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Cruise and Travel with Friends ! How to.....

How to put together a group of Family and Friends for your next cruise !

Joan Dann

Meeting new people on your trips is really half the fun. But it is also great to get a group of friends, neighbors or family to go WITH you and have quality time together on a trip. If you have a family.....a Republican/Democrat/Libertarian group...a Book Club....a Dinner Club.....a closeknit neighborhood.....a Dramactic Club....a Symphony group.....a knitting or quilting club....Fraternity/Sorority/Collegiate friends........then set this up and then INVITE them to join you ! Whether you are thinking of just inviting another couple or two......or an entire Family Tree.....these principals all apply.

Here are some ideas and tips for putting something together.

1. Work with an agent to choose something YOU would like to do. Then set it up. If you want others to follow you----you need to be enthusiastic about it. But a group decision after 6 people go over cruise catalogs could go in complete circles. SO--I recommend that --YOU should just quietly find a great trip......and then put a deposit down for your and your spouse or favorite companion. THEN......let everyone know..."Sail with us ! We are going to Alaska next June !" and give them the details, a map of the itinerary, links to the ship and the travel agents name. If you end up with a number of people going ....your agent may then have additional perks for you all ! There is strength in numbers so make sure you are all booked together with same agent !

2. Shorter trips are easier to put a group together for. SEVEN Days is usually perfect. People need to get away from work, etc. Its also a nice amount of time to be with your group of friends or family. And --If this works SO well for all of you---you can then move it up to a 10 day next year ! And close to home is also usually better ! Sail out of Miami or Ft Lauderdale........or sail Alaska......etc. If it's Europe----check on airline prices before you get too far into the planning. High airfare is a cost killer for many people. Also better for 10+ day trips. Don't plan the perfect Europe cruise in July and THEN find out airfare is $1700. per person.

3. Mid Price Range Ships will have something for everyone. Not only mid range prices ---but still will offer inside cabins for tight budgets or possibly kids ......but big suites for fatter upscale budgets. Additionally.....Mid Range ships will also have Kids and Teen Clubs, Many cocktail lounges, Big Spas, Big Casinos, Big Shows, Big Pools. Great for all Budgets and all ages.

4. LUXURY Ships choices are also GREAT for a few friends with healthy budgets. If all of the people going are really high end and can afford it.....choose a Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Cunard, Regent, Viking, Oceania. Do not downgrade everyone to a huge mass market ship when they really will be much much happier on a more elegant experience ships with fewer passengers. Your travel agent can help you choose wisely. And Luxury cruisers also DO want exotic trips in exotic locales as well...may have more free time for a longer sailing and do not worry as much about the cost of an airline ticket. So sailing Asia, the So Pacific, The Baltics, Mediterranean, Antarctica and So America, India or Viet Nam......or a Grand Voyage or World Cruise..........the more unusual the better ! Religious groups love the thought of a cruise with several days in Israel or Rome. Is your group of friends from a Symphony, Ballet, or Opera group at home ? They will enjoy the most sophisicated entertainment on the ship. Make sure it has it for them ! It is all in knowing your group.

5. Plan ahead ! MOST groups really come together at least 6-9 months or more in advance. Too far out and often people cannot commit. (Spring Break or Holiday sailings or special itineraries are a year ahead !) Sometimes you can get a last wave of late deciders the last couple of months---if there is room. Availability is always the issue then and prices may have gone up. A small deposit will usually hold a stateroom many months out----so be sure to bring that up as people are trying to decide.

6. Why are ships such a good choice for a group of people ? Because everyone gets to do exactly what they want to do all day.....and in every port.....and eat what they want...and when they want.....all according to their own likes and limitations. There are medical facilities onboard......are wheelchair accessible....etc. etc. River Cruises also great but not as wheelchair accessible so be sure to study your needs. Land Tours on cobblestone streets----on and off buses all day and checking into different hotels every night----constantly hauling luggage---are just not for everyone and all ages. The late night bars with bands.....festive Casinos.....offer so many entertainment choices. Big on-deck special parties can be amazing under the stars. People looking for FUN...will find it.

7. You never know where you will find future traveling companions. You may know another couple who just LOVES a particular cruise line so you plan to travel together. So...maybe this would be the start of many trips together. Also......We met two couples once who were on their 15th cruise together........lived across the USA from one another ........and met on a shore excursion years earlier ! You never know when you will meet a friend on a trip.

8. A few tips of things to be aware of......Pitfalls, I guess you could call them. While I can always be enthusiastic about these trips and highlight all the positives......I try not to "talk someone into it". If grumpy Uncle Herb really wants to just stay home in Toledo....then he really should. When everyone else is having a great time....there really isn't much worse than the critic who feels it is his job to pick out what he/she personally finds wrong and to whine about every little thing. Not everyone is a Traveller. Not everyone is a Cruiser. And if they are complaining before they ever leave home....suggest saying, "Maybe you shouldn't go !" This may nip the complaining in the bud. No trip is ever PERFECT. When things do go wrong----well you will notice that you now will have cocktail party conversations about it for a year telling the tale. Always always always use a knowlegable travel agent. They can help unsnarle problems faster than anyone......know how to avoid them in the first place.....and you certainly do not want to be blamed by others for your poor planning (if you are the one who booked it yourself). Trip Travel Insurance is a must----especially in today's world. It's the most important money you will spend for this trip.

9. Schedule a few get-togethers.....but leave the rest to the itinerary and chance. I always think that saying "6:00 PM meet in the Ocean Bar" every eve is great. Then have set tables to all sit together at dinner in the main dining room every night. (Be SURE to alert your waiter if you plan to miss for a Specialty dining night elsewhere !) Beyond that.....let them choose their own shore excursions (not everyone wants to hike a mountain or swim with the sharks). I have seen self appointed group leaders send out over-booked schedules of 8:00 am this and 8:15 am that.......and it gave me chest pain just thinking about it. Everyone has a different idea of what a vacation should be---so let them choose how to spend it. Consider that the BIG point here are all together a fair amount. And when people spend their days separately and doing different things.....this is what the conversation will be over cocktails and dinners. Let it just happen. Let them pop up from dinner and say, "Who wants to go to the show ?? It's a 50's group !"  Some may go to the Casino instead. When you leave some free time and things to chance....that's really when you absorb the culture or meet new people ---------or find new unexpected things that were certainly not printed in the brochure. Kids and Teens and Young Adults traveling like being able to do what they want to do. They will have plenty of time with you in ports and at dinner at night. Beyond that....they will learn things on that ship you will have no clue about. Everyone's experience is different. That that be part of the fun.

And finally........remember how I suggested you picking something you wanted to do ? If no one else decides to go go anyway ! Have a good time and enjoy your choice. Check it off your Bucket List.

Bon Voyage !

I would love to hear from you about your travels.

Joan Dann can be reached via her website and email her at

She is owner of and a Cruise Expert....and a World Cruise Specialist and a member of Ensemble Travel Group. She is a frequent Host of Ensemble Hosted Cruises. She is also Co-Owner of Dann Men's Clothing & Dann Formal Wear as well as other upscale shops. For almost 40 years she has worked with the luxury customer ...their travels....their clothing...etc. 

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