Making a case for MICE cruises

Customisation, access to unique destinations, all-inclusive fares, and use of event facilities, dining venues and entertainment options are just some of the distinct benefits of taking a business event onboard a cruise ship, but persistent myths surrounding the experience need to be dispelled

It is widely known that cruises allow holidaymakers to explore various destinations without the hassle of packing and unpacking while enjoying the ease of an all-inclusive fee that covers accommodation, transportation, F&B and entertainment.

For corporate groups taking their gatherings to the high seas, a cruise experience brings far more benefits.

While Genting Cruise Lines (comprises brands Star Cruises, Dream Cruises and Crystal Cruises), has seen continued year-on-year growth in corporate bookings for events of 30 to 2,000 guests, its senior vice president – international sales, Michael Goh, revealed that some persistent myths surround MICE cruises still stand among corporate clients.

“The common misconception is that MICE cruises can be costly and boring,” said Goh.
His observations are echoed by industry peers Freddy Muller, Silversea Cruises’ vice president, corporate & incentive sales, and Farriek Tawfik, Princess Cruises’ Southeast Asia director.

Adding to Goh’s list, Farriek said clients also perceive events onboard cruises as being inconvenient, a hassle to organise, and lacking in event facilities and capabilities.

All the right reasons
Naturally, cruise representatives are eager to set the story straight.

Goh said: “In fact, (the cruise product) is the most cost effective form of group travel and promises diverse and unique business offerings in one seamless voyage. The ship itself is a destination on its own, complemented by enchanting destinations.”

Farriek added: “Participants are able to wake up at a new destination every day (but) need to pack and unpack only once which means more time for them to engage in activities.

“As well, shore excursions also offer great opportunities for team bonding and can be tailored to a group’s specific interest. Furthermore, groups can visit destinations that can only be accessed by sea or are difficult to reach over land.”

Cruises on the high seas are also “distraction-free” while allowing planners to “balance the seriousness of business objectives with leisure”, Goh pointed out.

An even more tantalising benefit, is the customisable nature of the product.

Said Muller: “The majority of business events on Silversea are full ship charters. This allows a corporation endless opportunities to customise their experience. They can select their destination, duration of voyage, and (onboard) branding opportunities.

“We have team members located globally to be visible and accommodating. We even have an operations team dedicated solely to running all our business event programmes.”

Something for everyone
Muller believes that there is cruise ship for any type of corporate gatherings.

“Most of the cruise lines are able to offer programmes for true incentive, reward programmes. Others allow for more meetings and conventions, as they have purpose-built ships for this type of business; these ships would have large conference facilities,” he said.

Farriek noted that Princess Cruises’ larger ships are ideal for meeting groups of 300 to 500 people, thanks to their large theatres and dining halls.

Genting Cruise Lines, with its different cruise brands and products, can accommodate events “of any scale”, remarked Goh.

“We get a good mix of incentive trips, company retreats, seminars, product launches and award ceremonies,” he said, adding that the introduction of Dream Cruises’ massive ships, Genting Dream and World Dream, homeported in Singapore and Hong Kong/Nansha respectively, have given the company “greater flexibility to accommodate any events at sea”.

Education as game-changer
Cruise industry leaders told TTGmice that the way to dispel these common misconceptions about MICE cruises is better education targeted at event planners.

“We see a big potential in MICE cruises as there is currently a low awareness among planners and companies that events can be organised easily and held successfully onboard cruise ships,” said Farriek.

“We are driving and promoting further awareness of MICE cruises. We are working closely with our partners such as travel agents to offer fam trips and training. Our educational tour onboard Sapphire Princess in Singapore last January, done with, for example, received an excellent response.”

As well, Muller emphasised the need to show the differences across cruise brands, products and segments. For example, planners could consider expedition cruising and river cruises as well.

“We have seen that business from Asia does venture outside of (regional) waters, showing interest in destinations such as Alaska and the Mediterranean,” he said.

 

This article is part of – Events of the high seas, first published in TTGmice October 2018

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