How Events at Sea Help Business for Norwegian Cruise Line

Despite experiencing a devastating setback in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, like most travel, the cruise industry has been making a comeback. In 2022, the industry made $18 billion in revenue, and it’s projected to reach $25.1 billion by the end of 2023.

Part of that success can be attributed to immersive experiences, including meetings at sea. Because cruises tend to offer high participation rates, attractive locales, and cost effectiveness, they’ve become a favorable option for association, corporate, and incentive meeting and event planners. And companies like Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) are noticing.

The cruise company recently launched a division called “Experiences at Sea,” which will provide charter events and immersive experiences at sea for like-minded individuals. This new division joins the company’s Charters, Meetings, and Incentives team (CM&I) with Sixthman Festivals at Sea, a subsidiary of NCL that has already produced more than 160 fan-focused charters.

How Events at Sea Help Business for Norwegian Cruise LineIn March, Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea VIII will feature more than 20 artists, including Little Feat, Dion, Bobby Rush, Robert Randolph Band, and more.Photo: Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineFrom Jan. 20-March 27, the cruise line is hosting a lineup of 13 back-to-back cruises over 66 nights on the Norwegian Pearl, which boasts a maximum capacity of 2,394 guests and a length of 964 feet. The themed cruises—which sail from Miami to various Caribbean islands—are aimed at a range of passengers, including wrestling aficionados, nurses, and music fans.

The company has also partnered with travel agency Infinity Sports & Events to offer bespoke packages for the Rugby World Cup in September and October. Passengers will receive match tickets to games played in Marseille, Nice, Bordeaux, and Nantes, France, as well as access to fan-focused activities, player and coach meet-and-greets, panels, and game-viewing parties on board.

Anthony Diaz, CEO of Sixthman and senior vice president of CM&I for Norwegian Cruise Line, shared more about the new division and what planners usually look for when hosting meetings and conferences on cruise ships…

Why did NCL decide to form the “Experiences at Sea” division? Was there demand from guests and clients?
We were seeing that people were more interested in investing their time and money into meaningful experiences, especially through travel. More specifically, they are searching for travel adventures to experience with others who share a common passion, which is proving to show a very high demand due to the bonds, deep connection, and memories created on these types of vacations. For years, we’ve been seeing firsthand this massive desire for guests to set sail with a community of like-minded people at Sixthman.

Can you tell us more about the recent roster of cruises, which includes The Rock Boat XXII with Sister Hazel, Chris Jericho’s Rock N Wrestling Rager at Sea, and Nursecon at Sea?
The upcoming roster is a mix of nine Sixthman-produced events and four events produced by direct clients of the [Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings] Charters, Meetings & Incentives team. These themed cruises are a mix of music genres plus wrestling, internet influencers, nurses, and more. We work closely with our partners, artist managers, and agents to understand the goals of their client and how to help further connect them to their core fans by creating an intimate and premium vacation experience. It’s an incredibly powerful experience for both the artist and the fans when they all come together on a vacation at sea. Unlike what might occur at a show on land, we’ve learned that for a more engaging connected experience, sometimes you must get away to get together.

What’s been the biggest challenge in hosting the cruises back to back?
When deciding to host an extended back-to-back block of events, we knew Norwegian Pearl could take on the challenge. First, the ship is well designed to fit the stages and for almost all the guests on board to experience the shows and concerts on the pool deck. The Haven, NCL’s ship-within-a-ship concept, is an ideal space for the talent to have privacy while enjoying quality time with fans and the rest of the activities. Lastly, our main theaters aboard the Norwegian Pearl accommodate almost half the guests on board, which allows for more flexibility with scheduling and an opportunity for everyone to enjoy the experiences. 

By hosting 13 back-to-back events, we can leverage the scale across several areas and are able to bring on highly talented and experienced teams to execute the events, including people who know how to operate within the unique structure of a floating festival.

How Events at Sea Help Business for Norwegian Cruise Line“We offer the ability for meeting planners and their attendees to think outside the boardroom. In being extremely creative and flexible in how we use our public spaces, groups can host meetings in a variety of unique venues such as theaters, restaurants, and bars,” said Anthony Diaz, CEO of Sixthman and senior vice president of CM&I for Norwegian Cruise Line.Photo: Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineWhat are the advantages to hosting an event, such as a conference, on a cruise ship? Why should companies consider that as an option?
We offer the ability for meeting planners and their attendees to think outside the boardroom. In being extremely creative and flexible in how we use our public spaces, groups can host meetings in a variety of unique venues such as theaters, restaurants, and bars. When hosting a conference with NCL, guests can also enjoy all the ship has to offer including the Mandara Spa, fully equipped gym, recreational activities such as virtual-reality complexes and racetracks, entertainment shows, casinos, and food and beverage concepts. The last benefit of hosting an event on board a cruise ship is the ability to visit different destinations all over the world, including the Caribbean, Alaska, and Europe.

What are some common requests from event and meeting clients?
The most common meeting requests are for general sessions, award ceremonies, breakout meetings, and other opportunities for their attendees to bond amidst the goals of the event. Welcome and farewell cocktail receptions as well as group dinners are also commonly requested when planning an event with us. 

Experiences at Sea’s approach is to create extraordinary moments not only during the cruise but also leading up to and after the event. When we get that right, the overall experience is elevated, and it’s a win-win for all involved.

How Events at Sea Help Business for Norwegian Cruise LineIn February, Chris Jericho’s Rock N Wrestling Rager at Sea will sail from Miami to the Bahamas and feature rock concerts combined with wrestling.Photo: Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

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