Scott Stein, the owner of and travel planner for Extraordinary Adventures (https://www.myextraordinaryadventures.com/travel-podcast.html), shares the lessons he learned from planning group cruises.

Music: www.bensound.com

 

(The show transcript is being provided by YouTube's automatic transcriber. Please forgive any inaccuracies or errors.)

[Applause] [Music] hey everybody this is Scott from extraordinary adventures welcoming you to the 13th episode of e a radio today I wanted to discuss something near and dear to us here lessons I learned from planning a group cruise why is that so near and dear well just today just yesterday no today we finalized the final payment for the final passenger on an affinity group cruise that we that we planned over the last couple years and I thought that today was a great time to teach the lessons that I learned from planning a group groups so that if you don't use stern adventures to plan your vacations which I don't know why you wouldn't that seems insane to me but if you choose not to I wanted to give you the information that you if you could do it without us hopefully again you'll come come to us so let's start off I put everything in chronological order meaning things you're gonna want to think about from the day this idea dawns and news that hey I'd love to go cruise with my friends because cruising with friends is definitely better than cruising alone think about it if you go on a cruise one of the things for most people is meeting other people at the bar or at their dining table or or at the nightclub or wherever they happen to be they bump into people at the spa the owner of a hot tub that you start chatting and you wanted Uppal people that you become like friends with like in real life not just on the cruise you become Facebook friends you and then you maybe cruise with them again and that was that that was the I forget the word on family the inspiration for why I did this one it wasn't because I wanted necessarily cruise with the people that I knew in my personal life right here right here in Orlando but they were welcome to it was to meet up again with the people that I had cruised with over the last several years I wanted to get together again so when that idea pops in your head that that's what you want to do you'd love to get together again with friends that you haven't seen in a while or maybe you want to do something locally let's a bachelorette or a bachelor party or maybe you're doing something for work there's a million different reasons why the family of our union crews the million different reasons why you might plan a group Cruise where everybody goes together so this could be used by anybody so you decide you're gonna do this what's the first thing to do okay I'm gonna make a suggestion select the cruise line the ship and the sale date by executive decision not democracy you might think oh well I want everybody have a say in this out in the other well if there's 10 15 20 30 people in your group and everyone gets to say you're never gonna get through this process they can't get a say in every single thing that happens what you're going to want to do though through your executive decision is figure out what cruise ship cruise line price point time of the year all these are the factors that go into it are gonna benefit the most amount of people so for instance probably gonna be harder to get people to go on Christmas it's probably gonna be harder to maybe get somebody to go on a Caribbean cruise during hurricane season so you have to think of different times of the year that people maybe maybe you know a lot of your friends like let's say you're going on a teacher group and teachers all have off in the summer so maybe you make it in the summer maybe you don't make it in January when everybody's in school and can't get off so you just think about everybody that's in your group think about their particular needs the best you can and then pick something to the best irritability you're going to exclude some people no matter what you choose whether you choose their democracy or executive decision there will always be some people who cannot go but if you do this smartly if you think about it and put your brain to it you will choose a ship a sale date at a price point that will work for a lot of people you'll be surprised how many people you'll be able to get to join your group then once you've got that figured out get yourself or your travel agent preferably your travel agent because at this point now you're handling a group it's not just you and your husband or wife not you you and your boyfriend/girlfriend now you're handling a group of people you really don't want to do that yourself especially because for most cruises like this travel agents don't charge you anything there they're gonna make a commission from the cruise line sometimes it would be a planning fee sometimes there won't really depends on the the group that's going where they're going if there's a lot of pre hotel pre and pre-imposed hotel hotels sorry pre and post cruise hotel stays or activities or excursions so in other words it's not just the cruise then you may see that there's gonna be a planning fee but for the most part if you did a Caribbean cruise right how do you Port Canaveral in Miami with your friends and family you're not gonna get charged a fee by the travel agent so if you're not gonna get charged a fee why not take his or her advice time expertise whatever to do the work for you so now I'm going to assume for the rest of this episode that you're gonna hire a travel agent to do this get your travel agent figure out who he or she is gonna be and get him or her to book you on your preferred Cruise Line the second their booking schedule opens up meaning we're sitting here it's now September of 2019 let's say I don't know every line is different but let's say that right now in September XYZ line that you want to use opens up their schedule for 2021 so a year and a quarter from now now generally speaking it's actually gonna be longer than that you want to get the second that it opens up why when cruise when Cruise Lines release their schedule the rate that they released that day is one of the lowest if not the lowest rates you will ever see for that cruise again including all BOGO deals or family deals or any deal that days rate will almost always be the best and you can lock that rate in with Reuters and it will be held for two years or however long it's something like I think it 120 days or so before your sale date that they'll pull the rooms back that you haven't used so you have up until from the day you book until that that that final closed date to just hold those route at that rate you'll see rates climb the climb and climb and climb and people are gonna be shocked hey how did you get this rate so cheap you're gonna look like a hero because you locked it in incredibly early they also with the knowing some perks some offers of course if it's brand-new availability is wide open you can get any room you want so if you're going with it you know group of 20 people so that's ten rooms let's say two per cabin and by the way most times with these groups it's based on double occupancy not three not four so you're gonna have to speak with your travel agent and make sure if you've got a lot of families going that's something you're gonna need to think about but let's say you have 20 people going you've got 10 rooms let's see you want all those 10 rooms together on Dec 9 right in the middle of the ship well if you do all this very early on the chances are you getting that a very very high if you wait you won't get it the other thing to remember is that when you and I'm gonna get into other important deadlines later but I want to touch on this right now because it seems relevant when you create a group booking some of the perks offers OB sees whatever have not expiration dates but they're called early booking discounts are they different booking onboard credits and you have a certain amount of days from the day that you the cruise plan or person from certain Monday from that date that you've chosen to say okay travel agent boom booked me up until 60 days 90 days whatever each line is different then people need to book in that window to often get that OBC and if they book beyond it they won't get the onboard credit or the perk or the offer so just keep that in mind so now the next step you've got it booked figured out where you want to go figure it out your cruise line all the rest of that what do you do well you have a long time people are not gonna really want a book a year and a half two years out but you're gonna push as if they're going to you're gonna tell them all the benefits of doing it now and you're gonna post it on Facebook and you're gonna post on Twitter and you're gonna email and you call and you can talk about everything the only way that you're gonna get this group to get the numbers that you want get all the people to come with you is through repetition you've got a brand the idea in their mind you tell them once three weeks they're gonna forget you told you got it constantly it's got to continue to be sent until it are like oh you know mr. Smith is having that cruise we should consider going on his cruise but they won't think that unless you've said it a thousand times remember they won't book with you until they're ready to book and if you haven't been saying anything when they're ready to book go start looking around for what's available you don't want them looking around you want them to remember oh I'm thinking about a cruise well mr. Smith has a cruise and let's go with him in the group because that sounds fun to do a group cruise so promote the heck out of a constant then once you start getting people interested remember to remind them of specific deadlines that occur like that OBC special perk discount the other thing to remind them is the last date of booked into the route because let's say you know it's coming to an end November 1st is the last day you put a little pressure on people to say look hey November 1st is the last day if you don't book by November 1st you're gonna miss out in all these rooms all this availability all these great rates all these great perks are gonna go back to the cruise line and they're gonna charge today's prevailing rate which will be significantly higher than the rate that you that you've reserved for them by pretty booking so remind them of that once you get past that then whoever has books remind them of the final payment date which will generally be about a month or so after so you want and you want to hit them hit them hit them don't let anyone go to the last day you want to make sure that they're booking at least within days of in case there's any problems and then the final thing to remind people when they book to make sure they get travel insurance no matter when they go like right now we're sitting here in hurricane season and hurricane durian just skirted by fortunately everybody here was good but what would happen if somebody got sick somebody got hurt there was a a bit terrorist attack hurricane you know who knows what could happen so you don't want to make sure you remind them that within a certain amount of days of booking there's a window now you can buy insurance pretty much anytime thereafter but within that window 14 days 21 days every every insurers different you have to book in it because you want to qualify for things one pre-existing condition coverage so if you have any conditions and we can talk about that later you can give me a call we can email out and tell you more about that whole deal if you have pre-existing conditions and you want them covered you've got to do it within that window the second thing if if your insurer offers canceled / interrupts interruption for any reason coverage so for most cases it'll give you 70 80 % 100% whatever it is of the covered reasons then there's another little stipulation that you can get a plan that allows you to come cancel for any reason so for instance if your dog got sick they're not gonna let you cancer that won't be a covered reason but under this you'll get 70 80 % whatever each again he's sure sure is different of what you've laid out you'll get it back if your dog that sick so you won't lose money so you're definitely gonna want to make sure you book your insurance within that that depth timeframe the next thing is you're all thinking about it you've got some people booked in you want to start discussing and reserving excursions now this time more democratically because now they're on the cruise now they they're part of this they they're invested in it but still take the lead do some of the homework yourself or have your travel agent better yet do some of that homework present you with ideas for each of the islands that you're gonna be stopping in or the countries that you if you're doing the Mediterranean cruise or a European cruise have him or her go over the options present you with those options and then present those options like maybe two or three in each port because each for each port because each port could have a myriad of options you don't want everybody thinking well what about this and then you have people breaking off and splintering off now I will say but that's fine too it's again it's it's their cruise if they want to go do something there but many people are signing on to this because they want to be a part of the group so you want to have at least one planned group excursion in place for each of the ports but again put that into a Facebook group have everybody join that group or however you like to do it if you want to do Twitter Instagram I don't know whatever anybody likes to do but make sure it's a real time thing as opposed to email or text messaging you want everyone to see it you want everyone to interact with each other you know when everybody emailing you and then you're emailing everybody else get it in there have them think about it have them decide on it take the lead on it but then make sure that okay here's what we're gonna do guys because this is what the majority people want to do and then make your reservations get guys get that stuff figured out the next one you're gonna want to do is you're gonna want to pay attention to your cruise planner your whatever each one of them calls it something different it's the thing that once you're booked they have online an area where you can buy some ala carte items for instance your internet package your drink package your dining package excursions you know whatever else massage there are things that you can buy in advance you're gonna want to as the tour conductor and again you're probably going to just want to lean on your travel agent for this because he or she can help you with this you're going to want to let people know when there are drink package deals internet deals dining deals because often they'll put out sales the thing to know about these cruise planner deals most lines I don't know if all lines and again don't want it again check per line most lines will allow you to buy let's say you buy the drink package and two months later they put it on sale and it's 30% cheaper they will allow you to cancel the first one and repurchase at the new price here's the trick with that book at a good price not what you think may be the best price book at a good price something that you'd be comfortable paying then if it goes down awesome you can cancel your xandrie book the new one the problem is if you wait for it to go down and it never does or worse yet it goes up now you could have gotten it for that price two months ago and then you're kicking yourself so make sure that you can return it and if it's refundable book it at a good price what you think is a good solid price and then wait for it to go up or down so that that's anyone do that for dining if you want to different and you want to keep your group involved in that Facebook group what you should do is invite your travel agent into that Facebook group so he or she can make these announcements what the next thing you can want to do is you're gonna want to discuss flight plans and pre cruise hotel stays to coordinate any pre cruise meetups or activities so for instance we are having most of our people coming in the day before so everyone's gonna be here so we're planning some kind of event Meetup just maybe a place to just go out and a quieter place you don't want to go to too noisy of a place because you're talking about people that either haven't seen each other for years or have not even met each other before and you want to use this opportunity to have this pre Meetup so that when they're getting on the cruise day one it's not about hey do I know you it's about oh I met you yesterday I had a great time with you and now you're kicking off the cruise from day one from this second you board with people you know and you like and you're ready to party with you don't want to have the break-in period happen over a day or two and it could be there too because some people may not be able to find each other for the first day or two it can take time so if you have a way of telling everyone hey everyone come in early everyone stay at this hotel of that hotel let's have a meet-up let's get to know each other so that we are ready to go for day one that's totally democratic thing that's not something you can do by executive decision you need to get people involved in that now you've got all this figured out everything's done everything's you know all your or you're all you've done soar in a row the thing for you to do now is to organize a document that shows group events that will happen throughout the week of your cruise you want to keep that amount small and flexible so for instance you don't want to have ten different meetups a day every day first you yourself may not want to go to ten meetups a day every day but people won't go to every event the less the fewer events you have the better your turnout will be at them if you have ten events two people show up here two people show up there two people show up there if you have one event then all twenty people are gonna show up to the one event I want to make sure you keep it flexible you want to make sure you're paying attention to what for instance on Royal they call it a cruise compass I forget everyone has their own name for the different planners that they put out you want to keep an eye on the planner and look at when the shows are or belly flops or port stays or whatever you want to put your events into the calendar we're the most amount of people will be able to go again keeping in mind that yes this is a group cruise okay but everyone has limited days and limited dollars so for a lot of your folks this is not gonna be just a group cruise but their own individual vacation and it may even be your only vacation for that year or for that six months or whatever and you may not want to do all group all the time so keep that in mind be respectful of that said and that's the plan so you got to plan so now you're pretty much done everything's been done soup to nuts everybody understands everybody is in the same page everybody's booked in everybody's got the drinks everybody's got their excursions everybody's got the plan because you've emailed them that the itinerary the last couple things to think about what is I personally am buying the professional photo package I think maybe a few other people will as well but I want to see my friends and family forever I want to have I want to capture this great memory I'm gonna invite them all into different shots throughout the week so I will have that forever it's not quite the same to do it yourself on a cell phone doing selfies selfie sticks having said hey mister can you come over here and take a photo of us these professional people they do it they do it well they have the little backdrop so they they meet you on the island or they meet you in the pour that they're good a couple hundred bucks consider buying the professional photo package last thing the tour conductor credit you may never heard of this if you are creating a group almost every cruise line that I've seen river cruise premium yacht mass market it doesn't matter if you're creating a group they will often give you the tour conductor not your travel agent you they will often give you a credit for a certain amount of money based on the value of the rooms how many rooms blah blah blah so let's say that 500 bucks I don't know it could be a thousand bucks depending like if you're doing a premium line to be higher 500 bucks that's $500 that's not for him or her to decide oh well I'll give some people OBCs or I'll I'll I'll take more Commission for myself that's your to work and doctor credit if you want to decide to give your travel agent five extra bucks because he's been doing a great job well tip that's up to you but that money is yours now as the organizer you can do a few different things with that one you can just say hey I did all the work I'm taking that $500 and I'm reducing my cruise fee my cruise fare or maybe I'm going to go into a junior suite or something like that I'm going to bump it up because again I did all the work so I should get the perks the other thing you can do is you can give everybody more OBC onboard credit I apologize you can give people more onboard credit or I mean the other options or what what we're doing is I figured out as a travel agent I'm taking all my friends with me on this cruise I don't want to make money on the press so well that was not supposed to happen home-based business I'm taking all these these people on this cruise I'm the host they're my friends I don't earn money on them so I'm taking all my commission putting it in a fund I'm taking is I'm the one who's also the tour conductor I'm taking the tour conductor credit and putting it in the fund and I'm taking that fun and I'm gonna buy my friends and family you know t-shirts I'm gonna have like a group Cruise t-shirt made which is a great idea I'm gonna maybe buy them dinner or drinks I don't exactly know what I'm gonna do with that fund but I'm not gonna take it for myself there's nothing wrong with taking it for yourself you can do that but these are options of things you want to consider just remember it does not belong to the travel agent that's the thing I want to make sure that I Drive in the there are say this is politically correct as possible shady shady a bit bit strong maybe some people who wouldn't tell you everything you need to know I don't work that way I want you to know everything so they may not disclose to you about the talking up to credit and if you don't know about it there's no way you're gonna get it and they could take it from them for themselves so tour conductor credit belongs to you that is pretty much it if you have any questions I know this was a lot to cover I'm talking 22 minutes a lot longer than I thought but again was a lot to cover so if somebody wanted to do a group cruise here's all your stuff remember there will be some show notes you'll be able to to look through them and get some of this but better yet just email me Scott at my extraordinary ventures calm that's Scott at my extraordinary adventures calm ask me your questions I'm happy to about and if any of these questions are great give me your first name where you're from and I'm gonna give you a shout-out on the air and share that question with people on the next show additionally if this does sound like a handful and believe me it is call me I'm happy to work with you as a travel agent on this I've done this before I'll do it again I know how to do it well you'll be in good hands so you might want to just consider it just outright hiring me to do it so that's it that's it for today's show remember we're no longer on YouTube but we are on iTunes and as of today we are now also on Google Play so you can find you can find us on those two things but be sure to spread the word tell everybody about our Facebook page and our Twitter page and our our iTunes in our Google Play and we're also a we're on LinkedIn we're on Pinterest we're on the instrument oh it's a lot of work but we're on everything so make sure you get out there and you spread the word okay so that's it until next time we'll catch you on the next episode of the air radio thanks guys stay tuned ciao bye bye [Music]

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