Why Meeting Planners Love Cruises

More meeting planners choose cruising for corporate meetings & events

Meetings at Sea

CNN reports that more companies are choosing cruises for corporate meetings, executive retreats and board meetings.  Meeting planners find that cruising offers several advantages that result in successful meetings.

  • Great prices – 20-30% lower than comparable hotel event
  • Value added amenities – cruises include entertainment, dining and activities
  • Increased attendance– from new and exciting cruise

    Meetings at Sea increase Participation

    venues

  • More participation & higher satisfaction – better attendee experience
  • Better contract terms and conditions – more liberal group contracts than many hotels

Great price, less staff needed.  Inclusive cruise events can lower costs for host companies. When comparing apples to apples — including meals, entertainment, presentation equipment and meeting space – an all-inclusive cruise ship event saves 20 to 30% on cost.  Corporations working with good cruise lines also need fewer on-site staff to run events since cruise lines are regularly staffed with all the AV, catering and guest service personnel needed.

Value added amenities. Companies have access to amenities on cruise ships they might

Spa amenities at Sea

not otherwise be able to afford for a retreat– nightly entertainment, happy hours, floral arrangements, audio/visual equipment, and personally chosen meals rather than preplanned banquet platters.  Corporations working with good cruise lines also need fewer on-site staff to run events.

Increased attendance & satisfaction.  Rather than the same old (dark) hotel ballroom, cruises offer attendees and new and exciting venue.  Attendees enjoy conference rooms with an ocean view, or a chance to sunbathe on deck during lunch. They can attend a cabaret or other night time entertainment after a featured speaker presentation.  Attendees also get time off in exotic ports of call.

More participation. Taking people to an environment they don’t go often or have never been, shifts the perspective all together. Cruising gives you the advantage of a captive audience but builds in the social and excursion time needed to get a clear head, generate fresh thinking and share new experiences with colleagues.

Better contract terms and conditions.  The contracts for cruise programs are often more liberal than hotel contracts on attrition clauses and less restrictive cancellation fees. Professional site selection and contract negotiation are still key to a successful meeting with a positive ROI for host company.

Beware – Not all ships are created equal.

Corporate meeting planners should do their homework before committing to a group cruise program. For example, some cruise ships have lower quality food and smaller rooms than a land hotel. Organizers should pay attention to how long they will be in port at various destinations and how long they are at sea in between stops.

There are many cruise lines out there, some of which can provide a 5-star experience. They need not be the wild spring break on-board experience that some may fear.  If you are looking for a new meeting venue, a cruise may offer exciting new alternatives for companies.

For more information on Corporate Meetings at Sea, contact Kathleen Peters, Group Travel Specialist at 407-951-8485.

 

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When did Vacation adventure become vacation stress?

Hey, it’s Mom’s vacation too!

In my twenties I considered myself an intrepid traveler.  I traveled and lived abroad enough to have many “adventures” that made great stories along the lines of Remember the time we were traveling by train from Italy to Spain and got dumped at the border at 1:00am due to a train strike in France?….Hilarity ensues as we negotiate hotels, rental cars and buses through France…

Somehow vacation “adventures” turned into STRESS when traveling with kids, a spouse, parents and in-laws…. who all look at me in horror when my answer to “when are we going to get there,” is “well, I’m not sure where we are going yet, so I don’t know how long it will take.” Somehow the motherhood job description included travel agent, translator, entertainer and tour guide for all destinations.  I admit to cutting back on international travel when my family’s priority was finding a restaurant that served chicken fingers….

Walt Disney World Vacation

But since we enjoy vacationing with extended family, we have done the gamut of family vacation options looking for the ideal family vacation:

  • Walt Disney World Theme Parks.  Expensive but even fun for parents if you stay on-property in a Disney Resort and can take breaks for naps (mine, not the kids).
  • Beach House at the shore.  Why my sister and I thought that cooking, cleaning and doing laundry for 12 would be a relaxing vacation week…I’m not sure?

By far my favorite multi-generational family vacations have been cruises!

  • 3-4 day Disney Cruise was our favorite when the kids were younger.  The kids had so much fun in the Kid’s clubs, we had to beg them to join us for dinner.  My in-laws found a great dance band in one of the lounges and danced most nights until the wee hours.  My husband and I alternated between the sun deck, sports bar, cigar bar (him) and spa (me).
  • 12 day Mediterranean Cruise with Princess Cruise Lines.  Our most recent

    Rialto Bridge in Venice 2012

    cruise to celebrate 2 graduations and a milestone birthday in our family was a Mediterranean cruise to Venice, Greece, Turkey, back to Italy, France and Spain. It was great to leave the logistics to Princess and share some of my favorite destinations with my family – stress free.

Why I love cruises for multi-generational family vacations:

  1. Variety of Cruise Options. With 350 ports worldwide, Cruise ships now go everywhere!
  2. Affordability & Savings. Food and entertainment is included in your cruise so and you can often save money over a comparable land based resort (definitely makes budgeting a vacation easier).
  3. Something for everyone. Most ships are now family friendly and have kids programs, teen lounges and adult-only areas.  And when the kids and in-laws are happy – Mom is Happy♥
  4. Ease of Travel.  Unpack once and arrive in a new destination each morning. Cruis

    Family & Friends in Myknonos

    ing is a great way to see Europe!  Cruising makes crossing multiple borders easy.  Unpack once and wake up in a new country everyday.  No worries about customs/immigration documents, language barriers, or safe drinking water.

  5. Land and Sea Vacations are also an option.  If you want to spend more time in any port, you can easily add a pre or post hotel stay to your cruise and the cruise lines will even handle all transfers.

Remember, it is Mom’s vacation too!  Here are more tips on planning stress free family vacations. 

What was your best or worst family vacation of all time?

Posted in Alaskan Cruises, Caribbean Cruises, Cruises, European Cruises, family cruises, family vacations, Group travel, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Planning Successful Meetings at Sea

– Corporate meeting planners rely on travel agent expertise to plan successful events and meetings at sea.

Why do you need a travel agent?   Good question. With the rise of online travel booking engines, proliferation of customer review sites, many people book travel directly.  Yet despite the long predicted demise of the travel agent, one third of all travel ($95 Billion) was booked by travel agents in 2011.  This included 68% of all cruises booked, according to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA)[i].

The percentage using travel advisers is even higher for Corporate Meeting Planners  looking to hold an event or meeting at sea.  Group cruises (from small executive retreats to large conferences or incentive group cruises) offer many advantages over land-based hotel meetings.  But using a travel adviser that specializes in group cruises is a must for planning  successful meetings at sea.

Meeting Room on Royal Caribbean

The advantages of holding a meeting at sea are great:

  • Value & savings: Value of inclusive pricing that saves thousands on food and entertainment can save up to 30% over land based meetings & events
  • Stress free travel: Seamless land and sea packages ease the stress of travel; and cruising lets you unpack once yet & still visit multiple countries and ports
  • Greater participation: New and exotic venues increase meeting attendance, participation and overall satisfaction – making you the hero!

The advantage of using a Travel Agent that specializes in group cruises is that they are experts on all the various Cruise Lines have first-hand knowledge of most ships and destinations.  They understand the ins and outs of booking an event or meeting at sea and can help meeting planners negotiate the best rate and options for their groups.

Advantages to using a group cruise specialist to plan your next event or meeting at sea include:

  • Travel agent services are free to Meeting Planners. Except for airline tickets, all cruises, tours and land packages are commission-able and paid by the cruise line or vendor.
  • You get the BEST DEAL by calling on a Cruise Planners/American Express Travel Consultant. They don’t work for any one Cruise Line or Tour Operator and can search all cruise lines to find you the best deal for your group.
  • Cruise product experts.  There are many benefits and several differences to holding a successful meeting at sea and meeting planners definitely need the expertise of a group cruise specialist.
  • Stress free planning.  Travel agents help meeting planners with site selection, ship inspections and most importantly – contract negotiations.  Your time is valuable. Give an agent a call and let them know your meeting specs and let them do all the preliminary work.

For more information on planning successful meetings at sea our website or call for a personal group assessment contact:

Kathleen Peters, KMP Travel (407)-951-8485.


[i] To download the complete CLIA report, “From Travel Agent to Travel Adviser” visit www.cruising.org.

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What is Your Cruise Personality?

Pick the right cruise line for your vacation style. Once you’ve picked your destination and price range…which ship should you choose?  Is there really that much difference in the atmosphere or “personality” between cruise lines?

Is your idea of  cruise vacation attire shorts and flip flops?  Do you prefer more sophisticated elegance?  Will you be traveling with kids? The Cruise lines invest heavily in defining and delivering their “brand.”

See how they describe the difference in on-board experience of the major brands. 

So is the marketing speak real?  From my personal experience the cruise lines do a pretty good job of delivering on their Brand Spirit.  I just returned from a week on the Norwegian Epic, and the anytime dining and entertainment options, as well as the relaxed and more casual dress codes definitely exemplified “Freestyle Cruising.”  Also the wave architecture design of our staterooms was definitely unconventional! (Small, but nice design).

Princess Cruises has been a standard in cruising since the 1970’s in the United States and is my favorite “all around” cruise line. With 16 ships traveling to over 350 ports of call… you can definite “escape completely.”  The service, food and amenities on Princess  does deliver “relaxed, comfortable elegance,” in that it is more upscale than the mass market cruise lines, without being stuffy or too conservative.

I have not yet sailed on Holland America Line, but my clients tell me it is indeed more conservation and traditional than Princess or Norwegian and tends to attract an older passenger.

Celebrity Cruise Line is a premium plus line that offers a more upscale experience and dining quality than the other lines listed here (but without the luxury ship amenities or prices!).  After several ship inspections on Celebrity ships, the quality and upscale amenities varies by ship.  I recommend the newer “solsticized” ships over the older ships like the Constellation.

None of these cruise personalities are good or bad, but they are important in choosing the best cruise vacation for you.  For example, if you enjoy a younger “Fun in the sun” party cruise – you may want to avoid Holland America.  Or if you really don’t want to travel with children on-board, you may want avoid Norwegian or Royal Caribbean.

What is your cruise personality?

For personal advice in planning your cruise vacation contact:

Kathleen Peters, KMP Travel – Cruise Planners

407-951-8485


Posted in Caribbean Cruises, Cruises, Group travel, Luxury Cruises, Meeting Planning, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations | Leave a comment

Choosing the Best Cruise Ship

Beware Bargain Cruises

Despite the glossy ads, not all ships are created equal.  Choosing the best ship for your cruise vacation is a lot like choosing the best hotel for a land vacation. If you pay “Holiday Inn” prices you won’t get a “Ritz Carlton” experience (no matter how nice the pictures look in the TV ads!). Now I happen to like both these hotel brands, and sometimes the “best” hotel for me depends on the purpose of my trip.  I can be very happy with a Best Western for a one-night stay to break up a long road trip, but want more service and amenities for a romantic weekend getaway or a business trip in a major city.  But I always want to know which level of product and service I am buying before I choose.

The first step in choosing the right ship for your cruise vacation is to understand where the cruise lines fall on the price and service spectrum.  There are 3 standard classifications for Cruise Lines from CLIA (Cruise Line Industry Association)

Cruise Line Categories

 

  1. “Contemporary” (think 3 star hotel) usually offers the lowest fares for a good basic experience.  Often these are the mega-ships with 3,000 – 6,000 passengers. They usually attract a lot of families, younger and first time cruisers.  The cabins are smaller, the guest to staff ration is larger.  The food and service is good basic quality.  Contemporary ships always have kids clubs and plenty of family activities and entertainment.
  2. “Premium”(think 4 star hotel) offers bigger staterooms, smaller guest to staff ratio and often attract more experienced travelers and fewer children. The Premium cruise lines have smaller ships (1,000 – 3,000 passengers).  Premium lines often have better itineraries and more ports of call. The food and service also tends to be better than Contemporary ships.  These lines tend to attract fewer children, but they do offer kid’s clubs and activities during school holidays  (or whenever there are at least 20 children sailing).
    1. “Premium Plus” (think 4 ½ star hotel) is a sub-category that promises better service, food and amenities for a slightly higher fare.  Celebrity and Oceana dominate this category and are aiming to attract an upscale traveler.
  3. “Luxury” cruise lines are the 5 star ships of the industry.  These tend to be smaller ships (250 – 700 passengers).  Some are all-suite, and all offer concierge level service and gourmet dining.  They attract experienced, upscale travelers (no children) and offer the most exotic ports of call for travelers looking for a new and different experience. Often these cruise Lines offer all-inclusive packages including business class airfare, pre & post hotel stays, shore excursions (and more) in the cruise fare for a seamless concierge experience.

Overall, choosing the best ship for your cruise vacation depends on the budget, age and interests of your travel party and can vary over time.  I usually prefer Premium Cruise Lines, but just had the opportunity for a last minute, very affordable Caribbean cruise on NCL.  Despite the VERY small cabin, we had a great time with the more casual and relaxed “anytime” dining and entertainment schedule. It was definitely the right price and right timing for an impulse cruise.

What Cruise Lines have you tried?  How was your experience?

For help choosing the BEST cruise ship for your vacation contact:

Kathleen Peters, KMP Travel – Cruise Planners

407-951-8485

Posted in Alaskan Cruises, Baltic cruises, Caribbean Cruises, Cruises, European Cruises, Group travel, Luxury Cruises, Meeting Planning, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations | Leave a comment

RIP Love Boat

So sad to hear that the Pacific Princess is heading for the scrap yard this week.  I have so many fond memories of working as an entertainer and cruise staff on-board the PP.  Actually the pilot for the Love Boat TV series was was filmed on the Sun Princess, but the Pacific Princess was used for the on-going series.

Can Can dancers on Pacific Princess

I used to laugh when passengers called me “Julie McCoy” after the cruise director on the Love Boat TV show.  There were a few differences between the TV Julie and I.  Besides the fact that I’m sure her salary was substantially higher than mine, she didn’t work 12 – 16 hours per day and I didn’t sit around with the Captain discussing the love lives of passengers.

But I did have adventures and great friendships during my time on the Pacific Princess (PP as she was affectionately called by officers and crew).  My favorite itinerary was the Mediterranean.  The PP was a small ship by today’s standards and could dock on the Grand Canal in Venice, a short walk to San Marcos Square.

I also loved the Mexican Rivera cruise the season we sailed from San Diego (my home port).  One cruise Gen. Westmoreland & his wife sailed with us.  They were so gracious, they asked if they could my laundry or anything else off at my house after they dis-embarked.  Despite having full laundry service on-board, I almost said yes just to see my Father’s face (an USMC Lt. Colonel) when a general showed up on his doorstep with a bag of dirty laundry!

She was a beautiful ship and the ship’s company was a dedicated and fun group that worked hard and played hard.

Pacific Cruise Staff after 4 hours sleep

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Affordable Luxury Cruises?

Singapore ship

Beware of Cheap Cruises!

A cheaper cruise fare may not be the best value. 

Most cruise lines quote a low lead rate that is the launch fare only. But once you add in all the extra charges and fees, it may cost much more than anticipated. In addition to the launch fare there are taxes & Govt. fees, fuel charges, gratuities, transfers, shore excursions, and specialty dining charges…not to mention air fare and hotel accommodations before you board the ship!

Several premium and luxury ships offer more amenities and services included in their packages that can be a better value in terms of the total cost of your trip.   Always compare total value and not just the launch price when choosing a cruise vacation.

Inclusive Packages are the Best Value in Luxury Cruising

If you  prefer staying at a Marriott or a Ritz Carlton hotel, you will probably prefer a premium or luxury cruise ship.  When shopping for premium cruises look for an “all-inclusive” cruise package for the best value.  Many luxury cruise lines offer inclusive packages with free airfare,  free pre & post hotel stays, unlimited shore excursions, no extra charges for specialty dining, etc.

Comparing Apples to Apples

Bon Voyage

So don’t succumb to sticker shock until you are sure you are comparing “apples to apples.” A luxury cruise may not be as expensive as you think when you look at the total vacation expense.    For example, when I compared  Regent Seven Seas Baltic cruise to similar Holland America, Celebrity and Princess shows there is only about a $100 per person difference in pricing per day.  Read more to see my side by side comparison…

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Luxury Baltic Cruise – Special Offer ends March 1, 2012!

  Featured Summer Sailing: Regent Seven Seas Baltic Cruises

Here’s my personal pick for Summer 2015 cruising:  A Regent Seven Seas Baltic Cruise

  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises.  Ship:  The Voyager
  • June & June dates for 2015
  • Itinerary:  Stockholm to Copenhagen, with 2 days in St. Petersburg
  • Inclusive Pricing

I’ve always wanted to sail in the Baltic – especially in July to escape the Florida summer heat! The reason I am excited about this cruise for 2015 is that it is one of the smaller luxury cruise lines that I’ve always wanted to try.

For me, this is an ideal itinerary because it includes Copenhagen and Stockholm and spends 2 days in St. Petersburg.  This is not a ship I will bring the kids, but my husband and I are ready for a truly pampering experience in service, dining and amenities.

This is a bit of a splurge for us, but the all -inclusive rate makes it a great value for a luxury cruise experience.  I love that we will not be nickeled and dimed for shore excursions and gratuities.  I love that Regent cruise fares  include:

  • FREE Round-trip Air
  • FREE Unlimited Shore Excursions
  • FREE Luxury Hotel Package
  • FREE Beverages including Fine Wines and Premium Spirits
  • FREE Pre-Paid Gratuities
  • FREE Ground Transfers
  • FREE In-suite mini-bar replenished daily
  • FREE 24-hour room service and no additional charge for specialty restaurants
  • Added benefits available for American Express Platinum card holders

There is a also special Early Booking offer on this cruise.  When I did the math, the special savings are what convinced me this is a great value for a luxury Baltic cruise.

For more cruise information, availability and rates contact:

Kathleen Peter, KMP Travel – Cruise Planners  or call 407-951-8485

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Cruise Yule Blog

Memories of Christmas cruises past…

I have many fond memories of Crew Christmases on-board ship. Although it was hard work with a full ship, it was a festive time of year – with the ship trimmed with decorations and many parties (above and below decks!)

Wishing you Happy Holidays, on Land or Sea!

Kathleen

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Welcome Aboard!

Dear Friends,

Cruise Director Princess Cruises 1985

I’ve decided to follow my passion and return to my cruising roots!  Yes, that is me as Ast. Cruise Director for Princess Cruises in 1985. In the “old” days, we had more than one job.  I was both Cruise Staff and an entertainer in musical production shows.

French Revue on Pacific Princess 1986

In addition to my years working on-board Princess Cruises, my passion for cruising continued as Marketing Brand Manager for Disney Cruise Lines, launching Disney’s first two ships – The Magic and the Wonder.

Therefore, I am excited to announce that I am returning to my “cruising” roots and have recently joined Dreamz2go, a Cruise Planners Agency.  Cruise Planners is a certified American Express travel agency based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and has been recognized as one of the top producers with virtually every cruise line. The negotiated rates, extra amenities and access that Cruise Planners affords plus my personal on-board experience enables me to provide you with preferential treatment, best values and personalized service.

Cruising has become one of the most exciting, popular and value-added forms of travel.  Whether you are sailing with a group or honoring a special occasion or would simply like to get away from it all, I can assist in planning the perfect cruise option.

Don’t be fooled by our name, Cruise Planners also is a full-service land and sea company offering pre and post hotel stays, land vacations and tours and airline access to thousands of destinations.

Check my blog regularly to see what’s new in cruising and featured cruises I am most excited about.

Welcome Aboard!

Kathleen Peters,  Cruise Specialist, 407-951-8485

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