Several times over the years, three generations of my family have gathered on a cruise ship, as we have all determined that a cruise is simply the best venue there is for our family reunions. It seems to me that I see more and more extended families when I cruise.
In 2000, I cruised Costa Rica and Panama on the 100-passenger Temptress Explorer (now the Pacific Explorer), and a single family comprised nearly a third of the passengers on the boat. The patriarch was a 70-year-old physician who had recently retired, accompanied by his wife, sons, daughters, their spouses and mostly teenage grandchildren.
Our cruise was billed as an adventure cruise, and geared toward active and physically fit travelers in their 30s, 40s and 50s. There were no actual port calls during the week-long voyage. We sailed at night and dropped anchor each day alongside an uninhabited beach, rain forest or island. Some days we boarded inflatable Zodiac rafts for the trip ashore, and some days we just jumped off the platform at the back of the ship and swam to shore. The ship offered snorkeling, scuba, kayaking, and water skiing, plus rain forest and mountain hikes to check out the amazing flora and fauna, which included monkeys, parrots, 3-toed sloths and anteaters.
One gray, drizzly morning we set off for a mountain hike that had been described on board as being very physically challenging, and I was surprised to see the physician climb into the Zodiac for the ride to the base of the trail. Perhaps I should not have been surprised, because by that time I knew the physician had tackled the most strenuous offering at every stop, and he already sported stitches in his arm from a tumble down a mountainside on an earlier hike. But here he was again, in fine spirits and looking for a new adventure.
The hike lived up to its billing. We slogged through 6 inches of mud in some spots, climbing up and down hillsides and fording streams at broad shallows. We stopped frequently to allow the physician to catch up when he dropped behind the pace set by our guide, but he never gave up or turned back.
After several miles, our path gradually turned back toward the coast, and I became aware of the sound of rushing water. If you have ever kayaked a river you know the sound I am talking about -- the low, distant roar of white water. We rounded a bend in the path and could see the point of our final crossing, a fairly treacherous stretch of river with slick rocks jutting out of rushing water that was too churned up to reveal its depth. One by one, we waded in, up to our waists.
I remember seeing the physician pacing the bank for a good place to cross, and I wondered again what had possessed him to sign up for this particular hike with its "most strenuous" rating. I remember watching him carefully plant each foot in the water, searching for a level spot among the slippery rocks. Concentrating on my own crossing, I did not see him step into a hole and vanish from sight, but I heard and saw the uproar as teenage grandchildren piled into that deep spot from every direction.
Soaked head to toe and bleeding from the shins, the physician was pulled back to the bank. Our guide carried a first aid kit and attended to his cuts, but under that dense canopy of branches, with the rain falling, it was cool and he was shivering. And we still needed to cross that river.
Then ingenuity struck, and the physician's kith and kin stretched out in a line from one bank to the other, and the founder of the feast was helped from one station to another, until he was again on solid ground.
By that evening, the bandaged physician had become somewhat of a celebrity on our small boat, and the un-related passengers were split as to whether he was a fearless adventurer or, in fact, quite mad. He had assembled his entire family in the jungles of Costa Rica for the ultimate family reunion, and had no doubt created lifelong memories for every participant. He seemed determined to demonstrate that he still had it, and I had to admire him for that.
There's a cruise ship out there that's perfect for any type of family reunion, and our group department (800-514-9986) can make all the arrangements. For those needing 8 or more cabins, it's best to plan at least 6 months in advance to get a low group rate and ensure plenty of availability.
Even if you end up on an adventure cruise, you won't have to test your physical limits, but you can if you want to. I'll bring the first aid kit.
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Vacations To Go