Push the boat out with a cruising
conference or incentive

William Gibbons

Director, Passenger Shipping Association

When researchers ask people what sort of holiday they would most like to take if they had unlimited budgets, cruising is always a top choice.

Cruising is considered to be stylish, aspirational and expensive. In reality it's affordable and accessible, but its image means delegates who qualify for a cruise incentive trip, or attend a conference on board a ship, really feel that their company is pushing the boat out.

Good value

Conference and incentive organisers can be proud that they've delivered a very motivational experience which is also very good value. Every pound spent on a conference or incentive programme really has to count. Cruising offers organisers an all-in price budget with accommodation, entertainment and meals all within one controllable budget.

As companies introduce more ships, the average price of cruising has come down. In the two years between 1994 and 1996, the average price of a cruise fell from £1385 to £1191.

A world of choice

At a recent travel industry conference, cruising was described as 'conquered paradise'. It enables passengers to experience the joys of travel and the wonder of discovery from the comfort of one base.

There's also a huge choice of styles of cruise ship and destinations that organisers can select to make their event really stand out. It's possible to charter an entire ship and rename it for the period of the charter, for example.

There are more than 500 destinations visited by cruise ships to choose from including the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, Baltic, Far East, Americas, Alaska and Australasia.

A cruise can also take you to places inaccessible by any other means, such as Antarctica or the North Cape. There are many short ex-UK cruises in North Europe which could suit a company's plan and budget.

As an alternative to ocean cruising, companies can opt for river cruising on rivers such as the Rhine, Moselle, Elbe or Danube rivers.

Because cruising is growing so rapidly in popularity, cruise companies are introducing new itineraries to attract repeat customers and first-time cruisers. Destinations which are emerging in popularity for UK cruise passengers include Alaska and South East Asia.

Conference facilities

Most of the larger cruise ships have facilities suited to conferences, board meetings, product launches or corporate incentives. These facilities could include dedicated rooms with hi-tech audio-visual support, satellite links and multilingual translation capacities.

Celebrity Cruises, for example, has interactive audience keypads in its conference centre as well as a television studio which can transmit programmes into participants' staterooms. It's everything that a land-based conference could offer - but with a lot better views.

Maximising travel time

On a cruise, travel is all part of the package, so valuable time is not wasted in the air ferrying of delegates from one interesting location to the next. The cruise glides comfortably on to the next destination while the delegates enjoy the experience.

There is also a wide choice of cruise itineraries available from three, four and seven days, or longer if required.

Equal rewards for all

Once aboard, cruise staff will be on hand to help organisers with every detail - accommodation, all meals, excursions, entertainment, special shore activities or private receptions.

Cruise ships are ideally geared up to provide the level of service required by organisers to brand their events. For example, branded daily lists of events can be pushed under delegates' doors; menus and any other material can be clearly branded for the group on board.

Organisers can also choose the level of cabin to suit their budget and the group can remain close together with similar cabins and identical service. This all helps to ensure every delegate feels equally valued and rewarded.

PSA fact sheet

We have produced a free fact sheet for conference and incentive organisers which gives more details about cruise companies' facilities and services.

To receive copies of the fact sheets, dial 0990 552 251 from the handset of a fax machine or telephone the Passenger Shipping Association.

The Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) was formed in the 1950s to promote passenger travel by sea. William Gibbons was appointed UK Director of the Passenger Shipping Association in April 1994. William was previously General Manager of Sealink Isle of Wight, Ferry Manager for Sealink's Harwich/Hook route and spent three and a half years as a management consultant