Tag Archives: meetings on ships

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.

Adam Headshot 010816Royal 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.”

1460412496_SEA-Ovation-of-the-SeasRoyal 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.

Competitive cost

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.

1474615886462Meantime 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.


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.”

More info:



Cake me away gals 2

Meetings on ships are easy to arrange, cost-effective and exciting, and there are more benefits aboard than ever, says Joyce Landry (below), CEO and co-founder of cruise events specialist company Landry & Kling. The Florida-based industry pioneer talked to The Siteseer about her business and what’s on offer.

The Siteseer: Are you really finding there’s more interest in meetings afloat these days?

Joyce Landry - PhotoJoyce Landry: Yes, meetings and incentive planners are looking for new experiences and more opportunities to boost motivation and loyalty. At the same time they’re challenged to demonstrate strong return on investment and return on engagement [ROE], often with tough time and budget constraints. An event at sea delivers it all – great experiences, creative meeting spaces and with multi-generational appeal, and it’s all-inclusive and easy to plan.

SS: Tell us a bit about your company.

JL: My partner Jo Kling and I are former cruise line executives who shared a common vision back in 1982: to bring cruising and the corporate world together. Our company was the first resource for business meetings on cruise ships, and that’s still our primary focus more than thirty years later. We provide cruise solutions and custom cruise planning for ship buy-outs, incentives, cruise meetings, theme cruises and dockside ship charters. We’re the only cruise event specialist that’s been inducted into the Cruise Lines International Association Hall of Fame.

One of our specialties is cruise ship charters. We also originated the concept of using chartered cruise ships as floating hotels to provide supplemental dockside housing during big city events, like the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.

Ovation of the Seas (1)SS: What’s new in the industry?

JL: Well Asia-Pacific cruising is booming! For example Royal Caribbean International signed a deal recently with the Singapore Tourism Board and Changi Airport Group to promote and launch more cruises than ever from Singapore. Royal Caribbean also plans to increase the number of departures from Singapore on Mariner of the Seas [which can accommodate over 4,000 passengers] to more than forty a year.

Their new ship,Ovation of the Seas, will homeport in Sydney for winter 2016-17 and will be the largest and most technologically advanced cruise ship in the region. Meantime MSC Cruises is sending MSC Lira to China in early 2016 and may be building new ships for the Chinese market.Princess Cruises is also building a new ship that will be based in China year-round.

SS: What are the main advantages of using a specialised agency like yours?

JL: We’re not an all-purpose travel agency and we don’t work for any single line; we offer impartial cruise event advice and a menu of services – everything from ship selection and operational planning to onsite staffing and marketing support. Most members of our team have a background in the industry and we know what it takes to convert a land-based program to a cruise environment.

SummitAmericas-Dockside Trinidad-Ship-BannersOver the years, we’ve established relationships with cruise lines and suppliers, and we have lots of creative ideas for customised experiences. We’re based in South Florida, widely known as being the cruise capital of the world, so we can inspect many ships and meet face-to-face with line executives on behalf of our clients.

SS: What are your most popular programs? Is there an “ideal” size for a conference or incentive group aboard, or length of cruise, in your experience?

JL: Our most popular events at sea are incentives, all types of meetings and conferences, as well as ship charters – anything from an executive retreat for fifty people to a 5,000-person convention. The length of cruise programs are typically four to seven nights, with most top-tier incentive programs on new or “ultra-premium” ships sailing for seven nights.

We’re always on the lookout for outstanding short cruise itineraries and last-minute charter opportunities to share with clients. We keep an updated list of these short cruises on the Cruise Gems page on our site.

SS: What are the other benefits of conferencing afloat?

JL: [There are distinct trends like] enhanced onboard wifi capabilities and more competitive Internet service pricing, high-tech entertainment venues, more culinary options, celebrity chef partnerships and interactive dining experiences, and more outdoor spaces for eating, entertainment and sports. There are also more active and authentic adventures ashore, and exclusive private [“ship within a ship”] enclaves available for groups to book, like MSC’s Yacht Club concept, and “The Haven” concept on Norwegian Cruise Line vessels.

SS: Where does your clientele hail from, mostly? Are you finding they’re becoming more budget conscious?

JL: They span the globe, from North and South America and the Caribbean to Europe and Asia-Pacific. While we’re noticing a return to high-level incentives, planners are still watching their bottom line. The all-inclusive aspect of ships obviously make them an attractive alternative to land-based venues. Meals, entertainment, sports facilities, meetings space and AV equipment are all complimentary.

The-crowd-onboard-ITS-THE-SHIP-2014SS: Can you point to recent examples of successful events for which you’ve been responsible?

JL: Our website has some good meetings-at-sea stories, including the SKF Latin America Distributor Conference. This presented us with some onboard challenges that required creative solutions, like building plasma screen kiosks to showcase products that were too large to bring on board, sourcing a translation services company to provide simultaneous multilingual translations in meetings, and working with the ship’s staff and chief engineer to create a big farewell event on the sports deck.

We’ve also had great success in planning and operating music-themed charter programs, like The Livescape Group’s “It’s the Ship” festival (above), Asia’s largest music event at sea. [See the promo clip here: https://youtu.be/NuJ3xh1IyIo].

The 2014 event was very successful and the November 2015 sailing is quickly selling out. An estimated 3,100 electronic dance music fans are expected to be onboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas when she sails from Singapore for three nights of performances by dozens of international and regional acts.

SS: How does your ship selection process work?

JL: There are over 300 cruise ships sailing, so busy meeting planners simply don’t have time to sort through all the choices to find the best fit. That’s where we come in. We listen to clients, and research and recommend the best options based on their needs. We then use our knowledge and experience to get the best deals.

CelebrityReflection-ConfRoom-ASS: What does the future hold?

JL: More than 30 new ships are currently on order, including mega-yachts, expedition ships and river vessels, and with cruise lines recognising the burgeoning international MICE market, I believe the future of meetings and incentives at sea couldn’t be brighter.

For more information visit landrykling.com,shipcharters.com or call +1(305) 661-1880.

See a clip of Joyce Landry giving some great packing tips here: https://youtu.be/vtokO8D-QDQ.

And Landry & Kling’s “Scuttlebutt” blog here: http://blog.landrykling.com/2015/08/25/meeting-at-sea-the-inside-scoop-for-planners-down-under/.




With all-in costs of $200 to $300 per person per day, demand for dedicated conference space on P&O’s two latest ships, to begin operating in Australasian waters from late 2015, is already booming, say the company’s marketing spokespeople.

For instance 20 bookings and one charter are confirmed for 2016 for Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, which start their down-under itineraries in November this year, says the company’s Corporate Groups Sales Manager Peta Torkington (below).

IMG_0035“We’re seeing great figures though our MICE team was only established fairly recently,” says Peta. “It means at some point we’ll run out of availability and we’ll be pushing people through to 2017 and beyond.”

That’s a vindication for P&O’s decision to target the events sector as a potential new growth segment, based on shorter cruises, with the theme of “leave earth for your next conference”.

The decision is supported, too, by the company’s efforts to make onboard experiences more appealing and contemporary for leisure and events guests alike, says Peta. This is reflected in the food on offer in, for example, a new dining concept known as The Pantry (pictured at the end of the story), a move away from the traditional cruise practice of carrying a loaded tray round a buffet.

Food market afloat

Designed as a kind of food market afloat, it’s a discrete eating area onboard with eight serving outlets providing fare ranging from Indian and Malaysian to a carvery and fish and chips. Pacific Jewel recently became the first of the line’s ships to offer this, following a multi-million-dollar refit.

Other program additions include a revamped entertainment line-up, “Gatsby” evenings, and team-building activities like P&OEdge, an adventure program at sea that lets you climb, swing, jump and race your way through the ship, as these intrepid climbers, below, are doing.

“It’s not all bingo and buffets,” says Peta. “It’s modernising what the cruise experience is about. The new entertainment and food options dovetail with our MICE offering because delegates can be involved with the same theme night events and, for larger groups, private themed functions. We can tailor experiences for any group, from gala dinners to welcome drinks and team-building.”

EdgeSuch flexibility helps belie the “Butlin’s Holiday Camp” perception some people may have about cruising, she adds. Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria – beautiful former Holland America ships – carry a maximum of 1,500 passengers so they’re almost boutique-like.

“Meetings on ships have been happening with our whole fleet of course, but the options have been for flexible conferencing, because the venues had to be shared with other passengers. I think having a dedicated true conferencing space with a theatre and break-out areas that delegates can use all day is the key reason we’re now of particular interest to events planners.”

How does this work in practice? The conference area is located on one deck and in one area of each ship, positioned so there’s no need for other passengers to enter it. Each vessel can cater for groups of up to 200 delegates this way.

Meantime feedback from clients who’ve already sailed is uniformly bullish, with many, like Cheryl Slender, executive assistant to the CEO of Aerocare Flight Support, saying it’s the best conference they’ve had and they’ll do it again. “We’ve been to many hot and cold locations but the P&O cruise was the most successful,” says Cheryl.

Kim Badawi, marketing coordinator at The Pops Group, says much the same thing. “The feedback from our 180 conference attendees has been exceptional,” says Kim.

Luxury at $200 to $300 per day

The most popular P&O cruises for MICE travellers are the short-break three- to four-nighters, which represent outstanding value compared with conferencing at a hotel, says Peta. “It costs between $200 and $300 per person per day for a three-to four-night conference cruise, and that’s all-inclusive: three meals a day, the conference venue including AV, absolutely everything.”

For a virtual tour of Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2x6IcjQGqw

More info:



The Pantry

Pool Area

Industry planners seeking to organise engaging MICE events that come in under budget will have new options from November 2015. That’s when P&O Cruises Australia adds two ships with dedicated conference space to its existing fleet.

Events afloat, especially incentives, have been around as an option for decades now. But interest in meetings on cruise ships has surged in recent months since P&O began work on a new offer – with the theme of “leave earth for your next conference”.

It’s based on a key factor that appeals to events organisers, explains Rebecca Mutanen (below, left), Senior Sales Manager for P&O Cruises Australia: shorter cruises. Over 40% of the company’s business now consists of two- to four-night itineraries.

Rebecca MutanenAnd it expects growth to accelerate when its new ships arrive, because the former Holland America vessels now re-named Pacific Aria (whose atrium is pictured, below) and Pacific Eden (immediately below) have dedicated conference facilities capable of handling up to 200.

P&O Cruises has catered for meetings of hundreds of people already on its existing ships by being flexible with the use of space on board and breaking up sessions to run sequentially, Rebecca says. “However we’ve knocked back a lot of business because of that, with organisers saying they actually need at least two full days of conference. With the new ships we’ll have formal conference space as well as plenty of room for break-outs so we can really knock their socks off.”

Staterooms, venue hire, main meals, entertainment and so on are all included in the price, she says. Other than beverages there’s no added cost, or any daily delegate charges on top.

Changing perceptions

P&O’s own research indicates that many organisers still don’t understand the conferences-afloat concept – or they think it’s hugely expensive – which is why its now focusing on  combating the perception a conference on a ship is frivolous, or “not serious enough,” as Rebecca puts it.

ms_Ryndam_Pacific EdenOne company that needed little convincing is an equipment manufacturer that took 350 delegates along with 150 partners and kids for a conference on Pacific Dawn in June. On this seven-night voyage to the Pacific Islands, the organisers arranged a product launch on board, and it also served as an incentive trip for suppliers. For such events, or for any group of more than 150, a head-office staffer from P&O sails with delegates to troubleshoot.

P&O has hosted technology, finance and pharmaceutical companies as well as associations in this way. Some organisations have tougher internal regulations for getting such events across the line than others, Rebecca observes, but as awareness grows, more and more are in favour.

Three- and four-nighters

From November most of the three-nighters on the two new ships will be from Sydney and Brisbane. They’re round trips, so the vessel itself is the destination, though some offer a port call. That includes a cruise from Melbourne which goes to Burnie in Tasmania and sailings from Brisbane to Moreton Island.

Some four-night cruises from Sydney also head for Moreton Island, with a full day at the resort township of Tangalooma where there are plenty of opportunities for team building, like sand tobogganing rides and dolphin-feeding. Other four-night options from Sydney include calls at the Mornington Peninsula, the Hunter and Sunshine Coast.

Atrium - P&O Cruises Pacific Aria and Pacific EdenWhatever floats your boat

For the rest of the time, après-conference guests have the whole ship to enjoy, Rebecca says. “Go in the bars, or do any of over 60 activities a day; you can catch a show or just hang out with colleagues on deck. There’s a lot of added benefit in networking from having your delegates all in one spot, and the event planners don’t have to organise anything.”

In many cases where delegates want their partners to accompany them, organisers will choose a cruise that includes a weekend.

Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden will be in dry dock and undergoing refurbishment before arriving in Australia. P&O’s three existing ships, Pacific Pearl, Pacific Jewel (whose main theatre is pictured, left) and Pacific Dawn – which has just been refurbished – will continue to operate in Australian waters.

Less than $300 per day

P&O has done a breakdown of conference costs on board for a three-night conference/incentive cruise compared with a city four-star hotel. Given that, inter alia, function space is complimentary and there are no additional transport or logistical costs, the ballpark cost per delegate per day is $290 compared with $347 for the hotel.

Pacificpearl marquee theatre“That’s being quite generous [to the hotel],” says Rebecca Mutanen. “You have all your main meals including a gala dinner for which we section off a part of the restaurant, venue space, state-of-the-art AV, technicians on hand and so on. There’s no better time in the MICE market to be offering such an experience that allows planners to come in under budget.”




Watch the video below for more exciting images: