There’s A Cruise For That!
Building Cruise Business Through Affinity Cruise Groups

by Ming Tappin

In my last column, we looked at building cruise business through expedition cruises, this week let's look at another area that has huge potential - affinity cruises. Affinity cruises have been around for decades - you know them as themed cruises. The most popular were the Big Band cruises, when cruising was more formal and focused more on dressing up and ballroom dancing in the evenings. Today, themed cruises have expanded to virtually every subject under the sun - sports, music, cooking, scrapbooking, religion -  I once even saw a knitting cruise. And just like the saying "There's an App for that!", I like to say "There's a Cruise for that!" - whatever the interest or hobby may be.

Promoting affinity cruises based on special interests or themes can be very profitable. We already know that people love to travel with like-minded individuals. But they will be even more motivated to do so if the cruise is themed around their favourite hobby or pastime. Having a guest speaker or subject matter specialist as a group escort further guarantees success, as the group can learn and practise their craft with an expert during the cruise. Some affinity groups are even built around a host - whether it is a local chef, musician or popular TV personality.

Another advantage to building affinity groups is that most of them will repeat and refer business to you. The group will have such a great time that upon their return, they will be eager to plan their next trip. In short, your group clients will become valuable annuitants for you.

Cruise lines would love to work with you on developing affinity group business. All ships have space to hold private group gatherings. Group excursions can also be organized and special activities can be arranged ashore. Amenity points are available to add value and your BDM can also help in securing extras for your group. Tour conductor credits can increase your profit, or can be used as an incentive for your group host.

So, where do you find your affinity groups? You'd be surprised that they are everywhere. Look at your local clubs, associations & charities and approach them about cruising together. Does the fitness instructor or personal trainer at your gym have a huge following? Maybe they would be interested in hosting a fitness cruise. Or perhaps the specialty wine shop owners might want to take their loyal customers on a wine cruise through the Rhine or Bordeaux. Or your art museum might want to build a members cruise in the Med, hitting all the historical and architectural centres.

Lastly, always be on the lookout for opportunities. In early Spring, I was walking on a nature trail when I passed a large group of people with binoculars and giant telephoto lenses looking up into a tree. The following week, a photo of their subject - an allusive pygmy owl - appeared in the local paper. I wondered how many of them would be interested in a birders' cruise where they can see migratory birds at various ports? 

Next time you are out and about, look at who's around you, as they could be your next affinity group.

Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 38 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is Owner of

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