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Have you spoken on cruises?

Rebecca Morgan

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I asked: I've been asked to lead a discussion at the Eastern Workshop CSP/CPAE session on speaking on cruises. If you've done this, whether or not for pay, please contact me if you're willing to share the specifics (e.g., how'd you get booked, did you get paid, if so, what percentage of full fee, how many did you do on a how-long trip, did they pay for air fare and excursions, did you pay a broker, did you pay a discounted price for a guest, was it worth it)

-- Workshop Consensus

The consensus from the responses and from the discussion at the NSA Eastern Workshop was this:

  • You may or may not get your airfare paid for.
  • You generally don't get paid, unless you're hired by a client to do a program for their group.
  • You conduct two 45-minute sessions for each week you're aboard.
  • You only speak while on the sea, not in port.
  • You may get your excursions covered, but you may not.
  • You may get an inside cabin in the bowels of the ship. Try to address this the first day with the purser, tipping him/her if upgraded.
  • You may not know which sessions the cruise director has chosen until the evening before you present.
  • Bring an extra copy of your program titles and descriptions to discuss with the cruise director on board the first day. Also bring a copy of your handout masters, as they may not have reached the ship.
  • You are expected to not complain if anything has gone wrong, except privately with the purser or cruise director.
  • You may (or may not) get a bar credit or discount for your purchases.
  • You are expected to tip the waiter and cabin steward from your own pocket.
  • You may not be able to sell your products, or only through the gift shop.
  • You may be cancelled up to a few weeks out.
  • Check out the room they are slating for your session before it is printed in the program. You may be stuck in a room with all windows where the scenery is more enticing than your lecture. Or you may have A/V and no way to make the room dark.
  • Generally, you can bring a guest for a nominal fee, if any.

Mary Long has a book "The Complete Guide to Conducting Seminars at Sea."

-- Rita Emmett

Agents/brokers for speaking on cruises:

Sixth Star Entertainment & Marketing
Tamara Cannon, Manager of Entertainment Programs
21 NW 5th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(954) 462-6760 ext. 237

Lauretta Blake
The Working Vacation® Inc.
The Gentlemen Host® Program
12544 West 159 Street
Homer Glen, Illinois 60491-8378 USA
Phone: 708-301-7535
Fax: 708-301-6202
  • As of Aug. '04, on the Web site they are looking for teachers or retired teachers to be Youth Directors on Steamboat cruises in 2004 and 2005

Create your own cruise:

Travel Resource Center, TravelResourceCenter.com. A member of NSA, they teach how to conduct seminars at sea.

-- Sam Horn

  1. How'd you get booked? Through a bureau
  2. How many did you do? I've done about 10 cruises. I was only contracted/obligated to do 2/trip -- but I *wanted* to do more -- so usually did 3 presentations per trip.
  3. How-long trip? Varied between 7-10 days.
  4. Did they pay airfare? Yes -- for me and my guest
  5. Did you pay a broker? No
  6. Did you bring a guest, and if so, did you pay a discounted price for him/her? Yes, I brought guests -- and all their expenses were paid for also.
  7. Was it worth it? YES! Not only did I get wonderful, quality-time experiences for myself and my sons, I got 1) professionally produced videos of my presentations in impressive surroundings, 2) decent book/tape sales, 3) writing retreats where I was able to immerse myself in the creative process (no phones/emails/office obligations) and finish my books, 4) several consulting clients and speaking engagements from passengers.

-- Patricia Katz

I spoke on a cruise in 1994. We had already booked passage for a family celebration. After booking, I discovered a client I had worked with had space booked on the same sail for their top sales agents.

Recognizing an opportunity, I spoke with their National Marketing Director who indicated they were looking for a speaker for their program. We negotiated my involvement for a one hour presentation, which was only a minor infringement on my holiday time. They paid my full fee (which in turn covered all our shore excursions). I paid my own expenses. However now that I was working on board ship as well as holidaying, I was able to claim half my fare as a business expense. Win/win all round.

My point: if you are a holiday cruiser, it may be worth your while to try to find out if there are any groups booked on your same sailing date.

-- Steve Camp

I was invited to speak on two Princess cruises (Panama Canal 10-day cruise from Acapulco to San Juan and 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise) to give a personal financial seminar to 60 physicians attending a continuing education cruise sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison. I was selected to speak because I write a column for Physician's MONEY Digest. There was no fee. The cruise & airfares for my wife and me were paid. It was a paid vacation.

-- Irene Levitt

Since 1985, I have spoken on over a dozen cruise ships. I was booked by different agents, mostly on the East and West Coast. I was never paid, in fact, the fee was about $50 a day (but I think it may be more now).

I was treated like a paying guest, usually got a great room (except when I was a novice the first time) and spoke only when we were at sea. Usually I was scheduled for about an hour two to three times a week. When my class became too popular, I was asked to speak more often (passengers requests).

Generally, I was treated like royalty and I loved it! I could not sell any of my product. My guest got to come along free. Excusions on shore for me were usually gratis. I only paid half price for wine and any other alcoholic beverages. If the cruise needed me on short notice, they absorbed much of the air fare for me. Most of the time, I had to pay it myself. You bet, it was worth it! I made some great contacts and long time clients as a result. If I have more time in the future, I will do it again.

-- Dan Janal

I spoke on a cruise last year. Free. They paid expenses. The buyer was a conference company that held the conference on the cruise. I did it for the vacation and for the contacts, as the audience was in my prospect area.

-- Gary Wollin

Many years ago I spoke about investing and the stock market on a cruise. I replaced a friend who got sick at the last minute.

It's a simple trade. You speak, they give you a free trip. You get a pretty small cabin in "low" class. Otherwise, you are a guest, same as everybody else.

You speak each day the ship does not touch port. They don't pay for anything. No air fare, no excursions. For an additional fee, you can usually bring a guest.

There was a husband/wife team on the east coast who used to be agents for a few of the ship companies. You paid them, they booked you on ships.

-- Paul Glen

I have recently been engaged to speak on a CIO cruise in May. It was booked for me by my publicist as part of a publicity tour for my new book.

It is not for pay, but they are paying all expenses including airfare. I don't yet know how many sessions I will be doing on the 3 day cruise. For me, it is worth it as book publicity and an opportunity to meet with hundreds of invitation-only senior executives.

-- Arnold Sanow

I have spoken on a few cruises for pay and others for a free trip. Many companies and groups are looking to do retreats and I always suggest they might want to do a "seminar at sea". I will provide training each day - (1 to 2 hours) and be available for individual sessions. I usually do this by a per-person rate.

In another instance I worked with a travel agent who went to her corporate clients and offered the idea of a retreat on a cruise complete with a speaker. She charged the brochure per person rate for the cruise and I received the difference between the actual rate and the brochure price for my fee.

I have also done cruises through companies that sponsor required continued education training for accountants, lawyers and doctors. For example, last year I went on an Alaska Cruise to provide continuing education for CPAs. In exchange for about 6 hours of training on a 7-day cruise, my wife, myself and my son all received a free cruise. I received airfare, however my wife and son didn't.

-- Peg Fitzgerald

My company has sponsored 5 educational cruises for nurse practitioners, 2 Caribbean, 2 Alaskan, 1 Greek Islands, to great acceptance and terrific feedback. In some, I have shared the speaking responsibilities with other faculty, with some I have been the solo speaker.

We handle the registration and a good deal of the promotion, with participants paying to attend the sessions and cruise on their own. NPs have mandatory continuing education requirements, typically about 1 week/ year in paid eduction leave and some employer funds to help support these activities.

Here are a few tips:

  • Carry Dramamine and Bonine with you and let folks know you have it. Comes in handy!
  • People are most likely to get seasick on the first days of the cruise even if the water is fairly calm. Fatigue, stress of getting to the cruise ship, etc. makes this much worse. If possible, keep classes shorter that day with refreshments available.
  • Mix the topics- heavy vs light- each day. People may be on the cruise for education but are really thinking vacation. Hands on activities make the class hours go quickly.
  • Advise attendees who are traveling with kids or family to seriously consider bringing along walkie-talkies. These are a godsend when trying to track down a 14 year-old for dinner!
  • Allow 1.5 hrs for lunch if doing a full day program. (We do at least 1 full day to meet a sufficient number of contact hours to make the trip a tax break.) This allows attendees to catch up with family and friends.
  • Conference rooms are typically very chilly on cruise ships. If you are cruising warm waters, remind people to dress appropriately for air conditioning.
  • Give the room stewards who is carrying for your conference space a small tip on day one. This will buy you great loyalty. Make sure, of course, to add to the tip at the end of the program.
  • In a nutshell, speaking on a cruise really is not that different that speaking elsewhere!

-- Joyce Turley

I have worked on 50 cruises and voyages and have sailed around the world several times. My topics were many. It's more difficult to get good voyages but can still be done.

Some years ago I spoke for NSA about opportunities on ships. I felt some had the wrong attitude. They just wanted to be paid, etc., and "what's in it for me?" I have never received a fee but did get air tickets to get to and from the ship in different parts of the world. They also secured a wholesale price for my partner. On these I just had to speak two times each week for 45 minutes each time. No seminars were involved.

The main way I used it, besides seeing the world, was to stop in the ports of call and calling on companies and then returning for seminars. I had one contract in Hong Kong that made a few hundred thousand dollars. I stopped in for a 30-minute appointment while sailing on the QE2 and got them interested and then returned many times. It was easy to get an appointment by saying I was lecturing on the ship they could see in their harbor. I also invited training directors to be my guest on shipboard for tea. This is more difficult these days.

By sailing I have met many wonderful people who come by and visit me at home. Also, I have been in business deals with several. You meet successful people who have money. The person going after the trips needs to look at the total picture and not focus on instant gratification.

I must admit, it isn't so glamorous as when I started sailing 25 years ago. Then we went strictly first class and were almost considered a celebrity. These days, one feels like the hired help.

-- Christine Clifford

You wanted some feedback regarding speaking on cruises. In April, 2001, I sponsored a "Celebrate Life Cruise with Christine Clifford" through my company for our members. The cruise was with the Holland America Line (Maasdam), and went for seven nights/eight days to the western Caribbean (Cozumel, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, etc).

I was contacted by a representative from the cruise line to "host" the cruise. For every "member" of The Cancer Club that I recruited (or friend/family member), I was given "credit" for my airfare, room & expenses. I did two programs on board (both at sea), which could be attended by anyone on the cruise (not just The Cancer Club members). I got paid $750 for each presentation, and because of the number of people I signed up to go along, got my entire family's trip, as well as mine, paid for. The only thing my husband & I did was upgrade ourselves to a suite, which was worth it.

The Director of the ship was very helpful, putting up posters announcing my programs and running a little "blurb" in the daily ship newspaper. All the events were well attended (both times I spoke about using laughter to get through life's adversities). I also had access to a beautiful theatre style room, seating about 150 people and access to full audio visual equipment.

-- Jim Brown

I have spoken on 15 cruises. Once I spoke for an association and got paid my full fee + the cruise and airfare for my wife and myself. The other times I have spoken for the cruise line. I don't get paid. We generally get the cruise free and the airfare taken care of. 7 times the tips were paid. The first 3 times I spoke I used an agency and paid them a fee.

We just came back from a 31 day cruise. I spoke 15 times. Cruise companies in the last year are starting to pay only for the cruise, not the airfare. Generally they must have 4 sea days or more before they will hire a life enhancement lecturer.

If you need any more information feel free to call me at 818-348-8266.

-- Melinda Brody

I was asked to do a "seminar at sea" for a mortgage company. They invited their top customers (realtors -- my market) as a thank you. I did a 45-minute program on a Sunday morning, very little turn out. In return, they offered a free cruise to the Bahamas. I had a 6-month-old so they offered to give me a bigger room to accommodate the baby and I was able to bring a babysitter. It was very worth it -- we had a great time.

-- Michael Lee

If done this both for pay and for a free cruise.

I put together a continuing education seminar/cruise series. The free cruise plus per-student income equalled full fee.

The trip was 7-days in the Caribbean. I spoke for the two days we were at sea. We all paid for our own transportation. My guest was free.

Most seminars on cruises only pay for your cruise. Transportation and transfers are usually on your own.

We had 17-foot seas so my "students" were pretty seasick. This is pretty unusual but not unheard of.

-- Stan Jones

Approximately 4 yrs ago we went on a 15 day cruise w/ the Crystal Cruise line. It was a wonderful trip thru the Panama Canal. We paid nothing and received no money. I gave 4 programs and they sold my books in the bookstore.

We left from Los Angeles and they paid a reduced amount for our flight back from San Juan.

I met the Director of Mktg at a function who referred me to the man who did the booking.

I served as the ship liaison on several land tours and went for free. We could have gone on others at a reduced rate.

-- Emily Kimball

I have spoken on cruises three times. Twice on Commodore Cruise Lines and once on Celebrity Cruises. I have gotten the engagements through Karp Enterprises, Inc. in Delray Beach, FL (561) 637-1700. I have to pay them a fee for securing my employment. If I remember rightly $500 and port fees, which varied. I could bring a friend for FREE. (We split the fee). Had to do an average of 5 lectures on a 7 day cruise -- mostly when out to sea. However, some days I had to do them when we were in port cause some people never leave the ship!

It was lots of fun and a great way to reward a good friend. I am personally not a cruise-type person, but it is a diversion every once in a while to do them. They don't seem to check on you too much as a speaker or really take the time to find out if you're good.

You can be canceled within 24 or 48 hours of sailing if they fill all their rooms. This happened to me once out of 4 bookings.

This has not led to more business for me ever. It is just another way to see the world for almost free. You get a following and they keep returning to your workshops and they are usually fun people. Karp asks you to be available while on board to chat with people you have met in your workshops. This didn't happen too much, but when it did I thoroughly enjoyed it. Karp calls me a lot to speak but I usually refuse as it takes too much time away from my business and costs me money.

-- Lois Wolfe-Morgan

I've been a 'guest lecturer' on several cruises during the past 7 years. I am totally pleased with the experience. There are many other formulas out there however, this is my favorite approach -- but may not be for everyone!

In exchange for a daily lecture, usually 20 - 60 minutes in length while at sea, I receive full accommodations for 2 persons (i.e., self/spouse or self/friend). Both persons are considered "crew" with passenger/guest amenities.

At times the lecturer/spouse must pay a port charge, flight to departure port and a finder fee to the booking bureau. Usually less than $1K total. I have always had a most delightful, first class experience.

There are some entitlement limitations that are minor: Here are some examples:

  • Lecturer/Companion cannot win at the casino, bingo, contests, etc., regardless of how small/large the prize.
  • Lecturer/Companion may not under any circumstances complain about anything regardless of how minor or major.
  • Lecturer/Companion has no control over speaking schedule, location, accommodation. Schedule is usually furnished at midnight the night prior to each day. Topics for discussion are selected by the cruise director from a list the lecturer provides.
  • Lecturer/Companion must be very flexible and operate independently (bring pencils, handouts, equipment).
  • Lecturer/Companion cannot market/publicize/advertise their speaking business.

If you are a prima donna this may not be satisfying!

Over the course of the past 7 years I have traveled to the following locations (some more than once) Alaska, Venezuela, Eastern and Western Caribbean, Bermuda. Other trips I have turned down since the schedule did not meet with my land-based engagements include Panama, Amazon, Mediterranean, East Coast US, Hawaii. My next cruise is scheduled for May 2003.

I basically consider the cruise industry as I describe above "a gig" -- it's a working vacation!

-- Cathy Burroughs

I have lectured on three cruises: one with Costa for 5 days throughout the European Caribbean and twice on a 21-day Panama Canal/Mexico/Costa Rico cruise on the Celebrity Line (good, but staff seemed exhausted, service a bit mixed and seemed to be having political problems). All three times I got booked through Karp Enterprises, a booking agency that required a fee (approximately $500). I paid for tips, airfare, excursions and on Celebrity $200 of port taxes and in exchange got a cruise for two. Costa does not charge port taxes, but later Karp factored that into the fee. On the Celebrity Cruise I got a wonderful window view and paid half price, as I traveled alone. In May, I will go for five days and four nights to Cozumel and Grand Caymens on a Carnival Cruise for $800 (including port taxes, swimming with the dolphins or visiting the ruins in Talume). Each faculty teaches for 90 minutes and receives $500 back from the cost of the cruise. Additionally the group's traveling faculty provide readings and healings for their regular fee with a small percentage going to the cruise organizers.

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