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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