Making the most of a family reunion 


The entire motley crew gathered on our final day at sea for a casual family photo. (Kristina Edson)
The entire motley crew gathered on our final day at sea for a casual family photo. (Kristina Edson)


Cruising the perfect way to simplify to-do list

March Break often means family time. And if your family time includes a future family reunion, let one writer’s personal experience serve as a springboard for your next group gathering.

Since most of our family resides in the U.S., my husband and I became experts during the past 21-years at packing up our three kids and hitting the road. We began in 1994 by traveling in a two-door hatchback with one three month-old baby, a diaper bag and plenty of the items one packs when traveling with an infant.

As child two and then three came along the routine stayed the same even if the vehicles got bigger and more crowded. What also stayed the same was how difficult it was to truly visit with everyone once we’d reached our final destination after three long days of driving. Inevitably we’d exhaust ourselves going from one home to the next, one restaurant to the next, and trying to have meaningful visits while making sure to no one was left off the list.

And with pet allergies an issue, the places we could gather with family and friends dwindled year after year.

We also learned it’s not that easy to truly relax and converse in restaurants, public places or standard hotel rooms.

But as anyone who lives far away from loved ones knows, not seeing the family for years at a time is not the answer either.

So after years of Plan A, as described above, we decided to enlist as many extended family members as possible to sign on for a group family reunion cruise. We emailed the entire motley crew spread from Texas to Colorado, and from North Carolina and South Carolina, to Florida, suggesting a cruise that would leave from Port Canaveral, Florida.

The eight day voyage with Carnival Cruise Lines we’d decided on would make stops in  Grand Turk, San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

And while the itinerary sounded enticing enough, it was really the thought of not having to plan anything once everyone who was game had booked.

Cruising includes in the price all you can eat food, a full daily slate of planned activities, entertainment, games, shows, and more.

We’d already taken many cruises with Carnival and were more than happy with each trip, so we felt confident in sharing the experience .

So acting as the self-appointed travel agents, we cajoled, coerced and convinced, and, in the end wound up with a group of eleven booked into four cabins for our Great Family Reunion Cruise 2015.

Setting sail

Experienced cruisers, my husband and I helped those new to the adventure navigate everything from how and what to pack, to the needed documents, luggage tags, and more.

We advised everyone to take advantage of Carnival’s allowance of one bottle of wine per adult over the age of 21, as well as bottled water or an 6-pack of soda.

Once onboard, everyone gathered on the main deck on a hot, sunny day to start an eight day adventure, and soon after, congregated a few decks higher to watch our ship pull away from its homeport and head for the high seas.

During the eight days we chartered a private snorkeling trip on Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos, sipped rum punch while sitting seaside on a beach in St. Maarten, ate the best jerk chicken we’d ever tasted, which was grilled on the spot by a St. Thomas local and food magician, and fell in love with San Juan, its history and cobblestoned beauty (our daughter likened it to a Caribbean Old Montreal, or Old Quebec City.)

More importantly however, the eleven of us really got to know each other again. We sat by the pool and chatted. We played cards together. We ate dinner at the same table every night, and were all there to mark a milestone birthday.

We went to comedy shows together (not always good to sit front and centre if one person is apt to be outspoken, as was our experience…) We formed a trivia team one night called the Cantaloupes and won by combining smarts, physical skills and more!

We sang karaoke, sometimes made fools of ourselves and generally had an unforgettable time.

What we learned was that planning a family reunion that doesn’t necessitate booking entertainment and hotel rooms and making endless restaurant reservations is a gift in itself. It could as easily be at an all-inclusive resort, but in our case, the Great Family Reunion Cruise 2015 was one for the books. That is until we start planning the next one.





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