by Alex Palmer | November 27, 2018
Cruises are having a moment. Thanks to new ships and services, and a growing interest from attendees in the logistical conveniences and luxurious accommodations of an onboard experience, cruises of all varieties are proving an attractive option for groups.

"All of our international events have been hosted on cruises," says Kimarie Page, vice president of development resources for humanitarian-relief organization Convoy of Hope, which looks to cruise ships to motivate attendees to attend its fundraising gatherings. "I'm noticing that the cruise industry is becoming more mindful to accommodate the needs of large groups who are hosting meetings on board, both by making adjustments to their existing fleets and being intentional in new builds."

She adds that support from the cruise line during the pre-cruise planning has improved, and that they have worked with Celebrity Cruises for the past five years "because they provide the product, service and support that allows our events to be successful year after year."

And that product is growing. The new Celebrity Edge is poised to set sail for its inaugural season this December, bringing a range of eye-popping offerings to the cruise market, and likely to get even those who don't usually consider the sea as an option to give it a second look. This includes onboard entertainment in its cutting-edge theater, unique spaces including the vast, three-story Grand Plaza and the ship's "Magic Carpet" -- a cantilevered, floating platform that can reach up to 13 stories above sea level, ideal for a memorable meal -- and a range of food-and-beverage options.

Groups will be able to sample from several specialty dining options: the upscale Fine Cut Steakhouse; BBQ-inspired Rooftop Garden Grill; open-air Eden Restaurant; seafood-oriented Raw on 5; and Le Grand Bistro patisserie.

Celebrity is not the only cruise line expanding its offerings. Norwegian Bliss, the latest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, just wrapped her inaugural season on the West Coast, making a splash as the first ship in North America to offer a go-kart track and open-air laser tag arena. Following a $50 million renovation, Norwegian Joy now offers new dining venues, a new Concierge stateroom category and more. The recently renovated Norwegian Breakaway this year launched the brand's newest bar and lounge venue, Syd Norman's Pour House, modeled as a classic rock club, complete with live music themed cocktails.

Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas made its maiden voyage, laying claim to being not only the world's largest cruise ship, but also its "most Instagrammable." These photo-worthy offerings include the Paradoz View overhead art installation in the ship's Royal Promenade, the 10-story slide called "the Ultimate Abyss," an expansive Pool and Sports Zone and plenty of food-and-beverage options. As groups take a second look at the experiences available from cruise ships, the major cruise companies are striving to find new ways to meet their demands.   

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This article appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Incentive.