The Marine Hotel Association is hosting its 28th annual conference and trade show at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando April 21 – 23 (2013). With 240 exhibitors expected, key speakers at this year’s event will be Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line, and Paul DePodesta, vice president of player development and scouting for the New York Mets and entrepreneur and subject of Moneyball.

April 21, Sunday, starts with a golf tournament and silent auction, followed by an evening welcome reception.

April 22, Monday morning features a welcome address by Alvin Dennis, MHA board president and vice president of purchasing for Norwegian Cruise Line, and guest speaker Karl Holz. The trade show runs from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. There is an evening cocktail reception and dinner.

April 23, Tuesday morning has the New York Mets’ Paul DePodesta as guest speaker. The trade show runs from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, followed by the evening’s grand finale.

Exhibitors include a broad range of food and beverage vendors, in addition to suppliers of hotel products – from linens to lighting and more. The conference and trade show is popular among cruise line executives, including hotel, food and beverage, purchasing and chefs.

“What sets the MHA events apart is the manageable size," said Caroline Pritchard, executive director. “The number of exhibitors, for instance, is limited to give all a chance to meet with cruise line executives. “We keep the proper ratio of people and hours, giving vendors a chance for a face-to-face meeting with cruise lines.

“Many cruise line executives who attend are also looking for new products. We encourage new vendors to come in and set aside some exhibition space every year.”

Pritchard noted that the MHA has 330 member companies, which translates into some 3,500 individual members, and that about 38 percent from the outside of the U.S.

We encourage people to be part of our association,” she added “Even if they are not exhibiting – and that does not make sense for everybody – they can still learn a lot from participating. I think we (MHA) are a unique opportunity for people to be part of something – and they (members) get a foot in the door of the cruise industry.”

Being a non-profit organization, Pritchard underscored how the MHA has no financial motives, and its objective is to be a link between vendors and cruise lines.

“We can help members find their way; we can provide introductions,” she added. New members are also provided a mentor – being one of the board members of the MHA.

“We help people meet people. Everybody is approachable. Beyond that there are no guarantees, of course. And we do not want to be all things to all people. We focus exclusively on the hotel piece, on the onboard product. We do not dabble where we do not belong.”

Twenty-eight years after its founding (1985), the core of the founding membership is still present, according to Pritchard.