When you start shopping, compare locations and lengths of time as you choose what will work best for your family reunion. Most of the cruise lines have 4-, 5-, and 7-day itineraries starting from major ports across the United States and around the world. You can go shorter too: Carnival has a trip called a Cruise to Nowhere that's only 2 days and departs from either New York or Norfolk -- the focus is on enjoying your time on the ship.
Next, choose your group accommodations. According to Cruise.com, a group cruise is any group sailing together using eight or more staterooms. That number can be easy to reach for a family reunion: The members of each household will take often one or two staterooms each. The pricing of the trip for each family member starts with the size, deck level and location of the stateroom. You'll hear these terms used to describe your stateroom choices:
- Interior -- the room doesn't have windows
- Oceanview -- the room has a porthole or picture window
- Balcony -- the room has a private balcony
- Suite -- the largest rooms on the ship, often with luxurious extras
If you only look at the per-stateroom price, features and prices vary significantly between cruise lines and ships. For example, you could sail Holland America for seven nights in New England and Canada in a deluxe suite for $3,799, or you could sail Carnival in the Bahamas in an oceanview room for less than $300 [sources: Holland America, Carnival]. Don't let these prices fool you, though: When you come together as a group, cruise lines offer many special packages and significant discounts.
After you do this preliminary research, there are two approaches you can take to getting more information and estimates. One way is to contact each cruise line to ask for a vacation planning kit and some customized estimates for your group. This gives you lots of information but takes longer to research. Another approach is to use a travel agent -- agents can help you narrow your search, offering special advice and services customized to your specific family reunion.
As you get estimates and move closer to booking your family reunion cruise, be sure to ask about the following options for your package:
- Costs for your special group events onboard, like private dinners
- Extras and bonus offers, like discounts on shore excursions or shipboard credit to spend at shops, spas, and bars onboard
- Deposit and payment plans for each family member, to avoid a one-time bill up front
Before you make reservations and start to plan activities for your family reunion cruise, check out the important tips on the next page.