Cruising towards uncharted shores

Cruising to new shores such as the Galapagos

Sailing out to sea presents a unique concept for business meetings and gatherings, but on such trips, shore excursions can hold equal weight in determining the success of the event.

At last month’s Asian MICE Cruise Conference, Naresh Rawal, vice president, sales – India and South Asia, Genting Cruise Lines, stressed: “Land tours play a very important role. The experiences on board the ship are important, but we also try to (create) experiences off the ship.”

Expedition cruising to unfamiliar shores such as the Galapagos are becoming more popular in recent years

For example, Genting Dream offers food trails through Malacca, while World Dream holds cultural immersion and handicraft tours at Japanese ports. Should a ship docks for only a few hours, the cruise liner may go the extra mile to bring local experiences on board for guests.

“One of our ships was in Australia, which is known for its fresh local produce. We brought local produce on board for our guests and called it a ‘farm to ship’ experience,” shared Rawal.

Corporate groups which desire something extra special can also consider chartering a private cruise, which allows full customisation down to the interior decorations and porting duration.

“People have a dream about what certain destinations are, and it’s up to cruise lines to fulfil that dream. For example, Phuket comes alive at night, so there’s no point in porting there from 09.00 to 17.00. You have to customise these things by changing the itinerary and getting creative,” said Steve Bloss, co-founder and president, Worldwide Cruise Associates.

For groups cruising on a scheduled route, Rawal and Bloss advised against taking shore excursions through a third-party ground operator, as the ship will not wait for latecomers.

Bloss also shared that the selection of ports of call determine whether corporate groups take up cruising. He said: “Companies are trying to inspire people to (cruise) and going to the same old places isn’t an answer anymore.

“Expedition cruises to places like the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica and the North Pole are becoming very popular, especially with senior management – people who have been cruising for years. (Companies have to) be creative, even if it means considering some products that are a little more expensive.”

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