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The Main Event: Sea to Shining Sea

By Selena Fragassi


A day spent on the water can be calming for just about anyone, especially for the hard working men and women of the Department of Homeland Security. Last August, after a full day of sessions at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, DHS chose to do just that, planning a group outing for 550 of its employees aboard the Majesty Yacht, which is a part of Smooth Sailing Celebrations' fleet. The company was founded 15 years ago by Camille Cerria, a hospitality industry veteran with 25 years experience. Today the company is the preferred vendor for many waterfront hotels including the W, Westin, Marriott, and Sheraton when corporate clients fly into town.

“People come to us when they are looking for a non-traditional venue,” says Cerria, noting the company currently has 45 vessels in its fleet, all of varying sizes and with different features and price points. “To narrow their choice down, we’ll ask basic questions and send pricing, menus, and pictures.”

The DHS group opted to go with one of Smooth Sailing Celebrations’ largest options, the Majesty Yacht, which has space for up to 1,200 people and plenty of room for formal seating configurations. “They wanted to do a seated buffet dinner for all 550 people simultaneously, which requires a boat like the Majesty in order to have a cocktail lounge deck, a dining deck, and indoor and outdoor decks for dancing.”

The RFP originally came through a connection from Meeting Professionals International (MPI), of which Cerria has been a member for 10-plus years. And though the proposed group size was rather large, it didn’t deter her or the staff of Smooth Sailing Celebrations. “It actually wasn’t our largest group,” Cerria says. “Last June we had 900 people from Norway that sailed with us, and they are coming back this year, too. We’ve also had a group of 800 local New Jersey State Troopers that were on board for a full day of training and sailing so we are used to large groups.”

All of the boats in the fleet are docked in the adjacent towns of Weehawken, Hoboken and Jersey City, New Jersey, as well as various docks in New York City and end up sailing down the East River and Hudson River, providing for opportune sightseeing of major points of attraction including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. “Most cruises are about three to four hours, including a boarding and cocktail hour with appetizers, a dinner hour, and then time for dancing and entertainment,” says Cerria, “but we always time the event so guests are done dining and back on the rooftop deck for the part of the cruise when we pass by the landmarks. The boat will pause for 10 minutes at the Statue of Liberty while people take photos.”

Because most of the guests on this particular outing were very familiar with government landmarks, Cerria recommended an out-of-the-box narrator and Broadway performer that was more engaging and funny than dry and informative. “He is great about getting people out of their shell and interacting with each other,” says Cerria.

Most of the cruise was business as usual, she adds. “They had just had a whole day of meetings at the UN so this was their breakout entertainment so to say. They had no specific agenda other than to really just relax, dine, and have a great time. And they had a great day of weather for it.”

One of the things that was a bit unusual was that the boat had to have government clearance regarding security. “That was something that was different for us,” says Cerria, though her team was happy to accommodate, as they were for dietary needs, which presented another bit of legwork.

“With that many people on board, we had a lot of dietary requests and requirements, for vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free, and kosher guests, as well as those with food allergies. It was a lot to manage but everyone ended up happy,” says Cerria noting that every one of Smooth Sailing Celebrations’ boats has its own executive chef, staff, and kitchen galley onboard. “I kept careful notes and once the list was finalized I made sure to communicate that to the chef. We ended up doing plated meals for the vegans and vegetarians and also invited them to the buffet if they wanted to partake in those options. We had cards with more info about the food and there were servers there to answer questions as well.”

The sheer number of people also could have presented a bottleneck at the boarding phase, but Cerria and her team had a plan for that too. “We usually suggest to the host client that they stagger buses so no one has to wait in line to board. Because this group was coming from all different meetings that ended at different times it was easy. The boat also has an elevator for those who are walking-challenged.”

Another great benefit of booking with Smooth Sailing Celebrations is that everything is included in one flat fee. “We have a package rate that includes the boat, premium bar, choice of buffet or plated dinner service, tables, linens, and chairs,” says Cerria. “The client only needs to bring on board their choice of entertainment.” Cerria and her staff can also customize options like personalized napkins and lighting colors. “For DHS they chose a traditional, white color scheme, but it was very elegant and added a nice touch for this high profile group.”

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Smooth Sailing Celebrations
New York, NY
(973) 409.4456