Best Tips For Cruising With Groups
A cruise is the best vacation to plan if you want to go with your extended family or large group. Besides always being more fun in numbers, there are many advantages to this type of vacation.
My favorite reasons why to take a cruise with family and friends:
- Everyone is going to have a different budget for travel. A cruise ship shares the same activities, entertainment, and dining options for everyone whether you are staying in a smaller inside cabin or are lucky enough to have a luxurious suite. This allows everyone to spend time together at a price point they are comfortable with. Along with this...
- Have a cruiser in your group who is staying in a suite? Most cruise lines have appointed butlers and elevated service for their guests staying in a suite. One of the benefits (even if not advertised) is that the butler will arrange a private party for you and your extended friends and family to join you in your cabin for food, drinks, and enjoy the comfortably over-sized veranda too, of course.
- Built in babysitters! In my opinion, cruising with the family is the only way to vacation, but let's be honest, it can be challenging at times. If you are traveling with a large group, someone is always excited to show your children a new treasure, take them to get a snack at the buffet (because they want one too...) or watch them in the swimming pool for a bit. They may not realize it at the time, but these are memorable bonding experiences that your children will always remember.
- No restaurants, dining times or food preferences to disagree about. After originally planning your group cruise, as long as everyone is in agreement to the preferred dining style (free-style, traditional, etc.) there will be no other decisions to have to be made during the actual vacation. Make sure to link your reservations together so that the Maître D' will assign your group to sit together, either at one large table or smaller tables right next to each other. Does a person in your party have a food allergy or preference, such as vegetarian or kosher? Not a problem - all tastes and food requirements can be handled within the one dining room.
- Everyone can have the vacation of their dreams. Not everyone always wants to do the same excursions, shows, or activities. Plan ahead before you get on board that everyone can arrange their own daily activities (unless there are a few pre-planned ones for the group) and meet up for drinks in a lounge before heading to dinner together. Or meet up at breakfast every morning if you have some in the group who want to try dinner at the specialty restaurants. Ideally, set your expectations ahead of time so no one feels that they are abandoning the group if they choose to snorkel on their own or want to visit the casino instead of seeing the show.
What kind of groups go on cruises?
Just a few I've experienced below!
What's the Best Way To Get Your Friends and Family Inspired To Join Your Group Vacation?
If you are thinking about planning a group cruise with family and friends, start getting them inspired. Here are the best ways I've found to get people excited about cruising together:
- Make sure to connect and follow My Virtual Vacations on our social media! I've had a few followers who share links, posts, and cruise information only to discover their friends are cruising enthusiasts also. It's a great way to find friends and family to vacation together.
- Start your own Facebook group. Once you've planned your cruise and have one or two other family members joining, start a closed Facebook group and post the details of the cruise. You'll want to include links to the cruise itinerary from their website, along with a link to your travel agent's booking website or email address.
- Get them comfortable if they've never cruised before. Find positive and fun articles about cruising and the destinations you'll be going to. Introduce them to a seasoned cruiser to answer any questions or concerns they may have (feel free to have them contact me for cruise information and inspiration.)
Virtual Hint: When making your reservation for a cruise with a group, make sure to tell your travel professional that you are traveling together in multiple rooms or cabins. This way they can link your reservation all together and you'll be assigned the same dinner seating time and table(s) and disembarkation times.
When cruising with large families in multiple staterooms or extended family and friends all around the ship, it can be challenging to stay connected if you aren't prepared. Keep in mind the ages of the group you are traveling with. Are they elderly grandparents who might not be technologically savvy and don't have a mobile phone? Are they younger children who may lose their phone or get so distracted they don't check their phone for a call or to see the time? In any case, I have some tips and tricks for you! See which would be best for your group.
- It seems old-fashioned, but throw a sticky note pad in your suitcase when packing. You'll find they come in handy to write a quick note to your stateroom mates and let them know where you'll be.
- Purchase an unlimited WiFi package and you can text at sea just as you would on land. It's typically super fast.
- Many cruise lines have mobile apps that you can use to text with your friends and family as long as everyone downloads the app. Check out the Celebrity Cruises app and Princess Cruises Ocean Medallion, just to name a few.
- I've seen families bring walkie-talkies to communicate. This is a great option if you are cruising with little ones who may not have cell phones yet. Even some cruise ships have these available for a small fee, such as Royal Caribbean.
- Staterooms still have telephones! Leave a message on your friend or family's phone and when they walk in, they'll see the light blinking. Just find a public phone and dial their room to leave a message where they can find you.
- Come up with a central meeting spot for during the day. Make it a lounge or entertainment area so that you can still have fun even if someone is running late.
Fun Ideas When Traveling with Families and Groups:
MATCHING CRUISE WEAR
Whether it's at a theme park, hotel or on a cruise, we've all seen the large groups of people wearing matching tee-shirts with the dates, activity and who the special occasion is for. This can be great fun on a cruise ship - IF you can get everyone "on-board" to wearing the same shirt. And it's actually a pretty smart idea on embarkation day if many guests in your party are first time cruisers so it's easy to keep everyone together.
It's always fun to surprise everyone with welcome "hospitality" bags. You can send the bag to their house a day or so before the vacation starts, or bring the bags along and either give to them or ask Guest Services to distribute. As long as the bag doesn't contain alcohol or food, they would be more than happy to do this. Some suggestions to include in cruising themed hospitality bags:
- A tropical themed tote bag is a fun container that's usable on the beach or shopping at ports.
- Matching t-shirts
- Small containers of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer
- Sun screen
- Lanyards to hold cruise cards
- Sticky note pads
- Slipper socks
If you are cruising with friends and family, sharing the sail away experience is a fun way to start your cruise. Have a sail away party in your stateroom or on a pre-designated spot on the cruise ship. It's easy!
As soon as you get on the ship, decide on a place for everyone to gather. You may want to be outside to enjoy tropical sunshine or stay inside if it's a cloudy or rainy on your embarkation day.
- Reach out to a staff member in the closest public restaurant or lounge in your favorite area and ask if you can prearrange snacks to be picked up or delivered at a certain time.
- Order room service to your stateroom and bring the tray of goodies with you to your party spot.
- Some cruise ships don't allow food to be taken out of the buffet area but if yours does, fill up plates with fun selections to serve your group of cruisers.
- A few suggestions you could gather: pastries, cheese, carved meats, rolls, muffins, fresh fruit, and more.
If you are in a suite and have the luxury of a butler, ask them to set up a sail away party for you. Find your butler and let them know you'll be having guests in your suite when the ship leaves. They will set up an assortment of snacks and drinks. They will even clean it up afterwards!
- A few suggestions you could ask for: cookies, pastries, cheese and crackers, nuts, fresh fruit, shrimp cocktail, just to name a few.
cruise themed scavenger hunt
A fun way for both novice and experienced cruisers to learn about the ship they'll be living in for the next 7 days or so, is to have a scavenger hunt. This is a great icebreaker! Prepare ahead of time a written list of items to find that are located in various areas of the ship. It's helpful to use the website's illustrated deck plan of your ship for this. Designate a central meeting spot at a specific time (keep in mind grabbing a meal, unpacking, the mandatory muster drill, etc.) and pair everyone up in teams. After all of the teams have returned and the winning group is decided, gather up some platters of snacks (complimentary from the buffet, room steward or room service) and drinks for your party to enjoy.
Last MINUTE IDEAS
I always try to think of what may come up that I need, but in the off-chance that you wanted to bring some entertainment along but forgot, no need to worry. Just stop by your luxury resort concierge, or cruise director or loyalty program desk when cruising. Numerous times I have seen them literally pull magic out of their sleeve with travel board games for the kids, paperback books and/or a deck of cards. Find a quiet spot in a lounge or top deck, grab a drink and some snacks from the buffet, and your group will have an instant party!