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Meetings on ships are easy to arrange, cost-effective and exciting, and there are more benefits aboard than ever, says Joyce Landry (below), CEO and co-founder of cruise events specialist company Landry & Kling. The Florida-based industry pioneer talked to The Siteseer about her business and what’s on offer.

The Siteseer: Are you really finding there’s more interest in meetings afloat these days?

Joyce Landry - PhotoJoyce Landry: Yes, meetings and incentive planners are looking for new experiences and more opportunities to boost motivation and loyalty. At the same time they’re challenged to demonstrate strong return on investment and return on engagement [ROE], often with tough time and budget constraints. An event at sea delivers it all – great experiences, creative meeting spaces and with multi-generational appeal, and it’s all-inclusive and easy to plan.

SS: Tell us a bit about your company.

JL: My partner Jo Kling and I are former cruise line executives who shared a common vision back in 1982: to bring cruising and the corporate world together. Our company was the first resource for business meetings on cruise ships, and that’s still our primary focus more than thirty years later. We provide cruise solutions and custom cruise planning for ship buy-outs, incentives, cruise meetings, theme cruises and dockside ship charters. We’re the only cruise event specialist that’s been inducted into the Cruise Lines International Association Hall of Fame.

One of our specialties is cruise ship charters. We also originated the concept of using chartered cruise ships as floating hotels to provide supplemental dockside housing during big city events, like the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.

Ovation of the Seas (1)SS: What’s new in the industry?

JL: Well Asia-Pacific cruising is booming! For example Royal Caribbean International signed a deal recently with the Singapore Tourism Board and Changi Airport Group to promote and launch more cruises than ever from Singapore. Royal Caribbean also plans to increase the number of departures from Singapore on Mariner of the Seas [which can accommodate over 4,000 passengers] to more than forty a year.

Their new ship,Ovation of the Seas, will homeport in Sydney for winter 2016-17 and will be the largest and most technologically advanced cruise ship in the region. Meantime MSC Cruises is sending MSC Lira to China in early 2016 and may be building new ships for the Chinese market.Princess Cruises is also building a new ship that will be based in China year-round.

SS: What are the main advantages of using a specialised agency like yours?

JL: We’re not an all-purpose travel agency and we don’t work for any single line; we offer impartial cruise event advice and a menu of services – everything from ship selection and operational planning to onsite staffing and marketing support. Most members of our team have a background in the industry and we know what it takes to convert a land-based program to a cruise environment.

SummitAmericas-Dockside Trinidad-Ship-BannersOver the years, we’ve established relationships with cruise lines and suppliers, and we have lots of creative ideas for customised experiences. We’re based in South Florida, widely known as being the cruise capital of the world, so we can inspect many ships and meet face-to-face with line executives on behalf of our clients.

SS: What are your most popular programs? Is there an “ideal” size for a conference or incentive group aboard, or length of cruise, in your experience?

JL: Our most popular events at sea are incentives, all types of meetings and conferences, as well as ship charters – anything from an executive retreat for fifty people to a 5,000-person convention. The length of cruise programs are typically four to seven nights, with most top-tier incentive programs on new or “ultra-premium” ships sailing for seven nights.

We’re always on the lookout for outstanding short cruise itineraries and last-minute charter opportunities to share with clients. We keep an updated list of these short cruises on the Cruise Gems page on our site.

SS: What are the other benefits of conferencing afloat?

JL: [There are distinct trends like] enhanced onboard wifi capabilities and more competitive Internet service pricing, high-tech entertainment venues, more culinary options, celebrity chef partnerships and interactive dining experiences, and more outdoor spaces for eating, entertainment and sports. There are also more active and authentic adventures ashore, and exclusive private [“ship within a ship”] enclaves available for groups to book, like MSC’s Yacht Club concept, and “The Haven” concept on Norwegian Cruise Line vessels.

SS: Where does your clientele hail from, mostly? Are you finding they’re becoming more budget conscious?

JL: They span the globe, from North and South America and the Caribbean to Europe and Asia-Pacific. While we’re noticing a return to high-level incentives, planners are still watching their bottom line. The all-inclusive aspect of ships obviously make them an attractive alternative to land-based venues. Meals, entertainment, sports facilities, meetings space and AV equipment are all complimentary.

The-crowd-onboard-ITS-THE-SHIP-2014SS: Can you point to recent examples of successful events for which you’ve been responsible?

JL: Our website has some good meetings-at-sea stories, including the SKF Latin America Distributor Conference. This presented us with some onboard challenges that required creative solutions, like building plasma screen kiosks to showcase products that were too large to bring on board, sourcing a translation services company to provide simultaneous multilingual translations in meetings, and working with the ship’s staff and chief engineer to create a big farewell event on the sports deck.

We’ve also had great success in planning and operating music-themed charter programs, like The Livescape Group’s “It’s the Ship” festival (above), Asia’s largest music event at sea. [See the promo clip here: https://youtu.be/NuJ3xh1IyIo].

The 2014 event was very successful and the November 2015 sailing is quickly selling out. An estimated 3,100 electronic dance music fans are expected to be onboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas when she sails from Singapore for three nights of performances by dozens of international and regional acts.

SS: How does your ship selection process work?

JL: There are over 300 cruise ships sailing, so busy meeting planners simply don’t have time to sort through all the choices to find the best fit. That’s where we come in. We listen to clients, and research and recommend the best options based on their needs. We then use our knowledge and experience to get the best deals.

CelebrityReflection-ConfRoom-ASS: What does the future hold?

JL: More than 30 new ships are currently on order, including mega-yachts, expedition ships and river vessels, and with cruise lines recognising the burgeoning international MICE market, I believe the future of meetings and incentives at sea couldn’t be brighter.

For more information visit landrykling.com,shipcharters.com or call +1(305) 661-1880.

See a clip of Joyce Landry giving some great packing tips here: https://youtu.be/vtokO8D-QDQ.

And Landry & Kling’s “Scuttlebutt” blog here: http://blog.landrykling.com/2015/08/25/meeting-at-sea-the-inside-scoop-for-planners-down-under/.