Size of groups on excursions?

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#1
Mid-Atlantic, USA
539 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
We just returned from Viking's Passage to Eastern Europe. While overall we enjoyed the cruise the size of groups on excursions was 40+ and that was a serious challenge for my sanity. We did use the QuietVox system so we could hear well and didn't need to huddle around the guide but that is just too many people in a group for my liking.

Each stop involved a bathroom break which for that many people took forever and in one instance used up all but 15 minutes of our time at a museum.

Do any other companies consistently use smaller groups? I think I read one AMA review where they said there were 20 in a group but maybe it depends on the itinerary or how full the ship is.

Also dividing passengers into "gentle walkers" or "active" groups seems like a no-brainer. Again I think AMA is the one that does that or maybe others do as well?

Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Leslie
#2
159 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
We are just back from an AMA cruise. I think that the max in our groups was about 24, we also used the QuietVox system and they broke our groups up into gentle walkers, active and regular walkers for the larger tours. If it was a smaller group, there was still always a gentle walkers group.
#4
North Carolina
5,488 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
I hate hate hate waiting around for people. I've always been a little concerned about the included tours on river cruises. Gak. Fingers crossed our groups are a little smaller
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#5
New York
7,262 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
We had very little waiting around on our AMA shore excursions. The group sizes were kept small, and they split into gentle (only about 6 people, so that worked well for them and everybody else), several regular, and often an active. We always took the active, but since the guides had to get their entire spiel in I'm not sure we really walked any faster (except once when it made all the difference for our getting to Mass on time!).
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#6
Mid-Atlantic, USA
539 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
I hope yours are, too! The main waiting was really the bathroom breaks. I don't know why the guides couldn't somehow stagger that like point it out and say "sometime during our hour here feel free to come back and use the WC." I guess then they risk everyone trying to go at once at the end of the excursion and end up late getting everyone back on the bus or back to the boat.
Or maybe our experience was unique and most guides know better how to handle that.

But 40+ people moving in a group is just slow, slow, slow no matter how agile people are so we had to be very patient.

It wasn't enough to ruin our trip or anything but I'll probably avoid a company that uses big groups in the future. Other than that we really enjoyed the Viking experience.
#7
Mid-Atlantic, USA
539 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
jazzbeau - sorry I missed your post before I replied. I love what I'm hearing about AMA's small groups. Other than that did you enjoy everything else about your cruise? The ship you were on, etc.? I think I did read your post with your review a while back - I'll have to take another look now that AMA is seeming like a real possibility.
#8
Tucson, AZ
295 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
On our AMA river cruise, we were divided into groups and given a color card. That told us the color of the lollipop that our guide carried. We were never offered the opportunity to have slow or active walking groups. We traveled on large busses that were about 2/3 full. I would estimate that each group consisted of 25 to 30 people. One tour was poorly attended and had less than 15 participants.
#9
Auckland New Zealand
193 Posts
Joined Sep 2012
On Avalon cruise July 2013 we had 4 tour groups each day, different colours that you could pick each day, one was for slow walkers, each group had 20 to 25 in. All tours had headsets that you could hear guide even if you were 50 to 80m away. Was very well done.
You could also leave group and find your own way back to boat or bus by a given time. You were always provide with emergency phone number and map of location with ship dock clearly labelled.
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#10
Mackay Australia
786 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
On a Tauck cruise there is a maximum of 118 passengers and all of our groups were around 18-20 people. It was perfect. If you travel on a boat that has 170-200 passengers then it is logical to me that the groups will be much, much larger. The boat capacity is just one of the criteria we used when selecting our Southern France river cruise for 2014.
#11
New York
7,262 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
Originally posted by Sparky333
jazzbeau - sorry I missed your post before I replied. I love what I'm hearing about AMA's small groups. Other than that did you enjoy everything else about your cruise? The ship you were on, etc.? I think I did read your post with your review a while back - I'll have to take another look now that AMA is seeming like a real possibility.
Yes, we loved everything about our cruise. AMAcello is one of their older ships at this point (relatively - nothing on AMA is very old). It is very well designed and maintained. We had a French balcony, which I think is better than a balcony because it doesn't steal any sf from the room (the only better design is I think on Uniworld, where the top half of the glass wall drops down so you have the entire cabin width open from waist level up). The food was great, the wines were good (and varied - a different red and white every dinner) and liberally poured.

The tours were also great. When the center of town was a ways away (or for the multiple town tours) they had several coaches. The coaches were never filled, and there were more guides than coaches so the walking groups were quite manageable. When you turned your Quietvox on it synched to the frequency of the nearest guide - so I guess if you didn't like your guide you could just find another group and re-synch [there was only one guide we didn't like, and thankfully she paired up with a better one for our Strasbourg canal cruise].

I also don't think the prices on AMA are higher than other lines, when you count the inclusives and the quality.
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I am not an employee of Cruise Critic and I don't speak for Cruise Critic. All opinions are mine alone. Also, I'm only a Host on the various River forums -- everywhere else I'm "just plain Jazz."

Booked:
Backroads Italian Lakes Walking Tour 5-2017
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#12
Ontario, Canada
2,725 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
Originally posted by Sparky333
We just returned from Viking's Passage to Eastern Europe. While overall we enjoyed the cruise the size of groups on excursions was 40+ and that was a serious challenge for my sanity. We did use the QuietVox system so we could hear well and didn't need to huddle around the guide but that is just too many people in a group for my liking.

Each stop involved a bathroom break which for that many people took forever and in one instance used up all but 15 minutes of our time at a museum.

Do any other companies consistently use smaller groups? I think I read one AMA review where they said there were 20 in a group but maybe it depends on the itinerary or how full the ship is.

Also dividing passengers into "gentle walkers" or "active" groups seems like a no-brainer. Again I think AMA is the one that does that or maybe others do as well?

Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Leslie

The groups on the Passage to Eastern Europe were bigger than on many of our other cruises - but I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that many of the excursions were dependent on transportation by bus - and they had to jockey the groups to prevent overwhelming the area we were to visit. (ie: 3 or 4 spots to visit, and the buses rotated to each area....)

Not sure if I explained that well... Does it make sense??

Fran
#13
Florida
18,971 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
Originally posted by acruisefan
We are just back from an AMA cruise. I think that the max in our groups was about 24, we also used the QuietVox system and they broke our groups up into gentle walkers, active and regular walkers for the larger tours. If it was a smaller group, there was still always a gentle walkers group.
Was this a river cruise ???
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#14
Mid-Atlantic, USA
539 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
Thanks to all for the additional feedback.

Franski - I wondered too if those large groups had something to do with that particular itinerary or if it's just a Viking thing. Have you done any other Viking trips which used smaller groups?
#17
New York
7,262 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
Just because the buses were full doesn't mean the walking tour groups have to be that big. They could have more guides than buses. That's what AMA did.
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I am not an employee of Cruise Critic and I don't speak for Cruise Critic. All opinions are mine alone. Also, I'm only a Host on the various River forums -- everywhere else I'm "just plain Jazz."

Booked:
Backroads Italian Lakes Walking Tour 5-2017
Crown Princess Classic Canada & New England 10-2017
Azamara Quest Costa Rica 1-2018
AMA Discover Africa 5-2018
Viking Sun British Isles Explorer 8-2018
Celebrity Caribbean B2B 1-2019

Completed [click on links for reviews]:
Norwegian Pride of America Hawaii 10-2016
Azamara Quest Norwegian Fjords 8-2016
Celebrity Constellation Greek Isles 5-2016
AmaDagio Provence 9-2015 – three pages (keep clicking on "Older Posts")
Celebrity Xpedition Galapagos 5-2015
Celebrity Eclipse Southern Carib 3-2015
Fresco Tours A Kinder Camino 9-2014
Crystal Serenity Mediterranean 5-2014
Coral Princess Panama Canal 1-2014
AmaCello Rhine 8-2013
Coral Princess Alaska 6-2013
Norwegian Dawn Caribbean 3-2013 / Celebrity Summit Caribbean 1-2012 / Oceania Insignia Mediterranean 5-2011 / Fair Dinkum (Erie Canal bareboat) 7-2003 / Costa Italia Caribbean 5-1974
#18
New York
7,262 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
Originally posted by we're sailing away....
Was this a river cruise ???
As shown in my signature: AmaWaterways AmaCello Enchanting Rhine (Amsterdam to Basel with extension to Lucerne and Zurich) Aug-Sept. 2013
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Email me: [email protected]

I am not an employee of Cruise Critic and I don't speak for Cruise Critic. All opinions are mine alone. Also, I'm only a Host on the various River forums -- everywhere else I'm "just plain Jazz."

Booked:
Backroads Italian Lakes Walking Tour 5-2017
Crown Princess Classic Canada & New England 10-2017
Azamara Quest Costa Rica 1-2018
AMA Discover Africa 5-2018
Viking Sun British Isles Explorer 8-2018
Celebrity Caribbean B2B 1-2019

Completed [click on links for reviews]:
Norwegian Pride of America Hawaii 10-2016
Azamara Quest Norwegian Fjords 8-2016
Celebrity Constellation Greek Isles 5-2016
AmaDagio Provence 9-2015 – three pages (keep clicking on "Older Posts")
Celebrity Xpedition Galapagos 5-2015
Celebrity Eclipse Southern Carib 3-2015
Fresco Tours A Kinder Camino 9-2014
Crystal Serenity Mediterranean 5-2014
Coral Princess Panama Canal 1-2014
AmaCello Rhine 8-2013
Coral Princess Alaska 6-2013
Norwegian Dawn Caribbean 3-2013 / Celebrity Summit Caribbean 1-2012 / Oceania Insignia Mediterranean 5-2011 / Fair Dinkum (Erie Canal bareboat) 7-2003 / Costa Italia Caribbean 5-1974
#20
Ontario, Canada
2,725 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
Originally posted by Sparky333
Thanks to all for the additional feedback.

Franski - I wondered too if those large groups had something to do with that particular itinerary or if it's just a Viking thing. Have you done any other Viking trips which used smaller groups?

No, that was our 1st with Viking....

Fran