The Cruise Scholar
You landed the business, booked your cruise group and now have to be a fantastic host on board the ship and deliver top customer service as well as deliver everything you promised.
These promises can keep you up at night if you are not organized. So think ahead and look at the big picture. Remember this is work for you not your vacation! That should not stop you from having a good time with your guests. Enjoy the cruise but first and foremost you are there for your guests so you will be a superstar to your cruise guests.
Prospecting and developing cruise groups is an art in itself but now we are going to see what we need to do to pull off this cruise group and have all of the members of the group sing your praises.
Hopefully you have been thinking about this superstar hosting challenge as you have gone along. It is critical to make sure that all of the information regarding the bookings are organized and in one location, like a notebook or tablet.
There should be a file for each cabin including all of the booking details, air schedules, emergency contact info and any other specific notes regarding the guests in that cabin. You would never want to overlook an opportunity to shine by celebrating a birthday of a guest as well as knowing about special medications, specific needs and anything that makes you a superstar escort. You are just actually bringing along the specific details that you acquired when you made the original booking.
Compile a rooming list both alphabetically and numerically. Let me tell you that the numerical list comes in really handy if you need to deliver messages to each cabin.
Also bring with you the details regarding those staff members that will be helping you on board ship. These great people are going to be your best friends for the duration of the cruise. Work with your group coordinator at the cruise line to arrange a meeting with either the on board group manager, the food or beverage manager, hotel manager or all of them if you can swing it.
A few minutes with them while you’re guests are boarding to reconfirm all of your plans for meeting rooms, cocktail parties or any other events or equipment needs during the cruise. This planning will make the job so much easier for you and those staff members on board ship.
In a way it is like you are inviting guests to a gathering at your home and you want them to feel comfortable and welcome.
During the get together cocktail party or meeting I always like to give out a welcome letter and depending upon what the group leader likes, a copy of the alphabetical rooming list and a little fact sheet about things aboard the ship.
If there are going to be meetings during the cruise, you want to recap the meeting times, which room they are going to be held in and at least a little guide telling guests where the room is.
A very important detail is signage for the meeting room. Make sure it is correct to the letter and is place early in the day for the meeting room chosen if possible. You want your guests to move around and find the meeting rooms easily.
Another idea is to think ahead and determine a social base of operation during the whole cruise. What I mean is really a way to let the guests be social during the cruise and find others from the group at almost any time. For example I will set a specific club or bar, one that is open the most hours, like the Windjammer Bar which is on all of the Royal Caribbean ships as a meeting place. If a group member wants to touch base with anyone else in the group then they would just go to that specific locale and hang around there until somebody else shows up, and generally someone does.
It was like when we were kids our mothers always told us if we get lost just to stay where we were and she would find us.
Dining plans and seating arrangements
Ships are designed for guests to eat where they want and with who they want so it is much harder to arrange for group dining than ever before. The group leader will be your guide for this since hopefully they know the members of the group the best.
If you have made arrangements for traditional dining in the same dining room at the same time each evening, then you can either work with cruise line group coordinator in advance of the sailing to either seat the guests at specific tables or just have a group of tables so they can seat themselves with who they want to eat with. Many times group leaders, especially those that are hosting an incentive program prefer a round robin approach so people sit with different people from the group each night.
Since most of the time the gratuities are pre-paid you should not have any problems with this but if the gratuities are not included there is very little you can do until pre-paid gratuities are part of the program.
In either case you are going to want to bring along some table ID cards so the guests can determine, at least on the first night, which tables are part of the group. Using the logo of the company or if they have developed a logo or title for the event is a perfect use for the cards.
When the group is dining together, I always make the rounds of the tables. The first night, I reintroduce myself and offer my services for questions and concerns. It is a good way to give reminders of upcoming events and suggestions of things to do in their off time.
Meeting room arrangements
This is one of the great values about group cruising. Unlike hotels, you can make arrangements for meeting space on board and at least at this writing at no additional charge. If you have made arrangements for coffee service or snacks, be sure you arrive in plenty of time to touch base with the staff who are in charge with setting up those arrangements and that everything is in place the way you want it.
Check the AV equipment to make sure it is set up the way the meeting planner needs it. There is nothing worse than that screaming squeal of the microphone if it is not placed correctly. The event staffs on board are experts at this and they do it constantly so the chances of problems are very remote. You just want to double check, remember this is part of your job as a superstar cruise host.
You can make arrangements for refreshments in the meeting room which is generally at an additional cost. When I did my last group on Princess during my meeting with the dining room manager where our meetings were being held, he offered them not only a water station but complimentary coffee for each day of our meetings so you never really know.
It is a good idea also to touch base with the audio/visual guys that are going to have your microphones and video presentations to go over the plans in advance. They appreciate it and again showing your professionalism to make sure all goes smooth.
Sometimes a group leader would like to have group excursions which should be arranged well in advance either with the cruise line group coordinator or a third party firm like ShoreTrips. If tickets need to be distributed, give them out as close to the date of the tour as possible to avoid people losing them. Remember to have extra tickets with you at all times in case someone has forgotten to arrange for the tour and wants to go.
Keep a contact phone number for the tour operator at the destination you are heading for in case you need to get in touch with them. One time I had made tour arrangements in St. Maarten and had 2 busses full. This tour was at an optional cost and surprise, there were more than either forgot or didn’t realize they needed to make arrangements so I need to call the tour operator the day before and arrange for a third bus. Everybody who wanted to go got a seat and I sold another bus load of tours.
I try to think through each day’s events from my desk at home before we leave so I can become the logistics expert. Doing this is the best way to plan your strategy to strive to be the best group cruise host you can be.
Time to go home
When it comes to disembarkation after the cruise returns to port is another area to show your superstar status. Again, making the rounds of the dining tables is a great way to pinpoint any specific questions somebody might have. First time cruisers have questions about the timing of disembarkation and you can give them all the info they need to make their trip home carefree.
Now how about when it is all over and everybody is home safe and sound. This is a good time to cement your superstar status with reminding them of what you do for a living and to offer your services to their friends and family. You also may want to work with the group leader to present a questionnaire about how things went. This is also a good time to ask for recommendations to post on your website and other travel related sites. Remember if you do ask for a recommendation; be sure that it is very specific to this cruise and they include details. This makes a strong tool to give you an excellent and well-deserved reputation.