Why Cruising Makes an Excellent Choice for Your Group
Think about what your group members enjoyed about their past trips. What were their key concerns and likes? They probably wanted some structured activities, yet also wanted a little flexibility to do some things independently. They liked traveling to new places, experiencing new things, but maybe also wanted some of those “comforts of home.” Group members generally like camaraderie and the enjoyment of shared experiences with people who have similar interests.
If you poll your travelers, you’ll probably also find that they enjoy entertainment, want some time to relax, and ultimately, want that “hassle-free” trip. And when they pay for their trip, they want to know exactly what is included in the upfront cost as well as any other charges they might incur, instead of those unexpected, surprise fees that leave one with a bad taste in their mouth. Cruising can offer your group all of this and more.
With new ships being introduced each year, along with enhanced ports of call, groups continue to have more choices than ever before. And most importantly, a cruise vacation has one of the highest satisfaction rates in the industry. When people return from a cruise, chances are they can’t wait to sail again! The cruise experience is still relatively new for many travelers, with just over 20% of U.S. adults having taken a cruise, so this is a great untapped market.
Many Choices in Cruising Destinations
The first destination that comes to mind for many people is a Caribbean cruise, and granted, during winter months, the Caribbean offers endless possibilities and a great way to escape the cold. But more choices exist today. Cruise lines offer itineraries around the world. Departures from home ports across the U.S. have grown. You can sail from East Coast ports like New York year-round to Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. And major cruise lines have increased their presence in other areas of the world. During the summer months, Europe, Alaska, Bermuda, Canada and New England offer great choices for cruises. Don’t forget about the South Pacific, South America, Asia and Dubai.
Adventure cruising is on the upswing, as travelers seek active, mind-expanding vacation experiences. Going to the Galapagos Islands, sailing on the Amazon River and doing an expedition cruise to Antarctica are just a few examples. Another very popular option is river cruises, which have been rapidly growing. This provides a new option for your group if they want to deviate from ocean cruising for a more intimate and all-inclusive experience. Your group can enjoy a river cruise in Europe, but another option is a river cruise in the U.S.
Where Do You Want to Sail From?
A growing trend has been for cruise lines to increase the number of U.S. departure ports for “home-based” cruising, making it easier for cruise guests to drive to the departure port and eliminate flying, thus getting to and from the ship is easier. More cruise departure port cities opens up new and unique pre- and post-cruise land tour options.
Choosing the Right Ship
The cruise industry is continuing to see new ships added each year, with new classes/categories of ships as well. A huge trend are gargantuan mega-liners that carry upwards of 5,000 passengers with dozens of dining and entertainment options. At the same time, there are numerous options besides the “bigger is better” scenario. Some cruise lines focus on smaller ships, others on midsize ones. And cruise lines continually renovate their existing ships to create and maintain product consistency.
6 considerations when choosing a ship:
- Ship size, amenities and programs
- What ships your group members have sailed on previously
- Sailing destinations
- Types of accommodations desired
- Onboard entertainment options
- Onboard ambiance
Although it’s easy to think that all cruise lines are alike, they actually fit into different categories. The categories vary according to cost as well as amenities included. Cruise line categories include Contemporary, Premium, Luxury and Specialized along with River Cruise Lines.
Contemporary Cruise Lines: Generally speaking, the highest percentage of well-known cruise lines fits into a category usually referred to as “contemporary.” These include Royal Caribbean International, Costa Cruises and Princess Cruises. What makes a cruise line contemporary? The daily cost per person usually ranges from $100 – $300 per day per person, the ships themselves tend to be larger (in some cases passenger capacity can exceed 5,000 guests), and these cruise lines offer a wide range of shipboard activities and services.
Premium Cruise Lines: Two cruise lines that fit into the “premium” category based on their shipboard experiences and amenities are Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line. Their daily cost per day can range on the higher end of what the contemporary cruise lines run, but that is not the only criteria to consider. Passenger capacity of ships in these premium cruise lines tend to easily be under 3,000 guests (most fall under 2,000 guests) with a concentrated effort to offer a bit more of a sophisticated, upscale cruise experience.
Luxury Cruise Lines: As the name indicates, a cruise line in the “luxury” category would command a much higher price – upwards of $800 per day per person. Cruise lines that fit the “luxury” category include Seabourn. In addition to commanding a higher price, these lines concentrate on offering their passengers discriminating luxury, such as complimentary liquors and wines, more spacious accommodations with fewer passengers onboard and specialty restaurants; many feature open seating for dinner, as well as longer and more exotic itineraries and cultural enrichment onboard.
River Cruise Lines: For many groups, European river cruising has replaced land-based tours. But cruise lines like AmaWaterways don’t just sail on European waterways. Popular destinations also include China and South America. Sailing on U.S. rivers and waterways is a great way to see our country, as featured by American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines.
Now Pick the Cruising Itinerary
Narrowing down the particular itinerary your group wants to take is one part of the decision-making process, but with more alternatives, features and specializations than ever before, deciding on the right ship and cruise line is also critical. When choosing the right cruise for your group, consider the following dozen points:
- What is the approximate length of cruise you want to take?
- Do your group members prefer a warm-weather destination over a colder destination?
- Are you locked into any preferences as far as flying times, or where the ship departs from?
- Do your group members prefer traditional dining or flexibility? Do they enjoy more of a gourmet dining experience or multiple choices, including more diverse cuisines?
- Do they enjoy a more resort-casual environment throughout their cruise or still like getting dressed up a few nights?
- What kind of entertainment do they prefer?
- What size ship best fits your group and their needs? Do they prefer a more intimate cruise ship experience, or is a megaship more their style?
- Do your group members have valid passports? Passports must now be valid six months after the end of the cruise.
- Does your group want to visit many ports of call, or do they prefer an itinerary that includes a few days at sea?
- Are your group members willing to return to a destination that they have previously visited, or do they prefer new destinations?
- Do you have a budget amount your travelers prefer to spend?
- Do your group members fall within one age range or do they consist of different age ranges and generations? Multigenerational groups take a bit more planning, but there are still several cruise lines that are excellent fits.
Let Us Handle the Details!
Voyages by U.S. Tours makes it easy for you to organize your group. Our dedicated group department is available to handle special needs and requirements. In addition, we can offer your group complimentary meeting space on the ship if needed and can help you coordinate any special events you might wish to include. And by working with our group department, you don’t have to plan everything alone. From beginning to end we are there to help you deliver an exceptional experience.
If you’ve organized a group trip in the past, you know there are numerous details to take care of. From deciding on the destination, itinerary details & inclusions as well as trip insurance and cancellation waiver options – all before getting group members interested in the upcoming trip. Add in collecting deposits and final payments, coordinating schedules, getting documents and arranging for special side trips. The responsibilities go on and on.
Getting assistance from a knowledgeable professional is a wonderful option, and cruise lines prefer that groups are booked through a specialist rather than by the group itself. During the tremendous growth and expansion the cruise industry has experienced over the past three-plus decades, cruise lines have come and gone. Many have become successful, yet a few cruise lines have failed, leaving behind an unfortunate legal trail. The industry is much more stable, but having a professional who can “go to bat for you” should a problem surface is a strong advantage.