How To Plan A Family Reunion Cruise

OASIS and Grandeur at CozumelFamily reunion cruises offer a unique hassle free setting where everyone, young and old, can enjoy a vacation at their own pace.

Not only are family reunion cruises affordable, they are in many cases cheaper than traditional land based reunions.

They also happen to require less planning and provide much more value for every dollar spent.

If you are planning a family reunion cruise, you’ll quickly realize three things very quickly

  1. That you won’t be able to make everyone happy, so do not expect to.
  2. That family reunion cruises require an organized person who can build consensus within differing parts of the family.
  3. That it’s a lot easier to plan a family reunion cruise than a land based one.

How is it easier?

The biggest difference in planning a land based reunion versus a cruise based one is the number of things to plan for.

Whereas a regular family reunion requires careful planning of meals, entertainment and activities, a cruise requires none at all.

Just about all the activities, entertainment and meals are included in the price of admission so your family reunion guests can do whatever, whenever, without having to worry about the cost.

Another advantage is that the cruise is paid for upfront so the organizer does not have to put up his/her funds. The only thing a family reunion cruise planner has to do is get a consensus of where the family would like to go and how much they are willing to spend. Once the deposits are made, and the cruise is paid for, there is very little on board responsibility for the organizer.

If you are looking to plan a family reunion cruise that is affordable, fun and offers a chance for everyone to catch up, then here are the necessary steps.

Plan early

You Know it's the Carnival Cruise Ship | 06/2012 - 004

Get things started at least one year ahead of the expected departure month. While you can plan a family reunion cruise in less time, ideally you want at least a year. Planning early affords many advantages as you can get cheaper group cruise rates, your choice of staterooms, and preferred dining times.

Planning early will also increase the attendance at the family reunion cruise since more people will have time to take of work and include the trip in their budget.

Select two volunteers

Select two other family members to help you get started. Select them on how well you get along as well as what they bring to the table. At least one person in your group should be good at communicating information with family members. Another should have some experience negotiating (It will come in handy when you start to get group cruise rates) and one should be good at doing research.

Finally, at least one of you should be familiar with setting up a family reunion website (It’s easier than you think, we’ll show you how) and updating your family members with any new information

Conduct research on destinations, and cruise lines


Start researching destinations first. Select three (and no more than that) distinct places that your family may want to cruise to. You should base these choices on budget, departure port, and airfare cost (if any).

For example, in a previous cruise that we planned, we asked if our east coast based family would like to have a reunion cruise to the Bahamas(Relatively Cheap), Alaska(Average cost), or a Mediterranean Cruise (Expensive).

We ended up having our family reunion cruise aboard a ship to the Bahamas because it was easiest for our family to cruise to from Orlando. Not only was the departure port close, the cost to sail was well within the budget. Alaska was another choice but required a cross country flight to Seattle to get to our departure port. The flight and hotel stay made the trip moderately expensive. The third choice was a Mediterranean cruise that was extremely expensive since it required overseas travel, hotel stays and ate up a lot of vacation time.

Family reunion cruise tip – Select departure cities based on where most of the family is located. While it would be great to go to an exotic location, getting to the departure port city can be a big hassle and will cut down on the number of people that can attend. Instead, select a departure city that is close to most people and is easy to fly into (New York, Miami etc.) for those that don’t live within driving distance.

For help in researching destinations, use

  1. Cruise ship websites like Carnival, Princess, Celebrity etc.
  2. Travel Agent brochures
  3. Websites like

Once you have narrowed the choices to three destinations, it’s time to contact family members

Contact family members

Voyager Pool DeckNowadays, most people have email addresses/Facebook profiles so it should not be hard to get in touch with everyone.

Collect as many email addresses as you can before sending out your first one. In this first email, include the following text:

”Dear Family,
We are planning on a family reunion cruise for some time next summer (When all the kids are out of school). In the coming weeks, we are going to be setting up a website(include URL of Website) to update everyone on the details of what will be an incredible trip to (hopefully) an island somewhere down south.

In order to get everyone’s opinion, we will be posting polls on the website so make sure to visit and answer the questions we have about the family reunion cruise. We will be sending out another email in the next couple of weeks letting you know when the website is set up.

In the meantime, we are missing the email addresses/telephone numbers of the following family members. Please either forward me the contact information or have them contact me directly at the number below.
I look forward to planning this vacation and hope everyone can join us on what will be a vary unique family reunion.”

Thank you,

You name

Once you have gathered all the email addresses, set up a website (Go to to set up a family reunion website. It costs about $10/month and is very easy to use) or set up a facebook group if you feel that most of your family members have accounts there.

Use the website to communicate things like what families have committed to the cruise, what activities onboard may be fun for the family to do, select excursions etc. Most of all though, use the website to post polls about preferred dates and destinations.

Narrow your choices to finalize

Celebrity Cruises MillenniumBefore you can ask any questions on the website, you have to know what to ask.

Don’t ask open ended questions like “Where would you like to cruise?”

Instead, limit choices to a maximum of three of the following question

  1. Where would they like to cruise to? (Include the three destinations with how much the approximate cost is per person)
  2. Preferable length of Cruise (3,5, or 7 day cruise)- Generally, a five to seven day cruise works best for family reunions.
  3. Month to travel in (Select three months as choices)- Encourage family members to email you dates that absolutely won’t work within these months so you can narrow the choices down even further.

In the poll make sure to include approximately how much the family reunion cruise will cost per person so everyone can make a knowledgeable decision. If you need to get group rates for a family reunion cruise, then click here to get started.

Once you have the polls set up on the website, send out another email to family reunion members to get them to vote. Make sure to include a date that voting will stop.

Once you have a decision on destination and a headcount, its time to finalize on a date.

Select three dates of departure that you feel are best for the destination selected and have your family reunion attendees vote on which one works best. With dates, length of cruise and destination in mind, you are ready to get group cruise rates.

Group rates for family reunion cruises

Don’t make the mistake of having all your family reunion attendees book their cruises separately. Take advantage of the fact that you are going to need a lot of rooms (Staterooms, in this case), so book as a group.

There are many advantages of booking as a group, some of which are listed below,

  1. Lower group rates for cruises
  2. One free stateroom for every eight (Double occupancy) booked
  3. Free champagne and chocolate reception
  4. Free meeting room/banquet hall for dinner
  5. Dining together as a family

When looking for group rates for cruises, you’ll want to compare rates from several cruise companies. Instead of filling out multiple group rates forms on individual cruise websites, just fill out one form on our website and get group rates for cruise. It’s a lot easier, faster and you’re guaranteed the lowest rates.

How to select a cruise line for your family reunion

Cruise Vacation | Carnival Magic Cruise Ship | 06/2012 -001Once you have quotes from multiple cruise lines, it’s time to sit and compare what you’re being offered.

The primary things to look at are group cruise rates for your attendees, and the number of free rooms that are being offered.

You may also be offered free group photos, soda punch cards, champagne and chocolate reception, a free banquet hall for dinner, preferred times for a group dinner, or even an onboard credit for things like spas and gambling.

Also when selecting a cruise ship for your family reunion, make sure that it has activities for all age groups. Families span multiple generations and you, as the planner, need to make sure that everyone has a good time.

Family reunion cruise tip – Select a large cruise line that has a lot of experience dealing with family reunions. Larger cruise lines also tend to have activities and entertainment more suitable for a family reunion cruise.

Once you have the offers, just compare and select the one that suits your family the best.

Book the group cruise

Having made the choice of destination, dates, and cruise line, you’re now ready to book the group cruise. Let the cruise line know how many rooms you’ll need and have them place a hold on them.

Inform your guests that they will have to pay a deposit for every room that is blocked. Subsequent payments for the rooms are the responsibility of the attendees and the cruise lines will provide the dates that everything needs to be paid for.

Before making the final booking, make sure to understand the cancellation policies of the cruise line that you selected. At this point, you may want to consider travel insurance to protect against any loss due to a family emergency.

Plan the activities or not

Cruise ShipThere are so many activities onboard a ship that its impossible to do everything as a group. Everyone will want to do something different and you should plan for that to happen

Instead of planning group activities, send out emails describing all the things that are onboard the ship and encourage smaller groups within the family to plan their own activities. Family members that are more into fitness may choose to take a rock climbing class together whereas the people interested on cooking may decide to take a small class on that.

Excursions on different ports can also be planned, or not. The rules for onboard activities applies here as well. You wont be able to get the entire group to agree on one excursion so its better if you let your family members make their own plans based on their own interests. Make sure to post all the excursions on the website and let family members discuss and decide amongst themselves.

Group dining

Dining as a group is probably the most enjoyable portion of the family reunion cruise. The time spent together as a group at night is what most people seem to remember long after the cruise is over. Not only does dinner together give people a chance to go over what they did or will do the following day, they also use it to catch up.

When you book the cruise as a group, you are given a choice to book specific dining times. Make sure to book these as soon as you commit to the cruise. If you wait too long, your group won’t be able to dine together and you’ll miss out on what most family reunion members refer to as the best part of the cruise.

Final plans

Make sure everyone has their passports well ahead of the departure date.

If you have family reunion members are flying in from out of town the night before the cruise, make sure they have accommodations at a hotel near the port. If you have need more than ten hotel rooms, then make sure to get a group hotel discount.

Following the above plans will help you organize and plan a great family reunion cruise. You’ll be able to secure great group cruise rates, and provide a wonderful service to the rest of the family.

Lastly, don’t be surprised if your family appoints you to plan the next family reunion cruise while you are onboard this one. Enjoy the cruise.

What should you do next?

Take a look at our family reunion cruise page. You’ll learn how to save money on your next cruise, how to get group rates for cruises, and other frequently asked questions.

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