If not for boundless sky and sea, the top deck of the Celebrity Solstice could easily transport groups to a typical summer’s evening on Martha’s Vineyard.
Barefoot picnics and yard games take place on its freshly cut lawn, a concept that revolutionized the cruise industry when introduced nearly a decade ago. A recent $8 million makeover of the ship has added outdoor movie nights to the ship’s list of cruise experiences, complete with alcove-style cabanas and dining menus that complement the movie’s theme. Groups watching “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” for instance, nosh on curried chicken salad, roasted cauliflower with tamarind-infused basmati rice and other Indian-themed dishes, wines and beers during the film.
The “Taste of Film” experience is one of many new Celebrity programs that Lisa Vogt, associate VP of corporate incentives and charter sales, hopes will inspire experiential learning among groups. “We’ve also partnered with Bravo and its Emmy Award-winning show ‘Top Chef’ to offer ‘Top Chef at Sea.’” For more on this and other new Celebrity experiences, read on.
Leveraging onboard technology in creative ways is high on the agenda when meeting at sea. Enter Celebrity’s silent discos, where groups don wireless headphones—as opposed to the usual earth-shattering speaker sound systems—and dance the night away. “Music is broadcast via radio transmitter,” Vogt says. “It’s a fun activity that our incentive groups love.” Celebrity’s meeting space is flexible and multi-functional, so it’s also easy to hold a disco in one room while simultaneously holding a meeting or dinner in another, complete with Celebrity’s Michelin-starred catering.
The iTV system in Celebrity’s staterooms can be leveraged by planners to engage attendees in all sorts of ways, while new digital signage can be used for branding and event communication. Of course, crucial to pulling off a successful event at sea is WiFi accessibility. Celebrity rolled out the Xcelerate WiFi service earlier this year with speeds capable of video calling, messaging and online streaming.
Vogt says experiencing life as a local is also an expectation of seafaring groups. The cruise line has upped the ante on its port excursions to reflect this demand, with CSR top of mind. One case in point is the Galapagos cruise; a full day is dedicated to visiting a giant tortoise farm. “Groups can also participate in a reforestation effort—up to 8,000 trees are planted every year.” Post-cruise experiences, visiting local farms and greenhouses and chatting with locals can also be arranged. “Throughout the trip, groups will learn about responsible tourism activities that fuel and help preserve the islands—while encountering the beauty of the islands as well,” Vogt adds.
Grabbing a Bite
Celebrity’s focus on experiential learning is brought to the forefront with its culinary programs. This year, “Top Chef at Sea” ‘cheftestants’ hopped onboard in Miami to battle it out in a number of “Quickfire Challenges.” Groups got in on the action via meet and greets, sampling of the chefs’ creations, demonstrations, private cooking classes and chef-led port excursions. Next year, a pop-up restaurant will be added to the mix, featuring a combined menu of some of the chefs’ best dishes. Groups can also join Celebrity’s chefs on port excursions to markets, docks and restaurants followed by a locally inspired dinner.
Other fun culinary experiences are the ripple machine, which allows groups to create their own custom image print, or perhaps company logo, directly on their cappuccino, and a sommelier-led wine blending class, where they bottle their own wines and create their own labels.