'Our ship caught fire five days before the event'

Laurie Weitzkorn, director at JustSeventy, reveals how his team saved their event when disaster struck.

Being asked to organise a luxury cruise was a dream opportunity for our team of event producers at JustSeventy. 

Although we only had eight weeks to plan the itinerary, charter an out-of-this-world cruise ship, establish the theme and source the flowers, lighting and entertainment, it was all plain sailing – that is, until the ship caught fire five days before the event. 

A series of obstacles 

The client’s CEOs and decision-makers were supposed to board the ship in Cannes, which would feature daily conferences, presentations and talks as they sailed around the islands of Corsica and Sardinia. 

But now we had no ship. The yacht club offered an alternative, but it was in Dubrovnik in Croatia. The guests were already arriving in Cannes for the first event, and there was no way that the new ship would make it there in time. 

Working with the client, we agreed that guests would arrive in Cannes as planned, travel by chartered flight to Dubrovnik, board the ship and sail an alternative route to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. The guests would be none the wiser. Perfect. 

But the new sailing route posed problems. Our event producers had already created the diary of events, parties and dinners at the original venues we’d be visiting. Now we wouldn’t be going to any of these locations. Our team had to rethink the entire itinerary, simultaneously planning while travelling between destinations by sea with minimal wifi. 

Saving graces 

Another concern was the finale event. Guests would arrive in the southern Italian town of Ravello and we had no venue. After some serious digging, we were able to find a place that ticked every box – Palazzo Avino – and worked with the owner and managing director Mariella Avino to plan and stage the event. 

Being in Ravello worked to our advantage. We arrived just as the renowned Ravello Festival was ending and, thanks to the resort’s contacts, we were able to negotiate keeping the festival’s pretty fairy lights on for a few more days, and they also agreed to restage the fireworks display. 

Lessons learned 

Though the pressure was at its highest, the team was able to pull everything together really well. We always have a contingency plan, but this event made us rethink the process. Now we don’t just have a solid plan B, we also make sure that we budget for ‘what if’ scenarios. It’s an experience that we’ll never forget, and reminds us that nothing is impossible. 


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