If you were asked in 2019 how much you enjoyed spending time with your extended family, you may or may not have said it was important to you. But 2020 changed that, maybe forever.
After spending so many months separated by distance and health safety, many families are making up for lost time and planning family reunions for late 2021 and 2022.
But that sounds like a lot of work, right? Not really - not with the help of a travel professional (me).
There are many large houses and properties that are available to rent if you want to stay on land. Some on the higher end (of price and quality) may include a cook and/or house staff, otherwise yes there would be a lot of meals to coordinate.
But if you all set sail on a cruise for your family reunion, it couldn't be easier!
So what is it really like?
The last family cruise I did with my family, there were 17 of us (ages from 8 to 79). Many of us lived in Orlando, so we chose a cruise out of Port Canaveral, just an hour away. We wanted at least a 4 night cruise (3 nights are just too short), so we chose an October cruise that was Monday to Friday.
We booked far in advance, so we had staterooms all very close to each other. I helped everyone with the reservations, monthly or periodic payments, and all the paperwork.
As our cruise got closer, those coming from out of town began to arrive and I booked us into condos for the night before. On the day of our cruise, we had a large van and driver to get us from Orlando to Port Canaveral.
Checking in was easy - each family checked in at the desk (this was before the mobile check-in was available) and we headed to our staterooms. I made magnets to put on our doors to identify our group's staterooms.
Each day we had dinner together - with so many, we were split into 2 tables, so we took turns rotating with different dinner partners. We mostly did breakfast and dinner on our own.
On the day we were in Nassau, about half of us went off the ship together and explored the town and did some shopping, the rest stayed on board.
On the day we were at Cococay, almost all of us went off the ship and onto the island together, including 79 year old mom in a beach wheelchair!
We took a lot of family photos together - dressed up for dinner, and dressed up for Halloween (we sailed the last week of October and were at sea for Halloween) in our costumes.
Did we enjoy it? Well, since we are booked for another family cruise, that would be a resounding yes! Our October 2020 plans had to be shifted but we will be at sea together again in October 2021!
Why have your family reunion on a cruise?
The cruise line (and I) do most of the work for you! You and your family decide on the itinerary (with my help), and then you just send them my contact information and I do all the paperwork to make the reservations.
Can we have rooms near each other? And eat meals together?
If we plan far enough in advance, and you all have similar category staterooms, then absolutely! And I can have you all seated together for dinner (if you want).
But what if I don't want to spend all my vacation time with my family?
That's the beauty of cruising - you don't have to! Make a plan to do dinner together every night (or just most nights), and spend your days doing what YOU want to do. Maybe you all do one or two excursions together, and maybe you have a breakfast or a lunch together. Or not - you all can decide.
Is there anything special offered to groups on a cruise?
Yes there are! If you book far enough in advance, there are discounted pricing options. If your group is large enough for the cruise line's minimum number for a group (usually 8 cabins), one person sails for free (not including port charges and taxes). And your group may get perks like a private cocktail party, or onboard credits. And we can even set up your excursions as a private group!
When should we start planning?
NOW! With all the 2020 plans that were cancelled, millions of people have credits to use for future travel, and 2022 is already filling up, especially during peak times like when kids are out of school. A deposit would be required for each person, with final payment usually due about 100 days before sailing, and I can also help with monthly or periodic payments if you wish.
So, what are you waiting for?