Incentive planners may have some misconceptions about group cruising. We asked an expert from Royal Caribbean International to debunk some of the most common group cruising myths.
All too many incentive planners don’t consider cruising as an incentive option. It turns out that there are a few misconceptions people have around cruising for groups, so Prevue asked Craig Jarrett, Director, Global Corporate, Incentive and Charter Sales with Royal Caribbean International, to debunk some of the most common group cruising myths and misconceptions he hears.
Myth 1: Cruise ships are out of our price range. This group cruising myth “couldn’t be further from the truth on a value basis,” Jarrett says. While costs vary depending on the time of year, route and the specific ship, “We always come in less expensive than a land-based option because we include all standard food and beverage, AV, entertainment — including seven Broadway shows — on our ships. When you add all this together it’s a much more economical option.”
Myth 2: It will be too complicated to arrange for the whole group to arrive at the right time and place. While this can be true for land-based meetings, but it’s a group cruising myth for sea-going incentives, says Jarrett. “The reality is that Royal Caribbean, like all cruise lines, fill our ships week in week out, all year round. The airlift is already in place. There’s no reason why it won’t work the same for your sailing. We have really good connections with airports, and we even have connections with charter air companies if we need assistance connecting guests with airlift,” he says.
Myth 3: Cruising is for retired folks, not incentive winners at the top of their game. Jarrett says, “It’s not like the olden days where ships catered to a retirement cruiser environment, though there are brands that cater to that if you want. Royal is a multigenerational family brand — and 40% of our business is groups.”
Myth 4: Our group will get the same experience as everyone else on the ship, not a special experience just for them. “Within our newest ships, you literally can have a ship-within-a-ship experience,” he says. “For groups that want that really high-end yacht kind of experience and not be bothered with the other guests, our new ships have suite-only restaurants and private pool deck areas, so you can have that exclusive, high-end experience and also the benefit of having all of these Broadway shows that you wouldn’t get on a on a land opportunity or a smaller ship.”
Myth 5: Our group will have to eat in the main dining room with everyone else. “Most people don’t realize that you’re not stuck having just that main dining room for food and beverage. Yes, we have the really great dining room with breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, but on some of our ships, we have up to 22 high-end restaurants, including James Beard-style dining and Jamie Oliver Italian restaurants. All our ships have our signature restaurants, including Chops Grill steakhouse, Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, and Izumi, a sushi restaurant, on many of our ships. We have all these exciting new restaurants available for a charge that is minimal compared to a Capitol Grill on land. For a President’s Club high-end incentive-within-an-incentive, you could give them that extra touch of importance by having a buyout of one of the higher end restaurants.”
Myth 6: Our group will feel too cooped up on a ship. With a land-based trip, the group will be limited on how much they can see due to what can be a logistical nightmare of moving groups from place A to place B on a coach — plus all that packing and unpacking, says Jarrett. “On a ship, you can board the ship in Miami, wake up in the Bahamas, go to bed, wake up in Dominican Republic, wake up in Cozumel — there are so many options and you don’t have to worry about getting people to shift from A to B. It’s hard to get bored when you’re always in a new place.”
Myth 7: Ships are so big that our group will get lost. It’s true that ships are basically floating cities, complete with medical centers, restaurants and entertainment, but “we optimize the ships’ space so make everything as close and available as possible. “Unlike big resorts in Las Vegas, you don’t have to walk a mile to get to the coffee shop,” he says.
Myth 8: Cruising is like an old “Love Boat” episode with line dancing and scrap-booking and a cruise director telling us what to do. “While we welcome scrapbookers and line dancing, we have so many venues and a big entertainment program — and we have the space as well for an incentive to have their own activities. They can just avoid the ‘Love Boat’ kind of cruise experience and create their own experience in our ships’ venues that we dedicate for corporate and incentive programs,” he says. “They can use a conference center to hold their own events, and we can give them other guest areas that are not utilized during the day by non-group guests. And our ships have an amazing range of thrilling experiences now, from surfing onboard to sky diving to a London Eye-style ride that takes you up for a view of the ship and the area in which you’re sailing. There’s so many cool, modern things to do that no one will get bored.”
Myth 9: Cruising is bad for the environment and sustainability is important to our group. While that may have been true in the past, “since COVID, we realized as an industry that we needed to make changes to address sustainability,”: Jarrett says. “Our next ships coming out will be powered by liquid nitrogen, as opposed to the original fuel. We’ve installed scrubber systems on all our ships to remove all of the carbon and other harmful emissions so we pump out only clean air. Every bit of cardboard, glass and aluminum is recycled. And crew members are incentivized to collect all waste from the rooms to go to our waste plant after we’ve landed because the proceeds go to crew welfare. We even collect condensation from the AC and use that water to run our laundry room. When you add it all together, we are more environmentally friendly than many resorts,” he says. “Are we all the way there? Absolutely not. Are we making great strides to be better? 100%.”
Myth 10: Cruise ships can be COVID incubators. “That unfortunate situation on a competitor vessel in Asia during COVID became a really great Netflix sensation, almost as big a sensation as ‘Tiger King,’” says Jarrett. “The reality is the cruise industry got together and said okay, we’re going to shut operations on March 16 of 2020 until we know for sure we can operate safely. We were out of service for in some regions for over a year while we devised plans to do this properly,” he says.
“We spent considerable amounts of money to upgrade the medical centers. We changed all of our AC filters in all of our rooms. We changed our systems for circulating the air. COVID made us all take a step back and see how we could improve health and safety. Would we have done it anyway? Yes, but COVID brought it to the forefront as something we needed to do right away.”
Myth 11: There’s no way to customize the experience. Yes, the cruise ship is going to pre-determined ports of call, but that doesn’t mean there’s no flexibility, says Jarrett. For example, “We can arrange for private tours just for the incentive group, including private boat transfers and private coaches on land. For larger groups, a full-ship charter offers endless customization and flexibility. We can take an itinerary and, as long as time and distance work, we can go wherever and do whatever that incentive planner wants.”
Myth 12: Ship-board Wi-Fi is terrible. “In the past, that was true, Wi-Fi was awful, like dial-up. Royal was the cruise line to put Starlink on board so now get the same connectivity you could get at home,” says Jarrett. “So you don’t have to worry about being disconnected from the office, even if you really would rather not be connected to the office. Let’s face it. You’re on a cruise, but if you really need to, and we’ve got that sorted as well.”
For more information, visit royalcaribbeanincentives.com
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