In recent years, attendance at the national genealogy conferences has eroded; yet, during the same time, the number of genealogy cruises has expanded greatly. I find it fascinating to compare the traditional conferences versus the "conferences at sea" sponsored by several genealogy software companies. Thousands of genealogists now spend their leisure time attending seminars at sea. Indeed, most of the cruises are quite similar to genealogy conferences with a few minor differences.
This week I'll compare the two leading four-day U.S. national conferences versus a twelve-day genealogy cruise to Hawaii.
I have a strong interest in these since I plan to attend both national conferences this year as well as some cruises. I'll be reporting on each event as it comes to pass.
Several genealogy cruises are available each year. For this article, I will focus on the cruise sponsored by the producers of Legacy Family Tree, an excellent genealogy program for Windows. Previous Legacy Family Tree cruises have been sold out some months before the dates of the cruises. This year's cruise probably will be the same.
The 2007 Legacy Family Tree cruise will be a twelve-day event on Carnival's Spirit cruise ship, departing from Vancouver, British Columbia, on September 19. You may find it cheaper and easier to fly to Seattle and then spend $49.50 for a shuttle bus to Vancouver.
The cruise will spend five days at sea, followed by a week visiting various Hawaiian Islands. Participants will use the cruise ship as their hotel and base of operations. There will be two-day stops in both Maui and Honolulu. On most other evenings, the ship will weigh anchor and head to the next port of call in the darkness. The next morning, cruise participants will awake to find they are in a different tropical port of call with various shore expeditions available. At the end of the cruise, participants can fly directly home from Honolulu. Of course, you might want to stay a few more days in Paradise before flying home!
This is an easy and comfortable way to spend a vacation: you see new scenery most every day without ever having to repack your suitcase in mid-vacation.
Yes, there are numerous differences between land-based genealogy conferences and the Legacy Family Tree genealogy cruise. Here are a few differences that pop to my mind:
Actually, there isn't as much difference in pricing as you might expect.
Attendance at a traditional four-day genealogy conference can easily exceed $1,000 ($200 or so for admission to the event, $30 to $40 or so to attend each of the various luncheons sponsored at the conference, $40 or so for the Friday night conference banquet, about $150 per night for a hotel room for four or five nights, plus a number of restaurant meals and other, miscellaneous expenses).
If you attend four sponsored conference luncheons as well as the conference banquet and spend five nights in a hotel, total expenses will be around $1,200 or so. That's roughly $400 a day and does not include transportation to and from the conference city. You can save $75 a day or so if you share the hotel room with someone.
This year's 12-day Hawaiian cruise sponsored by the developers of Legacy Family Tree costs $880 to $1390 per person (plus port charges and taxes), depending upon the cabin class selected. That includes all meals, all "hotel" fees, and admission to all genealogy seminars. Of course, those prices are for a 12-day event, not four days. Even adding in the port charges and taxes, that works out to $81 to $118 per person per day, assuming you share the cabin with someone else. The average price is close to $100 a day, much cheaper than the $325 to $400 per day to attend a land-based conference.
Keep in mind that I am comparing a four-day conference versus a twelve-day cruise, so the price per day might be a bit misleading. The total cost is in the neighborhood of $1,000 plus airfare for both events. Of course, that begs the question: would you rather spend a thousand dollars to spend four days in Richmond or Fort Wayne or the same amount of money to spend twelve days on a cruise ship in the Hawaiian Islands?
Cruise ship cabins tend to be significantly smaller than hotel rooms. Of course, you probably won't spend much time in your room/cabin, whether at a land-based conference or on a cruise.
Have you ever been on a cruise ship? If so, you already know what the food is like: cruise ships pride themselves on the gourmet-quality meals they serve. Most ships serve four, five, or six multi-course meals a day, plus the ship's snack bars are generally open around the clock. Have you eaten in a conference hall snack bar or at the sponsored luncheons or the Friday evening banquet? Let's be kind and simply say that the word "gourmet" does not pop to mind.
What can I say? We are comparing week-long visits to four Hawaiian Islands, with overnight stays in Honolulu and Maui, versus four days in downtown Fort Wayne or Richmond. As the brochure says, Hawaii includes "spectacular mountains, verdant forests, active volcanoes, and shimmering, thundering waterfalls."
Both the national conferences and the cruise ships offer "off premises" tours and other activities. Generally speaking, the cruise ships are a bit more organized as excursions are a major part of their business. Of course, a twelve-day cruise also offers many more opportunities for excursions than does a four-day land-based conference.
Number of presentations:
The land-based conferences win this one hands down. Traditional national genealogy conferences typically offer 150 or more presentations versus a dozen or so genealogy presentations sponsored by a software company on a cruise ship. Of course, the cruise ship presentations tend to be much more focused with a mix of topics about the company's products plus other presentations that will appeal to all genealogists. If you use the company's products, you may find that you are interested in all or nearly all of the presentations.
Topics of presentations
Again, the land-based conferences win this one hands down. The major national conferences provide presentations covering a wealth of topics. In the case of the Legacy Family Tree genealogy cruise, more than half the topics are specific to Legacy, with other topics of interest to genealogists filling in the remainder. Of course, if you are a user of Legacy Family Tree or are contemplating becoming such a user, that might be an excellent agenda for you.
I have compared cruises against traditional conferences. Admittedly, some people will be able to attend both this year. However, I suspect that most people with limited budgets or limited time off will have to choose only one vacation expenditure per year. Which would you rather attend: a four-day genealogy session in an American city or twelve-day genealogy cruise to Hawaii? Both cost roughly the same.
I am ignoring airfare. If you live close to one of the conference locations or to the cruise departure point, the difference in airfare could be significant.
I am fortunate that I will be to attend several major conferences and some cruises this year. I will join the developers of Legacy Family Tree on the twelve-day Hawaiian genealogy cruise on September 19 through October 1, 2007. I will be listening to the Legacy experts as they demonstrate the finer points of that program. I will also make a few presentations of my own to the genealogists on board. My presentations will be about other topics, leaving Legacy Family Tree to the developers. I plan to discuss and perhaps demonstrate some high-tech topics of interest to genealogists.
Will I see you in Hawaii?
You can learn more about the Legacy Family Tree cruise to Hawaii at http://www.legacyfamilytree.com/CruiseInfo_2007.asp. If you do have questions, please contact cruise director Christy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am told that it looks like the Legacy Family Tree cruise will be sold out before long. If you decide to would like to join us, I'd suggest you register soon at https://www.legacyfamilytree.net/Secure/OrderCruise2007.htm.