These are some cruising stories
but we encourage you to e-mail us yours.
Cruises perfect for many
According to Yesawich Pepperdine & Brown/Yankelovich Partners National Travel Monitor, 64% of survey respondents expressed interest in all-inclusive travel pricing. All-inclusive pricing means air, transportation, accommodations, food, transfers and recreation. These are desirable considerations for your cruising reunion.
Somewhere in Caribbean
In a Boston Globe article, Bella English suggests cruising in the new millennium has become an intergenerational family affair, a perfect reunion venue with its something-for-everyone allure. She points out that cruise ships are large enough so you can hide from that annoying cousin or demanding in-law. English, aboard the Holland Americas Ms. Maasdam from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, through the western Caribbean declared hers a successful family reunion with something for everyone. A nine-year-old boy adored the ships freedom, his unlimited soft drink card and the video game arcade. Teen girls liked the movies, after-dinner shows and island stops. The mother-in-law liked on ship and on shore shopping. Shore excursions were popular with everyone.
Food is always an important cruise feature and available at all times. Pizza buffets, ice cream bars, afternoon tea and midnight smorgasbords are all in addition to the three squares that are always pretty ample by themselves.
Give the kids a key, soft drink card and curfew and, according to English, everyone is happy.
With prices dropping and the number of ships rising, it may be time you took a serious look at cruising. Cruise ships ideally dont charge extra for meeting rooms, coffee breaks, food, or on-board entertainment. They are a very economical option. Here are a few tips.
- Know which ships can accommodate your needs.
- Book them far in advance - lock in the ship, if not the price.
- Watch the duration - cruise lines offer many different trip lengths.
- Consider inside cabins which are less expensive than ocean views and suites.
- Know the home base. Determine where reunion members are coming from before selecting a cruise destination. Airfare to and from the point of embarkation can significantly increase overall price. For instance, the majority of eastern and western Caribbean cruises leave from Fort Lauderdale and Miami, while southern Caribbean cruises most often leave from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Since its less expensive to fly to Florida than to Puerto Rico, consider a voyage east or west rather than south.
- Expose the extras. Shore excursions and tips can add up for participants. Make sure they know how much cash to bring for things not included in the price of the cruise.
- Negotiate group discounts. You can negotiate additional discounts the more cabins you reserve. Some cruises allow you to book eight cabins, double occupancy and offer the 16th cruise-only berth for free.
While carrying medical information in case of emergency is always a good idea, it becomes more important if youre traveling and particularly if youre going to be cruising. Remind reunion members to pack medical history, blood type and other data to assist doctors.
How about visiting a steamboat
or sailing on one, of course. But this one is available only for visits. The Julius C. Wilkie Steamboat Center in Winona, Minnesota, is the centerpiece of the towns Levee Park. A 1981 fire destroyed everything but the paddle wheel and engines of the original boat but the town put forth the effort to restore their treasure. Youll be met by the opulence of crystal and brass chandeliers, plush furniture and a grand salon resembling its glorious past. For Steamboat Center info call 507-454-1254.
Always a helpful source of cruising information, we use The Shipboard Cruiser Newsletter (www.shipboardcruiser.com).
Cruising is a great reunion choice
Some feel that cruises are a genuine vacation bargain; therefore, a pretty good deal for reunions! Experts declare they've never seen prices this low; $200 for three days, $600 for a week. And that includes all the food you can eat, onboard activities and your quarters. Add room, food and entertainment any place else to compare prices.
The reason for bargains is fairly simple. During 2000 alone there were 14 new ships with a total of 35,000 additional berths. In addition 13, new ships were expected to be launched during 2001. That's plenty of space for your reunion to consider.
An abundance of cruise information is available; specialty travel agents; web sites and books. So it behooves you to do your homework.
The one thing not included that needs careful planning are shore excursions. Your cruise line will offer very intriguing, interesting things to do and see in your ports of call. Make no decisions without asking lots of questions.
You can usually receive excursion information before you leave and there will be introductory meetings onboard on your way to ports of call. Many cruise lines not only provide tours for various interests but also for different age groups so if there's something your teens want to do that you'd not be caught dead doing, let them.
On the other hand, you can consult brochures to figure out which things you might be able to do on your own. Hire your own taxi. Or best of all, walk the port area and make your own discoveries. Most ports have beaches which you can certainly get to on your own rather than buying a tour.
Choices for cruises have never been better and it seems this is a time to seriously consider these special bargains.
For information about cruising, a great resource is The Shipboard Cruiser. www.shipboardcruiser.com.
Reunions on water arent all wet
There are many reunion options that are on or near water. Cruise ships are the largest and can accommodate many details of the largest and most luxurious reunions. At the other extreme is the simple and serenely quiet, canoe or kayak for the truly hearty. Some groups might prefer sailboats or what my father called "martini barges," those slow-moving pontoon boats so popular on residential lakes.
I recently enjoyed yet another mode of moving on water. I discovered self-skippered canal boating in France. On the surface it seems downright bucolic, but actually requires all hands on deck to negotiate many locks along the way. My adventure was on a Crown Blue Line Crown Clipper that slept ten, though we were just six on one boat and four on another. Moving along a narrow, shallow canal we saw lovely spring flowers and bright green landscape even during dismal, rainy, dreary days. Ducks with large new broods of fluffy ducklings skimmed the same quiet surface we were enjoying. Elegant, sedate swans plied the same waters.
We were sailing the Canal du Midi, a 300-year old engineering marvel, the oldest artificial waterway in Europe which links to the Mediterranean. On one of these boats, a trip from the Crown Blue Line base in Castelnaudary, France, would take a very long time. Speed is not a factor in this mode of travel. If you schedule your days well, you can spend some time just tied up along the canal, enjoying the quiet and relaxing. These are places where stillness is palpable.
The Crown Blue Line canal boats are very well appointed and comfortable. Full bathrooms, heat and a fridge certainly cover basic needs. We ate breakfast on-board and went to pubs and restaurants for lunch and dinner. Or Crown Blue Lines concierge service can provide departing boaters with a fully stocked kitchen; provisions can be pre-ordered and will be ready upon arrival
Central to the canal experience is traversing the many locks which become an expectation 'round every turn in the waterway. The locks are tended from sun up to sun down by lock keeper families who live in charming, cookie-cutter houses along the canal's edge. Their job is to help move the boat either up or down to the natural level of the canal. It is helpful (if not mandatory) to have members who are hale, hearty and able to jump in, out, up and down, to secure the boat in the locks. This is a perfect opportunity for those in your group who are fit to show their prowess great for teens and young adults.
The lock attendants become very entrepreneurial. During the growing season many of them raise large gardens and sell fresh-off-the-vine produce to people on passing boats.
When planning a canal boating adventure, your choice of vessels is vast from ones that sleep two to ones that sleep a dozen
all snug but comfortable.
The canal I visited was close to Carcassonne, a well preserved, 700 year-old medieval fortress well worth the time to tour. It houses a popular, bustling little tourist town with superb restaurants (the scene of my one and only crepe suzette). Side trips of all kinds are available from all canal trips.
These, I learned, are essential canal boating requirements.
- Take gloves for pulling and holding ropes.
- Wear boat shoes; almost everything else is too slippery.
- Tip lockkeepers; particularly if you are going and coming along the same canal.
Contact Crown Blue Line, 510 Sylvan Avenue, Ste. 204, Englewood Cliffs NJ 97632; 888-355-9491; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.crownblueline.com.
About the author
Edith Wagner is editor of Reunions magazine.
Reunions enjoy the high seas
Reunion groups come from all over the country to set sail on exotic high sea locations. Groups vary from ten to up to 300 or more people. Three- and four-day itineraries from Miami to the Bahamas and the Western Caribbean are most popular on Carnival Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean Cruises. Three- and four-day cruises are the most popular choice for class reunions, while seven-day river boat cruises on the rivers of America remain the most desirable for military reunions.
Cruise reunions include many complimentary items, such as champagne in the staterooms, meeting rooms, microphones and audio-visual equipment, cocktail parties, fruit baskets and badges. Cruise Holidays negotiates these amenities with cruise lines for your group.
The Lofton-Russell Family Reunion sailed aboard the Superliner Fantasy on a four-night cruise from Port Canaveral to Nassau, Bahamas. The Wright-Zeigler Family Reunion is just back from a similar itinerary on the Majesty of the Seas. Just 50 miles from Florida, these fun-filled islands are a world apart. Unspoiled beaches, glittering casinos and fabulous duty-free shopping explain why.
The Live Oak Union (Yuba City CA) High School 50th reunion of the Class of 1951 took the west coast Baja, Mexico, tour from Los Angeles aboard the Carnival Superliner Ecstasy. After the cruise, they wrote that the cruise was the highlight of their reunion and that they "will never forget the memories we made. Thank you for making it happen!"
For real reunion value, cruise ships offer wonderful activities supervised by counselors for children from tots to teens from ice cream socials to language lessons. Reported by Cruise Reunions, 800-852-3268; email@example.com.
TCM&N Family Reunion enjoys the seas
The Taylor, Cabbagestalk, Monigault & Nickens (TCMN) Family Reunion has become fond of cruising. Here they are on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas, a 4-day cruise to the Bahamas. They visited Key West, Nassau and Coco Cay, Bahamas (Royal Caribbeans private island).
Candaciec Brockett, Forest Heights, Maryland, reported: "the kids had a ball! In fact, we only saw them at family socials, a program to acknowledge marriages, deaths, births and graduations, the family dance, dinner and bedtime. We even had baby sitters on board. Everyone from three to eighty-three had a good time. These are things we liked best: the barbecue at a private island, nightly activities for children and adults, and the food was scrumptious. The other side of my family loved it equally. In fact, they want to cruise every three years."
Sailing the high seas on Maine's tall ships
Last summer, the Whitlocks of Pennsylvania took two of their children and six grandchildren on a 4-day cruise aboard the Timberwind, a member of the Maine Windjammer Association. With friends who had sailed aboard Maine's Tall Ships time and again, the Whitlocks decided a cruise specially geared for families with young children would be ideal. "We've always liked sailing and thought it would be something we'd like to do with the family," said matriarch Elizabeth Whitlock. For Mrs. Whitlock, being able to stop at different places each day in addition to the congenial atmosphere was a real bonus. She encourages other families to plan on plenty of relaxation and when asked if she would do it again, said, "Yes, we would."
Frank Henry of New Hampshire took all 17 members of his family aboard the Stephen Taber, also in 2000. He was clear that he wanted to charter the entire boat so that he could bring the youngest members of his clan. Ranging in ages from 4 to 75, the Henrys appreciated the food most. Mr.Henry said, "It was good sailing. I know the area well and so I knew where I wanted to go. (Captain) Ken Barnes was very accommodating. But the food! The food was outstanding."
Henry's advice to other families is to find a captain and crew that match your family's personality by interviewing them before coming. The Henrys declared the crew aboard the Stephen Taber as "Outstanding! They were all so wonderful. They had just one rule-when under sail, kids under 12 must wear life jackets. They were safety conscious, and wonderful with the children."
Mr. Henry would like to take his family again and said, "It's more than just sailing. It's a wonderful social experience."
Contact Maine Windjammer Association, 1-800-807-WIND (9463); www.sailmainecoast.com.