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America’s groups are becoming cruise savvy

Courtesy Louis Cruises

As many as 10 million Americans each year take a vacation on a cruise ship. With more than 300 seagoing cruise ships able to collectively carry a quarter of a million passengers, plus 2,000 ports of call from which to choose around the world, there’s a huge array of destinations to satisfy a group’s travel bug.

For many, it’s the ship itself — the floating city, if you will — that is often the primary destination, not the exotic ports.

Group travel cruising is gaining in popularity as every imaginable kind of group comes aboard these beautiful ships.

“There is significant opportunity to tailor programs for groups of friends and family traveling together, as well as special-interest groups, educational groups, church groups and many more,” said Nicholas Filippidis, director of product development in North America for Louis Cruises.

Filippidis said groups focused on cultural or heritage experiences or who seek to explore a nation’s food and wine, study architecture and archeological finds, or visit acclaimed spiritual sites on religious pilgrimages can tailor their cruise program and shore excursions to cater to those interests.

Midsize cruise vessels, like those operated by Louis Cruises, can visit remote ports and destinations that larger cruise vessels cannot.

Group cruise travel usually involves at least eight cabins with double occupancy. The group can be anything from a women’s getaway to a group of contest winners to a senior citizen village to bowling leagues and everything in between.

Forming a group specifically for a cruise creates buying power. Someone, often a travel agent, does all the work and, instead of buying cabin by cabin, blocks a whole section of cabins and passes along discounts gained through that bulk purchase.

“Many times you’ll have a price advantage for the number of cabins booked, which often includes amenities on board,” said Diana Riel, director of strategic partnerships for Cruise Planners. “Many lines give onboard credits or give out bottles of wine or chocolate-covered strawberries. The group status will get you value-added amenities.”