Prevue spoke with three cruise line executives about their new vessels, small and large, which offer heightened meetings and incentives at sea due to innovative technology/hardware, dynamic group programming and immersive activities.
We boarded the new Seabourn Pursuit at PortMiami on her first visit to the U.S. What we found was a classy, intimate 132-all veranda-suite expedition ship that seamlessly combines adventure, education and luxury. Says Pierre van Breda, Seabourn’s deputy director of charter, incentive and group sales, “The vessel offers expedition experiences, including two submarines, eight double kayaks and 24 zodiac cruisers, that make the entire experience stand out from other travel.” Add “remote, awe-inspiring destinations,” notes van Breda, and you have the makings for a very unique experience. The same holds for Seabourn Pursuit’s sister ship Seabourn Venture, which also debuted this year.
“The inclusive nature of Seabourn’s fleet/vessels lends itself to guests getting a comprehensive onboard experience without having to concern themselves with additional charges,” points out van Breda. Additionally, he says, “with 30,000 sf of outdoor open deck space, we have a variety of venue spaces to accommodate groups. We also offer menu customization for dinner as well as inclusive catering for events and receptions.” In terms of group size, van Breda says that the “ideal group max is 25 suites/50 guest, but larger groups will be considered based on availability.” And The Restaurant and Discovery Center can accommodate all 264 guests in a single seating, adds van Breda. Planners should also be aware that Starlink WiFi technology will be in place across the entire fleet by the end of this year.
Seabourn Pursuit will begin the brand’s first expedition voyages to the Kimberly region in Australia beginning in June 2024. Van Breda tells Prevue that what the brand is noticing is that groups are looking for “free time and minimal conferencing time, thus creating a true incentive trip, and he sees requests are coming in closer to departure.”
2023 brought two new ships to Scenic Group—Scenic Eclipse II and Emerald Sakara. On the luxury expedition side, the Scenic Eclipse ships are the most innovative, with top-notch onboard technology, eco-friendly to environment and dynamic positioning (instead of anchors), points out Donna Kurtz, director of charter & incentive sales, Scenic Group USA. She reminds planners that the vessels feature submersibles and helicopters for use in most destinations, and that the itineraries are designed for longer stays in ports, making it ideal for incentive groups.
Additionally, she notes, “[Scenic Eclipse’s] onboard mini greenhouse for fresh herbs for dining (particularly in Antarctica where herbs are not readily available) as well as the number of onboard dining venues are great for creative dining [experiences].”
When it comes to the Emerald Sakara, this 50-suite yacht-style vessel is perfect for charter clients that want to brand the ship as their own—branding flags, napkins, digital screens and more. Kurtz adds that “we offer special activities, assistance and technical programming changes to make charters feel exclusive.
“New for 2024/25 on the ocean are more 7-night options in Europe making our luxury yachts an attractive option,” she adds. “Also, more European cruises are focused on wine aficionados or celebrity chefs—a top recommendation for foodies.” Also new on the river are 7-night options on the Mekong River. Kurtz tells planners that groups are looking for ways to customize their programs so all the charter guests can experience and participate in things together, such as local musical and dancing entertainment and cooking classes. Kurtz concludes, “They definitely want heightened and shared
In 2024, Royal Caribbean International (RCI) will debut two new ships—Icon of the Seas (January) and Utopia of the Seas (summer).
“We’re offering several innovative features for meetings and incentives such as high-speed Internet connectivity, digital signage, immersive entertainment experiences (i.e., virtual reality headsets and interactive touchscreens) to enhance the overall event experience, teambuilding activities and luxury dining experiences,” say Freddy Muller, AVP, global corporate, incentive & charter sales, Royal Caribbean International. “Our venues are also unique and innovative for all types of meetings and events like ice skating rinks that convert to general sessions and an entire neighborhood at sea for customized private functions,” he touts.
Icon of the Seas, the first ship in the new Icon Class series, will offer many innovative amenities, including the first hydrogen fuel cell system for a maritime vessel, new-to-brand F&B outlets and new stateroom designs that are more spacious and sustainable than ever before. With Utopia of the Seas, the newest addition to the Oasis Class, groups can enjoy the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, Central Park neighborhood, featuring over 20,000 live plants and trees, and new F&B concepts. Come 2024, RCI will also offer Royal Beach Club, a brand-new private island destination in Paradise Island, Nassau, where groups can “relax and unwind,” says Muller. Early 2024 will see the opening of the adults-only Hideaway Beach enclave at Perfect Day at CocoCay’s North Beach. “Here,” says Muller, “groups can enjoy lavish cabanas, personal attendants and access to a private infinity pool.”
Muller, too, sees that groups today are looking for unique experiences and trends that will make their events stand out from the rest. “In order to meet these demands, there’s a growing interest in immersive activities and excursions, eco-tourism endeavors and locally and culturally based experiences,” he notes. “To meet this trend, RCI offers groups excursions to a wide array of exotic destinations and on board, we have the best shows at sea including Broadway shows, high-flying acrobat performances and private karaoke sessions, sport tournaments including the popular pickleball, rock climbing, ziplining and more. All these unique experiences create an unforgettable and extraordinary setting that attendees won’t soon forget,” concludes Muller. —Laurel Herman
seabourn.com/en/us/Charters; scenicusa.com/charter; royalcaribbeanincentives.com