03/3/07 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom

Smooth Sailing for Jefferson events planner


JEFFERSON -- There are no "four-walled establishments" where Camille Cerria's clients
hold their events -- just views of the New York City skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the
taste of sea air.

Cerria is a nautical events planner who operates her business, Smooth Sailing
Celebrations, from her home in Oak Ridge.

Her business is arranging events that range from weddings and bar or bat mitzvahs to
corporate meetings or parties for 1,200 on the large, fancy cruise ships that work the New
York harbor.

"I attend to everything. It's one-stop shopping,"Cerria said.

And she does not charge the client anything. They pay the cruise line
for the event and the cruise lines pay her, Cerria said.

"I negotiate a fee with the ship owners to book an event," she said.
"I set the same fee for all the ships so I am not prejudiced to favor
one or the other. I work for the client."

Events start at about $45 per person, including tax and gratuity, Cerria
said. The prices generally are in line with those sought by land-based
function establishments, she said.

But a land-based wedding does not come with a close-up view of the
Statue of Liberty or the New York skyline twinkling in the moonlight.

The events can include anything from hors d'oeuvres to a full dinner.
The ships have galleys and the food is prepared on site, Cerria said.
Entertainment can be arranged with DJs and live entertainment, if the
client wishes.

For weddings, Cerria handles all the details, including flowers and cakes, and arrives at at
the event to make sure it gets off to a smooth start.

Other than taking place on a ship, she said, her weddings bring the same nervous
families and need for planning and detail work as a land-based wedding.

"At first, the family will have few questions," she said, "but, as the event date nears, the
questions begin."

Among her clients are corporations seeking a cruise for business meetings, awards
ceremonies, product launches and other celebrations, Project Graduation events, senior
events, midnight cruises, reunions, retirement parties, Scout outings, proms and
fundraisers for nonprofit organizations.

Cerria said schools like using ships for a Project Graduation event because it adds a little
glamour and there is better sense of control. Students generally are confined to the
function room and an observation deck, she said.

Many nonprofit associations use the cruises to entertain and woo their most generous
and loyal donors, Cerria said.

Corporations, Cerria said, find many reasons to use her services. A few years ago, when
AT&T and Verizon were beginning the layoffs that eventually resulted in their
disappearance from the local job market, Cerria arranged "morale-boosting"events for the

As time went on, Cerria said, even the people she was working with to arrange the events
began to be shifted from office to office until they, too, were gone.

Cerria said she books events on ships that work the Hudson and East rivers. They feature
12 sightseeing spots, including the Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building
and the South Street Seaport.

She can arrange for pickups on either side of the Hudson, she said.

Hijayet Kilic, owner of Cornucopia Cruises of Perth Amboy, uses Cerria's services often.
"She brings clients to us,"Kilic said. "Her guest is my guest."

Kilic said his 10-year-old company operates three large ships here now, with a fourth --a
Mississippi River paddleboat -- that is expected to be moved from Memphis to Perth
Amboy this year.

The ships are: the 1,200-passenger Cornucopia Majesty, a 210-foot ship with five dining
rooms and an observation desk; the 130-foot Cornucopia Princess, which can entertain
400 guests; and the 115-foot Destiny, built for 250 guests.

"These are elegant ships," he said.

Kilic said the cruise season runs all year, but is busiest from April 1 to New Year's Day.
Midnight cruises are very popular, he said.

Cerria said she never planned to own her own business, and it is a scary, head-spinning
prospect at times.

But after 10 years in the event booking business, and a move to the Oak Ridge section of
Jefferson with her family, the daily commute to Weehawken became too much to take: two
hours in each direction, she said.

Cerria said she also realized after she opened her business that her previous job
experience had taken time away from her first daughter. She said the start of her own
business allows her more time with her daughter.

So in 2001, at the suggestion of her husband, she put a new computer in a sunny room in
her Oak Ridge home and started booking events.

Cerria said she is a big believer in karma, and sees that all the hard work, all the
networking and chance-taking are paying off.

It also didn't hurt that she began in January to advertise on the Internet, Cerria said.
The e-mail messages started arriving shortly after she posted her first ad and have not
stopped, she said.

This year she expects to book 250 events.

Her experience and service are her strong points, but her selling points are the ship and
the ocean, she said.

On a recent cold day, she brought a client to Perth Amboy to discuss an event. The client
was hooked, she said, upon seeing the elegant ship framed by the high blue sky and the
great blue ocean.

Michael Daigle can be reached at (973) 267-7947 or mdaigle@gannett.com.
The Cornucopia Majesty hosts a triple deck  party on
Feb. 20. Camille Cerria, owner of  Smooth Sailing
Celebrations, said a land-based wedding does not
come with a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty or
the New York skyline twinkling in the moonlight, as
her sea-based events do.
To schedule an event, call Smooth Sailing Celebrations at 973-409-4456 or send
them an
email. You'll receive a prompt and friendly reply.
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