AITP Region 18 Spring Conference Report
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Posted by: Carolyn Walters
By Carolyn Walters
Conference Chair, 2004 Region 18
Past President, Tarheel Chapter
Executive Vice President, Region 18
The AITP Region 18 Spring Conference exceeded all expectations for fun and an information exchanging adventure. It was held aboard the Carnival Cruise ship Fascination on April 30-May 2. Fascination is known for fun and good times, but did you know that it also provides excellent accommodations for professional meetings? Everything went smoothly and everyone had an enjoyable time. I am now known as Julie, a reference to the cruise director on TV's Love Boat. Thanks, Kevin!
I worked with Carnival to get a fabulous package for our members. With all our expenses included, except for alcoholic beverages, we were free to enjoy the activities on board between our sessions without worrying about budgets. Carnival also gave us quite a few perks because of the group booking. Attendees spent a little more money, compared to the cost of attending an out-of-town conference at a hotel, but all agreed it was money well spent, especially since a 24-hour visit to Nassau, Bahamas, was part of the itinerary.
Our excursion began on Friday afternoon with check-in. This was no boring registration desk; we were set up in the atrium on the Lido Deck. We had inquiries from many of the vacationers who wondered what we were up to and wanted to know about AITP! I also created an emergency list with important information about each attendee, just in case. Would you believe someone listed that he was allergic to snake bites? I guess he was concerned water moccasins might board the ship!
The kick-off session was held after we sailed. Session itineraries and AITP Business Case information were distributed. The Business Case assignment was to investigate how technology is used to conduct or enhance business on the ship or in Nassau, Bahamas. We would then discuss our findings at Sunday's session. Not that a group of computer geeks needed to be told to look for ways to add technology to a process! The IT director of the ship was to attend our Business Case session, but a computer crisis came up at the last minute that prevented him from attending. Too real life! Even on a cruise ship computers have problems that demand immediate attention.
Cruises are famous for their cuisine! Our biggest dilemma was finishing a meal in time to change and get to our next meal or late night buffet. Each evening we ate together in the formal dining room. It was a dining adventure with service like a five-star restaurant!
There was also plenty of time for fun. While docked in Nassau, many took advantage of the tours or went off sight seeing on their own. There were shopping excursions, snorkeling in Paradise Island and riding around Nassau. For those of you who know me, you can already guess which one of these activities I took a liking to.
Several attendees enjoyed a snorkeling excursion. The seas were rough (in fact, a refund was offered!), but they were up for the adventure! And boat libations!
Craig Kennedy, George Koscho and John Hage were never hard to find. They took a special liking to all that the Lido deck had to offer.
Special guest speaker Calvin Sun delighted us with his appropriate - but thankfully not too appropriate - seminar: Communications Lessons from the Titanic. His presentation was chilling to hear aboard a ship, and it gave us goose bumps to look out at the open sea as he talked and showed slides of the Titanic. We were glad we were in tropical waters and icebergs were a miniscule threat, but yes, we did check for them once or twice!
Lance Kull's topic was also cleverly tied into the boat/ocean/cruise theme. His seminar was titled "A Pirate's Look at IT Career Planning." A personal note came later from attendee Brenda Nevins: "I used what I learned in Lance's seminar when I was laid off my job at Sara Lee six weeks after our cruise."
While at sea, we noted a few technology surprises. There is no cell phone reception once you clear international waters. Yet, people walked around during the entire cruise with their cell phones clipped to their waists and in their clutched hands frantically checking for a signal! "Can you hear me now?" was answered every time with a "NO!"
Although we couldn't use our cell phones, we could check our e-mail - sort of! This service was exorbitantly expensive and very slow. It cost $30 to check and answer e-mail - just two messages - in the ship's Internet café. What fun we had sitting at computers as vacationers walked by and did double takes, exclaiming, "She is on the Internet! In the middle of the ocean!" Little do they know that techies need to get a small technology fix every now and then.
We also found time to attend Las Vegas-style shows in the ship's theater. They had every kind of entertainment from comedy to musicals. At the nightly bingo games, some could be found furiously playing their cards! But, no big bingo winners in our group! Lance Kull and his bride (of 32 years) Claire were always in the center of the party, with Lance fit for the occasion in a most debonair hat! Our only disappointment is that Lance and Claire were not chosen to play in the "Not So Newlywed Game." If any of you know Lance, his participation would have definitely added to our entertainment value.
As soon as we docked, dozens of phones started ringing! Oh well, back to reality!!!
We hope the success of our cruise will encourage other regions to hold their conferences aboard ships. Who knows - maybe even the association will one day consider it!