Ijust came across the news that Salesforce has chartered an entire cruise ship to serve as a meeting venue and floating hotel for its sprawling Dreamforce tech conference in San Francisco, which will swell San Francisco (population 837,000) by more than 130,000 visitors for four days in September. They've even rechristened Celebrity Infinity as the "Dream Boat" for the week (hey, cruise ship nicknames have a long tradition, right, Princess?).
So I reached out to Ron Gulaskey, Global Director of Corporate, Incentives and Charter Sales for Celebrity Cruises, to get some specific examples of how cruise incentive trips and corporate charters work.
Here's our 20-minute interview (and here's the full transcript if you prefer to read it):
Some highlights from our conversation:
A better value than resort or hotel incentive trips
Ron makes a persuasive case that a cruise ship voyage offers great value for companies that want to reward executives and high-performing managers and employees, especially when compared to the same old getaway to a Vegas resort or big-city hotel. All told, he said, "it's a much better value" than an incentive trip to a resort or hotel — and an average of 30 percent less expensive when all is said and done.
In a typical business event, team members disperse and meet up only sporadically after the day's business ends. On a cruise ship, employees have more freedom of choice to dine where they want, to go on shore excursions together, to keep the spouse or significant other genuinely entertained and to enjoy nighttime diversions with like-minded team members. "I may go to a jazz lounge and find out that one of the top VPs in our company likes it as well and we have a common theme to talk about in the future," Gulaskey said.
And a five- to seven-night sailing to the Caribbean, Alaska or Mediterranean? Top that, Vegas!
Venues outfitted for modern businesses
Venues, particularly on the Solstice and Millennium class ships, are first rate, with dedicated conference rooms, audio-visual equipment, flat screens, handheld microphones, great sound systems, Internet connectivity (depending on location) and slick-looking meeting rooms, lounges and private theaters.
Typically, an employee brings his or her spouse or significant other, and they leave the kids at home, given that Celebrity is all about providing a premium adult experience. "A lot of the contemporary brands have 750-1,500 children on each of their cruise ships and you don’t get that (on a Celebrity cruise)," he said. A cruise ship has so many amenities (spas, pools,) and activities (eg, enrichment programs) that a spouse is never bored and enjoys a vacation vibe.
While 3- to 5-day sailings were once typical for business trips, more companies are now opting for 7-day voyages, Gulaskey said. Here's why: The itineraries and destinations are more varied and interesting. A weeklong cruise provides more of an incentive for employees to go the extra mile. In addition to the Caribbean and Alaska, Europe is now more financially attractive because of the strong U.S. dollar.
Contact a Cruiseable travel consultant
If you're a meeting planner for a corporation, small business, professional organization or any large group, contact a Cruiseable travel consultant for more information about incentive and business travel. (Call us at 1-877-322-3773 or email us.) We'll advise you on which ship and itinerary is the right fit for your specific needs and budget — and get you a group discount — at no charge.
In addition, Celebrity Cruises offers valuable resources about group meetings, individual incentives, ship charters, onboard experiences and more at celebritycorporatekit.com.