In recent weeks, Regent Seven Seas Cruises has been on a mission. The luxury cruise line, which offers all-suite accommodations, round-trip airfare, and complimentary shore excursions as part of its fares, has been on a media and marketing blitz to herald its newest ship, the Seven Seas Explorer, set to debut in summer 2016.
Marketed as "the most luxurious ship ever built," the new, 750-passenger vessel -- Regent's first new ship in 13 years -- is indeed impressive. When she sets sail next year from Monaco, Explorer will have some of the highest space and staff-to-guest ratios in the industry. It will also mark the debut of a new category of luxury suite, the Regent Suite, a two-bedroom, 3,875-square-foot suite which comes with a Vista Garden and an in-room spa retreat comprised of a personal sauna, steam room, and treatment area. The ship will also have the line's first culinary instruction center, the Culinary Arts Kitchen.
Given all of the attention and anticipation surrounding Explorer's debut, it's also no wonder that Regent is also taking this opportunity to focus on the meeting and incentive group market, and to demonstrate how cruising can be a good fit for meeting and incentive programs.
"We have a very experienced and knowledgeable department dedicated to the MICE channel," says Katina Athanasiou, Regent's vice president of charters, meetings, and incentives. "We want to provide support to our customers and we remain on top of current and incoming travel trends, and we want to deliver a unique experience."
The majority of Regent's group business is composed of incentives, and Athanasiou says that many groups are choosing to travel to the Caribbean, Alaska, the Western and Eastern Mediterranean, the Dalmatian coast, and the Greek Isles. She also hopes more planners will consider cruising for future programs.
"For a lot of planners, it's just a lack of experience with cruises and for them, it's easier to go with what they know," she says. "But just like hotels, there are cruises that equate to what planners know in the hotel world. The comfort you have with those hotel brands - there's an equivalent on the cruise side."
She also says that other major misconceptions that planners have regarding cruising involve costs, connectivity, and meeting space. "You can save anywhere from 18 to 25 percent on a cruise program because of all of the inclusions that cruises have. We don't charge for meeting space rentals or dine around - so much is included in the price," says Athanasiou.
"The cruise industry has invested a lot of resources and time to make sure we have the appropriate bandwidth and capabilities for Wi-Fi for all of our travelers, too, and every ship has the appropriate amount of meeting space we need to help a planner envision their event outside of the traditional hotel ballroom."
She notes that Regent is the only brand in the cruise set in which all of the ships can accommodate full-ship charters. "We help translate each customer's unique interpretation of luxury to their program," Athanasiou adds. "What we've found that really drives ROI for our customers is when their attendees step off the ship and they receive a program they could never duplicate on their own."