If cruising is in your incentive rotation, you may be wondering about entertainment options. Onboard entertainment is often a selling point of cruises—it’s built in, so you’re saving money. However, the options may be limited and can be targeted to a, well, less energetic audience than your top qualifiers! The solution? Consider bringing your own entertainment.

We just returned from a seven-day cruise for 800 attendees, where we performed each evening plus three afternoons: That’s 10 different themes! These included theater-style revues, a “Dancing With the Stars” theme, Classic Rock, Country & Western, Dueling Pianos, and more. We created entertainment experiences that were fun to watch, as well as interactive and fun to dance along with. As each evening approached, there was great anticipation for the next theme. And as the week continued, guests requested their favorites from each era and style. They really became engaged—a few even jammed with the band! The cost, averaged over the week, came out to about the cost of a cocktail per guest per show.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Work with your cruise rep to negotiate reduced fees for additional rooms for the talent you bring on board.
  • Most ships carry decent sound and lighting equipment, as well as a crew to assist with setting it up or moving it to different venues. This should not be an additional cost to you.
  • Another option is to create an entertainment package with a combination of the onboard talent and your own artists or band. Cruise ships are flush with talent for Broadway-style revues and lounge-type jazz trios. What is less common—and what you might want to consider bringing with you—is a solid, high-energy, rock-and-roll dance band. There are great options in or near most U.S.–based departure cities.
  • Bringing in a headliner artist or act for one night will give you the “wow” factor, though you will have to coordinate talent arrivals and departures with the ship’s scheduled ports of call.
  • The cost for a three-day or five-day cruise will average out to a bit more per show when you factor in travel, sleeping rooms, and F&B for the additional talent.
  • The bottom line: Ships have entertainment. But when you create a higher level of customized shows for your top qualifiers, you’re rewarding them with unique experiences they will long remember.

Bill Hopkins has spent 25 years performing, coordinating, and producing event entertainment. Reach him at bill@billhopkinsevents.com or visit his Web site.