We are just in the preliminary stages of planning a medium to large family reunion, and are considering taking a cruise for the event. We haven't made any firm plans yet ... but a 3-4 night Bahamas cruise might be the choice. We don't know how many family members will participate, but it is safe to say we will have at least 50 persons cruising (adults and children of all ages), and perhaps as many as 100.
I would love to hear from anyone who has organized or participated in a group cruise who could give us some pointers. How is the best way to book this type of group cruise, that affords the best discount options? Is it best to book directly with the cruise line or with a cruise travel agency? What type of discounts should we expect? I'm assuming that booking a large group well in advance will still allow us substantial savings? Are free cruises given for a certain amount of sold cruises a standard promotion with most cruise lines? Any other "extras" we should expect?
Since family members will travel by air from many different U.S. and some foreign locations, are "fly & cruise" packages a better deal? Which ship seems to be a better choice for this type of group? Is there a preferable season that allows substantial savings? I think a good mid-priced (or lower) ship would be preferable to be able to satisfy the varying family budgets, but still affordable for the majority. Any tips, suggestions or ideas are appreciated.
Group cruises can be great fun. The important thing to make things go smoothly is to find a knoweldgable cruise agent who can assure things go right, and deal with any issues that may come up.
Aside from finding a great group price, there are other factors to consider.
The agent should make certain the group's reservations are cross referenced so you can all be seated in close proximity in the dining room.
The agent should check with the cruise line as the sailing date gets closer to see if rates have gone down. AND should pass on any savings to the group.
The agent should, if the group is a significant size, be able to work with the cruise line to include a complimentary group cocktail party or other "perks" such as tours, shipboard credits etc.
The ratio of berths sold/ free berths you can earn vary from cruise line to cruise line, and even ship to ship. The average seems to be 1 free cabin (two berths) for every 8 double occupancy cabins sold.(sell 8 berths.. 1 berth free).
However on occassion some of the cruise lines can reduce this to as little as 1 free for every 5 sold, or as high as 1 free for every 10 sold. There is really no set rule.
The important thing is to have the agent guarantee, in writing, the free berths earned go to your group, and any reductions in price are credited back to you.
Thank you for all the information and tips. It was very helpful, and
I feel much better prepared to shop around and find a good travel
agent, and I also have a good idea what we should be expecting when
we book our group cruise.
Tess, where are you located, and where are the family members coming from. I am a cruise travel agent, and have booked several groups, so I might be able to help you. I can get wonderful group rates from many different cruise lines, but it would depend on the age range of your group, and what you prefer, as to which line I would recommend. If you have that many people, we can get you a fantastic price, and several FREE cruises. In addition, you can get many amenities from the cruise lines, i.e. cocktail parties, group photos, shipboard credits and more. It depends on the cruise line, what they offer for your group. Let me know if I can help you.
We have many travel agents who participate in the message board here at CruiseMates.. and their expertise is certainly welcome..... as is yours.
BUT if you notice, agents are here participating.. not soliciting... not trolling for customers... and NOT advertising!
We reserve the classified ads for that.... both as income for CruiseMates, and to keep the message boards from being filled with solicitations. Hope you understand our position. Quite simply any kind of advertising on the message boards is NOT permitted!
A group cruise sounds fun, but book early as cruise lines only accept so many groups. They also ask for the type of group (schools, music, family reunion,etc). Yes, it true about the every 8 booked 1 goes free (based on # of cabins or people/depending on teh cruise line), but they must still pay for port and taxes. Incentives can include free bottles of champaine, onboard credit, etc. etc.
As far as air, you should compare both. Check w/what the cruise lines will charge and what you can get on your own. At times, I find that getting it on your own is cheaper. Also, dont forgot to add transfers to your cruise purchase if you should choose to purchase your own air. Also, insurance can be purchased outside the cruise lines for much cheaper than what they sell it for.
I am currently planning a group cruise for May 31, 2002 aboard the Ecstasy (currently have 29 people signed up). If you book through Carnivals' group department, for every 15 cabins reserved, you get one free. Depending on the sail date, you save about $30-$40 each for the 1st and 2nd person in the cabin. The 3rd, 4th, or 5th person rates are $210 (inside) or $220 (outside) per person. This is also the children's rate.