With the imminent arrival of the new Ovation of the Seas in Australasian waters, now’s the time for MICE organisers to start planning a memorable event aboard a billion-dollar, 168,000-tonne floating palace.
So says Adam Armstrong (pictured below), Managing Director for Royal Caribbean Australia and New Zealand. And it’s no mere cliché. At 168,000 tonnes, she’s the equal fourth-largest passenger ship in the world. She has 18 decks, can accommodate 4,905 guests and 1,500 crew and is a jaw-dropping 347 metres long. She’ll make her Australian debut in December, sailing from Sydney, and return for a second Australian summer season in 2017–18.
Royal Caribbean’s five locally based ships – Ovation of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and Legend of the Seas – offer dedicated, large and small meeting and conference facilities. While the company’s core business area is leisure, the MICE sector is growing in influence, says Adam.
“As the Royal Caribbean brand becomes more familiar to Australian companies we’re seeing enquiries increase,” he says. “Most of our Australian cruises are an average of ten or more nights. Our ships are big enough to host large groups [with a requirement to book at least eight staterooms] and our business is nimble enough to work with event partners on their specific needs.”
Adam adds that one of the parameters for organisers to consider is that the average Royal Caribbean cruise is ten to 11 nights, which suits a certain type of event or incentive. Spaces aboard are “sleek and modern” and can accommodate events ranging from a board retreat for a few to a large-scale national sales meeting. There are also complimentary audio and visual services, Voom – said to be the fastest Internet at sea – plus a dedicated crew member who’ll help ensure everything runs smoothly.
That’s obviously in addition to the other facilities on board like multiple outstanding dining options and entertainment and “incredible features like FlowRider surf machines, a sky-diving experience, rock-climbing walls, ice skating and more”.
Herein lies one of the main attractions for PCOs, says Adam. Everything’s in one place. “That includes conference facilities, accommodation, a la carte dining and entertainment – with great service. Plus guests all have access to the incredible features of the ship outside the conference facilities.”
What about the perception some organisers have that facilities on a ship may lack flexibility? Adam has a clear message here: a prime consideration for a MICE event at sea compared to those on land is to ensure the conference aligns with the itinerary you’ve chosen.
“For example we wouldn’t recommend planning a full day of conference talks while the ship is berthed in an idyllic South Pacific destination,” he says. “In addition the cruise you choose needs to align carefully with staff timings. There’s obviously no ability to embark a day late, or debark early. That said, no other venue in the world can offer such variety of experience as a cruise ship.”
Royal Caribbean offers a small number of two- to three-night sailings every season. They’re popular with new cruisers who want to test the waters and for our repeat guests who might not have time for a longer holiday. It’s also a good option for MICE organisers seeking to limit the amount of time employees spend out of the office.
Conference costs can vary depending on the style of conference, number of guests, length of cruise, and a range of other factors. Adam suggests discussing this with a trusted travel agent. But a quick scan of the Royal Caribbean International website reveals that an Ovation of the Seas “three-night sampler” cruise departing Sydney on 17 February next year starts at $1,029 per person twin share, for a balcony stateroom. (Cheaper options are already sold out). The five-night “Tasmania sampler” departing Sydney on 23 January 2017 starts at $1,699 per person twin share for a balcony stateroom, with the cheaper options also already sold. That’s just over AUD 300 a day, and it includes meals and entertainment. All up, as experts agree, it will be much less than a similar sojourn at a hotel with comparable facilities, and offering more.
Meantime the excitement for Ovation of the Seas’ arrival has exceeded expectations, says Adam Armstrong. “She’s unlike anything that’s sailed here before. The demand for the ship was so high we extended her maiden season earlier this year with an additional four extra cruises from Sydney, and announced she’ll return for the second summer season. Australians can’t wait for her to arrive.”
More information: Phone 1800 754 500 Groups (in Australia). 866-562-7625 (USA).
Or email Royal Caribbean at this link.