Battle of the Booths: Ports Strut Their Stuff at Seatrade

March 16, 2006

Aside from press conferences and informational seminars, one of the biggest components of the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention is the exhibition floor, where nearly 1,000 companies and tourist boards set up booths to present their latest and greatest to cruise line execs and members of the media. It is, in a word, pandemonium.

Some of the funkier booths? A booth in the Entertainment and Technology Pavilion was blasting rock 'n' roll tunes from Pink Floyd and Boston to showcase their laser/sound systems, while an Austrian company called Leonardo Luggage displayed vintage leather and neon suitcases. But the International Pavilion -- a large block of booths representing various tourist boards and cruise ports -- was the most creative, and, for us, the most interesting.

To vie for attention, exhibitors from A (Aalborg) to Z (Zeebrugge) tried everything from creating eye-catching displays to doling out free food and alcohol, a technique that certainly seemed successful come lunchtime! Get a glimpse into the wild world of Seatrade with some of our favorites....

Best in Show: The Caribbean booths were by far the most elaborate, but the U.S. Virgin Islands take top prize -- they had placed an actual sailing boat smack in the middle of their exhibition space! We'll also give props to Barbados, who set up shop inside a cocoon of silk screens; Jamaica, where visitors could sidle up to a tropical thatched-roof bar to talk shop; and Mexico, whose reps handed out icy bottles of Corona.

Most Intriguing New Port: Campbell River, on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, is positioning itself as the next big Alaska cruise port with a new government-funded ship terminal. Celebrity's Mercury will call there -- the Salmon Capital of the World -- this fall on three- and four-night cruises roundtrip from Seattle.

Coolest New Attraction: Over at the Cruise Ireland booth, we found out that Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre is now offering up-close factory tours that take visitors through the five stages of the process -- blowing, cutting, quality inspection, sculpting and engraving -- with an opportunity to meet one of Waterford's four artisans in a Master's Workshop.

Best Freebies: Forget pens and mouse pads: The European area was the place to be for scouting out good-quality chocolates, and over at Mobile's booth, folks were draping colorful Mardi Gras beads around visitors' necks. Antigua was handing out hard-cover coffee table books loaded with gorgeous, full-color pictures. My luggage gained so much weight I had to pay an excess baggage fee on the flight home.

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