This also appeared in Business Insider on July 12, 2011 See below.
July 5th, 2011
During the past two decades, my experience has included organizing incentive programs and conferences on cruise ships. They have proven to be easy to justify and budget, and provide a high-perceived value. A drawback with many large ships is that high achievers are limited to receiving verandah cabins. This has caused many incentive programs to turn to higher end smaller ships that could provide the exceptional service, but not the space required for a large group.
Holland America Lines has solved that dilemma with penthouse and deluxe verandah suites. The majority of the cabins are verandahs. However, on the ms Westerdam, Oosterdam, Noordam, Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam, as well as various classes of ships, this category is available with approximately more than 60 deluxe verandah and penthouse suites. Guests enjoy the use of the Neptune Lounge, which provides a relaxed atmosphere with up-to-date newspapers, magazines, and television, in addition to coffee or tea with fresh cold snacks all day.
The Neptune Lounge concierges are able to assist you on the spot with front office transactions, reservations for the Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto Restaurant, or other restaurants available on other ships, and shore excursion information and bookings. Each suite phone has a direct line to the Neptune Lounge concierge, which provides concierge service 24 hours a day.
In addition, suite guests enjoy priority tender service by simply presenting their suite keycard to access the tender embarkation deck—no lines in the lounge waiting for a tender ticket.
Here are my own personal favorites for suite guests: Complimentary laundry, dry cleaning and pressing services; high tea service and hors d’oeuvres delivered to your suite upon request with 24 hours notice; and preferred luggage handling. In addition, breakfast is available in the Pinnacle Grill for penthouse and deluxe verandah suite guests.
It will probably be only a matter of time before the other major cruise lines offer a similar service. However, Holland America has it in place and working well.
So for just about any size incentive group, you could divide up your categories between verandahs, deluxe verandah suites, penthouse suites, and for a lower category, ocean view cabins. The entire ship offers a wide variety of entertainment, activities, and services. These numerous suites make a huge difference in being able to award top achievers.
Board rooms and meeting rooms are readily available and comfortable. Private functions are able to schedule in numerous venues. Shore excursions, spa services, and extra amenities are easily arranged, or you can contract local tourism bureaus for assistance. Many of the ships will set up a Chef’s Table Dinner for 20 where the Culinary Arts Center is converted for the event.
In general, most participants in cruise incentives remember cruises as providing memorable positive experiences, with everyone feeling special.
Since it has been my preference to stay with Holland America Lines the past three years, this is not meant to be a comparison between cruise lines. I would have to sail on other lines before I could intelligently make that comparison. Even though I have sailed in the past on other lines, ships are regularly refitted every five years or so. What is evident is Holland America’s approach works, and works well. Its well-planned and orchestrated program with a controlled budget provides a perfect answer for an incentive program. The group sales department is willing to work to ensure positive results.
Freelance travel writer Maralyn D. Hill, The Epicurean Explorer, is President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. Maralyn focuses on food, spas, travel, and wine, while still covering meetings, incentives, and corporate assignments.
http://www.businessinsider.com/why-holland-america-for-an-incentive-program-2011-7 July 12, 2011 5 million