So, you’ve always wanted to put together a group to go on a cruise. You have some friends who might like to go and may also have some friends or family join them. But how to start?

The first place is to review some of the various cruise offerings available and pick several cruise lines and itineraries that appeal to you (and that you think would appeal to your friends and contacts as well). Maybe you’ve sailed with the cruise line before or perhaps you’ve heard good things about them and would like to check them out further. What are the considerations you’ll want to investigate?

  1. Destinations. Are the areas of the world you’d be visiting of interest? The Caribbean? Mexico? U.S. Rivers and Lakes? European waters?  Farther afield?
  2. Price. Fortunately, most cruises have a price range – not just one flat price for everyone on the ship. It depends on such factors as number of days on the ship, deck and location of specific cabins on the ship, time of year and competition from other cruise lines’ vacation offerings. Note that rarely will a cruise line give you a block of space to sell all at the same rate. You will probably be given a range of cabins at varying rates depending on size and location of cabin, dates of your group’s sailing, and other factors as stipulated by the cruise line in its specific contract with you.
  1. Philosophy of the cruise line. Many companies have certain guidelines that may determine which type of clientele will be most comfortable sailing with them. For example, Viking River Cruises advertises “No casinos” while other cruise lines may embrace the daily and nightly “klink klink” of the throw of the dice.  Some lines like Oceania Cruises offer specific open-seating restaurants at no additional charge. Other companies may require eating at the same table throughout the cruise. It’s important to pick a cruise line with which you are going to feel comfortable working as you will be the go-between with the cruise line’s interests on one hand and your potential travelers on the other.

After you’ve obtained literature from several cruise lines, you’ll want to speak with or meet a representative of the cruise line of most interest to you. You’ll need to select a specific ship, itinerary and sailing date. You will most likely be offered a contract with a spread of cabin categories and prices and will be given specific deadline dates by which you must sell them or the space will revert to the cruise line for sale elsewhere.

You will also want to have a written understanding as to which promotional expenses are being paid for by the cruise line and which are your upfront responsibility and risk:  mailing costs, postage, handling, etc. Whether you are working directly with the cruise line or through a travel agency, it should be clarified as to who is paying for what and when upfront promotional expenses will be reimbursed, if at all. And, if a complimentary cruise is being offered based on volume produced (your trip accompanying the group for example) this must be clarified in writing.

All in all, a trip of this nature can be one of the most exciting and satisfying endeavors you’ve undertaken. However, it must be planned sufficiently early (nine months in advance is a good start) and with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed before you begin, thus avoiding any misunderstandings and disappointments.  You’ll want to call on all your hidden promotional capabilities, whether with friends, relatives, friends of friends, neighbors and potential travelers you may come across.

Here’s wishing you bon voyage and smooth sailing.

By Marty Sarbey de Souto