Golden rules of group cruising
The thought of going on holiday, including cruises, with a big group of people at first seems like a really exciting prospect, but quite quickly it can turn into a bit of a nightmare if not carefully managed. Bringing together people from different background, lifestyles, budgets and interests may seem like a good idea on paper but may or may not work in reality.
Up until recently I had never been on a group cruise, sure I may have been with 3/4 people but cruising with 6 or more people is a very different situation. This is not to say it’s not a good idea, I believe in fact it is the opposite – cruises offer some of the best opportunities for group travel given the choice and variety at hand.
So, here are some ground rules that should help to ensure a stress free and relaxing cruise for all those involved. These may scream common sense but it is interesting just how quickly these can be forgotten.
1 – Plan, plan and plan
There is perhaps the one tip I can suggest above all else, pro-actively plan. From when the idea is first floated until after you return, make sure you are pro-active with your friends/family in terms of organising/agreeing what is going on and setting the agenda for the holiday.
This goes for agreeing what the cruise should be – so for example what itinerary, the length, ship and cabins. This is all very much shaped by the variety of people you are traveling with and their personalities/age/interests/cruise experience. Furthermore whilst doing this make sure someone acts as the group coordinator in order to manage and plan the holiday, acting as the principle point of contact for everyone.
On my recent group cruise, there was a range of ages, with different interests in life and budgets, and it all had to be accommodated if possible. For this reason, and thankfully knowing the region we wanted to go to, in organising the cruise I felt the biggest need was in terms of choice and variety of what was on offer on board which would appeal to a range of ages and tastes. With this in mind and in doing my research it was clear that the one ship could tick all the boxes, and then some – Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. With the sheer amount of activities and choice, I was positive that everyone should be able to find their niche on the ship.
In a similar way, pre-cruise planning is critical to ensuring less stress during the cruise itself. Meet with the group at least once before the cruise and put down ground rules about what needs to be done and agreed before the cruise – so for instance making sure all pre-cruise documentation is filled out, checking-in on line where possible, and then deciding, and more importantly booking, things like shore excursions ahead of time. Trust me, every little helps!
2 – Communicate
Again perhaps common sense, but being honest and communicating with one another is imperative. Make sure everyone knows what they are booking and getting themselves into, it is almost scary how people will go with the flow and not necessarily pay attention to what they are booking until they are on the ship. This is where blogs, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr and social media all come into their own – show them and bring to life the ship they are going on and the destinations they will be visiting. This will get them thinking about what to expect from the cruise, but also gets the group collectively excited and enables everyone to bond. By doing so you will be enabling everyone to feel comfortable with each other so that by the time the cruise comes around everyone can be honest with one another, perhaps if they do not want to do a certain activity, etc.
3 – Be ready to compromise
Inevitably, there will be times when personalities, interests and egos clash. And this is ok, but everyone must be willing to compromise here and there, especially whilst the group is acting as a group, and can be hard to apply in practise. Being open to others wishes, whilst reciprocating your own wishes will ultimately enrich the whole experience for everyone – again this comes down to being honest.
4 – Does a group have to always act as a group?
The short answer to that question is no. You are on holiday, so do what you want to do whilst on holiday and when you want to do it. Communicate with one another to make everyone comfortable with the idea that not everyone has to do the same thing all the time, and the group will be stronger for it. Building on people’s independence and interests will enable everyone to appreciate the group more when it is together and have a better time for it.
Even if you are acting as an independent group, make sure you set times when you all come together and enjoy one another’s company. Whilst technology on cruise ships is getting better and better every year, I recommend not to rely on this (yet!) and to focus on having a set time and location every night where you all meet. Dinner is the prime example of when to do this, either meet outside the restaurant beforehand or go to a bar and enjoy drinks with one another ahead of dining together as the group. As everyone will almost certainly read the on board daily newspaper, use it as a means to bring together everyone for specific events such as shows or entertainment.
Finally, and as always most importantly, remember to have fun! You are all on holiday so do what it is you want to do to enjoy yourselves – that goes especially for the group coordinator!
So with this in mind, I am putting these points to good practise as I go on another group cruise in February next year!
Images © copyright 2015 Royal Caribbean International, Marcus Adams