Now don't misunderstand, we agents make far more money from the cruise lines by booking groups than we do by booking FIT. The bigger the group the more we can make and the more amenities the cruise line will offer to the group. However, some groups become so large that they literally ruin the on board experience for other smaller groups and individual and/or family cruisers.
Here is what I think should happen: I think the cruise lines should realize that it would be really helpful in servicing clients if they would publish either through direct e-mail or a PDF on their "agent only" websites all Affinity/Interest Groups consisting of 10% or more of the particular ship's passenger capacity based on double occupancy. That list should list the name of the group, the nature of the group, the ship and the sail date.
Another alternative would be to limited Affinity/Interest Groups size to no more than 10% of the cruise ships passenger capacity based on double occupancy. The cruise lines have a minimum group size and they should have a maximum as well. If State Farm, AARP, or some other special interest group wants more than that then let them negotiate a charter.
The advantages of this far outweigh any disadvantages that I can see. It allows the cruise lines to still fill their ships, it allows Travel Agents like myself to still work with Groups and confidently book Families and couples on cruises that will not become "the cruise from hell" because of the size and/or kind of Affinity Groups on board.
All travel agencies have clients whose vacation (and I might add attitude toward cruising) will be ruined if they book a family vacation on a particular sailing only to discover that an Affinity/Interest Group made up of half the passengers on board dominate all the venues on board.
We understand that Spring Break is a great time for family cruises and apparently so do the cruise lines. I have never seen a "large" Affinity/ Interest Group on a major cruise line during Spring Break or Christmas Week. I also know that these dates sell out quickly and do so at a premium price. You may run into large crowds and obnoxious people during these sail dates but rarely would I worry about a "large" Group durng those dates. It is the other 50 weeks out of the year that hold the potential for disaster in this regard.
I understand that this does not happen often but it happens often enough for us to hear about it from clients. Why should the cruise lines loose even one future cruiser and an Agency loose a return client over something so easily preventable.
I strongly urge you, the potential cruise client, to find a Travel Agent you trust and let them do some research for you. Do your own research if you must but then let a seasoned professional confirm it for you. Most importantly, once you decide on a cruise let the agent who assisted you take care of all the booking details. It's the right thing to do!