I’ve been on vacation and haven’t been able to post on Plan It On A Post-It for a while. On my vacation, I took sail to the ocean blue on my first ever cruise. Excited and nervous are the feelings that took over me as I thought about being on a big boat out in the middle of nowhere. However, once I got on my ship, I truly never thought about it until I left. Being with my family while taking advantage of all the cruise line had to offer made me wonder of the unique benefits cruises can offer groups. Honestly as planner, I was always hesitant to consider cruising as a strong contender for group travel, but after experiencing it myself, I would be slower to resolve against it. Here are some reasons why cruising can be beneficial for your group.
When selecting a cruise, just like hotels, there are many options to consider. The ships that are available can be small, medium, or large. Some smaller ships can accommodate 100 or more people, while the largest ships can take on over 7000 people – that’s crazy! That just goes to show you that no matter how big or how small, your group can find a ship that fits their needs.
Additionally, there is a variety of locations to choose for your guests to cruise. Whether it be an Alaskan cruise or merely sailing around in the Bahamas, finding a location should be no problem.
The Bahamas was the destination of my short adventure. A short 5 day experience, that brought me to 3 island destinations. Of them there were Grand Bahama Islands, Nassau, and Grand Stirrup Cay. After speaking with several avid cruisers, one of the main reasons why they choose to cruise was experiencing multiple destinations. Although I experienced 3 destinations on my cruise of choice, there are many cruise selections offering more ports of call. For groups this can be a huge benefit, as they can jump into the best of what each destination has to offer every time they dock at their designated port.
Most cruise lines offer great entertainment while cruising. From mainstream shows, interactive game-shows, to movie theaters, and fine dining entertainment, there is something for every guest that boards the ship. What I enjoyed is that although there were many people on my ship, I didn’t feel overcrowded. I was able to do karaoke with a small group of friends, and we had a ball. Fine dining options were very nice, and provided very tasty and well prepared menu selections. Shows were always entertaining, and made you feel like you were out for a night on the town.
On most ships there are exclusive meeting spaces available for renting and creating private group events. Tapping into your creative self is easy, as most ships allow you to also utilize sections of the ship that aren’t being used for other guests. Planning on a cruise ship brings out your skill to pay attention to detail as changes won’t occur as easily while out to sea. However, your coordinator aboard will have the insight to guide you in making the best choices possible for your group.
Most planners feel that if they invite their group to cruise, they will loose their group to the masses of guests on the ship. On the contrary, there are many ways to coordinate with your cruise-line ways to connect with your group. Whether it be a meet-up or reception area, group dining, or planning a group excursion, there are a variety of ways to accomplish your goals. Connect with your cruise coordinator to advise them of your goals and objectives ahead of time, and they will do their best to meet your needs.
One of the top concerns with planners and passengers alike are the quality of food, and the health risks on cruises. Although things can happen that are merely outside of a planners control, I must say that cruise-lines take extreme pride in ensuring the health of all guests on board. For example, while cruising around in the Bahamas, there were hand sanitizer stations at the door of every establishment I walked in,whether they served food or not. Additionally, there were cruise line reps hanging out at each of the restaurants with a spray bottle of hand-wash in addition to the hand sanitizer. These cruise reps were responsible for spraying the hands of every guest that walked in the door to restaurants that offered buffets. This was a comfort to me, as cleanliness and health was my top priority.
For your group, cruises that offer the option to order off menus in certain restaurants are a great advantage. Meals come hot and fresh directly to the table as you order them. This is an alternative to those that are hesitant of the buffets on cruises. Offering a private dining experience can also provide your guests an additional alternative to try to stay in control of any health risks any other passengers might bring to the ship.
What an advantage to your group, to give them an opportunity to have excursions in the destinations that they cruise to! Every time the ship docks at a new port, your group can take to the destination to either shop at the port or go on an excursion. You can arrange group experiences, or have your guests go “on own” for their own personalized experience.
For me, interacting with the staff aboard my ship was phenomenal. The staff went out of their way to get to know my family, and make sure that we had a great time. I was traveling with my baby, and the staff just knew what to bring to help us be more comfortable. There is something about having the same staff aboard a ship for the duration of your trip. You connect with them, they connect with you. For most of them, cruising is their lives and learning more about their guests fuels their passion to continue to do what they do. On my ship, I learned that each employee has to stay on their designated ship for 6 months straight before getting assigned to another ship. Additionally, most of them are from other parts of the world, so interacting with their families on a consistent basis can be tough. The cruise lines do not cut them a discount on phone charges and data plans, so for most, when they are out to sea, they also have to go the extra mile, (or pay the extra charges), to connect with love ones. The staff love what they do. They know their ship, and they take pride in what they do down to the unique towel creations they place on your bed at night. Knowing you will have such attentive staff while you are on board is a major plus to cruising with a group.
These are just a few reasons why I will now try to have an open mind and consider cruising for my groups more often. Sure, there are negatives, and risks, but anything can happen at any given time – anywhere. So, as a planner we always have to identify the risks, and provide adequate risk management around them so that we can effectively plan for our groups. Cruising can be a challenge, however I am now seeing that it can also provide experiences that your guests will never get anywhere else. Consider it.
Have you ever managed your groups on a cruise? What were your pros and cons? I would love to discuss with you in the comments.