Get everyone to fill out a Guest Information form. ( If you don’t have contact info for each person in your group you can’t do your job!) You’ll need their complete name as it appears on their passport and when their passport expires. You’ll also need their contact information, as well as in which country they were born and in which country they are a citizen.
Arrange for an official Group Photo with the ship’s photo department on one of the formal nights – preferably just before dinner. Contact everyone that day to remind and encourage them to get dressed a little early for the photo shoot. Make these arrangements with the ship’s photographer on the first day of the cruise. (Be aware the photo department may charge a fee for taking the group photo.) If you have amenity points for the group, you may be able to provide group photos free of charge for a great souvenir.
Make arrangements with the Head Waiter concerning who in your group is celebrating a special occasion and which day is best for the waiters to gather around the table and sing to them. There will be an extra charge if you order a small cake but a decorated dessert is usually free. Make these arrangements on the first or second day after you learn which Head Waiter or Maitre’ De is in charge of your group’s section in the dining room. Be inconspicuous when you do this so it will be a nice surprise. (Always be prepared to give the Head Waiter a nice tip when making this request to insure that he doesn’t forget.)
If there are any performances on the ship that are capacity controlled (like Royal Caribbean’s Ice Performances, etc.), be sure your group members have access to the shows. Depending on the cruise ship, this may be handled with free tickets that you can distribute or even arranged for electronically. Check to see if this can even be provided in advance. Ask for enough for your whole group and deliver them at dinner or to each person’s cabin if applicable.
When setting up your group, find out which members of the group would like reservations at the Specialty Restaurant. If possible, collect the payments and make those reservations through the cruise line several months before you sail. To insure the ambiance of the Specialty Restaurant you may have to sit in small groups. Deliver the confirmations for those reservations with each person’s cruise documents.
If traveling by charter bus to the port, it’s VERY important to get the driver’s cell phone number in advance. If the charter company uses a passenger manifest, get a copy in advance and check for errors. Communicate to the charter company concerning any physically challenged members with wheelchairs or electric scooters. Be sure to stay with the driver until all luggage is loaded and be double sure no luggage is overlooked. Another responsibility is to count and make sure everyone is on the bus, not only after first boarding but also after any stops along the way. Depending on the distance to the port, you may want to choose in advance a restaurant to stop for breakfast. About fifteen minutes before the end of the bus ride, collect tips from everyone in the group and give them all at once to the driver. Let your group know in advance to have dollar bills put back for the tip. Be sure to bring a DVD or VHS tape of a good movie appropriate for your group to watch on the bus ride.
If arriving at the port separately and not checking in together, choose a time and meeting place on board to make sure everyone arrived and to see if there are any concerns or if anyone needs anything.
Also if arriving separately contact the guest services desk about an hour before the ship sails. Take with you a list of members and stateroom numbers to verify all members have arrived.
Find out in advance if the group wants to go on an excursion together. For those that do, find a reputable tour company and make arrangements. Make the smallest possible deposit in advance just in case the ship has to drop that port because of weather, etc. Collect the remainder of the money no later than the morning of the excursion if you want to make sure everybody pays. Otherwise, let each person be individually responsible for paying the tour representative. Never schedule a tour for the afternoon but rather schedule morning tours to allow for the possibility of transportation problems. Encourage everyone to have Travel Insurance.
Greatly emphasize the importance of everyone completing their online information and make sure you verify that they did and that they printed out their boarding passes.
If you have access to a template, print out extra generic luggage tags and include them with the documents.
Find out, well in advance, if anyone has a preference as to who sits with them at their dinner table and even if there’s any individual they do not want to sit with. Find out also which dinner time the majority of the group prefers. With this information, make a list of your preferred dinner seating arrangement and insure the Travel Agent makes the request in a timely manner, usually 45 days before sailing. This will increase the chances that the cruise line will be able to fulfill your dinner seating arrangement. Let everyone know the seating requests are never guaranteed.
If you intend to bring a laptop computer and pay for a package of minutes for internet access, arrange a schedule for when and where members of your group that do not have internet access can send emails home for free.
Make a card to be placed under everyone’s cabin telephone with the cabin numbers of everyone in the group. Also add any information on the card the group as a whole needs to have handy during the cruise.
As soon as you board, ask to rent a cordless DECT phone or portable ship phone and call everyone in the group with the number. Be aware these phones are usually reserved for suite passengers.
Just for fun, many groups make little door signs for each member to put on their door as a way for them to show pride in their group. This could be a joint project to work on in the weeks leading up to the cruise.
Design and purchase, or make available for individuals to purchase, T-shirts for the group. Be sure T-shirt sizes were included on the Guest Information Forms.
Advise everyone concerning the dangers of traveling without travel insurance. Offer to help with purchasing travel insurance for your group members and if needed, help them with the forms.
Plan a “Pre-Cruise Get Acquainted Party” or “Document Dance Party” two weeks before the cruise. For this you will naturally need a lot of help to make it a success. Usually a simple covered dish would be fine. This would be the proper time to hand out the documents for the cruise as well as T-shirts if they were ordered for the group. You can have travel related door prizes, a free excursion or even on board credit for the winners. Make sure everyone is introduced and answer any questions they have.
If the group is large enough and you have enough amenities provided by the cruise line, arrange to have a party in one of the meeting rooms on the ship during the cruise. This would be a good time to celebrate any special occasions in addition to the celebrations in the dining room. Most people on a cruise already have a full schedule so only attempt this if a majority of your group is very interested.
Plan an “After-Cruise Party” for everyone to exchange vacation photos about two or three weeks after the cruise. Show videos of the cruise and hand out information for your next cruise.
Tell everyone about the availability of community forums such as CruiseMates or at Cruise Critic and their “Meet And Mingle” parties and help with instructions on how to take advantage of them.
Encourage everyone to sign up for the Member Loyalty Club or similar organization and help them with the form to mail in or sign them up on their behalf so they can take advantage of the available perks and discounts.
Check to make sure everyone has a Passport and provide forms and assistance for those that don’t.
If the group prefers, ask the Travel Agent to add gratuities to each person’s cruise line account for advance payment of gratuities. If everyone in the group pre-pays their gratuities, you can make arrangements with the ship dining room allowing “Round Robin Seating”. “Round Robin Seating” is when members of the group are allowed to change and sit at any group table each evening.
On the first day of the cruise, make an appointment with the ship’s group representative or loyalty ambassador and provide a list of members, their reservation and club membership numbers and cabin numbers. Try to insure every member gets their proper perks.
As an extra practical perk for your group, provide everyone lanyards for their ID cards. Distribute them on the morning of the cruise.
If there are many church members in the group, you can arrange for a devotion for them in the chapel or in a meeting room.
Near the end of your cruise, get debarkation tags of the same color for everyone in your group. This can usually be arranged by the Guest Services Desk for the purpose of arranging for everyone in your group to disembark together.
Check every week before your cruise is scheduled to sail to see if the cruise company has dropped the prices and if they have, negotiate a lower price for the group.