Going on a world cruise with a group of friends, family or coworkers isn't as hard as you might think, and it's often less costly than the traditional cruise booking route. Best of all, depending upon the cruise line, your group could end up with some terrific onboard perks.
Group cruise basics
The first step is to find a travel agent that understands booking a group. Work with him or her to find the best possible option and deal for your vacation, whether you're interested in a South American cruise or a tour through the Caribbean. The person who works with the travel agent will become the designated "tour conductor." Tour conductors work with a travel agency to make all the travel and onboard arrangements for the group.
Off-peak sailings sometimes offer more generous terms, with some cruise lines offering groups a free fare to every 10th or 14th person. Generally, higher-end cruise lines require fewer paid fares to qualify than do the more mainstream cruise lines.
But what if you can't round up enough friends or family members to get group benefits? There is still a way. Many large travel agencies hold what is known as "block space" on ships. This means that they have reserved space at group rates and can offer attractive pricing.
Sometimes these agencies hold aside several of the group cabins for individual clients who might be able to depart on the group date - this is called "piggybacking." So if a group of friends wanted to go on a Mediterranean cruise, this would be a great way for them to take advantage of a group cruise rate without being in a large group.
Group cruise perks
Some cruise lines also offer special perks available only to group cruisers. For example, many cruise lines are now awarding "group amenity points" based on the number of people in the group: the more people, the more perks. Amenities can include things such as private-hosted cocktail parties, cabin upgrades and shipboard credits.
The details of group-travel offerings vary widely by cruise line, itinerary, time of year - even the nature of the group. Have you been dreaming of a South America cruise but worry about the cost? Don't be daunted. Travel agencies that specialize in group cruises can help find you find the best sailings and negotiate the best possible deal for your trip.