Wondering where your next incentive travel destination should be? An incentive cruise could be your best bet. They’re one of the most popular “destinations” in the industry and for a wealth of reasons. From entertainment value to saving yourself some time and headache, take a look at 10 Reasons to Put Your Incentive Travel Program On a Cruise Ship from the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE).
Sure cruise ships have always been able to get people from point a to point b. But today’s cruise ships are more like floating cities with luxurious accommodations, top notch entertainment, fine dining and activities from rock climbing to zip lining and everything in between. Here are some ways cruises may just be the way to go for your next incentive program.
All ships include the basic elements of an incentive program in the cruise menu: Accommodations, meals, entertainment, activities, cocktail parties, a/v equipment, private function space, taxes and gratuities. Some cruise lines include free WiFi, unlimited liquor packages, specialty dining and even shore excursions. If it’s not included, you can add them to your program, in advance or onboard.
Greece, Alaska, Scandinavia, the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica, and Tahiti – these are just some of the places where a cruise is the only way to visit. Sure, you can do a land program in Athens – but it is so much more interesting to include a variety of day trips to Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Crete. You can’t do that by land and you certainly cannot fly your large group from island to island – nor would you want to. Even the Caribbean is so much better by sea. True, a seven-night land program in Jamaica is lovely and relaxing – but it is so much more interesting to visit a few nearby islands over the course of a week.
We have all been there – to that gorgeous five-star hotel. The sleeping rooms are lovely. The service is great. The food is wonderful. And at night – the place is a ghost town unless the sponsoring company has brought in some great live entertainment or has taken you off site to be dazzled. So you either sit at the bar – where there may be a singer or guitar player – or you retreat to your room to watch CNN or “This is Us”. With the world being what it is – many people are reluctant to go out into an unfamiliar city to find some fun. Nightlife onboard a ship is very different. You will have multiple restaurant and bar options, a casino, gift shops and several shows ranging from a variety of musical performances to ice skating and high dive spectacles to full blown Broadway-style productions. The larger ships have theme parties and even parades! The ship is up late at night – and there is always something to do! And if you’re thinking shuffleboard for an activities today’s cruise ships have rock climbing, sky diving via simulator, flow riders for “surfing”, gambling, cooking school, spa, roller skating, go karts, water slides, laser tag, bumper cars, wine tasting, trivia contests, dance classes, fitness center, yoga, 3D movies and so much more. It’s impossible to get bored!
Go to most hotels and you can access the spa, restaurants, lobby, pool and other facilities – sometimes even the sleeping room floors – and you don’t have to be a registered guest. True – many hotels require a key card to access the elevator – but many do not. Hotels rely on outside patrons to hit their revenue targets – so everyone is welcome. It’s very different onboard a cruise ship. You must be a registered passenger with credentials to even board the ship. No outsiders are allowed to embark ever! All passengers pass through metal detectors and security before they can board. Luggage goes through a hefty screening process. Additionally, the ship travels with full-time, highly trained security officers. There are cameras just about everywhere. And at night, when the ship sails – every passenger is accounted for. How would a hotel know if one of their guests went out into town and got into trouble?
Anyone can book a group on a regularly scheduled sailing of a small or large cruise ship. Chartering your own “floating hotel” provides the exclusivity that makes an incentive program extra special. That’s something you cannot typically do at a hotel. From small yachts to floating cities – most clients can find a ship to charter. You can customize the itinerary, duration, onboard programming, off-ship shore excursions, entertainment and activities. This is the pinnacle in incentive cruising. Take your group of 5,000 to even the largest convention hotel – and they will still be a group trying to find each other inside the property or at the pool. Charter a cruise ship for the same group and magic happens. Everything onboard is geared towards them and the customization options abound. Every guest onboard the ship has been invited by the corporation – and the only other people onboard are the ship’s crew.
Want everyone in your large group to have the exact same balcony cabin with the exact same view? Easy! Ships have a large supply of balcony cabins as well as a variety of upgraded suites – some with butler service, and most with added amenities. Cruise lines make it easy to procure the right space for your event.
Unlike a hotel, you don’t need a no-walk clause. Cruise lines cannot take your rooms away once you have booked the cabin and received the suite numbers, which you will receive after you deposit. Simple!
A cruise is less cumbersome to manage than her land counterpart; therefore you don’t need to hire as many trip directors. The cruise staff will take care of making sure your needs are handled, functions are pre-set, excursions are booked, dining is arranged, VIPs are taken care of, entertainment is scheduled and rooms are ready on time. True, you will still need to have your team man the hospitality desk and communicate special requirements onboard – but there is so much less for you to worry about. This will save you thousands of dollars traditionally spent on land programs.
We find that cruise lines are far more lenient when it comes to deposit amounts and attrition. With a charter, once you sign the contract you are responsible for the entire ship without an out clause. However, when booking a group and even a large group – the cruise lines allow you to cancel the entire agreement without penalty between a year and nine months prior to sailing. After that time, you can reduce space – most times up to a 40% release, without penalty on a sliding date scale. It would be great if every client knew his or her exact number at contract phase – but that isn’t always the reality. There is less risk of paying penalties when booking a cruise ship.
Want to visit Bermuda by cruise ship? Just fly to JFK or Newark. See the Greek Islands? Fly to Athens. Amalfi coast? Fly to Rome. Caribbean? Just get the group to Miami or San Juan. By cruising, you eliminate triple flight connections for much of your group. In many cases they can fly non-stop. You save time and money otherwise spent getting everyone to Mykonos, Greece or Sorrento, Italy, for example.
This post originated on SITE’s Motivate Blog and was authored by Jennifer Juergens