Not long ago, Eventwist’s Deborah Pannell, an event planner herself, took a cruise which gave her new insight about her profession. She shares her experience here.
This article was originally printed as a guest post on http://lizkingevents.com. Please visit Liz’s site for more excellent pieces on events, event planning and event tech.
Note: I wrote this post just before the tragedy of the Costa Concordia began to unfold on January 13th. I decided it would be best to delay publishing of the piece, out of respect for all the people involved and the extreme nature of the situation. While my heart goes out to the survivors and all of the affected families, I continue to support the exemplary hospitality and technical innovation exhibited aboard the world’s finest cruise ships, and their ongoing significance to the international travel and tourism industry. -Deborah Pannell
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Last November, I was invited to go on my first cruise – an experience in luxury that I will never forget. If you’ve never been on a cruise, then imagine a Las Vegas resort hotel… on water. As a guest on the world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, I was treated to what seemed like endless food, entertainment, and leisure time options. I also received a concentrated lesson in the art of hospitality and yes, a few insights about event planning.
Here’s the way a cruise works. You pay in advance for your lodging and your basic food and entertainment. Alcoholic beverages and fancy coffee drinks like cappuccino are extra, as are the offerings from a variety of specialty restaurants and other food establishments, spas, casinos and off ship activities such as guided tours and excursions. It is possible to enjoy the experience at a variety of levels, with a great range in monetary output. In other words, if you grab at every colorful frozen drink that is offered to you as you’re lounging on the sundeck, you’re going to feel it when you sign for the final bill.
I couldn’t help viewing my time on and off the ship through the lens of an event professional. Here are a few key observations that made a serious impression on me:
1) Choices – The level of choices on the ship was impressive. Meals were an especially option-filled time. From the bountiful buffet offerings at breakfast and lunch to the unlimited menu options at dinner time, we just plain pigged out. Multiple appetizers, main courses? Sure… Can’t make up your mind about dessert? Try a few… And did I mention the pizzeria on the main deck that was open about 18 hours a day? Slices on demand, at no extra cost.
Um, that’s it. No great lesson here. Just unlimited food. I was in heaven. And the pizza thing kind of took it to a whole other level.
The main deck of the Allure Of the Seas, featuring the awesome Sorrento’s pizza…
2) High Tech ID/Reservation Technology – The tracking system employed to keep over 5000 guests flowing effortlessly to our variously scheduled evening activities was seamlessly integrated with our Sea Passes (ID Cards – also used as room keys and for all on-board purchases). At each event our cards were scanned by handheld, wireless devices – the same system used to make sure that every single passenger reported back to the ship after spending the day on a shore-side excursion. Security, scheduling and onboard purchasing, all handled by one integrated system. Marvelous.
If you want to have a successful event as well as a profitable aftermath, then you want to know who is attending and be able to easily follow up with your participants, or even market to them. In addition, a seamlessly integrated system of payment streamlines sales or donations and maximizes profitability.
3) Really Cool Digital Photo Technology – The minute you step on the ship, you are directed to have your picture taken. Your image is correlated with your personal information from your Sea Pass. From then on, your picture will be taken at least a dozen more times. Via sophisticated image recognition technology, each of these subsequent photos of you will be directed into your account. At the end of your onboard stay, you will have the opportunity to peruse the album of pictures documenting your trip and of course purchase your keepsake portraits.
I just thought this was the coolest thing ever. Having never seen it before, I thought it was real sci-fi stuff. I have no idea how available this technology is, nor how expensive, but I can definitely see it being used at conferences or other large events such as trade shows, both as a way to sell photos, as well as a method of networking participants, by identifying and following up on the relationships they develop over the course of the proceedings.
4) Total Immersion in New Environments – With 18 decks, seven specially themed areas and numerous bars, eateries, lounges, pavilions, activity areas and cozy corners spread throughout the ship, guests have countless opportunities for entertainment and escape by completely immersing themselves in something new.
Oh what the hell, it was just completely over the top. What can I tell you? It was like Disneyland at sea – on steroids. It was relentless. By day five I was like, really? More fun? More food? Uncle, Uncle I tell you!!
Allure of the Seas – overlooking “Central Park”
5) High Production Values – Every evening we saw a different show. One night it was the Broadway hit, Chicago. Another night it was an ice show. The next night we heard a fantastic acapella group called Mosaic, then there was a comedy show, the aqua show (complete with high divers), and a not-too-great review of popular songs that all managed to sound like muzak, choreographed to something that looked like Avatar, with arbitrary, apparently obligatory trapeze work… OK, only one dog of a show amongst a week of winners – not bad. Overall, the combination of world class talent coupled with state-of-the-art technology made for some of incredibly enjoyable performances.
Once again, variety was paramount, but even more important was the use of the best technological tools to enhance already good work. The lighting and sound were top notch, video was integrated seamlessly into several of the shows, and the aquatic theater was truly breathtaking. However, when the substance of the entertainment stumbled, the latest tech advances came across as empty gimmicks. Make sure your content matches the integrity of the tools you use to deliver it, or your entire presentation will fall flat and be rendered a dismal failure.
To read the rest of this post, please go to http://www.eventwist.com/blog/event-planning/9-luxury-cruise-taught-event-planning/. Posted with the permission of Deborah Pannell. Photos by Deborah Pannell.