One of the hottest trends in travel is taking the entire family to sea. I'm not talking about just the immediate family -- cruise ships have been the best vacation venue for parents with kids since the first megaliners launched over 20 years ago with video arcades, designated kids areas, planned activities and youth counselors.
No, I'm talking about the mother of all family get-togethers, the multigeneration, extended-family reunion. With grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, adult children, college students on breaks, teens, pre-teens and toddlers -- even in-laws.
Far-flung relations from different states or countries, running the gamut of tastes, interests and physical capabilities, are finding vacations at sea are just the ticket to a great reunion.
I've arranged three of these reunions for my own extended family over the years, and I have fond memories of them all. On our first trip, when my son was only 2 years old, we all met in Miami for a sun-and-fun cruise to the warm Caribbean. A few years later, we reconvened in beautiful Vancouver for a more active and adventurous Alaska Inside Passage cruise. And several years after that, we explored the history, culture, architecture and food of great European cities on a cruise of the Mediterranean.
For that third trip, I coordinated our flights so that we all connected in the Atlanta airport and flew together to the departure port in Barcelona, making the trip less stressful for those in our group who had never been to Europe.
When I recall these trips, I vividly remember how stress-free they were. Unlike the classic out-of-town reunion, no one is the "host" and no single person is responsible for keeping everyone happy and entertained. The list of possibilities for fun and excitement is far greater on a cruise than anywhere else.
If a floating family reunion is on your horizon, here are some things to keep in mind.
First, if you will need eight or more cabins, you may qualify for a "group" discount. Most cruise lines require at least eight double-occupancy cabins for this rate, but occasionally the requirement drops to as low as five cabins, especially on six-star, luxury lines.
Second, you will need to book early in order to qualify for group discounts and to be assured that there will be space for your entire group. Most cruise lines offer group rates starting a year or more prior to departure, and withdraw them five or six months in advance of departure. It is not possible to establish a new group at the last-minute, though it is sometimes possible to add cabins to an existing group close to departure.
Third, cruise groups often qualify for special perks or freebies. These can include a cocktail party, bon voyage gifts or shipboard credit, which can be used for anything on board -- from souvenirs and specialty dinners to spa treatments and shore excursions. As an added bonus, families also can reserve onboard space for private gatherings.
Finally, if your group books at least eight double-occupancy cabins through our Group Department, one member of your group will cruise for free (this does not include air or port charges), or you can reduce everyone's discounted group rate by a prorated amount. Sometimes the organizer of the trip takes that freebie, but frequently it is shared among all guests.
To help you find the perfect family getaway at the best price, visit our family travel website, FamilyCruise.com. There, you can read about which lines offer kids-only facilities and activities and find the answers to your family's most important cruise questions.
And when you're ready to book your cruise, we have a Group Department that specializes in bookings of five or more cabins. They are experts in handling family reunions, church and civic groups, alumni associations, business conferences and seminars at sea. To speak to someone in our Group Department, call 800-338-4962, prompt 2.
Vacations To Go