Cruise vacations are a great choice for group travel
Since I have family and friends spread across the U.S., getting everyone together in one location is a special treat that doesn’t happen very often. Extended family vacations take advance planning to accommodate different ages, interests and budgets, but are well worth it. The only down-side of group travel can be the large amount of daily group negotiation and decision making about everything from where to eat, what activities everyone wants to do and when to do it. This is why I’ve become a great fan of group cruises for family reunions and get togethers.
Cruise vacations offer something for everyone
They appeal to travelers of all ages, offer various levels and types of activity, and allow people with different budgets to still vacation together. Your group is contained in one place, everyone can set their own on-board agenda, and you can plan to spend time together and have time to enjoy time on your own.
My Top 10 tips – for a successful family & friends group cruise
- Choose a group leader
- Consider your group’s interests and needs
- Choose the Best Cruise for the whole group
- Book 9-12 months in advance….really!
- Use a travel agent for best value
- Communication in writing
- Develop a calendar of key dates
- Discuss how you want to handle shore excursions before traveling
- Arrive a day early to city of embarkation
- Plan a daily meeting time to regroup on-board ship
Why are these important? Read more….
- Choose a group leader. Whether the leader is self-appointed or chosen, it is important to have one person in charge of group communications, trip details and booking information. The leader shares their research and information so that other travelers don’t have to repeat work, such as looking for cruise fares or remembering when payments are due.
- List your group’s interests and needs. The key to a successful group cruise is to
make your group’s interests and needs a priority. Write down key factors, like ages, interests, school or work vacations and budget constraints.
- Choosing the Best Cruise for your group.
- Destination. The time of year targeted to travel and group interests will help guide destination choice. If you are looking for a summer vacation, Alaska, Europe or Hawaii are good choices. (The Caribbean during the summer hurricane season is not the best choice).
- Cruise Line. The destination narrows down your choice of ships, and from the options available, you can select the ship that best suits the budget, interests and personality of the group. Just like hotels, cruise ships are classed by amenities, service and price. If you need a lower cost cruise and like informal, relaxed family fun than Norwegian Caribbean or Carnival may be a good choice. If your group prefers better level of amenities, service and dining…Princess or is a better choice. See “Choosing the Best Cruise Ship” to see how the different cruise lines compare.
- Book 9-12 months in advance….really! You should start planning a year ahead of time to give everyone in our group time to get vacation time and budget for the trip. Early bookings are a must for: High season and vacation times (Summer, Holidays and School vacations). Securing multiple staterooms and any connecting cabins in the same area. For choice cabins on newest ships
- Use a travel agent for best value. Use a cruise specialist to help you do some of the legwork get the best deal. They are no cost to travelers and provide personal knowledge and insider information on best ships and itineraries. have access to rates and special offers due to the high volume of cruises booked that you will not have. They can also help negotiate special amenities for your group. These could include free berths, on-board credits, upgraded cabins, discounts for group leaders or other perks. Depending on the number of people in your party, you also could get free photos, cocktail parties or private meeting spaces. The agent can send individual invoices to the folks in the group and remind them of key deadlines so the group leader doesn’t have to.
- Communication in writing . It can be email, but it is important to get key information and deadlines in writing. If you merely rely on phone calls and informal chats, it’s inevitable that some piece of info about the cruise arrangements will get misinterpreted, a deadline will be forgotten, or some other frustrating communication lapse will leave a member of your group pouting. Because of that, it’s best to send out trip details and discuss plans via e-mail.
- Develop a calendar of key dates. Knowing how busy people are, it will be helpful to send your fellow travelers a calendar noting payment due dates, the “opening day” for booking shore excursions through the cruise line and deadlines for filling out passenger information forms online.
- Discuss how you want to handle shore excursions. I find it best to share information on various port excursions to see who in the group have similar interests. But not everyone has to go on the same excursion. Some group members may prefer historic sight seeing, some may prefer water sports or more strenuous activities, others may want to go shopping and others may not leave the ship. There is something for everyone in most destinations.
- Arrive a day early. It is best to arrive the day before embarkation to allow for any flight delays, missing luggage or jet lag. This will allow you to start your cruise off less stressed. Adding a pre-hotel stay to a cruise is easy and gives you more time exploring the port destination. Consider planning a Bon Voyage cocktail party or dinner get together to celebrate the start of your vacation.
- Plan daily meeting time to regroup onboard ship. Since roaming charges on cell phones can be astronomical, some groups opt for walkie-talkies to stay in touch on-board ship. Another simple way to stay in touch is to plan ahead to meet daily. Even if your group splits up to pursue activities, you can meet for dinner to share the day’s adventures and coordinate next day’s schedules. On sea days, you might want to meet twice, like dinner and 2pm on the pool deck.
Remember, a group leader is a volunteer, not an employee. So with these simple tips, the group can have a great trip and the leader can relax and have fun too.
For help planning your next group vacation contact: