CMI: Are there any additional fees associated with chartering a ship?

Carol Berwager: No, unless there are special items added — beverage package, custom shore excursions, and so on

CMI: How far out should one charter a ship?

Berwager: We've had some charters book as far out as four years, but typically two years would be a minimum.

CMI: How far out do large groups, of 700 or more, need to book if they are not chartering but need a large number of staterooms?

Berwager: Large groups [typically] book two to three years out, but we have also had groups book just 16 to 18 months out, depending on the type of client and what their timing needs are.

CMI: If more than half the ship is needed, do you need to charter the entire ship?

Berwager: Yes.

CMI: What is express pricing at Holland America? What additional costs are incurred beyond the per-person negotiated rate? How negotiable are the rates?

Berwager: Express pricing is the ability to offer the rates for a certain date without checking to see if the space is available. The only mandated additional cost is government taxes. We try to be as negotiable as possible, but a lot depends on the sail date and how full the ship might be.

CMI: Are there concessions a planner can ask for other than the per-person price?

Berwager: There are items such as audiovisual, live music, ice carvings, and such, but the planner still takes these costs and divides them per person.

CMI: Does attrition come into play on cruises if planners can't meet their guarantee?

Berwager: There are very few cases where planners do not take advantage of [Holland America's] attrition policy. It's very hard to determine how many people will qualify, so this policy helps them quite a bit. The percentage rate drops the closer in you get.

CMI: What advantages do cruises offer for groups?

Berwager: The true advantage is that clients are getting the biggest bang for their buck. When you consider everything that is included with the price of your stateroom, it's pretty hard to beat. They also visit various ports and countries and only pack once.

With 135 years of cruising experience and 13 ships, Holland America Line's fleet of five-star, premium ships offers nearly 500 cruises to 314 ports of call on seven continents, with Alaska, Caribbean, and Mexico topping U.S. incentive and meeting planners' lists. In July, Holland America launched the 2,104-room Eurodam, its first ship in its Signature Class series, and will debut the next ship in the line, the Nieuw Amsterdam IV, in 2010.