River Cruise Ships: Unexpected Incentive Meeting Venues

May 11, 2018

Have you ever held your incentive program – or considered holding it – in an unusual venue?  Unique, unusual, and unexpected are all words used to describe venues that fall outside the boundaries of the typical hotel, ballroom or convention center facility. Many incentive planners are looking to develop programs that can provide unique, immersive and exceptional experiences to their groups.

One such unexpected location is aboard a cruise ship. River cruising is a hot new trend for meetings and incentives. Companies spanning industries including finance, tech, healthcare, auto, and hospitality have all recently expressed demand for these atypical venues.

Continuing Education, Inc. offers University at Sea programs. Their programs, covering a wide range of disciplines including medicine, dentistry, law, and insurance, are designed for professionals “to obtain the educational course credits required to maintain licensure, while at the same time enjoying a family holiday.”

Cruise lines such as Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Select Voyages, CruiseXplore, and Star Cruises advertise directly to the meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) industry.

Since 2017, Uniworld has seen a more than 200% increase in demand for chartered experiences.

Uniworld operates more than 500 departures annually, covering more than 20 countries. The organization’s boutique ships offer a variety of meeting spaces and configurations. Large group meetings can be held in the ship’s main lounge, which has all the audio-visual equipment needed for presentations. WiFi is complimentary on board all Uniworld ships.

Why choose a cruise ship? The all-inclusive options make it easy both for event organizers and attendees. Traveling aboard a floating hotel means attendees only have to unpack once but get to experience a number of different ports.

“Lectures, meetings, entertainment and events held on river ships have the backdrop of century old towns, castles, and vineyards, and on shore experiences allow guests to visit a different city each day,” said Wesley Bosnic, vice president of charter & incentive sales for Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.

Most of Uniworld’s charters are for corporate incentive travel or affinity groups. Corporate customers take private full ship charters to organize award travel for top performers. Uniworld has welcomed charters from major financial institutions, auto makers, tech companies, museums, LGBTQ groups, universities, and more.  

Groups between 100-150 guests are ideal size for a full ship charter, but the company also accommodates smaller incentive groups - as few as 10 guests. Uniworld’s boutique ships sailing European rivers have an average capacity of 135 guests. Ships sailing on the more exotic destinations such as the Ganges River in India, Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia and the Nile in Egypt have an average capacity of 68 guests.

“Organizing award travel or meetings on an all-inclusive luxury Uniworld river cruise provides companies the opportunity to educate, reward and entertain participants in an elegant and pleasant environment – and in settings that provide comfort, safety, exceptional fine dining experiences and opportunity to customize the experience on board or on shore to the specific needs of the group,” Bosnic explained.

Attendees have immediate access to explore the various destinations following internal meetings. It’s an exciting way to offer your delegates access to history, art, food and wine, and other once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences.

What about motion sickness? Bosnic assured me that on river cruises, the ships sway much less than ocean ships, so seasickness is typically not an issue. Land is in sight at all times. If any guest does feel ill, Uniworld will provide medical attention and work with the passenger to make sure they feel comfortable.

While not for everyone, the option to hold your next meeting on a river cruise ship exists and would certainly provide a memorable experience.


Have you held an event on a river cruise ship? If so, how did it go? Let us know in the comments below.

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