When most of us begin the vacation planning process, the thought of traveling with a group never even enters our mind. And the idea of figuring out the logistics of a group cruise vacation probably strikes you as too overwhelming. Keep reading – this post will erase all doubts and will explain why a group vacation, particularly a cruise vacation, might actually be the perfect choice for your next getaway!
Reason #1: Cruises are all-inclusive.
It might seem like you could find a better deal with a land-based vacation at an all-inclusive resort. Or, perhaps you believe you could piece together something that is more affordable on your own, using an internet budget travel engine. You can give it a shot. But, chances are, those “super deals” you find will begin to add up and the total price will be much more than you bargained for in the end.
On a cruise, you pay one price for everything – this includes lodging, dining, entertainment, server gratuities and even childcare. Consider the savings illustrated below in a handy chart created by one of our travel partners, Carnival.
This illustration is based on a 2-person vacation and assumes a rather cheap resort ($125/night), a dining spend of $45 per person per day and just one night of entertainment at a show that costs $70/ticket.
Reason #2: A group cruise is less expensive than an individual cruise reservation.
Many cruise lines offer group rates for groups booking 8 or more staterooms (or booking 15+ guests). This will be a lower price than you can find on the cruise line’s website if you’re booking your own individual vacation. Sometimes, they only require a small payment (something like $25) to hold your place in the group, with a deposit due within 30-60 days. Deposits vary by cruise line, but you can expect a ballpark deposit of $100 – $250 per person. Then, the full remaining balance is not due until 60-90 days before sailing, depending on the terms of the cruise line. You can also work with your travel consultant to make small payments over time and alleviate the financial burden of having to come up with a large sum of money all at once. With all that flexibility and a promise of a lower rate, why not think about an upgrade to a balcony stateroom or ocean view?
Reason #3: Cruise groups can receive complimentary bonus amenities.
A lot of the cruise lines offer amenity points for groups, which allow travel agents to gift their group members with a little something special. This can be something small like a free drink coupon or onboard credit, or it can be something larger like a bathrobe or slippers.
In addition, if you work with an agent who is part of a larger, reputable travel network like Ensemble Travel Group, you can take advantage of Ensemble Hosted Sailings, where a designated Ensemble representative is onboard the ship with you as a host. These sailings offer their group guests a private bon voyage cocktail party, free private shore excursion experiences and more.
Reason #4: You can still do your own thing.
You might be leery of traveling with a group because you feel you won’t have as much freedom or the ability to do things independently that you love. It might seem like the will and schedule of the group will infringe on your own ideas of what a dream vacation should be. This doesn’t have to be the case.
Your group can have as much or as little interaction as you, as a group, decide to have. Perhaps everyone wants to do their own thing every day and just meet up for meals. Or maybe you want to be together in port so you can take discounted group tours of exotic destinations together, but you would all like to spend at sea days relaxing and exploring the ship’s activities on your own. Maybe the group has a set dining time, but you and your sweetie would like to break off one night for an intimate dinner at one of the specialty restaurants onboard. All of these things are OK. There are no rules imposed on any group. And, except for a few cases, most cruise lines don’t require that a group even have a designated leader.
The best part of a group cruise is that you have the opportunity to be with a group of friends/colleagues/family, while also having the freedom to select your own itinerary items.
Reason #5: There are enough cruise options available to satisfy a wide range of budgets and bucket lists.
Did the image in #1 above (and it’s $1,000 price tag) send your head spinning? Or do you have a taste for the finer things in life when you vacation and desire a much more posh experience? The cruise industry has been growing and working to provide options for every taste, palate, budget and desire.
Simply put, you can find 3-day bargain cruises and 13-day ultra-luxury cruises and everything in between. You can sail on small ships that only hold 100 passengers or on mega-ships that carry 4,000 people, or even sail on luxury yachts that look more like a sailboat than a cruise ship. There are Caribbean, Mediterranean, Arctic Circle, Asian and Alaskan cruise itineraries and more. Most U.S. ports are within a 6-hour drive of a major U.S. city or you can take advantage of airport-to-cruise-terminal transfer services. There is so much variety that you could plan one cruise per year for the next decade and satisfy every type of person in your group.
Reason #6: Group cruise vacations are FUN!
What better way to celebrate a birthday/anniversary/major milestone/family reunion/school break than basking in the Caribbean sun or zip-lining in the Puerto Rican rain forest or surveying the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu with a group of people that you love? Sure beats the standard rented ballroom with a punch bowl and pretzels.
And, with so many onboard options (i.e. dance clubs, art auctions, multiple bars and pubs, pools and jacuzzis, rock climbing, shopping, spa services, fitness center, full-scale stage productions, comedy clubs, casinos and gambling, trivia, miniature golf, waterslides, cooking demonstrations, etc.), there is no shortage of experiences to share with other group members.
Reason #7: Chance are, there is a cruise to match your group interests.
If you’re traveling with a group that isn’t a random assortment of your friends, family or co-workers, chances are you have a special group culture or theme. If there isn’t already a cruise that revolves around your interest, a space for your group can be created. You might already know that there are culinary cruises for foodies, cruises specifically for adventurers and explorers, singles and LGBT-themed cruises for those with a mind for meeting new people, service and volunteer cruises for the world changers, and even wine cruises for budding or experienced sommeliers.
But, did you know that any group can be accommodated? You just have to talk to your travel agent! There have been special group cruises for knitting and quilting groups, animal lovers, bird watchers, book lovers and golfers. Some even included lectures at sea and special meet-up events. Whatever your group enjoys, an experienced travel consultant can craft an itinerary to fit their interests. And it’s not unusual for an idea for a group cruise to come about before the actual group is assembled. It may well be that you just love studying volcanoes and you want to meet others who have the same interest. You could work with a travel consultant to create a group cruise to several volcanic Caribbean islands, publicize the offer and end up on a cruise with 25 new volcano-obsessed friends. The sky is the limit when it comes to group cruises.
Reason #8: Group cruise vacations are surprisingly easy to plan…
This might seem impossible to believe, but it is true…if you are using an experienced travel consultant. Travel agents have access to booking systems and bells and whistles that the average traveler can’t use. Group bookings, while complicated due to the sheer number of people involved, can be pretty straightforward in a lot of cases. One of the most difficult parts of the process is simply getting everyone in the group to agree on where they’d like to go!
If you use an experienced professional, they will work with each group member and handle all the details of planning and booking for you. Most agents charge a fee for their services, but it is very small in comparison to the peace of mind you will receive in knowing that you have not skipped over any important booking details and that you won’t miss any important deadlines. Plus, as with all travel planning, you know that your agent has your back if anything happens. And that is a comfort worth its weight in gold.
Reason #9: Group vacations are a great opportunity to build friendships and strengthen bonds.
Do you think you would feel closer to a friend after a few hour-long FaceTime sessions of chatting and laughing, or do you think you would feel more of a connection after you’d boarded a catamaran to a private island and spent the day snorkeling off a coral reef and throwing back rum punches with them? Aside from the obvious fact that shared experiences build automatic bonds between people, there is something to be said for going through all those experiences while you are on vacation. Even if you made it a point to meet up with your grandmother for coffee every week like clockwork, you have to admit that the busyness of life is difficult to pull away from and it’s not always easy to focus on your personal relationships when things are hectic. Group cruises are especially perfect for multi-generational families and all sorts of groups of friends. With so many offerings of activities for every age group, they provide a chance to pursue individual interests while also providing a relaxed space to just be together.
Reason #10: Group cruise vacations can change the world!
Have you ever heard of a fundraising group cruise? These are a special niche of the cruise industry that allows you to gather a group of like-minded individuals and decide that the vacation you were going to take anyway should help a higher cause. If you are able to promote your group cruise enough to get at least 15 (minimum – the sky is the limit on maximum) to travel with you on a cruise of your choosing, the cruise line will donate a set amount (i.e. Carnival donates $5 per person per day) to the named non-profit charity of the group’s choosing.
With the booking, free stateroom berths are often awarded for every 15 guests you are able to book. This free stateroom can be awarded to special guests/VIPs in the group (so they are able to attend for free), paid in full by the guest (and the money paid goes straight to the charity), or raffled off (and all raffle ticket money earned goes straight to the charity). In addition, you have the option to increase the price of each person’s cruise fare by a small amount ($5-$100) and all the excess funds will be donated to your charity as well. If you are able to find enough people to join your group, you could end up writing a substantial check to your organization! And all you actually have to do is go on vacation, as you would have gone anyway! Your travel agent will handle all the details and keep track of the group and all the funds for you! Your only job is to promote, promote, promote and gather as many friends as possible. Not a bad deal!
A group cruise vacation is something everyone will remember for years to come! So why not think about who you might like to explore the world with and contact your travel agent today to help you get started?