If you’ve ever been on a single’s or couple’s cruise, then you know that planning is key if you want to have an enjoyable, stress-free vacation. Unfortunately, working out the details for a group cruise can be a bit more challenging, but if you follow the simple steps provided below, you and the other members of your group will be relaxing on the high seas in no time:
Choose Your Very Own “Captain”.
If you want to make the preparation stage less chaotic, first and foremost you need to appoint a leader. With so many activities and other specifics to sort through, the last thing you want is confusion and people stepping on each other’s toes. Is there someone in your group who works wonders with his or her organizational skills? If so, then put that person in charge. Whoever you decide to designate as your leader needs to know how to assign tasks and make executive decisions for the good of the group. Don’t choose a pushover! Pick an individual who sticks to their guns and has proven leadership skills.
Establish a method of communication.
Although texting might seem like the best choice for communicating, you should keep in mind that not everyone owns a smartphone. (Shocking, I know, but true!) One of the most common and reliable options is by email, since most households today depend on computers and Wi-Fi. Start a group email for cruise chats, and make sure every member is included, so there won’t be any hurt feelings. Some people go so far as to create a private group on Facebook for personal discussions. Talk amongst your members to decide which method of communication would be the easiest for everyone to use.
Obviously, one of the first things your group must decide together is where, when, and how long to travel. 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!
Don’t wait! Book before it’s too late!
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.
Hire a travel agent.
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.
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!
Choose your activities.
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.
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.
Make it memorable.
Is there someone in your bunch who has a techno-savvy touch? Make your vacation extra special and fun by enlisting that person to create a website or Facebook page dedicated to your trip. Although a website allows for more creative freedom, you might be limited with the number of people who can operate it, but everyone in your group who has a Facebook account can contribute photos and posts to a Facebook page. 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.
If you need help planning your group cruise please send us an email or give us a call. We’ll get right back to you and help you to plan a truly unforgettable group adventure!