The Trouble With Group Cruising — And What You Can Do About It

July 11, 2012 | By | 5 Comments

group-cruise
Thank goodness for morning trivia. At 10 a.m. each day on my last cruise, six out of nine people in my group gathered in Norwegian Gem‘s Magnum’s Champagne Bar, ostensibly to tackle the morning trivia session. What inevitably followed was a 10-minute powwow covering who was going to be where and when, and how we would find each other again. We had to be explicit. Once we scattered, chances were we wouldn’t all rendezvous again until dinner. Daytime meet-ups had to be mapped out around activities, peak sunbathing hours and my parent’s babysitting schedule (the only time during the day my sister and brother-in-law could escape the clutches of my two-and-a-half-year-old niece).
I often found these powwows frustrating. I firmly believe in no schedules on a cruise — at least no schedules I have to adhere to whether I like it or not. Pre-arranging our days felt like a drag on the relaxed vibe I’ve come to cherish about cruising.

In theory, a group cruise is a great way for an extended family or group of friends to spend quality time together — and still have options to relax in solitude. And I did love traveling with my group — enjoying the shows with my best friend, watching the Statue of Liberty recede into the distance from the spaciousness of my parents’ aft suite, and watching my niece’s eyes light up every time she saw Dora onboard.
What I didn’t love — and hadn’t expected — was not being able to communicate with my group during the day. Unlike cruises with my husband, it was difficult to know where everyone was going to be, and I couldn’t simply leave a note in my cabin or wait there for people to show up. Plus, if I ran across an activity I knew somebody else would like, I had no way of letting them know.
Looking forward to my next group cruise, here’s what I would do differently:
Splurge on communication. Whether it’s investing in walkie-talkies ahead of time, renting the cruise line’s intra-network phones or leaving cell phones on for texting purposes, the ability to stay in communication throughout the day trumps whatever costs we might incur. I’m willing to pay out to gain flexibility and avoid planning my day in advance.
Cluster our cabins. Getting cabins all together wasn’t feasible for my group. While my sister needed a two-bedroom suite for her family and my parents splurged on a mini-suite, my husband and I, and my best friend and her sister, went with more affordable stateroom options. But had we chosen cabins closer together, we might have had a greater chance of bumping into each other, and it certainly would have been much easier to leave each other notes on the door.
Plan group excursions. None of us were really interested in taking planned excursions on this cruise, but had we been in Europe or someplace more exotic we would definitely have benefitted from arranging a private tour for all of us. Not only could we spend our shore time together, but we could potentially save money and tailor our tour, compared to a ship-sponsored excursion.
Bring more board games. Because my niece has an early bedtime and my parents were not interested in the onboard entertainment, we didn’t really spend evenings together as a group. But one of our most enjoyable evenings was spent in my sister’s suite playing Cranium. It was the only night we spent together, and we had a blast. Our mistake was waiting until later in the cruise when most of us had already tired ourselves out and we didn’t have many evenings left for a repeat performance.
Have you cruised with a group? What are your tips for getting the most out of a group cruise?
Traveling en masse? Read more tips on planning a group cruise.
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    Comments

    5 Responses to “The Trouble With Group Cruising — And What You Can Do About It”

    1. Brian
      July 11th, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

      Thank you for these helpful hints. We will be group-cruising with friends next summer, and you brought up some issues that I hadn’t thought of, and answered some things I wondered about.

    2. Sue Buchanan
      July 11th, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

      We have cruised once with one other couple, and once with two other couples. Both times we had the fixed, early dinner time. Even if we had spent a full day alone, this was the time we knew we would meet up, share our days adventures, and discuss what was happening the next day. We also planned one shore excursion with just the 6 of us. And we would all cruise together again!

    3. Donna
      July 11th, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

      We have been on 9 cruises in a row with the same 4 people and sometimes there is 7 of us.We have a blast.If someone does not want to do something thats fine.But most of the time we are with each other,we meet at the pool or go for coffee and meet up before dinner for a drink,and spend the rest of the night together.We all like the same things.So we will continue cruising with each other and have fun.

    4. Katie
      July 12th, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

      I think group cruising is a great idea! Could be so fun and I bet there’s loads to do. This is a fantastic post and I must say, gives a lot of great advice. I also get your perspective of the down points to a group cruise. Maybe I might go in a smaller group :-). I heard Thomson Cruises are great for groups of younger adults.

    5. Julie
      July 12th, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

      I cruised in a group before, actually it was my daughter’s wedding! We all agreed in advance that we were ‘free’ to do what we wanted during the day and would meet up in the evening for dinner. We had two large tables where we all shared our day. It was funny to hear the stories later and realize that everyone on the ship had a different experience. I think it was great and would like to do a group cruise again sometime!

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