Business and Social Group Market Represents Growth Area for Cruise Industry

Aug 04, 2009

CLIA Member Lines Offer Variety of Product, Easy Planning and Value Across All Price Categories for Corporate, Incentive, SMERF, Affinity Groups

Fort Lauderdale, FL — August 4, 2009 — Group travel is an increasingly important segment of the cruise industry and, as the economy turns around, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) members are well positioned to take advantage of new demand. According to CLIA, group travel of all kinds already accounts for nearly 25 percent of yearly passenger volume, depending on the line. The industry is predicting that more than 13 million people will cruise in 2009.

With improving economic conditions, businesses will seek innovative ways to motivate employees, cost-effectively improve productivity, and establish a competitive edge. Social, religious, and educational organizations will look for imaginative ways to educate, grow membership through enhanced benefits, and boost fund-raising. Across the board, consumer lifestyle expectations, in which travel plays an increasingly central role, will generate increasing demand for travel opportunities. Ready to meet that demand with a broad variety of state-of-the-art products, facilities, amenities and services – including a fleet of new ships of all sizes – are 24 member cruise lines of CLIA offering unbeatable value and unique experiences for groups of all kinds.

“For corporate and incentive travel planners and the broadest possible range of affinity groups, including SMERF, GLBT and other organizations, cruising represents exceptional value across all price categories,” said Terry Dale, CLIA’s president and CEO. “Cruises rank at the very top for customer satisfaction and, for group travel planners, this translates into productivity and success, whatever the purpose of travel program might be.”

For groups of all kinds, cruising offers many advantages:

  • Exceptional value. In addition to usually complimentary meeting or event space, a shipboard group booking can include accommodations; all meals, including customized menus; daily entertainment; shipboard recreational facilities and activities; and travel from destination to destination. In some cases, drinks, stateroom gifts and amenities, customized shore excursions and other amenities are also included.
  • Exceptional pricing. CLIA member lines offer a wide range of price and value incentives for groups. In addition, most lines offer such additional incentives as free “tour conductor” berths based on the total number of group members or generous credits that can be applied to cruise activities ranging from special meals to shore excursions.
  • Exceptional ease in planning. Depending on the line, group sales departments, dedicated group planners and shipboard meeting and incentive staff make planning and implementing a meeting or group program at sea an extremely easy, “one-stop” process.
  • Exceptional choice. There are cruises in every part of the world, of every length (from two days to two weeks or more), and in every price category: Whatever the group’s needs, expectations or budget, there is a cruise to match.
Cruises offer particular advantages for meeting and incentive planners as well:
  • The strong appeal of cruising helps sell the program to prospective participants
  • The self-contained shipboard environment ensures group spirit and enthusiastic participation in program events
  • The high quality of facilities, services and amenities ensures customer satisfaction with the shipboard meeting or event
  • Inclusive pricing simplifies budgeting and eliminates “budgetary surprises”
  • Cruising offers the unique advantage of offering multiple destinations in the course of a single meeting or incentive program
  • Cruises, with their incomparable variety of activities and entertainment, represent an ideal choice for programs that include spouses and families
  • In the case of full ship charters, planners can offer total exclusivity and full customization of programs and itineraries
Here is a sampling of how CLIA member cruise lines cater to groups:


With ships carrying less than 700 passengers, Azamara focuses on discovering the hidden corners of the world in style. Plus, 93 percent of staterooms offer ocean views and 68 percent have private verandahs. With personalized service a priority, groups are treated to complimentary butler service for each stateroom as well as such amenities as fresh cut flowers, afternoon canapés, fresh fruit and more. Guests also receive complimentary specialty dining, enrichment programs such as digital camera and computer classes, and onboard entertainment, including wine and champagne tastings.


Carnival defines groups as a block of eight cabins with 16 or more guests. The line offers one free berth for every 15 berths sold, along with such value-added features as “group amenities” points, which can be redeemed for champagne and chocolates, stateroom upgrades, private cocktail receptions, shipboard credits and more. In addition to a wide range of meeting facilities fleetwide, Carnival offers a dedicated groups coordinator on each ship to facilitate activities.


Dedicated conference facilities are complimentary on Celebrity and such programs as Corporate Amenities Selection (CAS) as well as onboard group coordinators and Assigned Group Partner Advocates ensure one-stop planning. In addition to free staterooms through the company’s Tour Conductor Credits program, Celebrity offers a variety of packages that can include group beverages, even prepaid gratuities. The Individual Incentive Travel Gift Certificate program is a means for companies to reward individual employees.


Offering more seven-day cruises in Europe than any other cruise line, as well as voyages in the Caribbean, South America, Dubai, Indian Ocean and the Far East, Costa offers numerous group cruise options around the world. Groups may even earn a variety of “Amore Points” applicable to cocktail parties, onboard credits and more. Costa also offers a group concierge for all groups, ensuring each step of planning from start to finish is simple and easy.


In addition to spacious ships and a guest-to-crew ratio of 1.65:1, Crystal offers groups a variety of incentives, including special savings rates, onboard credits, prepaid dining and gratuities and other perks. The line's ships feature a choice of venues for meetings, including the Hollywood Theatre, which accommodates up to 202 guests. In addition, Crystal's Creative Learning Institute features experts in a variety of fields who offer their insights into everything from global economics to local culture and ecology. Guests may also complement their meeting activities by learning to play the keyboard or to speak foreign languages.


Holland America has just released a new Developing Group Business brochure and announced 2010 Double GAP Points, a program that doubles the Group Advantage Program points available to groups booked by the end of August for sailings next year. GAP points permit travel planners to customize their groups by adding such amenities as wine tastings, cooking classes, cocktail receptions, shipboard credits and special dinners. Three new group packages include Winemakers, Girls and Guys Night Out and group programs include Wedding, Family Reunion and Culinary Arts Center programs.


For educational, professional and corporate groups, MSC ships offer complimentary high-tech, elegant conference centers and meeting rooms. Shipboard staff coordinate team-building shore excursions and onboard activities including cocktail parties and themed entertainment. Groups of 16 or more travelers are eligible for a variety of amenities from complimentary stateroom gifts and shipboard credits to cocktails. Also worth noting, MSC’s Kids Sail Free policy provides an added incentive for agents to sell family and social groups.


Norwegian's Groups 2.0 program is an enhanced group booking program allowing travel partners to hold up to 16 staterooms with no deposit required until four months prior to sailing, and individual bookings can be transferred into a group up until the day prior to sailing. An expanded consumer facing amenity menu is available for all bookings and includes options such as alternative dining, spa treatments and Freestyle Bowling. Groups may also make advance Freestyle Dining reservations.


Groups of ten people or more can qualify for Princess Cruises group rates and travel agents can put together attractive packages with a variety of special extras. Working with the onboard services department, groups can plan a wide variety of customized cruise experiences to fit individual needs by taking advantage of up to five main dining rooms and alternative restaurants, entertainment venues and other facilities for special receptions, parties and other activities. A number of Princess ships also offer specialized meeting facilities.


Regent Seven Seas recently announced the launch of an enhanced group sales program called Group Advantage. The program offers a menu of group amenities, each assigned a specific point value, that can be used to promote remaining 2009 cruises. The higher the point value of the cruise, the more group amenities can be applied, thus allowing travel agent and groups to customize their promotions and cruise experience. The group amenities include such enticements as pre-cruise hotel stays, shipboard credits, cocktail parties, waiver of air add-ons, reduced tour escort requirements and more.


Reaching out to corporate group travelers with the message, “To mix business with pleasure, just add water,” Royal Caribbean emphasizes the unique value of an at sea group program. In contrast to land-based programs, a Royal Caribbean cruise for groups of all sizes includes accommodations and stateroom amenities, flexible dining options and amenities, entertainment and recreational activities, use of fitness facilities and a full range of meeting services, including complimentary meeting space and A/V equipment, onboard group coordinators and a dedicated corporate meetings sales team.


Seabourn Cruise Line is a popular option for companies, organizations or social groups or extended families desiring an exclusive full-yacht charter. Accommodating between 208 and 450 guests, the ships offer the ability to custom design itineraries, and shipboard and shoreside activities to suit the group’s wishes. Other features of a Seabourn charter include security, mobility, all-inclusive fixed pricing and single-source contracting of transportation, accommodation, entertainment and top-quality food and beverage service. Short of a full charter, groups can be accommodated aboard regular scheduled sailings at advantageous prices.


Accommodating 110 guests in 54 identical Yacht Club staterooms (plus one Owner’s Suite), SeaDream offers special opportunities for groups, whether they are families celebrating an important event, companies seeking a memorable incentive for top employees or those looking for a full ship charter. A crew of 95 ensures attentive service and a SeaDream yacht charter coordinator assists in arranging every aspect of the charter group program, from onboard activities to special dining requirements. Smaller groups – from six to 18 staterooms – are also assisted in creating a personalized yachting adventure.


Silversea Cruises gladly welcomes groups booked through travel agents. Silversea offers guests large-ship amenities aboard its intimate, all-suite vessels: Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper -- and launching in December, Silver Spirit -- all designed to offer an atmosphere of conviviality and casual elegance. With the addition of the regal expedition ship Prince Albert II, the company's itineraries encompass all seven continents.


A Uniworld Boutique River Cruise provides a group retreat for affinity organizations, social gathers, corporations and company incentive programs. Uniworld ships also are available for full charters. The company’s Group Privilege Program includes group discounts; a complimentary tour conductor berth with as little as six guests traveling together; a choice of such amenities as a complimentary one-hour cocktail party, shipboard credits of $50 per guest based on a minimum of 10 guests on select Europe sailings or a wine and fruit plate. Name changes are allowed up to 45 days prior to departure


Windstar has hosted more than 400 full-ship charters and hundreds of groups and incentive programs on its luxury small ships. Groups experience deluxe ocean-view staterooms, five-star dining, exceptional destinations, watersports program and personalized touches. Windstar currently offers a "One for Five" Group Tour Conductor program giving travel agents a complimentary group tour conductor credit when booking a new group of five full-fare berths on select winter 2009 and 2010 sailings by August 31, 2009.

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