Your search results might bring up a group named such as “Anderson Family Reunion” or similar. What should that mean to you?
Usually, a group has to reach a minimum number of sold cabins to meet the threshold for those extra perks and amenities and also any bonus commissions for the agent. In the case of the Anderson Family let’s say the minimum is eight cabins but he Andersons only need six. The agent will be more than happy to sell those two additional cabins to anyone who might be interested in that sailing. It’s good for everyone — the Anderson family will get those extra perks even though they only filled six cabins, the non-Anderson cruisers get those extra perks they would otherwise not to eligible for, and the agent earns some extra commission. In fact, many if not most, agencies will lock in what’s sometimes called “spec space” or “promotional space”. We used to work with an agency that would book group space on up to 100 sailings each year with no actual “group” of clients already locked in.
Question: I don’t want to have meals with the Anderson family members. I’m sure they’re all nice folks but they’ll be talking about family stuff that does not interest me. That’s not a problem. About 30 days prior to sailing the cruise line will ask the agent for requested dining seating arrangements for the group. The Andersons might prefer to all be together in the early dining searing. Just ask the agent to 1) Be seated in early dining but away from the group or 2) be assigned in the later dining seating or 3) have the agent put you down for the cruise line’s “Anytime Dining” option. This happens all the time and both the agent and the cruise line are very experienced in making this type of request happen. Click here to see a Holland America Group Dining Request Form. You’ll see it’s an older form because it does not show HAL’s “As You Wish” anytime dining option. And these forms are now submitted by computer rather than fax but you’ll get the idea.
Question: I found the cruise I want but it’s a golf cruise that has extra costs for the greens fees, etc. that I don’t want to participate in. This happens quite frequently. The agent might already have a “non-golfer” rate available as they know that there are some couples that might have one golfer and one non-golfer. Again, the agent wants to sell cruises.
Will there be any difference in how my booking is handled? That you’ll notice? No. For the agent? Yes. The agent will be dealing with the cruise line’s group department instead of the general reservation department. But that will be invisible to you.
Question: How are the additional group perks and amenities determined? The Travel Agent will determine what group perks will be offered on your sailing most of the time. Every cruise line has a slightly different way of making this happen. Most base what can be offered on “Group Amenity Points (GAP Points)” or something similar. The total points available will be based on several factors such as the length of the cruise, the destination, and so forth. Click here for an older example of a GAP Point schedule from Royal Caribbean. Just be aware that it’s out of date by about 10 years. but it should give you some idea of how this is all handled. Say the cruise you’re looking at gets 6 GAP points. If it’s an Affinity Group — perhaps a family reunion — the agent will present the options to the group leader and they’ll figure it out. If it’s a Promotional Group it will be up to the Agent to decide. For us it was always easier to just get the highest amount of onboard credit for each group member and let them decide how to use it. No point in sending wine or champagne to a non-drinking group member. Unfortunately, whatever amenities are decided upon by the agent will apply to the whole group. If a perk is chosen that you don’t care for it can’t be changed
Click here for how NCL does it for groups booked as of August 2019 but subject to change at any time. As you can see, this method lets the client decide how best to “spend” the amenity points. We think it’s a great idea.