60’s with kids who had just finished school and could fend for themselves while their parents took a well-deserved break. These days, however, cruises are becoming a rather exciting option for glamming up a conference or incentive package. According to a SITE Index study, Focus on Cruises for Incentive Travel, around 73 percent of meetings industry professionals expect to use a cruise line for a client’s incentive group within the next three years, while 53 percent of the 735 professionals surveyed in the US and Europe, said they were likely to organise a meeting or conference on board a ship.

With this in mind, I recently dug into the local market to find that South African cruises are flourishing. Dalene Oroni, who heads up the Groups and Incentives Department at Cruises International, says that people working in MICE tourism need to “think outside the ballroom”. “Cruise ships are perfect venues for meetings and congresses,” she continues, “Delegates only need to unpack once while enjoying a variety of destinations. For organisers, the advantage is that cruise liners offer state-of-the-art facilities and a complete organizational package including logistics, hospitality and technical aspects.”

General awareness of cruising as a viable incentive and conference option is not as high in the country, despite cruises offering exceptional value if one divides the overall cost of the cruise by the number of days. Meeting spaces are often included in the price, which simply serves sweetens the appeal.

Some of South Africa’s best known cruise companies include Cruises International’s varied portfolio and MSC Cruises, with many other operators who can arrange the perfect cruise conference for event organisers and corporates. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are still the most popular and most affordable cruise lines for South Africans, although MSC and Costa ships have more international flavour for corporate groups that have a diverse range of guests. Smaller, more intimate ships have also been making waves (no pun intended) by offering exclusive experiences to clients. River cruise ships are also great options, while luxury hotel barges accommodate small getaways.

“It goes without saying that cruises offer an incredible range of destinations,” says Oroni, “Of course, this is the big thing that separates a conference or meeting at sea to a land-based one.” South African companies can easily have their meetings in European destinations like Lisbon, Rome, Barcelona, Dubrovnik and Venice, while Dubai opens up a world of opportunities in Muscat, Haifa, Athens, Santorini and Istanbul.

“That is why so many companies are considering cruising and, because of the demand, Royal Caribbean International has created a designated MICE department and has dedicated on-board group co-ordinators to handle individual group bookings,” Oroni explains.

Team-building activities can also be arranged on board and all major cruise lines are well-versed in looking after groups – no matter the size. The most difficult part is choosing the ship and the itinerary to suit your delegates!

Over 300 ships cater for all corners of the market and most offer a pre-arranged price per head, inclusive of flights and transfers. Packages generally include all meals and accommodation, all entertainment and leisure facilities, as well as meeting space on board – as well as whatever organisers wishes in advance, according to an article on Cruise Experts. There are over 500 destinations visited by cruise ships, which can just as easily stop at places inaccessible by other means – Antartica, the North Cape or a quiet Caribbean island to name just a few. For the ultimate event, entire vessels can be chartered for a short time, giving organisers the opportunity to change the itinerary, brand the ship and guarantee privacy.

“I appeal to the South African travel industry not to ignore this major international trend in the MICE business,” says Clem Galindo, Royal Caribbean’s International CMI and Incentives Manager, who was guest speaker at a series of workshops for the local travel industry.

Ships to Put the Wind in Your Sails

There are a few things that should always be considered when looking at a cruise s hip for a MICE event. Firstly, cruise ships offer unrivalled on-board experiences, from indulgent stateroom amenities to spectacular entertainment and a variety of gourmet dining options, while fitness centres and casinos are standard. Secondly, there are dedicated, state-of-the-art facilities with conference spaces that are upgraded to the latest audio and visual equipment – on-par with any land-based facility. MICE packages usually include full technical support and a range of business services. Thirdly, packages can easily be tailored to suite the group travelling with customised menus, on-board branding, events and shore excursions – not to mention cocktail parties and the like. Cruise International has a number of ships in their portfolio and as such, they provide a unique selection of opportunities for conference goers or incentive travellers. Here are some of their superb cruise liners and their offerings:





Royal Caribbean International

261 destinations in 72 countries and 6 continents

The FlowRider (surf park)

Rock wall

Ice rink

The first ever zip line at sea

22 ships in the fleet with six classes:

Oasis Class: 5,402 guests

Freedom Class: 3,634 guests

Voyager Class: 3,114 guests

Radiance Class: 2,501 guests

Vision Class: 2,435 guests

Sovereign Class: 2,852 guests

Quantum Class: 4,905 guests

Celebrity X Cruises

Alaska, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, the Caribbean, North America (Canada & New England), Europe, Galapagos Island, Hawaii and South Pacific, South America, Transatlantic


The world-class Elemis Aqua Spa

A Martini ice bar

A glass blowing studio

The Lawn Club

11 ships in the fleet with four classes:

Century Class: 1,814 – 1,894 guests

Millennium Class: 2,034 – 2,046 guests

Solstice Class: 2,850 guests

Xpedition Class: 98 guests


Azamara Club Cruises

Asia, West Indies, Western & Eastern Europe, Scandinavia & The Baltic, Greek Isles, Holy Land, South America, Transatlantic, British Isles

Butler service

Egyptian cotton bathrobes with slippers

Complimentary wine, beer and selected spirits during bar open hours

Unique spa offerings

Wellness programmes

Complimentary self-service laundry


2 ships make up the fleet:

The Journey: 694 guests

The Quest: 694 guests


Oceania Cruises

Asia, Alaska, Australia/New Zealand, Caribbean/Panama Canada, Canada and New England, Greek Isles, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, North, South & Central America, South Pacific

5 open seating restaurants

Acclaimed Canyon Ranch Spa Club Treatment

Port intensive itineraries

24 hour butler service for suite guests

Complimentary soft drinks and bottled water

Gourmet culinary programme

Bon Apetit Culinary Centre: the only cooking school at sea

4 ships make up the fleet:

Regata: 684 guests

Insignia Nautica: 684 guests

Marina: 1,250 guests

Riviera: 1,250 guests

Crystal Cruises

Alaska, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Caribbean, Hawaii, South Pacific, Mediterranean, Mexican Riviera, Middle East, New England, World Cruises

Themed enrichment courses

Computer University at Sea

Creative learning Institute

Complimentary early embarkation with champagne

Multiple overnight calls

2 ships make up the fleet:

Crystal Serenity: 1,080 guests

Crystal Symphony: 940 guests


Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Caribbean, South America & Antarctica, Transatlantic, World Cruises

Shopping with the chef

Movies under the stars

Caviar on the surf

Complimentary on-deck massage moments SM

Complimentary wine, spirits, fine Fench champagne, soft drinks and mineral water

Extensive shore excursions

Marina Day with complimentary water sports

6 ships make up the fleet:

Seabourn Spirit: 208 guests

Seabourn Legend: 208 guests Seabourn Odyssey: 450 guests Seabourn Sojourn: 450 guests Seabourn Quest: 450 guests

Windstar Cruises

Caribbean, Costa Rica, Panama Canal, Tahiti, Mediterranean, Greek Islands, Northern Europe, Baltics, Transatlantic

Fewer than 300 guests

Private yacht experience

Pampering without pretence

Extraordinary destinations

Casually elegant style

Exceptional value

4 ships make up the fleet:

Wind Spirit: 148 guests

Wind Star: 148 guests

Wind Surf: 310 guests

Star Pride: 212 guests

Seadream Yacht Club

Amazon, Asia, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Transatlantic

Country-club casual ambiance

Ocean-view accommodations

Wine with lunch and dinner

Open bars through the yacht

Watersports marina

Caviar Splash party Movies under the stars

2 yachts make up the fleet:

SeaDream I

Seadream II

Both accommodate up to 112 guests

Variety Cruises

Italy & France, Greece & Turkey, Adriatic, Cuba, Seychelles, Costa Rica and Panama, West Africa

This is an intimate line of small ships that offer life-enriching cruise journeys. Private charters are possible for those who want to captain their own yacht.

11 ships make up the fleet:

Harmony G


Panaroma II


Harmony V



Monte Carlo


Absolute King

Christiana VIII

Ama Waterways (River Cruising)

Danube – Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia

Rhine – France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland

Douro – Portugal, Spain

Volga – St. Petersburg, Moscow

Mekong – Vietnam, Cambodia

Rhone – France, Spain

Seine – France

Mosel – France, Germany

Main – Germany

Ayeyarwady – Myanmar Burma

Luxurious cruise accommodations

Gourmet dining including complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks for European sailings

Infotainment system with free internet access and movies

Daily tours and excursions

Lectures, themed dinners, cooking demonstration and on-board music performances

Complimentary bicycles with guided bike tours

15 ships make up the fleet:


AmaDolce, AmaLyra, AmaDante, AmaCello, AmaLegro, AmaDagio: 148/150 guests

AmaBella, AmaVerde: 161 guests

AmaCerto, AmaPrima: 164 guests

AmaVida: 106 guests AmaSonata: 164 guests


AmaKatarina: 212 guests

Vietnam & Cambodia

AmaLotus: 124 guests La Marguerite: 92 guests


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