In January, we attended the first Cruise Advisory Council event hosted by Buy the Sea, a South Florida-based company pairing planners with cruise industry suppliers. The 4-day ship shopping adventure brought together cruise and hotel industry reps, DMCs and their clients to network about meetings and incentive programs at sea.
Attendees were hosted at the 408-room Turnberry Isle Miami. For more info, see page 56.
“You have to form a partnership and educate yourself,” says Shari Wallack, president of Buy the Sea. “The things you can do at sea are far more exciting than what you can’t do.”
Eldon Gale is the director of meetings/event management at Nationwide Insurance. He was tasked with putting together an event aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas with the help of Buy the Sea.
“I knew nothing about cruising and it was our partners who guided me through it,” Gale says. “It was all the small things they did for our company that made us all feel like rock stars. The waiters at dinner even wore customized ties with our logo on it to greet the group and serve us.”
Speaking about that brand, she says, “One thing that makes us stand apart is our inclusiveness. Even shore excursions are included.” Sample tours include Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, North Zealand, and a helicopter flight over a live volcano in Montserrat.
Oceania’s two new luxury vessels, meanwhile, offer exotic itineraries and an expansive list of dining and activity options. Onboard the 1,250-pax Marina, and sister ship Riviera (debuts in May), groups can enjoy: 10 fine dining venues on each and designer touches like a Lalique Grand Staircase and staterooms furnished with Ralph Lauren Home.
“Our products are country club casual,” says Athanasiou. “While people still like to travel well, they don’t always want to put on a tuxedo or ball gown.”
Their Bon Appetit Culinary Center is the only hands-on culinary studio at sea. With 12 cooking stations, 24 attendees can create savory dishes with the ships’ resident chefs.
The first night, we’re welcomed aboard Silversea’s 388-pax Silver Whisper. The event opens with a bang as the well-rehearsed service staff brings out Ossetra caviar for our table, an option they extend to groups on all sailings. This is accompanied by champagne and live music in the 170-pax Panorama Lounge.
The company specializes in full-ship charters, with exotic itineraries like their Istanbul to Athens or Venice to Monte Carlo 7-day sailings. “Of course, if your group charters a trip we can customize the length of the stay and itinerary for your sailing,” says Sean Mahoney, global vp of corporate/incentive sales.
Celebrity Cruises represented their brand with the Celebrity Solstice. The ship has larger than usual venues offering industry-leading meeting space, says Ron Gulaskey, director of sales, corporate/charters. The Solstice Theater, for example, seats 1,113 pax.
“We’re also the only premium product that does 4- and 5-night sailings,” says Gulaskey. “Those travel to both the Eastern and Western Caribbean.”
Get a game of bocce ball together on the outdoor lawn area. You can also host fun group mixology classes in the pretty martini bar as the sun sets into the sea, followed by nightly karaoke.