The annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference took place in March at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The event brings together the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), cruise lines and destinations to share developments in meetings/incentives at sea and the world’s ports of call.
We spoke with the following suppliers about their cruise programs, and we asked CLIA if the association is ramping up its partnership with planners.
“We are much more aggressively working with the meetings industry and educating meeting planners about the possibilities and opportunities for meetings and incentives on cruise ships,” said Christine Duffy, president/CEO of CLIA. “We did a focus group on the Celebrity Silhouette and some of the planners had never been on a cruise ship, or they’d been on a cruise ship when they were eight years old…. They were literally blown away. The feedback we’ve gotten loud and clear is planners telling us: ‘CLIA, you need to do the same work with the meeting planning/incentive community that you’ve done historically with the leisure and travel agent communities.’”
The first berth of the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal opens in June just 15 minutes from Kowloon. Designed by legendary architect Sir Norman Foster, the terminal was also configured to host gala parties on its long 2nd-story rooftop, one of the largest roof garden venues in Asia.
“The terminal will be a great venue for high-end MICE events, although I think that cruising in general is sometimes forgotten with meeting planners,” says Bill Flora, U.S. director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board. “The fact that we have a new terminal will draw attention to Hong Kong and its cruise programs for groups…. In China we’ve really seen large groups buyout Oasis-class ships or block off certain parts, but not really in Hong Kong. The future of cruising in Hong Kong is based on the success of the new terminal and that’s something for planners to think about. We want people to know that this can be done in Asia.”
Last October the new 300,000-sf Singapore Cruise Centre opened in the “New Downtown” area between the jawdropping Marina Bay Sands hotel and paradise-like Sentosa Island. It was the host for the 2012 Cruise Shipping Asia conference.
“The new terminal can double up as exhibition space; it’s very convenient for groups to do their meetings at the terminal and then jump right on a ship and enjoy their cruise,” says Neeta Lachmandas, assistant chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board. “We want Southeast Asia to be the Caribbean of Asia. Indonesia is an archipelago with 17,000 islands surrounded by water; there are so many places to visit with huge shorelines. For instance, we have easy access to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Bali and other destinations in the region. There is a lot of potential for Singapore to be a hub for the cruise market.”
We asked Lachmandas about which cruise lines are presently operating in the region.
“Royal Caribbean has been in Singapore for many years, but we are seeing more cruise lines interested in operating in Asia,” she says. “Carnival is setting up their regional headquarters in May at the port, and Silversea has a sales office in Singapore…. It keeps growing.”
Israel is about the size of New Jersey, but a lot of meeting planners don’t realize that explains Joe Diaz, director/southern region for the Israel Ministry of Tourism. He says cruise groups can experience a vast array of the country’s staggering historical sites in a short period of time.
“Israel is very much a cultural destination, and the proximity to the ports is excellent with so much to see just one to two hours away,” says Diaz. “Jerusalem is 90 minutes from Haifa and only 45 minutes from Ashdod.”
Another surprise about Israel according to Diaz, there are over 200 wineries and an extensive list of winery tours run by local DMCs. He says planners should consider pre/posts so attendees can combine that with all of the luxury hotel and spa product coming online, such as the new Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem and The Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya.
Diaz gives a shout out to Bay Club, Haifa, a converted 52-room mansion. He also recommends groups visit the Arab Quarter nearby. In the southern region, he says the Isrotel Beresheet Hotel has the best spa experience in the country.
But it’s the culture that everyone is most excited about when visiting Israel. For example, just 45 minutes outside Haifa, Tiberius is one of Judaism’s four holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed.
“One of our primary selling points is that groups are looking more and more for cultural experiences, and the cruise lines are looking for shore excursions that sell well,” says Diaz. “These are selling well.”
All of the major cruise lines service Valencia, which has a long history of hosting major events both in the port and city center. One of the most spectacular modern architecture triumphs in Europe, the City of Arts & Sciences is an educational complex devoted to scientific exploration. The building is divided into five main elements: the Hemisferic IMAX cinema, Umbracle Park, the Principe Felipe Science Museum, the Oceanografico Aquarium and the Palau de les Arts opera. The entire museum is one completely multifunctional space.
“The Agora event space within the City of Arts is used during Valencia Fashion Week and the Valencia Open 500 tennis tournament,” says Maximo Caletrio, promotion manager for Valencia Tourism. “We host a variety of events within the City of Arts facility. For example, new car companies want a modern place that they can debut their new vehicles. City of Arts is perfect for that.”
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
In anticipation of its new ship Norwegian Breakaway sailing in May for Bermuda, Norwegian Cruise Line recently expanded its tour offerings in the upscale destination. The cruise company added a variety of new excursions only available to guests on Breakaway, such as a guided driving tour, customized golf programs and stand up paddle boarding.
“We can design any type of event that we are capable of executing—we love doing that for groups,” says Camille Olivere, senior vp of sales. “When we go to the private islands we can weave in some activities like a mini-Olympics. It’s an active way to get groups working with one another and it’s a lot of fun. For groups looking for something more relaxed we offer private boat tours with a captain.”
The Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway are the newest ships. Breakaway holds 4,028 passengers, sailing from New York. The sister Getaway sails out of Miami in February 2014.
One of the most popular onboard venues is Spice H20, a multilevel, open-air venue in the aft. It can host up to 1,000 pax with state-of-the-art A/V. “We’ve had some events on the Norwegian Epic where we’ve covered the pool and used it as an entertainment area within Spice H20,” says Olivere.