Skip to site content
The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Use These Tips to Book a Great Group Cruise

Cruising is an excellent choice for groups. It offers something for everyone, takes travelers to a variety of destinations in a single trip and includes most meals. It allows you to cater to a variety of travelers’ needs and preferences. Those who like to go off and explore independently have that option, for example, while those who would like a guided tour can opt for one. Many cruises offer a variety of excursions to accommodate both adventure seekers and those who enjoy more relaxed activities.

But for a group travel planner, these opportunities can also bring challenges. Choosing the right cruise line can be overwhelming, as there are many promotions to consider, and a host of vendors trying to entice you to travel with them. So how do you identify the companies that make the most sense for your group?

Destination First

When choosing a cruise line, start first with your destination. Selecting a destination will eliminate companies that do not service the area. Once you narrow down the destination, check departure dates and confirm they have one within the timeframe you want to travel. Taking notice of departure dates will also highlight the type of clientele the cruise line is popular among. For example, if you’re interested in an ocean cruise and have a younger clientele who still work full time, a cruise line that utilizes weekend departures will be your best bet. However, if you mostly travel with retirees, cruise lines offering weekday departures may be a better demographic fit. If you choose a weekend departure, you will see younger travelers on the cruise compared to a departure during the week. Weekday departures have less traffic onboard. I suggest opting for them if they work for your group.

Though ocean cruising is a popular way to see multiple destinations, river cruising is becoming more and more popular. However, it delivers completely different cruising experience. Whether it’s a sailing in Europe or the United States, river cruising provides a smooth, relaxing ride. River cruising also provides a smaller, more intimate atmosphere, while ocean cruising boasts large numbers and many onboard options. Generally, ocean cruising also offers a lot of excursions for land, while river cruising offers a nice walk in the towns you visit and a few optional tours. River cruising will have set meal times, while ocean cruising allows some flexibility.

Group Support

Finding a cruise that is group friendly is also essential. Look for a company providing resources and help with bookings and marketing materials. Educate yourself about what passenger information the cruise line will need from you and how it will need to be transferred. Some cruise lines offer an online booking system; others might have a representative appointed to your account. Regardless, investigate how that process will go before choosing a company. You want to make sure it’s a process you are comfortable using.

Ask the cruise line what they can offer you and your group. Many companies provide space for group meet-and-greets. And they might offer additional packages or perks based on the number of travelers in your group. Find out what those are before you commit to a cruise line.

When cruising, your travelers often go off on their own, and you see them less than if you were taking a motorcoach tour. But there are some things you can do to remind them you’re on board with them and help them enjoy some group camaraderie.

Apps are becoming increasingly popular for sharing photos while traveling in a group. If your group is small enough, you could communicate through text. If everyone will have access to onboard Wi-Fi, you could also send emails.

Another great way to build group rapport is to host a meet-and-greet party shortly before the trip, so your travelers can get last-minute information and meet those they will be traveling with. Encourage everyone to introduce themselves and tell the group where they are from. If your group will be coming from various places, you could hold this session online.

Gathering On Board

It’s also important to set some scheduled days and times for the group to get together while aboard the cruise. This could be an excursion you do as a group, for example, or a group dinner in one of the ship’s specialty restaurants. Whatever the meetup entails, just make sure it is planned and communicated with the group so nobody misses out.

Ensure all travelers can contact you should they need additional assistance while traveling. Going a step further and providing a room number so they can call your cabin will help when traveling internationally.

Remember, all groups are different, so take the time to find the company that caters to your group. Then, when it comes time for departure, board the ship and get ready for a great time!

Ashley Runyon

Ashley Taylor is a longtime bank and travel club planner. She lives in Ashland, Kentucky, with her family of six.