Anyone who has planned a cruise vacation, or any vacation for that matter, knows that there is a whole lot more to it that there might appear to be. Booking the cruise is just one part. Packing, getting to the ship, a budget for what to spend and being sure everyone going has the right documentation are just some of the concerns that the person in charge has to be concerned with. The larger the group, it seems, the more there is to do. Having the right person in charge can make or break the whole experience.
Before taking on the position of “leader” of your group, be it just you and one other person or 100 of your closest friends, there are some critical qualities you need to have.
- Good leaders know themselves, their schedule and their limitations- Unless you are making planning travel your job (like I did), you probably have other responsibilities so prioritizing your life all of the sudden becomes important.
- Good leaders are not power-hungry monsters– In line with #1, a good leader will not hesitate to delegate responsibility for some part or parts of the whole process to a capable group member. Like take the standard line item in any cruise plan “Getting to the pier”. There are a number of ways to do it but having the plan made, if not paid for, in advance is critical. We don’t want Lazy Susan on this.
- Good leaders are committed to having the best experience- Price is one thing and a big thing at that, but just one part of the whole equation. Bad Leaders focus too much on the rock-bottom low price with no regard for anything else. They want bragging rights. Good Leaders consider, hunt for and find the best value which may not be the lowest price. Example: Cheap Carla got the cruise for $800 per person from her nameless Internet Cruise Broker. Smart Susan got it for $825 but it includes better accommodations, bonus amenities and the beginnings of a long-term business relationship with a travel agent who will do her good in the future when she wants to book again.
- Good leaders know they don’t know everything and are not afraid to ask questions– There is a dangerous place that travelers who have previously cruised go for a while. It’s the “I have cruised therefore I know” syndrome that blinds otherwise good, sound decision-makers and turns them into know-it-all monsters. The best line I ever heard about this malady was from a 25+ years in the business travel agent who told
- Good leaders are open to change, know everything won’t go exactly as planned– Major components of a cruise vacation are pretty standard from line to line and don’t vary all that much from sailing to sailing. Still, this is travel, not using the remote control, and things don’t always go as planned. Itineraries get changed, there are lines where one might not anticipate lines should be and not everyone is going to like which side of the ship is facing the dock.
- Good leaders are not afraid to tell group members when they are wrong– It is often hard when someone who normally takes orders from someone else is all of the sudden in charge. This is usually one of the first encounters a group leader has, when one of the members has a “better idea” that they pulled out of thin air after the group leader spent three days on the phone working out some odd little detail.
- Good leaders are organized- If you can’t balance your checkbook, this is not the job for you. If you are the person in your home who pays the bills (and does a good job of it), you might be a good leader.
- Good leaders can communicate– but there is a difference between “can communicate” and are “willing to communicate to everyone even if you hate their guts otherwise” because the later is just as critical as the former. Everyone needs to know, for example, that they need a visa to board the ship in StrangePlaceistan or they will be denied boarding with no refund and have to find their own way home, at their expense. Not just your friends.
- Good leaders are popular and liked by group members– Nobody wants the person everyone talks about behind their backs planning their fabulous cruise vacation. There will be serious doubts as to their ability no matter how good it is.
- Good leaders read this whole list– because they are detail-oriented and comfortable with things like spreadsheets, email communications and lists. People that scan things for what they find interesting are the same people that think the cruise is going to be $499 and fail to add in the port charges and taxes when considering pricing information.
Not all group leaders are going to hit all these ten qualities. Some do but most don’t. It’s more important to have more of these qualities with a larger group than it is with just one or two people to be sure. Its also important to have more of these qualities when dealing with group members you are not related to as relatives are often more forgiving of the mistakes you will make than strangers are.
One last, critical part of the process is seeking the guidance of a travel professional somewhere along the line. By all rights, if you use that travel professional, pick their brains for information and book a cruise, it should be done through them. It is totally unfair and you will surely have bad things happen on your cruise vacation if you use a travel professional, gain all the knowledge they freely give you, then book online with some cruise broker just to save a little cash.
- That travel professional does not cost you anything.
- You are not “eliminating the middleman” to save money by booking online.
- In the long run, having a travel professional in your back pocket will reap you and the group huge rewards
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