ACE Inspiration: Kristin Banta Events, part 2

Mid-March, winners of the ACE awards took the stage at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. To enter, each contender was asked to identify the two events the company completed that it felt best represented the company, as well as challenges and favorite aspects.

Throughout the year, will profile the winners and nominees of the 2017 ACE awards. In the next installation of our series, we are placing a keen eye on Kristin Banta Events who took the ACE award for Event Operations under $2 million in the West region.

A wide shot of the top deck, at the Sail Away Party

Events • West region • Operations under $2 million • Kristin Banta Events

Asian Voyage Sail-Away Party and Closing Celebration

This event offered many new and exciting challenges for Kristin Banta Events, forcing them to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

“Our motto for this project was ‘In The Solution’ which has consequentially become our quiet battle cry,” said Kristin Banta, Creative Director. “Working in tandem with the client's company and the cruise ship's team, we were put to the test to act as not only a designer and producer, but also as a hospitality consultant and food and beverage specialist. This event offered us many ‘firsts’ including working on a cruise ship, working in maritime, and working in Asia,” she said.

“The goal of the opening and closing events was to highlight this extraordinary experience by immersing guests into the Asian culture through progressive cuisine, enriching performances, and thematic decor reflective of the branding for the voyage and the compelling culture of the South China Sea.”

Nautical-inspired lounge vignettes at the Sail Away Party

DJ view from above at the Sail Away Party


The biggest challenge presented involved time constraints available to design/prep this event, along with complex logistics. “Within one week of being contracted to produce this event, we traveled to Vietnam and Brunei to conduct sight visits on the ship and were then required to develop a full design plan within days of our return,” said Banta. Following approval of the design, the team created orders and fabricated plans and shipping manifests with their suppliers. Challenged to find sufficient storage for the crates on the ship, the team was forced to ship 14 of 40 crates of décor, supplies, and lighting two weeks after approval of the design, and before the ship entered China seas.

A limited team made up of staff and creative partners boarded the vessel in China to begin custom fabricating furniture for the Sail Away night party. Timeline until guest arrival: two weeks.

“We shopped at port cities to locally-source décor to supplement our shipped inventory, and then the remaining 26 crates were loaded onto the ship hours before the event start as guests boarded, necessitating all teams to directly unpack and install contents, simultaneously breaking down crates and off-loading each, all of which was unbeknownst to the guests,” said Banta.

Following the opening event, the team worked for 10 days at sea to transform décor from the first night, re-building, sanding/staining, and re-upholstering while also shopping locally for regional elements to further transform. “We were challenged to assure nothing resembled the decor from opening night while reusing the same main items for each event due to limited storage,” said Banta.

Interactive Soba noodle bar at the Sail Away Party

The Banta team was additionally tasked with re-training the existing culinary team onboard and communicating techniques needed to produce custom culinary and cocktail programs, all regionally-inspired, for both events.

Regionally-inspired fan dance performers

Favorite touches

“One of our favorite aspects was teaching the onboard culinary team new techniques to develop a highly conceptual and regionally-inspired menu of street foods from the destinations that passengers would be visiting,” said Banta.

Inspired by these port cities, the Sail-Away Party featured specialty food stations including an interactive soba noodle bar, a made-to-order crudo bar, a Singaporean hawker grill, and spring roll station. A specialty vodka cocktail station was also curated specifically for this event with mixers such as ginger puree, lychee, and sake.

Inspired by the final destination, Singapore, the closing party also featured specialty food and cocktails such as the “Singapore Sling” bar offering thematic classic cocktails along with sweet and savory bites served from rolling dim sum Pan-Am carts.

Custom cocktail tables featured stacks of vintage luggage to emulate the halcyon era of early air travel during the closing celebration

Fabricated aircraft cabin entrance for the closing celebration

Other favorite aspects included fully fabricated decor pieces such as a departures board listing each port traveled, a hallway leading to the party that emulated an airplane interior, and stacks of vintage suitcases which served as cocktail tables—all which led to a 1940s-inspired Asian opium den where the guests celebrated until sunrise.

1940s Southeastern Asian opium den-inspired stage and seating area

Fabricated DJ booth featuring regionally-inspired items for the closing celebration

Additional highlights included transferring all 280 guests from the surprise Stevie Wonder performance, held at one end of the ship, to the closing party at the other end via an interactive drum line led by regional performers, kicking off the closing night party.

Next week on Cocoon Events’ Marrakesh Destination Wedding


Kathleen Stoehr

Kathleen Stoehr is the Director of Community & Content Strategy for Catersource, which includes print and digital content, as well as live education at both Catersource, the Art of Catering Food, and Leading Caterers of America Executive Summit.