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Spring / Summer 2018


A Celebration for Every Occasion –
Why Group Travel Works

Star Clippers – a private yachtlike
Star Clippers – a private yacht-like experience on tall ships.

Have you ever thought it would be fun to take a vacation with a group of close friends, fellow members of a club or organization, or take that family vacation to celebrate a milestone anniversary? Cruise lines love to welcome all types of groups on their ships and they often offer extra benefits to those creating and booking into a group.

Group travel is more popular than ever as a way to vacation with family or friends, or any other group traveling together, whether large or small. For families who live far apart it is a great way to connect with their parents and/or grandparents. You see them everywhere. When you are on vacation, they are the fun-loving group wearing the florescent tshirts proclaiming, “Save Me, I am on a Family Vacation”. At dinner on the cruise ship they are seated together and going over the day’s events. It could also be a group of friends from high school, college, your local Rotary or golf club, a hobby group, your church, girlfriend getaways, bachelor parties, the list goes on and on for affinity group travel. You are traveling with those people who have similar interests as you.

There are many benefits of booking a group on a cruise. First is lower pricing and the rates are guaranteed for the categories that are held (even as the rates on the rest of the cabins may increase the group rates are locked in). Without booking into a group, the rates are always subject to change, so Aunt Marge might end up paying more than Uncle Bob, and that could cause problems! Setting up a group prevents that from happening. In addition, groups are often offered extra amenities ranging from onboard credits, a complimentary bottle of wine or cocktail party, specialty dining or other amenities. It all depends on the cruise line.

Probably the biggest benefit to creating a group is that the person who puts it together and invites others is considered the “Tour Conductor” (TC) and may be able to get a free cabin berth if enough people join in on their group. The TC credit would be used to pay for their berth if the minimum number of people join their group (based on the policy of the cruise line chosen). For most larger cruise lines, it takes 8 cabins (16 people) to earn a TC credit. With some cruise lines, it only takes 5 cabins (10 people). I am going to review two cruise lines and their group policies to give you an idea of what it takes to create a group, which is very little, but the benefits are great!

AmaWaterways MS AmaVida
AmaWaterways MS AmaVida, a grand 106passenger vessel, on the Douro River in Portugal.

AmaWaterways – River Cruising in Europe

River cruising is a great way to see Europe up close with your boutique hotel taking you to amazing destinations. The ships are intimate with anywhere from 100 to 160 passengers. After a group is set up, they receive the following benefits:

  • $250 reduced cruise fare per person.
  • 1 complimentary TC credit for every 9 full fare (double occupancy) paying cruise guests. The TC credit is based on the average cabin price of the first 9 guests – this is unlimited so if you have 18 people join you, you get two TC berth credits and so on!
  • Some of their itineraries offer solo traveler waivers for your single travelers in your group.
  • AmaWaterways always has at least one included complimentary shore excursion at each port and unlimited complimentary wine and beer served at lunch and dinner on ship.

As the river ships are much smaller, space isn’t actually held, but you can book as many cabins as you wish as long as there is availability on the ship. For this type of trip, I recommend setting up your group more than 1 year in advance. For example, I have a winery owner client who created a group for their wine club members for July of 2019 in Portugal on the Douro river. This way, their club members have their pick of staterooms. You can take a look at their routes and itineraries at

Star Clippers – a private yacht like experience on tall ships

Star Clippers are intimate sailing ships with only 170 to 227 guests. Their 3 ships offer casual and relaxing itineraries built on wind charts for optimal sailing. Their combination of “must see” destinations and off thebe at en path hidden gems (that only small ships can get to) offer a truly memorable vacation. They sail in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Bali, Indonesia and Thailand. After a group is set up, they receive the following benefits:

  • 1 complimentary TC credit for every 9 full fare, (double occupancy) paying guests. The TC credit is based on the most sold cabin category. Another TC berth is earned at the 20th paid guest.
  • Flexible deposits and cancellation schedule.
  • Even within groups, depending on group size, there may be solo traveler waivers for the single travelers in your group.
  • Group amenities include an onboard credit offered to those booked in your group.

I wanted to show you Star Clippers since they offer a unique vacation option that is different from the engine powered cruise lines and their tall sailing ships are exquisite. You can take a look at their routes and itineraries at

Vaughn Hollingsworth
Vaughn Hollingsworth

These are just two examples of the benefits of setting up a group on a cruise. Most cruise lines will still allow for the guaranteed pricing and amenities even if you are not able to meet the minimum booking requirement to get the TC credit. You would still get the locked in pricing and amenities even with just two cabins booked in your group. This way, there is no down side for setting up a group if you aren’t sure you how many friends or family can join you. I hope that now you are armed with this information, you will consider creating your own group for an adventure in 2019! Where will you go next?