The cruise industry in Australia is growing and more and more Australians are enjoying the experience of a holiday on the high seas. So, it was only a matter of time before businesses started taking a closer look.

Many organisations are embracing just how easy and affordable it can be to conduct an event on a ship and, when compared to standard land-based options, great savings can be made to a company’s bottom line.

One clear advantage to cruising is that many of the things you pay extra for on land are all included in the cruise price. Most entertainment is included and transport costs to evening events or activities are non-existent.

Additionally, based on availability, standard audio-visual equipment is available free of charge. Equipment such as LCD projectors, overhead projectors, slide projectors, screens, TVs, VCRs, flipcharts, laser pointers, microphones, podiums and more are standard on all ships.

In Australia there are a variety of cruises and lines to choose from and it’s easy to select a voyage that suits an organisation’s or client’s needs. Three and four night options are possibly the most popular but five, seven nights or even longer are growing. The longer cruises especially suit the incentive arena as the experience can be enjoyed as a holiday with family members or friends.

Delegates and speakers who attend with partners are also well catered for at sea. Another bonus is the additional work of arranging a ‘partners’ program’ is not needed. All cruise lines have a daily, built-in activities program that will entertain guests not attending the business activities and many of these activities are included in the cost of the cruise.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines

Planning and sourcing a perfect venue for a corporate event or meeting can be complicated, but Royal Caribbean and Celebrity aim to take the stress out of the planning by doing it all for you. The lines have a range of dedicated conference centres onboard all of their ships. Sleek and modern spaces that can accommodate everything from a board retreat for a few to a largescale national or international sales meeting.

“Royal Caribbean and Celebrity offer dedicated, flexible spaces capable of accommodating between six and 1350 people along with the assistance of a conference coordinator onboard – all at no extra cost,” says Adam Armstrong, commercial director of RCL Cruises Australia.

“Holding your meeting or conference at sea is such a cost effective, convenient and entertaining way to get business done. Everything is in one place – conference facilities, accommodation, a la carte dining and entertainment – coupled with great service from our crew.”

For particularly large events, companies can charter an entire ship and tailor the product and cruise itinerary to their specific requirements. In Australia alone, next summer season Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises will offer six world-class super-liners with capacities ranging from 1000 to 2000 cabins, accommodating groups of up to 4900 people.

P&O Cruises Australia

The region’s largest and longest-serving cruise operator is Australasia’s only ‘home brand’ with five ships cruising from eight homeports in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

P&O Conferences corporate group sales manager Peta Torkington says: “We had 27 conferences in 2014, 45 conferences in 2015 and currently have 70 already booked for 2016. Seventy per cent of future bookings for 2016 are on our latest ships, Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria.”

“The most popular itineraries are three to four nights and the average group size is about 100 delegates, from industries including real estate, automotive, education and consumer goods,” she says.

In 2017 P&O Cruises will welcome Pacific Explorer and in 2019 they will become the first cruise line to build a ship specifically for the local market. At 135,500 tonnes it will be the biggest cruise ship ever to be based fulltime in Australia.

Carnival Cruise Line

For more than 30 years this line has worked with corporations to customise their events. Whether it is a corporate meeting, incentive program, board retreat or full ship charter, Carnival has a team ready to assist in every aspect of planning. Carnival generally finds that its shorter cruises (three, four and five days) are more suited for the groups and incentives market. The line offers a presailing coordinator and an onboard group coordinator to ensure a successful program.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Nicole Costantin, vice president of sales, Australia/New Zealand of Norwegian Cruise Line says: “The popularity of cruise conferences is gaining momentum in Australia, as awareness increases about the incredible value a cruise event can deliver, and the wealth of experiences on offer on board the leading cruise lines.”

“For Norwegian Cruise Line, the conference market in Australia is currently quite small, however following the launch of our inaugural Australasian office in Sydney late last year with a dedicated Australian team, and as the number of itineraries sailing Australasian waters increases, this is an area that will grow.

“Currently we offer incredible value with every ship across the line’s 14-strong fleet offering a dedicated group services coordinator to follow up on every last detail of your event.”

Final words

Conferences at sea provide incredible value for money and offer planners a simple, affordable option that has all accommodation, most food, entertainment and business needs taken care of. Having an onboard point of contact in addition to exceptional activities and guest offerings, cruise lines will dramatically change the face of conferencing in Australia and New Zealand.

They offer a value proposition – you’re getting good value and quality for what you are spending. Wi-Fi and mobile phone connectivity is available on all ships and normally each has an additional business centre and internet café that can be accessed (additional fees apply).

Conference organisers’ checklist

  • Does the cruise line have dedicated conference and meeting facilities?
  • What equipment and support is provided onboard?
  • Is there enough on offer to entertain partners while business sessions are conducted?
  • If the cruise selected has port calls, what shore excursions can be arranged?
  • What are the minimum numbers of cabins/people needed?
  • Does the line offer pre-paid beverage packages to make budget management easy for

groups of all sizes?

  • What special touches can the cruise line add in for conference groups?

Cost Comparison

Three-night conference – land vs. sea – per person: (Cruising twin cabin, ocean view room vs. a Sydney four-star hotel, twin share, 3 x breakfast, 2 x morning & afternoon tea, 3 x lunch, 2 x dinner, 1 x gala dinner, 1 x 1hour cocktail party, evening entertainment, transport, audio-visual, room hire).