With new builds and a greater number of short cruise options, the cruise market and meetings is a match made in heaven.

One company taking advantage of the growth in the cruise sector for meetings and incentives is P&O with P&O Cruises Australia senior sales manager, Rebecca Mutanen, describing the trend as “incredible”.

“There’s been tremendous growth, even before you take into account the addition of our two latest ships Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, which will join our fleet in November this year and [which] will both feature dedicated conference facilities,” she explains.

“In fact, we have secured more corporate groups and already exceeded 2014’s revenue for corporate groups for 2015 year-to-date.”

Ms Mutanen says the increase in ships visiting Australia has certainly helped to generate more awareness of the cruise options available.

“P&O Cruises already has three ships based year round in Australia and will soon have five with the addition of Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden which are our main product for dedicated conferencing facilities.

“We’ve also seen an increase in demand and enquiries flowing from the addition of more three and five night short cruises in our schedule, with these cruises now available from most ports of Australia. These shorter itineraries make conferences on our ships a very appealing choice and a great value option – particularly when compared to an event that delegates have to fly to another destination to attend.

“Our four-night cruises are very popular as we spend a full day in port in amazing destinations such as the Whitsundays, Moreton Island, Mornington Peninsula and the Sunshine Coast. Moreton Island is a great island for fun team-building activities such as sand tobogganing, quad bike riding, snorkelling or even experiencing wild dolphin feeding at dusk.”

Cost savings

Part of the appeal of cruising, aside from the fact that planners have a “captive audience” on a ship, is the potential cost savings thatmeeting planners can find by taking the cruise option over traditional land-based conference programs.

“Value is one of the top three reasons we think cruise conferencing is such a great option to consider,” Ms Mutanen says.

“We do a simple dare to compare table which essentially compares a similar venue on land to our cruise product and resonates well with meeting planners. For example, a three-night Sydney based hotel/conference package (including dinners, cocktail party, venues and accommodation) costs an estimated $1044pp compared with a cruise option (in an oceanview room) at $918pp, which has many more inclusions and activities than the hotel.

In recent times P&O has hosted a range of groups from a variety of business sectors including technology companies, financial companies, retail and engineering manufacturers, franchisors, and even some associations.

“Our main conference product is Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden which are ideal for up to 200 delegates for full day conferencing. Our existing fleet of Pacific Pearl, Pacific Jewel and Pacific Dawn are also great for incentives, charters and what we describe as `flexible conferencing’, where groups do not require a high number of conference sessions.

“Our sea break cruises of two to five-night duration are the most popular for our conference product on-board Aria and Eden while seven-night South Pacific cruises are proving very successful for incentives.

“We sail from all major ports in Australia and approximately 40 per cent of the cruises in our schedule are shorter two to five-night sea break cruises so there is a large variety of options for delegates.
Overall more ships gives us more venues and more itineraries.”