For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: JOYCE LANDRY
Landry & Kling
Meetings aboard ship are limited only by the planner’s bottom line and enough deep water. Let’s get creative. You as a planner decide to organize a sit-down dinner for 700 attendees from a global insurance company who say they “want something different.” Heard that before? So you come up with St. Petersburg, Russia and the opulent Catherine Palace commissioned by Peter the Great in 1710. A Baltic cruise to boot. Wow, good idea! Oops, somebody beat you to it.
“We had to get special permission from Putin for that one,” says Joyce Landry, president of Landry & Kling, who specializes in planning and procurement for meetings, incentives and events exclusively at sea. She says cruise lines are more actively configuring ships and bolstering their infrastructure to attract group business, because they feel they can beat out their land-based competitors on value and flexibility.
“Before it was mostly incentive reward programs with a few meetings on the side,” comments Landry. “Now there are more pure corporate meetings and events for things like product roll-outs and educational seminars.”
The cruise lines aggressively targeting the industry she mentions are Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian and Carnival. Small ship lines prominent in the marketplace include Regent and Silverseas.
The cost savings are manifold, mainly because planners can take advantage of what’s already there. Décor, staging, lighting, dining set up and A/V are in place and paid for. All-inclusive dining (with full à la carte menus versus plated food) is a major help on the bottom line, as well as beverage package pricing. Landry says there are no extra service charges for communications via the ship newspaper or television system, nor meeting breaks or room service. And planners can utilize upscale performance venues with excellent sight lines for 1,000 people, with no added levy.
“There’s also considerably less work for a planner,” says Landry. ”There’s no need to go into all those decisions about everything from floral centerpieces to chair covers…. And you never need to worry about dietary restrictions or special menu requests. I’m a vegetarian. Having a meal made to order can feel very luxurious to a meeting attendee.”
Lastly, the variety of offshore events cover all budgets. There’s the St. Petersburg gala with its gilded halls. Or your group can moor off Key West’s Mallory Square for a sit-down dinner at sunset. Ahh, but what about golf? What kind of meeting is that, without golf?
“People say there’s no golf on a cruise ship,” concurs Landry. “Those people never made stops in the Dominican Republic or Scotland.”