What You Need To Know About Cruises – If a charter cruise is on your radar, you probably fall into one of two categories. One: You’ve traveled with a corporation (and if so, we want to work for your company!) or with a special interest group (Bingo tournament cruise, anyone?) — either as a participant, or perhaps as an independent traveler or Who inadvertently ends up sailing with such a gathering when a large group booked on your cruise. Or, two: You get bumped from your already-booked vacation because the cruise line charters the ship right out from under your feet.

So, what exactly is a charter cruise and how does chartering a ship work — for those of us who are either just curious about the process or have the means to actually plan one? And what are the realistic chances that your “regular” cruise charter will be disrupted or canceled? Read on for the ins and outs of charter cruises.

What You Need To Know About Cruises

What You Need To Know About Cruises

Full-Ship Charter: A full charter is when an entity, usually a corporation or major special interest group, approaches a cruise line and says, “We want to occupy X ship on Y sailing date.” An example of a full-ship charter is one of the annual Atlantis LGBT cruises — for example, they chartered Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas in early 2018 as the largest all-gay cruise ever. Another cruise organization known for full-ship charters is Sixthman, which hosts concerts at sea. In the case of very small vessels such as the Crystal Esprit yacht, a family or group of friends can conceivably charter the entire vessel.

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Group Space, or Partial Ship Charter: This is not technically “chartering” in the true sense of the word, but blocks out a number of cabins for a large group that are otherwise open to the public. Some lines offer different channels for booking corporate, special interest or large family/friend groups, although common incentives usually include reduced cabin rates and assistance with planning private events onboard. Such groups must meet a minimum volume: for example, Carnival requires a minimum booking of 16 passengers. Many smaller, or more specialized, theme cruises are partial charters, in which participants share the ship with regular passengers.

For independent cruisers, one concern related to chartered cruises is whether you could potentially be bumped from your already booked sailing in the case of a full-ship charter. While a bump is unlikely to happen, it does.

While most companies that charter ships plan their cruises as far in advance as possible (usually at least a year out), it is not entirely uncommon for others to negotiate with cruise lines to take the ship after it opens for sale. Public When a prospective charterer contacts a cruise line to inquire about a sailing already booked, the cruise line will assess how much business is on the books and how full the ship is.

“Carnival closely monitors voyages to minimize any impact on currently booked guests before allowing the voyage to be chartered. Many of our charter programs are sold well in advance, usually a year in advance, to avoid this scenario,” Carnival Sr. Vice President Sales and Trade Marketing Adolfo Perez explained. Royal Caribbean, meanwhile, informed us that they will not consider full-ship charters if the sailing is already more than 25 percent booked.

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The bottom line? Although it’s rare, virtually every cruise line has the right to involuntarily bump anyone – for any reason. Typically, however, cruise lines will only sign off on charters if they affect a small percentage of passengers already booked. And yes, while it can be a bit of a relief for anyone looking forward to a cruise vacation and suddenly having to scramble to rebook it or rearrange time off from school or work, you can usually expect a full refund or a comparable offer. A cruise option is offered by the line at the same rate (and sometimes at a discounted rate) and usually with additional onboard incentives such as upgrades or onboard credit.

Just be sure to read the fine print of your cruise contract so you know your rights and what to expect, and consider safeguards like purchasing a third-party travel insurance policy, especially since lines typically don’t offer reimbursement for other related prepaid travel arrangements. . — such as hotel bookings and airfare — that were not purchased by the cruise line.

If you are a willing participant, a ship charter can offer a different and exciting way to cruise. Your vacation is organized around a specific theme or interest — such as music events, hobbies or celebrities — that invites group participation.

What You Need To Know About Cruises

However, if you end up sailing independently on a trip that is only partially chartered by a larger group such as a corporation or special interest group, you may notice a change in the onboard environment. The most obvious offender is the occasional closure of public spaces where group events are held, while some cruisers have expressed the feeling that large groups disrupt the overall social dynamic on the cruise, either sticking to themselves for socializing or gathering together more enthusiastically. is In addition to groups, if the group is politically charged or part of a lifestyle that doesn’t sit well with you, the presence of large numbers of group members can potentially annoy you.

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Unfortunately, the lines usually don’t say who chartered all or part of the ship, which is especially interesting when a regular cruiser will be onboard with a large group. Think about it: If a cruise line released information that 300 Hell’s Angels would roam your ship, would you be tempted to cancel? You may want to do some independent research before booking to avoid potential conflicts; Hosting agencies or organizations usually advertise their themed trips online, and Cruise Critic members often post on message boards when they learn about one.

If you are aware of the presence of a group on your already booked cruise and you do not wish to sail with them, keep in mind that cruise lines are under no obligation to provide refunds outside of their normal cancellation policy. Cruise Critic readers, however, have reported instances of them being willing to accommodate them at the same rate on different ships or sailing dates when they’ve called to complain, so it’s definitely worth trying to negotiate if you feel strongly about it.

If you want to book a group event at sea, your considerations include a full-ship charter or a group space (aka, part-ship charter). For full-ship charters, the biggest advantage is exclusivity: when you occupy a ship, the whole ship is about your organization or your event.

The opposition? You must match the number of cruisers expected to sail to the ship’s capacity to avoid any guest shortage fees. That makes securing a full-vessel charter a huge commitment, especially since it can rarely be canceled — and that full payment, or “availability letter,” is often required when signing the contract.

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How much does it cost to charter a cruise ship? As a point of reference, the lowest price for an off-peak three-night cruise on a Royal Caribbean Vision-class ship will be upwards of $700,000 (funds are then raised through the sale of cabins), while other groups offer longer sailings, newer ships or Special itineraries can cost up to $11 million!

Securing a group space, or part-ship charter, on a larger ship allows you to book much less inventory and requires a significantly lower financial commitment. However, payment and cancellation conditions may be stricter for a honeymooning couple or family of four than booking just one stateroom, and unbooked penalties may apply. Alternatively, you can book as a group on a ship as individuals without officially renting space, or consider chartering a smaller ship.

For family reunions or small retreats, smaller vessels such as French Country Waterways’ barges (which hold 8 to 18 passengers each) or SeaDream Yacht Club or Crystal’s yachts (for groups of 50 to 100) are good options.

What You Need To Know About Cruises

Meanwhile, mainstream mega- and mid-size ships such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian, for example, offer unmatched space and amenities to large groups. Multiple theaters, lounges and other venues are available to host special events — and there are plenty of onboard activities to keep people entertained. Such a large line is also particularly suitable for company “meetings at sea”, offering large conference rooms and office-friendly technology.

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Whichever route you go, it’s a good idea to consult an expert in the field. Landry & Kling, based in Coral Gables, Florida, is a recognized business-to-business resource for meeting planners and special interest groups, providing vessel selection and logistics support or complete program management for cruise groups and full-ship charters. Joyce Landry, president and CEO of Landry & Kling, offers some tips for planning your event — and deciding which type of ship charter is right for you.

Size does matter. Mrs. Landry warns that

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