For large or small groups, a full ship charter may be the thing for you.
Full Cruise Ship Charters:
You can charter the entire ship for exclusive use by your organization. You can fly your own flag, choose the itinerary and daily events. Schedule your entertainment and conferences to your choice. Ship capacities range from 30 to 5200 passengers. So whether it is a small executive retreat on a 36 passenger yacht sailing the waters of the Hawaiian islands or a full blown company event on a mega ship with over 5,000 guests sailing in the Caribbean, there is a ship that will work for your group in virtually any part of the world.
Why Would You Charter a Ship for Your Group or Event?
A charter gives you the utmost in privacy, exclusivity, and safety. For incentives or meetings at sea, you have the added plus of an environment that you control, so there are no concerns about a competitor being on board or participants going off-property and getting into accidents or (like you might find on a program at a resort). For a sold out city, special event or convention a “floating hotel” charter provides a unique solution that generates lots of buzz and excitement.
It gives you flexibility in designing the itinerary to suit your specific needs and objectives. On a charter, you can brand the program throughout the cruise without the ship’s staff having to balance concerns for the other passengers. This often means more creativity in customizing the itinerary, dressing up the ship and on-board functions as well as custom shore excursions for the group, plus you will find that you will receive more cooperation and care from the on-board staff and crew members if they only have your group to deal with.
Another plus a charter gives you is the flexibility you have with your numbers. Initially care has to be exercised in pinning down the maximum number of cruisers likely to participate as once you have commit to a charter you do not have to worry about penalties for downsizing the group, however, if your group does grow then you have a problem as the ship can only accommodate a fixed number of passengers. But since since the biggest headaches are always attrition, this removes one potential planning challenge.
Types of Charters
Corporate - A company purchases all staterooms for a meeting or incentive program and provides those staterooms at no charge to its employees, customers or vendors.
Affinity or Promotional (Re-Sale): An organization charters the ship with the intention to re-sell staterooms to consumers sharing a common interest OR as a general re-sale to non-related consumers. The client will usually create unique onboard programming and will charge a premium for the exclusive opportunity. The primary categories of affinity or promotional (Re-Sale) programs are:
Primary components of a successful Re-Sale program
Cost of Chartering?
It can be expensive, but it can also be very reasonable. It depends on many factors having to do with market conditions, the level of luxury you are looking for, the size of your group and other issues.
If you have some flexibility in sailing dates often we are able to obtain some very special rates. Low season, slow periods or a cancelled charter will sometimes allow us to obtain some exciting pricing for whole ship charters. Additionally, by buying the whole ship on a charter basis and taking the ship out of the companies inventory early on allows the cruise line to offer a per person per deim rate far below their brochure rate. Sometime, if they already have a charter booked which is going to leave them with odd days left over or, the ship will be out of its usual area, an economical charter rate can be obtained to "fill-in" these periods. We are the specialist in this field and with our in-house connections frequently hear of opportunities which do not come onto the open market. So as you can see a whole ship charter is not necessarily beyond your budget, call us, with our knowledge of the market we may find you what you want at a price that might surprise you.
As an example, the charter rate for Royal Caribbean ships will be based on full double occupancy regardless of how many people sail, pre-paid gratuities based on double occupancy and any applicable fuel surcharge based on full double occupancy. The client will be responsible for taxes & fees based on the actual number of guests and will be required to pay for the actual gratuities should more than double occupancy sail. Additional fees may apply for triple and quad berths above double occupancy.
Pricing varies based on ship, sail date, itinerary and level of customization. Actual pricing must be provided by the Manager of International Charters, but the following ranges may be used in the pre-qualification process to determine viability:
Charter pricing will generally be most attractive in non-peak season such as September, October, early December and/or January and will be most expensive from May through August. Product in Alaska or Europe may exceed the ranges outlined above.
What does charter pricing include and/or not include?
Charter pricing includes:
Charter pricing does NOT include:
Are there other charges to be considered?
To maximize value, the number of participants should be close to the double occupancy capacity of the ship under consideration. Should the chartered sailing fall below full double occupancy level, the client may be responsible for per person Onboard Revenue fees. Regardless of occupancy, the client may be responsible for meeting or exceeding a certain Onboard Revenue expectation.
What types of onboard customization affect the charter price and/or may result in incremental fees post contract?
The charter rate provided to the client will be based on standard product. Any requested change to standard operation may impact the charter rate or result in incremental fees. Examples are:
Requests to provide special products onboard during the charter
What are the Standard Payment Terms of a Full Ship Charter?
Again, using Royal Caribbean as an example, two options are available. These are:
Option 1: Staggered Payments with Letter of Credit
Option 2: Payment in Full at Contract Signing – No Letter of Credit
Payment for per person taxes & fees, expected OBR penalties (if applicable), requested amenities and other miscellaneous fees relating to customization will be required 30 days prior to sailing and/or prior to the release of documents.
Requests for alternate custom payment arrangements may be considered and must be discussed with the Director of International Trade Support & Services. All payments to be made U.S. Dollars unless otherwise agreed.
What is an Irrevocable Stand-By Letter of Credit and why is it required?
An Irrevocable Stand-By Letter of Credit is issued by the client’s bank and confirmed by a bank designated by Royal Caribbean International to confirm the client’s ability to perform under the terms of the contract. If the client’s bank is rated BBB or higher by both S&P and Moody’s, a confirmation is not required.
As the beneficiary, Royal Caribbean International is able to draw upon the LOC to collect payment should the client default on the Agreement. The LOC is required from contract signing and is held for up to 60 days post-sailing to insure all balances are paid and that there have not been damages to the ship. The LOC is reduced each time a payment is received but will be held at a pre-determined threshold until the agreed upon expiration date.
The Letter Of Credit is required with a Full Ship Charter program because Royal Caribbean International loses all ability to market and sell the chartered sailing once an Agreement is signed. Should the client default on the Agreement, we would most likely not have the ability to fill the ship and would suffer significant financial loss
Once an Agreement is signed by the client, can the program be cancelled or can the client relinquish staterooms
Unlike a large group contract, there is no provision in the Full Ship Charter Agreement that allows for cancellation of the program and/or for any number of staterooms. A client cannot choose to change to a Half Ship Charter or a group once signed as a charter.
Can Royal Caribbean International handle the fulfillment of the program for the client?
No. The client must have the ability to handle or work though a travel partner to market the program, answer questions, accept payment (if applicable), assign staterooms, etc.
How far in advance should you charter a ship?
The major cruise lines, generally set their itineraries one year in advance and then go to press with their glossy brochures. So, if a whole ship charter is your chosen option, we strongly advise you to make the decision well before that. If you want to design your own itinerary with specific embarkation and disembarkation ports, then the further out you commit the better your chance of obtaining what you want.
Cruise lines will in fact plan their ships itineraries around your charter if your charter is going to areas outside of their normal ports or operation. For example, great opportunities for charters exist when a cruise line repositions a ship after the cruise brochure has been published. Providing the cruise line has not sold an excessive amount of passengers on the cruise date you want to charter, they will "buy" these passengers off. This usually means offering them another date and some incentives by way of soft dollars or whatever. The cost of the buy off will be added to your charter fee, so once the decision to move ahead is made, the sooner you contract the charter, the cheaper it will be. However, there comes a point where the numbers do not work so the cruise line will not move those passengers in order to accommodate a charter.
Royal Caribbean International for example, does not typically consider Full Ship Charter requests within 6 months of the requested sail date and/or for those sailings booked above a pre-determined threshold. Most clients charter one year in advance and some as far out as two or more years.
For Re-Sale charters, it is in the best interest of the client to allow ample time to promote the charter (9 months+). The cost of displacing booked guests will be a factor for any “open” sailing and will generally be lower if the charter is contracted farther out.
Other issues to be aware of?
You need to be fully aware of the commitment you are making. A lot of work will go into the preparation and research of your charter both prior to contract and far more once you have committed. Different cruise lines have different contracts, but all will be expecting you to pay for the charter irregardless of what may happen prior to the sailing date. The cruise line, upon signature of the contract, will pull your cruise segment from its selling inventory. If you are customizing the itinerary, the line is building other cruise segments around your embarkation and disembarkation ports. So the penalties for cancellation are high, up to the full amount of the charter. Many cruise lines will do "due diligence" to see if you really are able to meet the commitment. Often they will require an irrevocable letter of credit for the whole of the charter fee.
With yacht charters it is important to be aware of the different contracts used. Some, such as the MYBA (Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association) stipulate that ALL expenses related to your charter in the way of consumables (food, beverages, fuel, water berthing, all taxes, fees etc. which can amount to 25% or more of the charter fee) are additional to the charter fee, plus you will be expected to leave the crew a gratuity, which is today's age means something in the region of 15% of the charter fee depending on your satisfaction with the cruise. Beware of charter contracts that are loosely worded as you might end up having to pay for far more than you originally anticipated.
Summary: Chartering a Ship. Here are some helpful tips:
1. Book well in advance. A year if possible... this will give your organization many more options (i.e. cruise lines, ships, itineraries etc...).
2. Find an Itinerary that works for your organization (i.e. Eastern, Western or Southern Caribbean, etc...). Keep in mind, if the ship has to relocate to accommodate your group for a particular itinerary, your organization is responsible to pay for the time the ship is in transit. Have an idea of how many days your organization would like to cruise and where you would like to depart from.
3. Have a ship in mind to accommodate your organization. If you have 1,000 employees, find a ship that will accommodate up to 1200 passengers, not a ship that will accommodate 2,000 passengers.
4. Important! Please be patient! Quoting Charter Rates takes a lot of work from the cruise lines and the Agency - they will not give a ball park figure! Some cruise lines will not even proceed with detailed rate information until they receive a letter of credit from your organization.
5. Very Important!! As previously stated... be prepared to submit a letter of credit to the cruise lines. Depending on the scheduling of your organization's cruise, at minimum, a letter of credit for a deposit will be required.
6. If your organization decides a last minute trip... it's okay! Even though we can not guarantee the space you will be requiring is available; we will research and do our best in finding the highest quality cruise to meet your organization's needs.
Meetings on Ships
We specialize in conferences, workshops and business meetings at sea on cruise ships.
Washington State Seller of Travel 603-078-647