How To Take the Extended Family on a Cruise

One of the hottest trends in travel right now 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 mega liners launched with video arcades, designated kids areas, planned activities, and youth counselors, over 20 years ago.

No, I’m talking about the mother of all family get-togethers, the multi-generation, 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 two 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 to the Atlanta airport and flew together to the departure port in Barcelona, Spain, making the trip less stressful for those in our group that 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.

Floating Family Reunion

If a floating family reunion is on your horizon, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. First, if you will need eight or more cabins, you may qualify for a “group” discount, which is typically lower than the early-bird discounts offered to individuals. 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 6-star, luxury lines.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 onboard from souvenirs and specialty dinners to spa treatments and shore excursions. As an added bonus, families can also reserve onboard space for private gatherings.
  4. Finally, if your group books at least eight double-occupancy cabins through a 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.

On this site, 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 and they are experts in handling family reunions, church and civic groups, alumni associations, business conferences, and seminars at sea.

Cruise Deals

Celebrity is offering discounts up to 66% and shipboard credits of $75 to $250 per cabin on most 2012 and 2013 cruises and cruise tours. Select Caribbean sailings also qualify for free, pre-paid gratuities, valued from $161 to $420 per cabin. Click here for dates and prices.

For a very limited time, Carnival is offering discounts up to 80% on select sailings between now and May 2013. Book by October 11, click here for dates and prices.

Also, Carnival is offering its past passengers new discounts up to 80% and a free upgrade to the best available cabin within the same cabin type on certain sailings. Click here for dates and prices, and call us by Thursday to book either of these Carnival deals.

(Note: Past passengers of Carnival’s sister companies — Costa, Cunard, Holland America, Princess and Seabourn — are also eligible for these upgrades and past-passenger rates on Carnival.)

Oceania is offering discounts up to 76% and shipboard credits of $200 to $850 per cabin on certain 2013 summer sailings in Alaska, Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and more. Book by November 30, click here for dates and prices.

And finally, kids 17 and under sail FREE on Disney Cruise Line when sharing a cabin with two adults on select Disney Magic sailings departing from Galveston, TX. Click here for dates and prices.

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