Genealogy Cruises versus Convention Centers

Several genealogy cruises take place every year. Cruising genealogists get to enjoy “how to” presentations and courses, software demonstrations, presentations describing the latest genealogy techniques, good food, gorgeous scenery, and adventurous shore excursions. What could be better?

Occasionally we hear claims that interest in genealogy is declining. These claims are based on the fact that attendance at some genealogy conferences is less than that of a few years ago. Yet everywhere else we look, we see proof of the opposite.

RootsTech attracted nearly 13,000 people this year. While it is held in the “genealogy Mecca” of Salt Lake City, that’s not bad for a mid-winter event! Who Do You Think You Are? Live! held in England a few months ago attracted 15,000 attendees. The accompanying Who Do You Think You Are? television series about genealogy is popular in several countries around the world.

Thousands of genealogy web sites also attest to the current level of interest. The number of genealogy programs available for handheld computers is increasing faster than ever before and the latest growth is in cloud-based genealogy programs. Several of the software producers are reporting record sales. Finally, genealogy “theme cruises” attract more and more people every year.

I’d say that genealogy is alive and more popular than ever!

Three or four different genealogy cruises are held each year, and hundreds of genealogists, spouses, children, and friends apparently enjoy them. Most of the genealogy cruises operate on a somewhat similar concept: take a vacation to one or more exotic spots, hold seminars on genealogy topics on the days at sea, and then spend the days in port sightseeing. The number and variety of presentations vary from one cruise to another, but I would describe all of them as “floating genealogy conferences.”

Indeed, genealogy cruises have much in common with the larger genealogy conferences held in convention centers in various American cities. Attendees may attend genealogy seminars with each lasting from one to perhaps two hours. Attendees may also choose from “one-on-one” consultations with the genealogy experts on board, special breakfasts, luncheons, and sometimes genealogy dinners while on board. These sessions are normally held in meeting rooms and are not available to the other passengers on board.

Of course, one major advantage of a genealogy cruise versus a normal conference is the venue: instead of sitting on hard chairs and staring at the inside of a conference center’s meeting rooms all day, cruisers get to see exotic ports of call and sit in luxurious meeting rooms. The seat cushions are definitely better on cruise ships!

In the time between presentations, which would you rather see: the downtown section of some American city or the downtown section of Oranjestad, Aruba, or perhaps Bergen, Norway? Genealogy cruisers will have their choice of these and other locations on future cruises.

The price of a genealogy cruise is competitive with that of most conferences. Cruises typically cost $125 to $175 a day per person plus the price of airfare to get to and from the departure port. Most land-based conferences cost that much or more. In contrast, cruises typically last seven days and occasionally fourteen days. Most land-based conferences last one to four days.

Needless to say, spouses and other family members who are not interested in genealogy generally prefer a cruise ship to a conference held downtown in some city.

Another major difference is the food. If you have attended a genealogy conference and have also been on a cruise ship, you know what I am talking about. The “rubber chicken” luncheons served in convention center banquet halls may be luxury when compared to the dried-out hamburgers and greasy French fries under the heat lamps at the convention center’s snack bar. Contrast those with the luxury meals served on cruise ships. Most ships serve five or six gourmet meals per day, and the snack bars remain open 24 hours a day.

I well remember one dinner on a cruise ship a few years ago. While cruising off the west coast of Mexico, diners were offered Maine lobster as one of the choices at dinner. This Maine native can tell you that it was delicious, even though we were probably 4,000 miles from Maine. Yes, it was authentic Northern Atlantic lobster. After serving the main course, the maitre d’ returned and asked if anyone wanted seconds. I accepted, as did several others at the table. About twenty minutes later, the maitre d’ returned again and asked if anyone was interested in a third helping! (I resisted.) When was the last time you had a similar experience at a convention center banquet hall?

Then there are the pastries. Cruise ship pastry chefs must be some of the best in the world.

The genealogy lecture topics on cruise ships vary widely. A comparison of the presentations on any one cruise is somewhat similar to those found at a typical state or regional genealogy conference although not as long as those of the national conferences.

When compared to traditional genealogy conferences, you will note one other thing is missing entirely on cruise ships: the exhibitors’ hall.

This year’s cruises include:

Eastern Caribbean Genealogy Cruise

Gary and Diana Smith are sponsoring a genealogy cruise in the eastern Caribbean December 7 to 14 of this year. They will be offering presentations on a variety of topics, aided by Jana Sloan Broglin, CG and myself. The week-long cruise should be great fun on board the Celebrity Silhouette, one of Celebrity Cruise Line’s new, magnificent, Solstice Class ships. Celebrity Silhouette encompasses all the amenities and grandeur of a 5 star resort hotel while sailing to some of the most interesting destinations in the Caribbean. Genealogists on board can indulge in five course gourmet dining, marvel at spectacular nightly entertainment, and ashore, explore the uniqueness of each port-of-call.

The Genealogy Cruise will depart Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on December 7, stop at San Juan, Puerto Rico; Basseterre, St. Kitts; St, Maarten; and return to Fort Lauderdale on December 14. The week-long cruise includes three days spent at sea, days in which genealogy presentations will be offered on board. Guests traveling on the Genealogy Cruise may make a request to arrange a private meeting with one of the host genealogists.

You can learn more about the eastern Caribbean Genealogy Cruise and even watch a video at
10th Annual Genealogy Conference and Cruise

Heritage Books, Inc., in consultation with Wholly Genes, Inc., will sponsor the 10th Annual Genealogy Conference and Cruise will start in Los Angeles on November 29, cruise the “Mexican Riviera,” then return to Los Angeles on December 6, 2014. Stops along the way include: Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. The weather is usually gorgeous that time of year along Mexico’s west coast.

This year’s speakers include: Angie Bush, a professional genetic genealogist; Cyndi Ingle, creator, owner and “webmaster” of the award-winning web site Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites; Bill Litchman, lecturer and frequent author of articles in many leading genealogy magazines; J. Mark Lowe, a full-time professional genealogist, author, and lecturer; Craig Roberts Scott, popular lecturer and author of numerous books and articles in leading magazine magazines. The cruise will feature approximately 17 hours of genealogy, technology and DNA lectures presented by the preeminent experts in their fields.

The cruise offers the opportunity to share a meal with a world-class genealogist or to schedule one-on-one time to discuss their specific research challenges. Some people find these private consultations alone to be worth the trip. Several evening group brickwall discussions add to the learning experience.

You can learn more about the Annual Genealogy Conference and Cruise at
Unlock the Past Cruises

Unlock the Past Cruises are organized by Alan Phillips of Australia. However, the cruises take place in various parts of the world.

A British Isles Discovery cruise being held from 19 July 2014 to 29 July (that’s ten nights!) will start in Tilbury, London, then visit Invergordon, Scotland; Kirkwall, Orkney Islands; Stornoway, Outer Hebrides; Tobermory, Isle of Mull; Dublin, Ireland; St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly; St Peter Port, Guernsey; Honfleur, France; and then return to Tilbury, London.

The presenters will include an all-star cast: Paul Blake (from England), Jackie Depelle (from England), Marie Dougan (from Scotland), Eileen Ó Dúill (from Ireland), Sean Ó Dúill (from Ireland), and Alan Phillips (from Australia). Besides being the cruise organizer, Alan Phillips is the founder of numerous other ventures such as Gould Genealogy & History which is Australia’s biggest genealogy retail/webstore.

Not content with one cruise this year, Unlock the Past Cruises wil hold a SECOND cruise of the year: a 3 night cruise out of Sydney, Australia, as a prelude to an optional Norfolk Island tour after. The Norfolk Island tour is an optional 5 day tour starting the day after the end of the cruise. The cruise will be held on board the 4.5 star Celebrity Solstice, rated as one of the finest ships operating in Australia by any of the major cruise lines. If you are new to cruising this short 3 night cruise is an ideal way to try out cruising – at a lower cost than most of the other cruises. You can do the cruise on its own or bundle it with the 5 day Norfolk Island tour or do the Norfolk Island tour only.

You can learn more about Unlock the Past Cruises at
Cruising with Legacy Family Tree 2014

The producers of Legacy Family Tree software are holding two (yes, count them: TWO!) genealogy cruises this year. They will be held back-to-back: The The first cruise will be packed with Genealogy Classes on each sea day. The second cruise is for those who want to continue on and see more of Asia.

The first cruise will be held October 26 through November 9, 2014, starting in Yokohama, Japan. The second cruise starts the same day the first cruise ends and is on the same ship. If you sign up for both cruises, you keep the same stateroom. The second cruise runs from November 9 through November 23, 2014, ending in Singapore. If you sign up for both cruises, you will visit Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, China and more. Sail between Singapore and Hong Kong with overnight calls in Bangkok, Thailand; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and the majestic Halong Bay, Vietnam. On the days at sea you will be able to attend genealogy classes taught by some of genealogy’s leading speakers and educators. There will be a variety of genealogy and technology classes, as well as classes specific to Legacy Family Tree taught by its developers.

You can learn more about the Legacy Family Tree 2014 cruise at

Indeed, genealogy is alive and well in the twenty-first century. One major difference I see is that many genealogists prefer to attend genealogy conferences on the high seas instead of in a conference center in some city.

If you would like to combine an excellent vacation and a genealogy conference, you might investigate one or more of these cruises. You and your family are sure to enjoy them.


Dick, I would be interested in finding out about presenting on one of these cruises. How is that experience vs conventions? Is there a contact to send resumes or such? Or do you have to know “someone” to get in. As a speaker what is the cost/stipend? Any insight welcomed. Marcia


    Hi Marcia,

    I don’t think there is any standardized method of submitting a proposal. The cruises I have been aware of were by invitation. I suspect it wouldn’t hurt to let a cruise organizer know of your interest, however.


Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer May 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm

The one thing that makes me nervous about a genealogy cruise is: I have never gotten seasick in a hotel, but I have gotten seasick on ships more than once, so I have decided to restrict my cruising to river cruises. All the genealogy cruises appear to be on ocean liners.


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