Cruise Shipping Miami: Meetings at Sea Get Support

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Crystal Serenity in Santorini, Greece
Crystal Serenity in Santorini, Greece

A super-sized charter, new venues and inspiring cultural connections to exotic locales—the cruise industry and its partners continue to offer intriguing choices for meetings and incentive experiences. At the 30th edition of the industry trade show Cruise Shipping Miami, Prevue checked in with some of the key players and found enthusiasm for meetings that hit the high seas. Here are a few highlights:

CRUISE LINES TO GROUPS: WELCOME ABOARD

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has taken to meetings in a big way since buying Sixthman, the cruise-charter company that specializes in creating music festivals at sea.

Norwegian Pearl has been almost exclusively booked by charters,” NCL President and CEO Kevin Sheehan said at “State of the Industry,” the cruise CEO roundtable that kicked off the four-day event in March.

And people were still talking about “the Bud Light Hotel,” possibly the world’s biggest charter. Anheuser-Busch InBev took the entire Norwegian Getaway for three days around the 2014 Super Bowl and turned it into a floating hotel and branding device for Bud Light.

Crystal Cruises has also been onboard with meetings at sea for some time. “Group meetings have surged at Crystal Cruises,” said Eric Graves, vice president of field sales. He said inclusive pricing is one of the attractions for meeting planners; groups pay one price, with no added costs. It’s one of many factors that demonstrate “the tremendous value inherent to a luxury product like Crystal’s,” he said.

MEETINGS WITH A (STUPENDOUS) VIEW

Hong Kong’s new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is an important meeting venue in its own right, not just a way station for people headed elsewhere.

A dramatic departure and entry point on Hong Kong’s harbor, it has capacity for 6,000 cruise pax, 2,000 crew—and an additional 3,000 pax in each of its four flexible meeting spaces. A fifth space, an outdoor apron, also offers the harbor as a spectacular natural backdrop for group events. The terminal is scheduled to open its second berth in July.

Finding pax for all that capacity is the job of the Asia Cruise Fund, a first-ever alliance between Hong Kong and Taiwan Tourism Bureau officials. They announced the fund at Cruise Shipping.

Not that they seemed worried about getting people to sail through their ports. They cited a report by the United Nations Development Program that foresees about two-thirds of the world’s middle class residing in Asia by 2030. They plan to be there with plenty of ideas for spending all that new income.

PORT CONNECTIONS

In the past year, Hong Kong has seen a number of new hotels of interest to meeting and incentive groups, said Bill Flora, U.S. director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Business groups can take a class in business tourism at Tai O Heritage Hotel. Crowne Plaza Kowloon East has one of Hong Kong’s largest ballrooms. Does your group want to stay within walking distance of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre? Book at Mira Moon Hotel or Hotel Indigo, both in the Wan Chai district.

Singapore will be making a splash with art lovers in 2015, when the prestigious private museum Pinacothèque de Paris opens its first location outside Europe. Situated at Fort Canning Park, it will include meeting and event space for groups seeking a creative atmospehere in which to do business.

History and culture have always been major draws for Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. “Incentive and corporate groups are booming,” said Elif Balci Fisunoglu, general manager of the Istanbul Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

With seven convention centers and 90,000 hotel rooms—including new ones from the Hilton and Four Seasons brands—the city has been one of the top 10 convention destinations for the last three years, she said. Istanbul’s many academic, business and scientific institutions help to support the market for association meetings. “Istanbul is doing very well in meetings and incentives, especially in associations,” she said.

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