If you’re planning on going on a group cruise, then good call! Group cruises are one of the best ways to enjoy the open ocean, have big fun while onboard, and explore locations when you finally arrive at the port.
But how exactly do you go about planning a group cruise? What’s involved? It’s not as simple as you might imagine. Take a look at these tips, tricks and steps you must take to organize and schedule a fantastic cruise that you and the rest of your party will love.
Designate A Group Leader
As will all things in life, you need a good leader to organize a group cruise. Group cruises struggle to get off the ground unless there’s somebody behind the curtain, managing affairs.
Choosing a great leader, however, can be a challenge. You need somebody who isn’t afraid to make sure that everybody has paid, booked their rooms, and gotten their passports up to date. It takes a particular, fearless personality to pull it off.
You also need a leader who isn’t stressed out by the last-minute stress that often accompanies booking a holiday, including those on cruise ships. The leader needs to be able to cope with last-minute changes and delays – the sort of thing that inevitably happens when large groups of people travel together.
Your leader needs to be confident to send out invitations to people in the group, handling unforeseen issues, and perhaps choosing the cruise that you all eventually go on.
Choose A Ship With A Schedule People Will Love
Cruise vacations aren’t all the same. They’re so different from one another that it can sometimes be challenging to decide on one and book finally.
Before choosing a ship, think carefully about the type of experience that people in your party would like. A trip around a Norwegian fjord is very different from a cruise through the Caribbean islands. The weather and location are different from one another.
Then there’s the cruise ship itself. Cruise ships vary quite dramatically from each other. Some cruise ships have multiple restaurants, amusements, entertainment for children, and places to relax by the pool. Others offer more esoteric options, like dance classes and oil painting. Again, think carefully about who in your group would enjoy what and then create a wishlist when selecting a ship.
An effective way to begin is to prioritize. If cost is the leading factor amongst your group, then start there and research cruise options with the most affordable price range. Perhaps destination is more important. If so, then Google where you’d like to go and find out which cruise lines offer that choice. This is where seasoned travelers play a vital role in the decision-making process, because who else knows a destination better than those who have already been there? Let them give their suggestions. If all else fails, and your group is still having trouble choosing, then take a vote – but not before making sure everyone will be satisfied with what the majority votes on!
Plan Shore Excursions
Perhaps one of the greatest aspects about taking a cruise is the numerous activities you can enjoy during your trip, such as biking, scuba diving, zip lining, museum tours, city tours, and hiking, just to name a few. Your chosen cruise line will more than likely provide a list of activities when you book your trip, so get with your group to discuss your options, since some on-shore excursions require a reservation well in advance due to limited availability. If, however, relaxation is your number one priority, you can always stay on board and lounge by the swimming pool or enjoy a massage at the spa.
Many cruise ships offer tour guides who will take you sightseeing without you having to lift a finger. Others will connect you with local guides to similar effect. Tour guides are a great shortcut that allows you to get the most out of each location you stop off at. Of course, if you’re feeling brave, you can plan shore excursions yourself.
Plan Travel Logistics Ahead Of Time
Once you’re on the cruise ship, the operator will manage all of your travel requirements. But you’ll still need to make arrangements for travelling between the cruise ship and any hotels you stay in, as well as transport if you decide to venture further afield than shore locations.
Group transport is, in general, trickier than solo transport, or transport as a couple. You may want to consider hiring a minivan or shuttle to take you from one location to another, especially if you all need to arrive for flights and transfers at the same time.
Book Your Cruise In Advance
Planning a group vacation is not the time to try to book last minute. Booking a cruise in advance is a good idea, not only because it lets you choose which cabins you stay in and where you visit, but also because it allows you to book shore excursions and other activities during the voyage.
As soon as you come to a mutual decision on the cruise, book it! Don’t wait around until the last minute to snag your cabins, especially if you’re planning to travel during a busy time, like the summer months and holidays. (A good rule of thumb is to book your cabins at least nine months to a year in advance). By booking early, you’ll have more time to devote to other things, like the itinerary and travel arrangements to and from the homeport city. Many cruise lines offer group discounts, so be sure to ask when you book your reservations.
Although many groups choose to do the booking and planning themselves, there are some who opt to hire a travel agent. If your job or busy lifestyle doesn’t allow the extra time to commit to planning your cruise, then let a travel agent do the work for you. Research online and choose an agent or agency who specializes in planning vacations for large groups, since these agents usually have first-hand knowledge about which discounts, amenities, and cabins are available for group trips. An experienced agent is a definite asset when it comes to getting the best price on reservations, meals and drinks onboard, on-shore excursions, fun activities, and numerous other perks.
Don’t Get stuck in a Rut
Try to remember that just because you’re on a group cruise, that doesn’t mean you must do everything together. Many singles and couples go on separate excursions during the daytime hours. After all, it’s your vacation too, so do whatever it is YOU enjoy doing. For safety’s sake though, check in with each other frequently if you do decide to part during the day. If you have a cellphone, program each member’s contact information into your phone in case of an emergency, and if you’re leery of touring alone on foreign soil, consider hiring a guide who knows the area.
Play Catch-up Over Dinner
One way to stay in contact with each other during your trip, especially if you plan different activities, is to meet for dinner every night. This will give you the chance to regroup and share with each other the fun things you did during the day. It will also give you the opportunity to go over last-minute details about upcoming activities you’ve planned to do together. Cruise lines regularly schedule fun and exciting entertainment venues on board each night, so don’t let your get-togethers end with dinner when you can have fun dancing the night away, playing card games, exploring the ship, watching a movie, or just gathering together on deck to enjoy the nighttime air and gaze at the stars.
Set Up A Facebook Page
Depending on the size of the group, you might want to set up a Facebook page. Setting up a Facebook page provides a platform through which everyone can communicate. You can upload and post instructions, pictures and even videos telling people what they need to do. You can also provide detailed information about the itinerary or respond to questions and comments.
You can also use the page as a place to post pictures during and after your cruise so that everyone can enjoy them. A couple of other tips to keep in mind:
- There are usually several cruise photographers on board, so try and have a group shot taken before you disembark.
- Go all out with matching t-shirts, if only for that final group photo. It will be a treasured keepsake for years to come, and you’ll never have trouble finding each other in a crowd.
Be There on Time
Make certain every member of your group is ready to board the ship by arriving at the homeport destination a day early. This is especially crucial if you’re going on a cruise during the winter months, since weather delays could jeopardize your time of arrival. Make any necessary hotel reservations for the night, and don’t risk being left behind. The ship will leave without you!
Bon Voyage! Enjoy Your Group Cruise
So there you have it: how to plan a group cruise. Planning a group cruise is remarkably simple, thanks to the fact that the cruise operator takes care of the vast majority of elements for you. Do you feel more confident about planning a group cruise?