What is a full ship charter? Full ship charter is the term used to describe a complete buy-out of all the vessel’s accommodations. Some of the major advantages of this option include flexibility, exclusivity, and opportunities to customize the cruise experience. Charters require an upfront financial commitment usually guaranteed via a Letter of Credit. Once a contract is signed, it is irrevocable and payments are non-refundable.
Finding the perfect ship: When considering a charter, go to Cruise Search to determine which ships will best fit your needs. How many sleeping rooms do you need? What about function space? Remember to charter a vessel with extra rooms to accommodate staff and any additional personnel you might need to operate the program. If you are planning an incentive and your qualification is open-ended, be sure to calculate your risk. If you outgrow the ship, you will have to book the overflow on a different sailing date. If you fall below your projected numbers, you will have to pay for empty rooms.
Consider size of vessel and size of onboard venues: When looking at charter options, be mindful of the ship’s capacity – on larger ships (over 1,000 guests) the main show lounge and dining room will usually only accommodate half the ship’s capacity. Smaller vessels typically have a venue and dining room that can accommodate the full capacity of the vessel.
Booking Lead Time: The best time to book your charter is 18-24 months prior to your program, before the cruise lines have published their ships’ itineraries. This gives you an advantage if you want to “carve-out” a specific itinerary with your required number of nights. For example, you might be able to charter a vessel that typically sails for 7 nights for a shorter 3 or 4-night cruise program. Once the itineraries are established by the cruise line, you have less flexibility and may have to pay to charter the ship for more days than you need. In addition, you will have to cover the cruise line’s cost of “buying-off” any passengers already booked on that scheduled sailing.
Dream big on personalization: One of the great advantages of chartering a ship is the freedom to totally customize the experience. Some ideas include using the ship’s daily newsletter for announcing meeting times and special events, flying a flag with your company’s logo, and incorporating your custom logo on room keys, photographs and desserts. You can bring on your own entertainment and keynote speakers and even create your own itinerary with custom shore excursions.
Dockside Floating Hotels: Ships can be used as floating hotels for city-wide meetings or global events when there is a shortage of sleeping rooms. This is also referred to as a dockside charter (the ship remains in port for a determined number of nights and is used as a hotel). While this might seem an expensive proposition, it creates an invaluable solution when there are insufficient hotel rooms to support an event.