The Dangers of Booking a Cruise…What Can Go Wrong!

Perspectives of Dylan DeClerck, Event Consultant

Post 5 of 5 in this series.   Dylan DeClerck

Booking a group on a cruise, or for that fact any trip for a larger group, can be very exciting, especially when you’ve worked with a cruise expert to help you with the daunting research to locate the perfect location, received the best concessions and amenities, and created the best experiences for all of the attendees.  However, right after the trip gets booked, the overwhelming pressure of putting on an event just as well as you envisioned starts to feel heavy on your shoulders.  Let’s explore a couple of the things you need to address when planning a cruise and provide you with a way to alleviate some of the stress.

Picking a Ship – One of the challenges in picking a ship is finding the company and vessel with everything you need for your group.  Unlike choosing a hotel and destination, a cruise ship has no room to add additional meeting space or any flexibility in set up, so everything that you need for the length of your group’s stay on board must be part of the contract or on the ship from the start.  This also raises the question of, “How do I know the ship has the right accommodations for my needs?”  Realistically you’d like to have prior experience with the ship, but secondarily there are event planner experts who can help with group planning.

Miscommunication – While it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to construct a plan that avoids miscommunication, there are certain steps every event planner can take to make communication as clear as possible.  The first thing to do is establish a relationship with someone from the cruise company that you know will take good care of your special circumstances and needs.  Many groups complain that the cruise lines fail to address their concerns.  Working with a cruise can be completely different than working with a hotel.  A cruise expert can help align you with the right person to be your point person and vice versa, meaning that you almost exclusively communicate with each other when it comes to your group and the cruise.  Now these two steps may seem like an easy task, but unfortunately it takes time and investment from both parties to establish this clear line of communication.

Challenges and Obstacles – As with all group trips there are going to be challenges and obstacles for the event planners to manage.  Most event planners know the best way to solve problems is to anticipate them and plan for them even before they occur.  If your group has never done a cruise before this can be incredibly difficult, but a good place to start is by talking with someone who has cruised with a group before.

Fortunately for your group, a good way to alleviate some of this stress when planning a cruise is to work with a partner that knows your group and the cruise options available.  Conference Event Management can help you pick a ship because our cruise President and her cruise team have been on almost every ship that can accommodate a group.  In addition, we have established relationships and a single point of contact at all major cruise lines and won’t hesitate to reach out to them immediately as a problem arises.  Conference Event Management has the experience to make your group’s trip a smooth sailing!

Why Executives Get Spooked About Group Hotel Bookings

Conference Event Management can help you with group hotel bookings






It’s no wonder why executives have concerns about their staff members booking group events directly.  When a staff member contacts a hotel and signs a contract on their own, only a few times each year, executives often question whether they’re getting the best possible deals.  It doesn’t have to be Halloween time to know the hotel or cruiseline contract can be scary to navigate on your own—and can put your company at financial risk.

Top Haunting Concerns:

•Leaving money on the table. Find a partner that touches numerous hotel and cruise contracts every day and knows how to request the clauses you need in your contract to protect you.
•Spending more than you need to. Without a consistent presence in the hotel buying market, you’re probably not getting your fair share of savings and yummy treats.
•Choosing a hotel that ultimately fails to meet your customer service and/or style expectations. Never select a hotel based on its website photos, as they can be very misleading, and never select a hotel simply because it worked five years ago. Frequent changes in hotel management means your experience could be much different this time around. Up-to-date, expert advice on the hotels that should be avoided can be the biggest factor in your event’s success, as top-booking hotels often move to the “black list” and vice versa.

Using CEM’s NO-COST hotel and cruise research and contracting services removes the spooky concerns and puts you back in the driver’s seat when we sit on your side of the table. Find out why so many clients refer us and come to count on these unbelievable NO-COST services, especially for repeat events.

Cruising Trends – CUBA Here We Come!

Dylan DeClerckPerspectives of Dylan DeClerck, Event Consultant

Part two of five

In the constantly evolving world of cruising the destinations change almost annually and the amenities change even more frequently.  This blog will explore two emerging destinations and a new trend among ship amenities.

The first destination with increasing popularity is Cuba.  For years Americans were not allowed to set foot on the Caribbean nation’s shores, despite being just a short trip from Florida’s coast.  In July 2015 this changed when the United States reached an agreement to re-establish diplomatic relations with the nation.  Since then more tourists have been coming into Cuba and cruise companies feel increasingly comfortable taking American passengers to the nation.  Since the land-based infrastructure is not yet built up for group comforts, a cruise is the perfect way to explore this country.

The other destination more people are traveling to during the warmer months of the year (May through August) is Alaska.  There’s likely many reasons for this, but for a long time Alaska has been a popular bucket-list destination that people want to check off.

When looking at ships’ amenities, more and more companies are differentiating themselves via specialty restaurants.  Gone are the cruises that force everyone to eat at one of two times in the same dining room, and new are the restaurants that provide you with flexibility when you dine and provide a new experience.  This includes restaurants set up by celebrity chefs and restaurants featuring exotic and luxury cuisine.

What’s popular in cruising is up to the passengers, with cruise lines understanding the need to continue to innovate in order to bring more business on board.  Share your hot buttons with your Conference Event Management cruise team to determine what options are on what ships.

Cruising Trends, Conference Event Management

Why Groups Love to Cruise

Why Groups Love to Cruise (Part one of five)
Perspectives of Dylan DeClerck, Event Consultant

Dylan DeClerck, Conference Event Managment

Dylan DeClerck


Are you thinking of booking a trip for your incentive group?  There’s certainly plenty of options if you’re looking for a nice destination, ranging from Athens to Washington D.C.  However, instead of sorting through the alphabet of destinations, it may be in the interest of your group to see multiple destinations on the big C.  Cruise, that is!

More incentive groups are cruising now, and many refuse to go back to regular destination incentive trips because of the group experience that cruises provide.

One of the first reasons groups enjoy cruise ships is because they are an all-inclusive experience.  Once your group’s members board a ship they don’t have to spend another dollar on dining until they get off.  It’s nice to know that everything (dining, entertainment, activities, etc.) is taken care of!  Beverage packages can be built in at the time of contracting.  At the same time, if travelers would like to spend their own money for an upgraded experience such as gambling at the casino, a treatment at the spa, or an upgraded dining experience, ships can provide that as well.  This flexibility works well for many groups and makes it super simple for the event planners.

Groups also enjoy cruises because they allow members to meet together if needed, while also providing everyone the opportunity to do some activities on their own or simply have some time alone.  To take advantage of this cruise ship benefit we always recommend that event planners leave some free time in the itinerary for members to be able to choose their own adventure.  A great group trip will provide an excellent balance between group and individual time.

The last reason groups love to cruise that is covered here is because they prevent event planners from uncertainty.  There’s only so much room for a ship to have changes and that occurs when it’s taken off the market for renovation, so once you’ve seen the ship it isn’t going to significantly change before your group’s next trip.  This prevents the awkward situation where a group books an incentive trip in the perfect location, only to find their hotel undergoing significant renovations or closed amenities.

If any of the reasons above make an incentive trip on a cruise sound appealing for your group’s next trip, Conference Event Management staff can walk you through some alternatives that may work best for your group.

Conference Event Management cruise incentive trips

How to Get the Advantage with Cruise Sourcing Services

Is it time to reconsider a cruise? Where do you start? While you can spend a weekend in any destination and visit half a dozen properties – it takes serious effort to visit even one ship in port. And since ships are mobile, you have to be able to catch one in a location that changes daily. Add to that the fact that ships have tight security and you need special clearance if you are “just visiting.”

So where does a cruise sourcing partner come in? Cruise Sourcing Specialists are unbiased industry experts who have seen and sailed on all of the ships in the market. They will tell you the difference between river, luxury, sailing, boutique, premium, mass market and mega liner categories. Additionally, they can enlighten you on the features and benefits of the various brands. Once they have your group specs, your Cruise Sourcing Specialist will walk you through the products that will best suit your program and its demographics. They help you decide whether to book a block of cabins or charter an entire ship. They are savvy on negotiating rates, and contracting protection terms and amenities that are in YOUR best interest. You thought working with a hotel was challenging at times – it’s nothing compared to working with a cruiseline – you need a Cruise Sourcing Specialist on your side to get the cruiseline’s attention

A Cruise Sourcing Specialist can also help you manage the operations of your program or provide consultation on how you can do it yourself. Meeting planners who work directly with a cruise line can find the process challenging, therefore having a reputable cruise sourcing company to guide you as you build your onboard and shore side events will ensure that what is contracted is properly executed. They act as the planner’s personal representative and deal with the cruiseline on your behalf, saving time and avoiding aggravation.

Choosing a cruise for your next incentive program should not be scary. Just arm yourself with an expert Cruise Sourcing Specialist like CEM who can help you make the right choice. CEM’s Cruise President sails over 21 weeks a year ensuring our recommendations are perfect for your group. We are proud to say that our Cruise President is a winner of the coveted Norwegian Cruise Line Incentive Partner of the year award, and two-time winner of Celebrity Cruise Lines Partner of the year – given to only one company annually. With CEM, you know you are in good hands and your needs will be met, while your expectations are exceeded.


Conference Event Management (CEM) is pleased to announce the launch of the new Mentor Tank™ program inspired by Iowa’s involvement in Million Women Mentors under the leadership of Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds. Million Women Mentors (MWM) is a national initiative with aims of developing confidence in girls and young women to pursue courses, degrees and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) related fields as well as increasing the representation of women in these fields.

MWM-Iowa Event Management Team

On September 23, CEM President and staff helped facilitate a press conference held by Lt Governor Kim Reynolds at the state capital. The state of Iowa is the first in the nation to offer state-wide support of the MWM initiative and has pledged to recruit 5,000 mentors throughout Iowa’s 99 counties.

In support of the mission of MWM, CEM President Michelle DeClerck founded Mentor Tank™, the first of its kind in Iowa, as a monthly gathering for young women to connect with DeClerck and other professional women to learn about hot topics affecting women in today’s workforce, including the event planning and hospitality industry, career skills, women business ownership, and strategies for fulfilling career and mentoring opportunities. Mentor Tank™ will involve women professionals from numerous industries as panelists to speak on their respective fields and will include professionals in STEM positions. Monthly events will take place at the CEM office in West Des Moines.


The inaugural Mentor Tank™ will take place on Tuesday, November 11, 2014. Young women (high school seniors through recently graduated college students) looking for career support or opportunities, including those who want to enter the hospitality industry, are invited to attend and come armed with questions and prepared to share concerns, best practices and suggest topics to cover more in depth.

As a frequently requested mentor, and with 11 years of leading an all-women team at her company, DeClerck is committed to advancing women in their pursuit for rewarding career opportunities. DeClerck supports MWM-IA by serving on the Executive Council and representing NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) of which she also serves on the board. DeClerck is involved in many other women’s initiatives including serving on the Steering Committee for Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference (IWLC) and supports their annual event with consulting and logistical services. As well, Michelle is pleased to be scheduled by ISED Women’s Business Center, under the US Small Business administration, to give her presentation on building a sustainable business practice which will help Iowa women business owners as they launch and grow their businesses. She also serves as President of the board for Opportunity on Deck and as a committee member on Matthew 25.

Interested individuals are invited to learn more by visiting the Conference Event Management Facebook page and viewing the event “First Mentor Tank™: Event Planning and Hospitality Industry” Mentor Tank ™ events are free to attend. Attendees are asked to please RSVP to the Facebook event.

For more information, contact Mandy McWherter at

Conference Event Management (CEM) offers complimentary hotel and cruise contracting and creates Return on Experience (ROE) – custom meeting and event solutions that drive sales, improve productivity, and retain top talent through attendee engagement. With complete transparency and saving client’s time and money, CEM manages the details while clients manage the business.  

BYOB … to Cruiser’s Delight!

The CEM meeting and events team has a special tool for planning the best cruise incentives – our expert cruising division! Our cruise team shares the latest in cruise news…


While some restrictions just seem to get tougher in light of tightened down security – this lightening of BYOB carry-ons leaves our cruise team experts hoping for even more loosened restrictions in other areas.

Catching up with other mass and premium line cruiselines, Royal Caribbean (RCCL) announced that guests may now bring up to two bottles of wine per cabin at embarkation.  Many other cruise lines allow 1 – 2 bottles per guest, with a $15 – $25 corkage fee applied in most instances.  Currently you can’t carry-on your own spirits or beer, however, our cruise team will be watching this closely.

Many cruise lines are also now offering ‘individual liquor packages,’ meaning you are no longer required to buy them for the whole group—you can buy for certain VIPs or provide on board credit which could be used for individual liquor purchases on board.

What’s next in cruising … River Cruising!  It’s hot, hip and comfortably quaint.  Another trend we’re seeing with clients is chartering smaller ships.  It’s not just for the big companies.  Groups comprised of 30 couples or more are enjoying the benefit of sailing their own flag and getting chummy with the captain.