Cruise vs. Hotel - Planning Differences

Arrival/Departure Patterns

Meeting planners accustomed to arriving at the hotel a day or two before the group often arrive on a ship only an hour or two before their participants. Typically, everyone embarks within a 4-hour window of time. This means you really have to be ready to hit the ground running.

24-hour Hold: Instead of many “behind the scenes” function rooms, cruise ships offer a variety of beautifully furnished public rooms that can be reserved for private groups on selected days at specific times. Regrettably, with the exception of a full-ship charter, there is no such thing as a “24-hour hold” on the ship’s major public rooms. Advance coordination with the cruise line can secure the appropriate space for your group, depending on the size of your group and other scheduled passenger events on board. (Pre-planning with the cruise line is required).

Continuity from Planning to Implementation: With a land-based meeting or incentive program, all advance planning is coordinated with the hotel’s sales staff or convention services manager who’s also there on-site to support you during program implementation. With a cruise program, planning is coordinated with the cruise line’s shore-side headquarters, and the ship’s staff are usually briefed about your program on sailing day. While most cruise lines designate on board conference-service coordinators to assist the groups on each cruise, this doesn’t necessarily provide the continuity you take for granted at a hotel.

How to Slash Your Budget: You won’t need your normal budget for A/V equipment rentals, theme décor or special entertainment essential for corporate meetings or special events – it’s all included on a ship. So you can reallocate your budget to provide shore excursions, spa treatments or additional onboard amenities, or just drop the savings to the bottom line.

Promotable Differences: You’ll want to rearrange many aspects of your traditional land-based daily agenda when using a cruise in order to capitalize on all that the cruise offers. These changes add a new level of excitement to your program, and can be highlighted in the trip promotion. Some examples: A) There are no pre-selected meals - you get to choose from a vast menu at every breakfast, lunch, dinner. B) There is a wide variety of daily activities such as world-class spas and nightly entertainment, including casino gambling. C) You’ll visit several different destinations with no extra packing or travel hassle.

Freight Forwarding: When shipping conference materials across international borders, allow extra time for freight forwarders, local duty/taxes, and foreign customs inspections.

Registration of Equipment: Equipment can be registered with U.S. customs prior to boarding the ship to facilitate easy, trouble-free re-entry into the United States. This includes computers, audio-visual equipment, video cameras and editing systems, lighting and sound equipment, etc. 

Emergencies: Fortunately, when it comes to handling medical emergencies, most cruise ships have U.S.-trained medical doctors and nurses, as well as defibrillators on-site which is not the case in hotels or resorts. However, planners would be wise to review their company’s insurance/risk management policies and procedures to be prepared in case a participant requires specialized emergency care.