The Marine Hotel Association (MHA) is launching its first conference at sea aboard the Emerald Princess, sailing a four-day cruise from Port Everglades Oct. 29, 2015. Onboard and attending will be some 50 vendors and 25 cruise line executives representing all of the MHA member brands and more.

Participation in the 2015 MHA Fall Conference at Sea is by invitation only, according to Caroline Pritchard, executive director. “We want to give our newer members the opportunity to learn more about the industry and see the workings of a ship from the inside. This conference is really an extension of our annual conference and trade show where it is hard to fit more into the program and still keep a realistic time frame. We are now bridging the gap between our trade show and in-depth discussions.”

The program aboard the Emerald Princess will focus on the supply chain and culinary side, with executives from the respective areas, including vice presidents of hotel operations, food and beverage, and executive chefs. Future at-sea-programs may focus on different topics.

Mike Jones, chief supply chain officer for Royal Caribbean Cruises, will spearhead the conference part of the program with two main sessions focusing on the supply chain and culinary operations. In addition will be workshops and roundtable discussions where vendors can interact with executives one-on one.

Also attending will be Julia Brown, chief procurement officer for Carnival Corporation. Adam Goldstein, president and COO of Royal Caribbean, will make the opening presentation before the Emerald sets sail.

There will be tours of the ship covering all relevant departments, according to Pritchard, including the galley and store rooms, as well as the bridge.

“Vendors will gain a much better understanding of how cruise lines and ships operate and what their needs are,” Pritchard said. “They can also gain a better understanding of how cruise lines evaluate new vendors, products and services, and how they differentiate their products. We (MHA) are very serious and care that our members grasp what the industry is all about.”

The MHA has always been very member oriented and the conference at sea is no exception, thus having 50 vendors interact with 25 cruise line executives is by design.

Pritchard continued: “Presenters will give an overview of their brands, how they vet suppliers, and what their requirements are, also on a global scale. Some of our member vendors have not been on cruise ship before, and it is important for them to understand how cruise ships are different, they are not just another customer. New vendors need to learn what is expected of them, and they must be very service oriented. It is a demanding and exacting industry.

“I think suppliers will be pleased with the experience and they will have a leg up.”

She added that cruise line executives can also use the occasion to learn from each other and experience the Princess product.

The conference fee is $900 plus stateroom accommodations.