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Industry Update: Person of Interest

By Selena Fragassi


Lori Cassidy was always planning for a career in travel. In college she was a foreign language major and received her hospitality certification at the Wilma Boyd Career School before finding her first job with an airline in New York and later with a leisure travel agency. Yet it wasn’t until she attended a conference called Cruise-A-Thon that she really found her calling. “I felt an immediate connection,” she admits, “and realized I had to be in this industry.”

Since, Cassidy has steered sales efforts at several different cruise lines, including 15 years with Carnival and 7 years with Royal Caribbean where she has brought about a sea of change for planners considering bigger options. “Cruises weren’t always a popular choice for conducting a meeting/event at sea … but we have been able to build a grassroots approach of informing one planner at a time,” she says. “Once they see the product, they understand it.”

Unique Venues: How have cruise ships changed since you began?
Lori Cassidy: “Perceptions are changing. People probably remember the ‘Love Boat’ or the old Queen Elizabeth 2 when there were very few options and limitations. Today it’s a compete 180 of that. It’s all about choices, options and flexibility, and the hardware is just spectacular. We’re coming out with more purposely-built conference center spaces and more dining options.”

UV: What strategies have you used to change perspectives or build awareness?
LC: “We try to be very involved in the meeting planning industry associations like MPI and SITE. We also try to engage in some of the vertical markets, which have a high propensity to do incentive programs and conferences. We also conduct a lot of what we call ‘corporate symposiums at sea’ and lunch-and-learns to educate planners about the brand and conducting events at sea. We try to get them to ‘think outside the ballroom.’ … The great thing is we’ve had year-over-year consecutive growth, which means whatever we are doing is working.”

UV: Is there anything you personally implemented in this process that you are proud of?
LC: “We’ve always had a travel agent guide that has anything consumers ever wanted to know about booking a cruise, so what I helped to do is create a meeting planner version of that. It’s the bible for meeting planners interested in putting together an event on board a ship. I also initiated the Royal Incentive Rewards Program, which is our individual incentive cruise certificate program.”

UV: Do you have tips for planners who might be interested in taking the next steps?
LC: “Every cruise line has a different set of specs and capabilities, so planners really need to do their homework to make sure they’re matching the right product to the right audience and their expectations. Just like there are different categories of hotels, there are different categories of cruise lines all offering different experiences.”

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Royal Caribbean International
(800) 762.0458