The 49 participants in the recent “Cake Me Away” conference of cake decorators in Australia hugely enjoyed their four days of meetings, dining together and networking. Unusually though, the ground seemed to be moving under their feet.

That’s because they were on a ship, P&O’s Pacific Aria, on a four-day voyage from Sydney to Moreton Island, off Queensland, and back. The attendees of what was marketed as Australia’s first “cake cruise” were able to demonstrate their specialised skills, enjoy demonstrations and classes, formal night, themed fun night, trivia sessions, treasure hunt and a day exploring Moreton Island. Some guests chose to bring along their partners, family and friends who joined in the non-conference activities.

Prices for the package included all meals and started off at $1,249 per person twin share.

“The staff on the ship were amazing, nothing was ever a problem for them,” says Blair Olsen, one of the chief organisers.

Cake me away gals“There was always someone around to help with whatever we needed. The conference rooms on board [the Bondi and Noosa] and the Torquay theatre were well equipped and in close proximity to the atrium and reception areas, which made access to staff easy.”

Indeed it was so easy to hold the event and everyone enjoyed it so much that the group immediately booked two more floating conferences with P&O – for February and October 2017. And they are now seeking to arrange a similar event for their Kiwi counterparts.

“Cake Me Away Cruises” is the brainchild of Christine Kerr of The Raspberry Butterfly cake-decorating school in Newcastle, New South Wales. Cake decorating cruises have been happening in the US for a few years and Christine was keen to sail off on one. But it was too pricy to travel to the States, so she decided to organise an Australian version, says Blair. Christine approached P&O’s conference people, who helped put the icing on the arrangements.

One scribe penned this on the site’s Facebook page: “Loved every minute of it. Great work by the team to pull it all together so well.” Another said: “I had the best time, learnt heaps, made friends and I will be on the next one, see you then.”

The feedback must be encouraging for P&O in Australia, which last year began to offer conference space and services on the sister ships Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden in discrete, dedicated conference rooms. With all-in costs of AUD 250 to AUD 300 per person per day – including all meals, the conference venue including AV, and a dedicated groups specialist in Sydney to assist with organisation – demand is reportedly growing strongly.

Rebecca MutanenThe cruise line has already doubled its 2015 booking numbers in 2016, with six months of the year remaining, says P&O Corporate Groups Sales Manager Rebecca Mutanen (pictured left).

“Interest for the rest of the year is strong – our challenge is that we need more cruises to offer clients,” she says.

“The Noosa and Bondi rooms have a partition that can be opened up to create a larger space, so the ships can accommodate up to 180 guests for an event,” says Riccardo Garbin, Administration and Revenue Director for P&O who spoke to The Siteseer onboard. “We also cater for many larger incentive groups, which are very popular on all ships.”

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