THEY MUST LIKE IT
According to the Cruise Lines International Association, last year's cruise bookings topped, by far, all previous records. In total, about 10.5 million people took a trip on CLIA-member cruise lines in 2004, including 8,870,901 North American passengers and 1,589,936 international passengers. That's almost 10 percent higher than the 2003 figures, when 7,990,246 North American and 1,536,714 international passengers booked cruise travel. Cruise lines continue to add ships to meet the demand. Sixty-eight new vessels will have debuted between 2000 and the end of 2005, and CLIA fleets are expected to introduce 20 more ships between now and 2008.
Has the ship that you are considering seen any illness, lawsuits, missing passengers, labor disputes, or environmental fines that might affect how attendees feel about the cruise event even before it leaves port? You can start your research at www.cruisejunkie.com, a watchdog site compiled by a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, Newfoundland, that chronicles cruise ship problems and offers links to other groups with an eye on the industry. For example, you can click to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vessel Sanitation Program. The CDC conducts twice-yearly inspections on cruise ships with U.S. ports that offer a non-U.S. itinerary. They publish the health scores monthly in a searchable database, which can be found at www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/default.htm, along with tips for shipboard health.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that foreign-flagged cruise ships sailing from U.S. ports must adhere to the Americans With Disabilities Act and be accessible to travelers with disabilities. While it's an important step, planners should be aware that only structural changes that are “readily achievable” need to be made, and the courts did not rule on what specific changes are expected. Newer ships — those built since 1990 when the ADA was enacted — typically have wheelchair-accessible cabins, roll-in showers, wider elevators, and other accommodations, but older ships often do not. The court also did not take up the issue of shore excursions, which often confront mobility-impaired passengers with serious challenges.
MEETING CHECKLISTS AND MORE
Cruise meeting specialist Landry & Kling has a Web site that is well-stocked with event resources. The site (www.landrykling.com) offers information on tax deductibility, the types of meetings and incentives that can work aboard ship, sample agendas, cost comparisons, cruise checklists, and other useful tools. The site includes deck plans and virtual tours of about 100 ships from 15 cruise lines.
Sources: Cruise Lines International Association, www.cruising.org; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/default.htm; www.cruisejunkie.com; www.chicagotribune.com; Merriam-Webster Online, www.m-w.com
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CRUISE 1. (verb) to sail about, touching at a series of ports; 2. (noun) an act or an instance of cruising; especially a tour by ship