Planning a family reunion often can be more enjoyable in theory than in fact, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) says in a new backgrounder on family-reunion cruise vacations. “Picking the place, the food, the activities and the entertainment that every member will enjoy and appreciate can be close to impossible. This is particularly true when the group includes all ages, families with children, couples without children, singles, seniors and teens,” CLIA says. CLIA’s solution within the reach and budget of every extended family: a family reunion cruise vacation.
“There really is no better way to bring families together for a reunion than on a cruise, and certainly no easier vacation to plan. We urge families to use a professional travel agent to help pick the voyage that best suits their budgets, interests and expectations. The result will be lasting happy memories for everyone,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO of CLIA. “Shipboard multigenerational group vacations, including family reunions, represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the cruise industry for many reasons, not the least of which is the extraordinary ease of planning. Almost 90 percent of cruise vacations are sold by travel agents who do all the work—from talking with any or all members of the group to assess their needs and expectations, to recommending a cruise that matches those requirements and working with the cruise line to obtain the best price and make all the arrangements. Once onboard most cruise ships that cater to groups, the family has access to around-the-clock services and assistance of group and event coordinators who ensure that needs are met and activities run smoothly.
“The top reason why cruises and family reunions are the perfect match—and very easy to plan— is that on a cruise, all family members can do whatever they want, when they want, individually or with others," Dale continued. "There are babysitters for the youngest travelers, supervised activities for toddlers and young children, clubs and dances for teens and a broad range of activities for adults and seniors. Depending on the ship, recreational activities may include climbing walls or ice skating rinks, spa and fitness programs, dance lessons, cooking classes, wine tastings or other learning opportunities. Multiple choices of dining experiences and venues—from poolside snacks to the most elegant haute cuisine—ensures that all guests enjoy themselves in the style and ambiance they prefer. Daily entertainment, from movies to spectacular Broadway- style musicals, guarantees that every taste and interest is accommodated. And, in each port— there may be as many as six different destinations visited during a seven-day cruise—a wide variety of shore excursions, including golf on some of the world’s best courses, means land excursions of interest to everyone.”
“The choices of things to do and ways to enjoy the cruise mean that every member of the group can plan his or her own vacation. Individuals may choose to pursue their own interests, families or pairings of families may choose to share experiences, or the entire reunion group may choose to share meals or nightly entertainment. The possibilities are limitless, and, most important, no one in the group is stuck with planning for everyone, pleading for consensus or risking hurt feelings,” CLIA says.
Key selling points include:
• With pricing that includes accommodations, meals, entertainment, use of most of the ship’s recreational facilities, and travel from destination to destination, any cruise represents excellent value for money spent. Cruise lines also make special offers to groups. Depending on the company, these include reduced fares for groups as small as eight guests and free berths for every 10 to 15 paying passengers.
• Family groups may have the option to ensure even greater value by purchasing everything in advance, from cruise fares to shore excursions, drink packages, spa packages, and even pre-paid gratuities.
• Further savings can be realized through reduced fares for third and fourth passengers in each stateroom and some cruise lines offer “kids sail free” programs.
• CLIA member cruise lines offer vacations as short as a weekend, making it possible to find an itinerary that meets every family reunion’s needs.
• Family reunions may have opportunities to take advantage of accommodation upgrades, private events and special shipboard credits and complimentary amenities ranging from free family photos to “Fountain Soda Cards” to special family meals.
• Some cruise lines offer personalized shore excursions: customized programs that fit the needs and wishes of a family reunion group.
• From voyages down the great rivers of Europe or along the coast of New England and Canada to the tropical beaches of the Caribbean, the charm of the Mediterranean and the glaciers of Alaska, the diversity of cruise experiences offered by CLIA member lines means that there is a family-friendly cruise vacation for every interest and budget.