Planning A Family Reunion Cruise?
Here are some tips and resources to make planning a lot smoother
Every year, more and more families are turning to cruises to plan their reunions. Cruising to the islands or to Alaska with your family is a great way to create and share memories. Cruise ships have so many activities for every age bracket and there is ample space for everyone. It’s less work, less planning and a lot more time to enjoy the family.
For those of you tasked with planning a family reunion cruise, we have some tips that will either save you time, or money. And in some cases, both.
Planning a family reunion cruise requires you to get started at least nine to twelve
months ahead of time. While you can organize a family reunion cruise in less time, you may not be able to secure the cruise ship or the destination of your choice. By getting a head start, you will also be able to
Get better group rates for cruises. Cruise lines want to secure as many rooms as possible and the further out you plan, the better a deal you can score for your family reunion. Plus getting group cruise quotes does not cost any money so give it a shot.
Cruises have a limited amount of staterooms that can accommodate larger families. Booking them ahead of time will secure enough space for everyone in your reunion. You can also ask for connecting rooms for families with smaller kids.
Secure meeting room space for any private banquets you may be planning
Secure preferred dinning times. This is a top three request for most family reunions since most attendees spend the day apart doing activities and get together only at night to recap the day. When you are booking a family reunion, make sure to request ideal dinging times and ask that everyone needs to be seated near each other. If you want to score bonus points with your family, then ask for a separate banquet area altogether to have dinner in. If you are booking enough staterooms, the cruise line will throw this in for free.
- Increased attendance – Your attendees will find it a lot easier to plan a vacation when they have enough time to budget for it. Your attendance will increase as a result.
Most group cruise discounts range from 10-25% of standard rates. However, if you plan ahead of time and select a not-so-peak- time of year to travel, you can get larger discounts.
Get connecting rooms – You family is going to require connecting rooms so make sure to find out how many you will need and book them when you place the initial deposit. Make sure that the connecting rooms are inside cabin so kids do not have access to a balcony.
You can save money by requesting all inside cabins
Get group cruise rates online instead of calling the cruise lines individually. By requesting the rates online, you will receive bids from the same cruise companies in an easy to read format that you can present to your family members. It requires no phone calls, and is a completely free service.
Too many cooks spoil the broth – Unlike a land based family reunion where you take all the help you can get, a cruise based reunion is a lot less intense. Most of the dinner, activities, and planning onboard is already taken care of by the cruise so all you are really responsible for is setting the date, destination and getting your family to attend. Have two to three people close to you help with the communication (Website, emails to keep people informed) and organization (when, where, pricing etc.)
Also, when it comes to selecting dates and destinations, limit the choices to three or four. The more choices you present to family members, the longer it will take to build one consensus. Not everyone will be happy with your choice so be ready to hear about it.
Free Rooms – For every eight double occupancy staterooms, you get one free room. Decide ahead of time what you are going to do with any free rooms. You can choose to lower everyone cost, give it to someone who can’t afford it, or use it yourself as a reward for being the organizer. To learn more, read the article “How to get a free room when you cruise with a family reunion”.
Don’t check in together – Cruise lines will offer a group check in as an amenity. Stay away from this as you will end up being held up by the slowest person in your family. Let everyone check in at their own leisure and meet up at a specified time.
If you want things to be organized well, then get everyone together at a hotel the night before the group cruise. You can go over what to expect, where to go, first day activities etc. When booking rooms at a hotel, do not call individually. Book a block of rooms here and ask for park and cruise rates along with complimentary shuttle to/from the cruise line. By booking as a group, you’ll save money on the hotel room’s rate, car parking fees at the point of departure, and transportation costs. Learn how to block hotel rooms for a group.
In communicating with your family members, make sure to explain that an all inclusive cruise includes meals, most activities, supervised kids’ programs and entertainment. Also, make sure to explain what it does not include; Alcoholic beverages, internet, phone calls, babysitting services, casino play, spa and massage services. Let the family know to budget extra for these add-ons.
Avoid popular vacation holidays, long weekends, and graduations. Also avoid city wide events like spring break week. The prices are always higher and the ships are crowded.
Caribbean is cheaper – You can choose to cruise to exotic locations but those will cost much more than a simple cruise to the Caribbean islands. If you’re looking to save money or have a lot of first time cruisers, go to the Caribbean and you’ll thank us for the advice later.
Stick to the large cruise lines – It’s the large cruise lines, like Princess or Carnival, that have activities specifically for kids, adults, and seniors alike. The variety will keep everyone happy.
Perks, perks, and more perks– If you’re booking your family reunion cruise, you’re entitled to some goodies not normally offered to regular guests. Before you sign anything, make sure you get some of the following for free
- Dinner together (Preferably in a private room at least one night)
- Shipboard credit for services like a free massage or gaming credit
- Upgrade to balcony or suites
- Discounts on photo packages or sporting gear rental (Snorkeling to be specific)
- Personalized welcome reception with Champagne and chocolates
- In room goodies like wine and cheese or chocolates when departing
Don’t plan onboard group activities. You’ll just end up having to wait on people to get ready or worse, get up. Let people make their own plans during the day and meet at dinner to discuss the day’s events. If you do end up planning some group activities, then use the following suggestion. Have a dry erase board on the planner’s cabin door listing the activities for tomorrow and dinner time. This way family members can see what activities are scheduled for tomorrow and decide on their own if they would like to come.
Family Reunion Dinner – This is one of the most popular things to do on a family reunion cruise. Time after time, family reunion planners have said that the dinner together was the best thing that they planned. You can have dinner in the same area (The tables are set for 10) and go over what activities everyone did and what they were planning on doing the following day.
Circulate everyone’s room numbers to the entire group. This way, you won’t get calls all the time asking for so and so’s room number.
This is stupid, but essential – Make sure that every family member has a valid passport before boarding an cruise that will take you to an international location.
Don’t plan one excursion for everyone – Let people pick their own excursions. Not everyone is going to be interested in the same things so planning all the excursions as a group is a recipe for disaster. One sire of the family may be into seeing a museum while another may want to go scuba diving. Try planning excursions with smaller groups of family members.
Plan excursions before you board the ship. Ideally, plan all excursions, and pay for them well ahead of the cruise. This way there is no confusion about who is doing what and there are minimal last minute changes.
You will gain weight! So be prepared to deal with it when you come back.
When communicating with your family members, you can use tools like email, newsletters and websites. If you have to pick one of these over the rest, then we would suggest setting up a website so you can update everyone with the latest information. Websites are easy to set up with services like myevent.com. Their rates start at around $10/month and it’s well worth the money.
If your family members are worried about the cost, let them know that they can pay in equal installments ahead of time to make the budgeting easier.
Consider all special needs that any of the attending family members may have. Speak with cruise line booking representative about wheelchair ramps, on-board medics or other issues that may arise for your family.
More Family Reunion Cruise Articles
1. How To Get Group Rates For A Family Reunion Cruise
2. How To Plan A Family Reunion Cruise
3. 7 Reasons Why You Should Plan A Family Reunion On A Cruise
4. Frequently Asked Questions About Cruising With A Group
GroupTravel.org is a popular event planning website for groups of 10 or more attendees. Planners can handle numerous details of blocking hotel rooms (Or staterooms for cruises) without having to make a single phone call. We guarantee the lowest Group Hotel Rates and Group Cruise Rates.