Besides yelling “fore,” an increasing number of golfers on incentive trips are chanting “anchors away” as cruise ships have begun incorporating an expanding variety of golf components in their itineraries.
“Golf cruises are great values for incentive groups because there are fewer logistical, transportation, accommodation and dining issues,” says Bill Hogan, president of Wide World of Golf, a Carmel, Calif.-based company specializing in high-end golf excursions around the world. “On a cruise ship the accommodations are always consistent, the food is top quality, and there are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to play great courses in exotic locales.”
Gordon Dalgleish, president of PerryGolf, a luxury golf travel company in Atlanta, concurs that the no-hassle factor is appealing to incentive golfers. Dalgleish says, “Cruises are wonderful floating hotels that offer one-time unpacking while traveling to several challenging new courses.”
Adventures at Sea
The golf cruise menu runs the gamut from onboard state-of-the-art golf simulators to golf swing analysis machines with advice from big-name instructors to stops at ports of call that are minutes from world class courses. Carnival Cruise Lines has one of the most wide-reaching commitments to the white dimpled ball crowd, with an onboard golf program on 18 of its ships. The luxurious SeaDream Yacht Club’s identical 100-passenger yachts each feature a golf simulator onboard. Other cruise lines with golf programs include Celebrity, Costa Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn, and Silverseas.
Ann Gilmartin, president of Wings Unlimited, a meeting, and incentive management company in Darien, Conn., utilized SeaDream Yacht Club in an incentive program for a major financial services company. Comprising top clients and their spouses, the 90-person group was treated to a seven-day program departing from Rome that took them to ports of call all over Italy and France. “The trip was a huge hit,” she says. “Players practiced on the golf simulator before leaving for the course which helped many people bond before the event.”
Golfing Around the World
For ardent players seeking non-simulated terra firma, PerryGolf offers its eight-day Mediterranean Golf by Sea program aboard a SeaDream yacht with opportunities to tee up in Monte Carlo, Cannes, Bonifacio, Porto Cervo and Rome.
Small group incentive possibilities include Go Barging, which offers a seven-day golf cruise through Ireland on the luxury, 12-passenger Shannon Princess II with tee times at top courses. And Seabourn Cruise Lines, a forerunner in golf/cruise packages, has a 10-year old program that features a professional golf expert aboard ship and golf cruises in the British Isles, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Greece and Asia.
Hogan says, “A key to a good golf cruise is selecting an itinerary which has high-quality, championship-style golf located near the ports of call.”
Joyce Landry, a former cruise line executive, and president of Landry & Kling, Meetings at Sea, a meeting and incentive company specializing in cruise programs in Coral Gables, Fla., has been incorporating golf in cruise programs. She recently conducted a golf incentive program aboard Celebrity Cruise Line for 400 insurance sales agents that featured golf play on five different Caribbean islands. “This program was a great vehicle for teambuilding, networking and socializing,” she says.
Tee for Two
Dalgleish says that bonding on a golf cruise should not be underestimated. “It’s a phenomenal way to draw a group closer–and not just the golfers,” he notes. “Non-golfing spouses have all types of activities available on and off the ship, and they never feel left out.” Landry adds, “Many golf resorts are sprawling complexes. On a cruise, everyone returns to the ship and dines with each other. There is always a great sense of camaraderie.”
Dalgleish says, “I’ve always believed that incentive trips are rewards for outstanding performance, and the travel award should minimize the effort the participant needs to expand. Golf cruises do exactly that.”
Landry quips, “Even if a person has a bad day on the golf course, being dropped off at a luxurious cruise ship usually puts a smile back on their face.”