For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews planners for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: JIM RYE
PLANNER: CARL WOODRUFF
The Wall of China is no longer the only man-made thing visible from space. In November, Royal Caribbean International unveiled a cruise ship so big that it includes a Central Park. Yes, the 2,700-stateroom Allure of the Seas was opened up in the middle to accommodate balcony cabins overlooking a cavernous courtyard filled with “neighborhoods”—sections themed around a beach boardwalk, sports/water activities, spa/fitness, entertainment and NYC’s famous park.
The mammoth size provides planners with a dizzying array of restaurants/bars, activities, Broadway-style pizazz, purpose-built meeting space and no shortage of venues for private events—or even a tradeshow—away from the traveling public.
“Meetings aren’t an afterthought on the Allure,” says Jim Rye, President of Orlando-based Rymark International DMC, who attended the inaugural FAM. “It wasn’t like they took a couple cabins and turned them into meeting rooms. They actually have legitimate meeting space and policies in place for groups.”
The 4,400-sf dedicated conference center with built-in A/V is divisible by four, and seats 330 theater style. There’s also the 1,300-seat Main Theater and the 900-seat Studio B skating rink that’s convertible into meeting space during the day. “But it was designed so that it looks like a meeting space—not an ice skating rink that you’re sitting in while doing a meeting,” explains Rye.
Carl Woodruff, President of Woodruff Associates DMC, also attended the inaugural. He says, “Everything is fully wired for business, all you have to do is come in and plug and play. The dedicated space resembles more of a traditional hotel product.”
Rye likes the “gorgeous” open-air Solarium near the ship’s bow and the Champagne Bar for elegant receptions, as well as the outdoor bars for more casual events. Over 25 F&B outlets, many available for full or partial buyouts, are spread throughout the different neighborhoods, and planners can book Beverage Packages for a truly all-inclusive experience. A/V and conference space are always complimentary for groups.
For evening entertainment, the acrobatic Blue Planet theater show and production of Chicago: The Musical in the Main Theater earned high marks from the planners in attendance.
“I was impressed with the quality of the shows,” says Rye. “The inhouse productions were every bit as good as you would see on Broadway.”
Woodruff says that planners have oodles of teambuilding options aboard the Allure. “They have a lot of deck space if you want to put together any type of group event, and because it’s so big you can always create your own space.” Just some of the fun amenities include an 18-hole miniature golf course, cool FlowRider surf simulators (where you surf in place), rock climbing walls for “trust-building” events, and this is a first—a zipline.
There’s also the DreamWorks Experience featuring the movie studio’s characters from Shrek to Kung Fu Panda, so Allure is well suited for family/spouses accompanying a biz event. Lastly, RCCL offers exclusive group tours at all of its ports of call.
“The advantage of such a big ship is there’s so much to do,” says Rye. “You know it’s a giant ship but it’s not overwhelming because they’ve done a spectacular job making it feel comfortable with the neighborhoods. I mean, I was just blown away.”