As long as people are interested in taking cruises, they will be interested in taking cheap cruises. Cruise deals are heavily pursued, and it is one of the topics on which we regularly write. However, we have not dedicated much space to group cruise packages – that is, the deals you may be able to get for booking a cruise vacation as a group – or in any case we have not treated group cruise packages as a standalone category (they tend to come up in connection to the broader question of how to find cheap cruises). So, what exactly is a group cruise package, and how might you go about getting such a package?
First, a cautionary note about group vacations in general. At first glance, nothing might seem more attractive than taking a vacation with friends and family. What could be better than enjoying the company of those you care about most while simultaneously enjoying a vacation? While this is theoretically sound reasoning, it often collapses in practice, as group members want to pursue different paths for reasons of interest, money, health, and so on. Even relatively simple decisions, like finding a restaurant for dinner, can become absurdly complicated when everyone’s different wants and requirements are taken into consideration. Fortunately, a cruise vacation offers a certain degree of structure – there are only so many onshore activities and restaurants to chose from, for instance – and this frees you to an extent from the burden of choice, but the practical problems with group vacations should not be overlooked as you lust after a cheaper cruise fare.
Speaking of cheaper cruise fares, the savings associated with taking a group cruise are not exactly massive, at least when compared with other strategies for taking a cheap cruise, like booking at the last minute. Indeed, many cruise lines or travel agents that are involved in group cruises don’t really emphasize the discounts all that much in their promotional materials. They speak instead about the convenience a cruise ship affords (no taxis back to the hotel, e.g.), the resources a ship has available (meeting rooms, live entertainment, etc.), and similar such things. To be sure, discounts are mentioned, but in most cases this takes the form of one free cruise after X amount of tickets are bought (where “X” is generally about 15). Sometimes the group leader – the one who goes through the hassle of coordinating everything – is given the free spot, but it can also be spread across all the cruise participants. In either case, almost everyone going on the cruise will get a small discount (less than seven percent based on the 1-free-to-every-16-passengers ratio) or no discount at all, and the entire group will only get a discount if it is sufficiently large. Obviously, any discount is great, and this is especially true if you want to take a group cruise anyway, but you likely won’t be saving tons of money taking a group cruise.
To conclude, we don’t mean to suggest that group cruise packages are something that shouldn’t be pursued. We always encourage future passengers to get the cheapest cruise they can, and if you want to take a group cruise, certainly try to get any discount available for booking as a group. However, what we have tried to show is that you probably shouldn’t try to take a group cruise if your only goal is to save money. For one, traveling with a group can be a challenge, even in the well-ordered world that cruise ships provide, and two, the savings aren’t huge. If you don’t want to take a group cruise to begin with, the savings probably won’t incline you to change your mind.