It’s not a big secret or very mysterious but a lot of cruisers still don’t know that there is one guaranteed way to cruise almost for free: Simply put a group together.
If you reach the required number of passengers, for a group (which is set by the cruise line) then your personal cruise berth is free.
If you belong to any kind of club or organization, work at a sizeable company or have large circle of friends and relatives, then chances are that you have the foundation for a group cruise.
Generally, you will need to dig up 15 other passengers travelling in 8 staterooms on the same cruise. This is the general rule of thumb that covers most cruise lines. Once your group has paid in full the 16th berth (not cabin) is assigned at no charge and designated as the “tour conductor berth”.
You are not limited to just one berth, so if you have a large group you can earn multiple free berths. Keep in mind that while the actual berth may be “free” to you as the organizer, you will have to pay government taxes and port fees, pre-paid gratuities and other miscellaneous add-ons known in the industry as “NCF’s”. They can add up to a couple of hundred dollars.
What are some of the advantages of travelling as a group aside from the free berth potential and the fun of cruising with friends and family? In most cases all members of your group will receive a group rate that is lower than the regular rate for the cabin. This discount varies widely from cruise line to cruise line and from season to season. Count on a savings of at least 5% but it can go as high as 25% off “published fares”.
In addition, many cruise lines offer what are called “amenity points” to the group. These points can be traded for things like onboard credits, a group cocktail party or photo, shore excursions, specialty dining and more.
Sound like a lot of work? Well here’s some good news. Most large cruise travel agencies have a separate department dedicated to administering group cruises. More good news: they don’t charge you for their basic services as they get compensated by the cruise line for doing the work. They can examine several different cruise lines and make a recommendation for the group.
Once you decide on the ship and sailing date, they will block the space and handle all the payments from the group members. They can also assist in creating flyers and other things to help you meet your goals. Closer to sailing, they can arrange onboard parties, private shore excursions and other activities to make your group feel special.
Cruising for free is simple and every week hundreds of groups embark on ships around the globe. On most of these sailings, it’s easy to pick out the group member who sailed for free. They are the one with the biggest smile. So start planning today. You will likely need at least 9 to 12 months lead time.