Sailing The High Seas Is the wave of the future for many faith-based organizations.

Keeping up with this trend, a group of RCMA members recently joined in an “Education at Sea” seminar aboard the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Valor.

Embarking from Miami, the religious meeting planners traveled aboard the 110,000-ton passenger ship to Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles.

While aboard, denominational planners learned about the advantages, logistics, and intricacies of holding meetings aboard cruise ships.

Lori Cassidy, director of corporate sales for Carnival, pointed out that among the advantages of utilizing a cruise ship are the high-tech AV equipment, staging, meeting facilities, shipboard meals, entertainment, and interesting ports of call — all in one package price.

A highlight of the seven-day cruise was when the group went behind the scenes to meet with the chefs and ship's staff in the mammoth kitchen and view the storage areas and rooms that could be used for events.

Planners made note that it takes 140 chefs to keep up with the round-the-clock culinary service. In all, the staff prepares 12,000 meals per day. During the cruise, passengers consumed 22,000 eggs, 4,800 hamburgers, 5,000 pounds of fruits and tomatoes, 6,700 pounds of potatoes, 2,500 steaks, 4,000 pizzas, 2,800 pounds of prime rib and 6,500 pounds of chicken.

“In recent years, cruising has earned the highest satisfaction rating of any meeting experience, and the popularity of cruising among religious groups is growing each year, with some chartering an entire ship,” said DeWayne S. Woodring, executive director of RCMA. “While on board, they have daily Bible studies, spiritual addresses by noted clergy and scholars, special religious films on cabin TVs, and customized teambuilding programs.

“Cruises have the added advantage of presenting ample opportunity for fellowship and to build in-depth relationships around the scheduled services, meetings, and shared meals. They also offer customized shore excursions so that the faithful can visit spiritual sites and programs related to their denomination,” said Woodring.

Ships offer a wide range of facilities to accommodate meetings and conferences of various sizes, up to 4,500 passengers. As the largest cruise line in the world, Carnival has 23 ships that sail from 23 departure cities. The average age of passengers is 47. Cost. It seems like everything is escalating at a quicker rate than income.

We're looking at options for budgeting. We're an internal agency, so we plan for the organization. We're broadening search criteria for vendors and looking at ways to charge things back to our internal clients. We often have had the budget for our department to buy in bulk, such as for welcome gifts, but now we're asking the other departments to help.

William Kruschwitz
Director, events coordinator
International Mission Board
Southern Baptist Convention
Richmond, Va.

Doing affordable meeting planning for groups on budgets. Prices are going up a lot, including room usage rates. If you don't have functions besides meetings, you get hit with high usage rates. I'm trying to encourage more on-site meal functions. It saves a lot of money. Some groups don't want to do that because their attendees are busy, but it saves money.

Linda R.W. Coleman
Convention coordinator
California Apostolic Fellowship and From Crisis to Christ Retreat

Sacramento, Calif.

Interpreting our meetings to vendors and the vendors to the people for whom we're doing meetings. The meetings industry has slowly recovered from 9/11, and it's hard to find deals. Sometimes attendees don't understand how expensive things are going to be.

Also, the vendors are confused by our list of oddities of needs. I say, we're just moving furniture around, here's the bottom line of what you're getting. That helps to reassure them.

Geoff Cragg
President, Maximum Impact Events
Board chairman, Forgotten Children
Parker, Colo.

Getting more local people at our events. People are flying in, which is great, but we don't get the locals. So we're doing more advertising closer to conventions — newspaper ads, bulletin boards — that we didn't do before.

Dominique Alvarado
Long-range event planner
Kenneth Copeland Ministries
Forth Worth, Texas

Bulletins:

  • JetBlue Airways, which launched a corporate meetings program in May 2007 called CompanyBlue, has announced that it's expanding the program, with significant changes that will be especially appealing to the convention and association market. The CompanyBlue program had only blocked seats and provided discounts for groups who were all traveling together and had a single billing source. Now, attendees coming from various destinations and booking travel themselves through the JetBlue Web site can take advantage of discount group fares.

  • A new federal regulation increases significantly the compensation for airline passengers who get bumped involuntarily. On May 21, airlines doubled their maximum compensation to bumped passengers, allowing payments as high as $800, depending on the price of the ticket and the length of the delay. With the new rule, fliers who are involuntarily bumped receive double the price they paid for the one-way leg, up to $400, if they are rescheduled to reach their destination within two hours of their original arrival time (or four hours for an international flight).

  • According to the Department of Transportation's Air Travel Consumer Report, the on-time arrival rate dropped to 73 percent in 2007, down from 75 percent in 2006, and reports of mishandled baggage have risen.

  • In February, United Airlines announced it would start charging $50 roundtrip for a second piece of checked baggage. U.S. Airways followed suit three weeks later. The fees went into effect May 5.