Finding a cruise that a group that includes everyone from your five-year-old daughter all the way up to your 95-year-old grandmother will like is a monumental task. From destination selection to ship choice, there are many things you must keep in mind which will end up both helping and hindering your choices. However, we do have some tips.
Select a ship with plenty of dining options
Depending on the size of your group, consider a ship which features multiple dining facilities which can handle your entire group at once.
Local ships such as Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas and P&O’s Pacific Aria offer multiple dining options in venues that range in size and cuisine, giving your group a good variety each night. In addition, when booking your group, enquire about the different dining options and which ones can be booked in advance. This will ensure a modicum of exclusivity for your group. Also, ask about any private dining rooms off from the main dining room which your ship may be able to offer at no charge.
Don’t necessarily book a particular ship because of its kids activities
If you book a ship jam-packed with activities for children, it’s fair to expect there will be quite a few others onboard. If you have members of your group not travelling with children, consider that they may not want to be surrounded by a large number of children. Instead, look for itineraries aboard lines such as Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises, two lines offering extensive kids clubs but often without high child passenger numbers or higher prices.
Don’t be afraid to design and book your own shore excursions
As soon as you have settled on a particular itinerary, research and ensure that a wide mix of shore excursions are available with your particular cruise brand. If your chosen line doesn’t feature many off-ship touring options which suits your group, give them a call as they may be able to help you design your own customised tours.
Little touches such as personalised signage and other amenities can also be arranged, depending on the size of your group.
Ask about group discounts and family suites
Selected ships such as Royal Caribbean’s forthcoming Ovation of the Seas offer a wide range of family friendly accommodation options, with staterooms and suites interconnecting in a variety of formats to cater for families of nearly any size.
Other ships such as Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy offer family suites with enough space for 8-10 people. These larger options can often result in large discounts compared to booking multiple individual cabins. Asking for discounts from your travel agent or cruise line can also be beneficial when booking for a larger group, however groups typically need eight cabins or more to be eligible for one guest to travel for almost free. This guest will only have to pay port taxes on their fare.
Make your booking well in advance
When booking for a large group, it’s almost impossible to book too far in advance. Doing so will afford you a much greater choice when it comes to selecting your room or the part of the ship your group will occupy.
Additionally, guests looking for interconnecting cabins or family suites will have a greater chance of securing one when planning well in advance. Keep in mind also that certain cruise lines allow for price drop protection – giving you peace of mind that booking a long time prior to departure won’t see you miss out on any price reductions, special offers or booking incentives which may become available further down the track.
You can also use this as an opportunity to ask your travel agent to hold some extra cabins for you, just in case you feel additional friends or family may wish to join in closer to sailing.
Use a spreadsheet to organise who is going where
If you are booking your group cruise with a travel agent, ask them to organise a spreadsheet anyone can access online, which features details such as everybody’s full name as per passport, dates of birth and other key information – all in one easy-to-find place.
This way, people can update their details in the spreadsheet without needing to continuously bother you or your travel agent. It also gives your travel consultant easy access to those details when they need to provide them to cruise lines and other travel providers you will be using, and creates a single point of reference for the entire group’s travel plans.
Just relax and go with the flow
Remember this is your holiday too, so relying on the services of a travel agent or a dedicated groups manager at your cruise line is the best way to ensure everyone remains happy right through until departure day without ruining anybody’s holiday.
What was your experience like booking a large group for a cruise? Tell us below.