Planning a group cruise?  There are a few things you should know first if you want a smooth sailing.  These 10 tips should help avoid some group cruise pitfalls.

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When traveling in a large group, cruises can be a great way to get family and friends together for a vacation that everyone can enjoy.

Cruises appeal to all ages, offers plenty for all travelers to do, allows everyone can set their own agenda, and even works seamlessly with most budgets.

While it can be exciting to reunite and have your group contained in one place, things can get easily overwhelming with differing interests, opinions, activity levels and budgets.

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The key to a successful group cruise is planning in advance.

Based on research from seasoned cruisers, here are the 10 things that you should know before you set sail on your next group cruise.

1. Use a Travel Agent

When planning a group cruise, it can be highly beneficial to consult a travel agent to assist you with this process. A travel agent is professionally trained to be well-versed in different cruise lines, itineraries and current promotions to help you choose the best fit for your travel plans and preferences.

Consulting a travel agent will also help you stay organized in regard to necessary travel documentation, which is essential when traveling with such a large group to ensure nothing is missed. Failing to address required documentation for your cruise could delay, or even cancel your vacation plans altogether.

A travel agent can answer any questions you may have regarding your cruise and will also be able to monitor any discounts as they pertain to your vacation package. This helps to alleviate stress while planning your trip.

Related: 5 reasons you don’t need a travel agent and one big reason you do

2. Assign a Group Leader

What is the total capacity of every cruise ship in the world? (Photo Credit: Cruise Fever)

In addition to having a travel agent, a group leader is necessary when coordinating a group cruise. This individual will assume responsibility of researching, pre-planning, and communicating both within the group and to the travel agent before, during and after the cruise.

This group leader can be self-appointed or be voted on by other members of the group. Sometimes, there are even a couple of group leaders depending on the size of the entire group.

The essential reason for having a group leader is to maintain organization and structure within the group throughout the duration of the cruise. Without these two things, plans can go awry, and the essence of the group cruise will therefore be lost.

Read more: 19 things you should do on embarkation day

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3. Create a Calendar of Events

With a large group, it cannot be expected for everyone to be in the same place at the same time for the entirety of the cruise. However, creating a calendar that highlights a few important dates of togetherness can be beneficial.

Formal nights, shore excursions, sail away parties, and onboard activities are all great excuses to get together that everyone can appreciate.

To ensure that everyone in your group knows when and where to meet up, it is important to send out verbal, text, or email reminders.

Read more: 12 biggest mistakes cruisers make on sea days

4. Make Your Own Plans

While you may be traveling as part of a group cruise, it is important to carve out some solitary ‘me’ time to get the most out of your vacation experience.

The best part about cruising is that there is always something for everyone of all ages to do, regardless of the time. Creating a laid-back environment will set the tone for the rest of the group cruise, which is what cruising is all about anyway.

5. Create a Plan to Re-Group (Preferably Daily)

While on a group cruise, it can be helpful to come up with a plan on how you will periodically re-group. Although cruise ships offer a plethora of things to do, it is a good idea to re-group with the members of your cruise party on a daily basis to get the most of your vacation.

Large groups have been known to use meal periods, such as lunch or dinner, to re-group and communicate, or even happy hour before breaking off in smaller groups for dinner. Attending an evening show onboard together, formal nights, or shore excursions can also be a great way to get everyone together – being sure to snap photos along the way.

Keep in mind that while using cellphones on land is the primary source of communication in today’s culture, this isn’t always so while on a cruise. While some passengers may opt in for the Wi-Fi package, you can’t count on everyone in your group to reserve this.

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Options such as purchasing walkie-talkies for the group in advance, utilizing email, or even creating print-out daily itineraries for everyone are great ways to stay in touch.

Read more: Outdated cruise tips you should now ignore

6. Book Your Cruise Early

Although cruise lines are famous for offering handsome last-minute deals, this isn’t something you should count on when booking a group cruise. There are several key reasons why booking in advance is the name of the game here.

When cruising with a large group, it goes without saying you that will need to reserve a large block of staterooms. To ensure the number of rooms your group will fit in comfortably, and within your level of preference, it is important to start researching things well in advance.

It is also worth considering what time of year your group will be cruising. If you’re traveling with younger individuals, such as school-aged children, you will most likely need to cruise during holiday breaks, which are notoriously the busiest seasons and when cabins reach capacity faster. Without reserving early, there may not be enough staterooms available for your entire group.

Related: Reasons you should book your cruise as early as possible

7. Intentionally Decide on Your Destination

Finding the ideal cruise for a large amount of people can be a tall order and actually may not please everyone. With so many itineraries, ships, and cruise lines out there, it can be difficult to know which decision is the best for your travel party.

There are several different approaches to consider here:

Should you already have a cruise destination planned, you may decide to invite other, non-immediate family members, or friends on your vacation. This way there isn’t any room for suggestion, or outside opinions and they would be simply accepting an invitation.
Alternatively, your group may decide to let everyone come up with their own idea and then come together to make a final decision on where to sail to.
Thirdly, the group leader can assume responsibility when making the executive decision on choosing the cruise itinerary. This should be discussed and agreed upon amongst the entire group before proceeding to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

8. Arrive to the Embarkation Port a Day Early

When traveling from a distance, arriving to your embarkation port a day early is always recommended. This ensures that everyone will be on time and prepared for their cruise and eliminates any opportunities for unforeseen travel delays.

This can be a great opportunity for those traveling in a large group to meet up, and get their vacation started early. Consider staying together at a hotel located nearby the cruise port to make for easier travel.

Your group leader can make the hotel reservations, as well as reservations at a nearby restaurant so everyone can have dinner together.

Related: Embarkation day: 5 spots on the ship to check out right away

9. Consider Group T-Shirts

A fun and celebratory way to identify your group while on board is by getting coordinating t-shirts for everyone. There are tons of websites that make this idea a no-brainer for your next group cruise.

Labeling the t-shirts with your last name, a family symbol or logo, the year, the cruise line and/or a fun photo of a cruise ship is not only a fun way to identify yourself while onboard but will also make for a great souvenir. Consider different colors for everyone as a fun twist!

10. Plan a Shore Excursion

Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Pre-planning a shore excursion for your entire group is a great way for everyone to connect and spend time together. This can be handled by your group leader, or your travel agent.

While it can be an intimidating task to arrange for everyone to meet up at the same time and place, plenty of cruise lines offer organized group tours specifically for larger groups.

There are endless opportunities when it comes to shore excursions and there is sure to be an option fitting for all ages, physical abilities, budgets, and interest.

Read more: Tips for booking shore excursions on cruises

Final Thoughts

When coordinating your next family reunion, annual vacation, or just because trip, consider a group cruise. The benefits of a group cruise are seemingly endless, and includes all accommodations such as meals and drinks, entertainment and activities onboard, and oftentimes discounts for those traveling in larger groups.

To ensure you can get the most out of your group cruise and are well prepared throughout your sailing, it is important to take these suggestions into consideration. This will allow for a seamless reunion with your family and friends as you enjoy the many benefits of a group cruise.

Read more: 7 cruise cabin booking mistakes to avoid

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