Now cruise ships are competing successfully with major international hotels for the conference market.
For the most part these meetings at sea are held on the smaller cruise ships, as well as on river cruise ships, which may be chartered for the occasion.
Often small, like-minded groups, also use cruise ship facilities for their annual get-together.
As australiancruisingnews.com notes, the advantages of meeting at sea are many.
A standout is that the meeting can also be part holiday, with partners also on board, to experience the joys of cruising, as well as touring the ports of call. Add to that the ship’s facilities, from food to wine to entertainment that all make for all-round ease.
There is also “me” time for sitting on the suite balcony to gaze out on an endless horizon and calm waters, away from the meeting venues.
The ship usually has rooms set aside for meetings, but if a larger area is needed, the cruise company can organise one in a hotel at a port of call. On board a speciality restaurant can also be set aside for the conference’s main dinner.
Scott Graham, of Silversea Cruises, says 6 to 16 day cruises usually entice conference guests, with the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Alaska all top destinations, depending on the season.
He says there are several different dining options, including degustation menus, on Silversea’s current fleet of eight ships, and shore excursions can be tailor-made to the interests of a group, silversea.com
Smaller river cruise ships also attract meetings at sea, and Walter Nand, of Avalon Waterways says a new trend is to charter an entire ship for a conference as it holds up to 166 passengers. Partners can travel, too, which makes the cruise a great mix of business and pleasure.
He says one of the most popular routes is a 7-day sailing down the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel where passengers transfer to Zurich (in Switzerland which is one of the business capitals of Europe). Also popular is a cruise in France transferring by high-speed train from Paris to Lyon for a cruise of the south that offers a culinary and wine feast, avalonwaterways.com.au