It has been quiet on this newsletter for the past week - simply because I wasn't here much. I was on board the Caribbean Princess cruise ship, along with about 350 other genealogists. We all enjoyed a wide variety of genealogy presentations made by several genealogy experts, including:
Robert Charles Anderson
John Grenham (from Ireland)
Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak
John Titford (from England)
Members of the Wholly Genes staff provided presentations on different operations within The Master Genealogist. Other experts demonstrated additional capabilities possible with powerful add-on utilities. Still other speakers shared their expertise on topics ranging from researching in particular countries and employing particular techniques to making effective use of hardware, software, and websites.
We were busy morning, noon, and evening. The cruise line scheduled stops at three ports of call: St. Maarten, Dutch West Indies; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and at Princess Cays (a small island in the Bahamas that is owned by Princess Cruise Lines).
The Caribbean Princess sailed out of Fort Lauderdale on Sunday evening, October 28, with 350 genealogists and more than 2,000 other passengers on board. The next two days were spent at sea with genealogy presentations, hosted breakfasts with the experts, and one-on-one consultations filling the days. The cruise line's shipboard entertainment was also available all day and all evening.
The first two days were sailed under cloudy skies with moderate temperatures and frequent light rain. Major storms were raging in the Caribbean, but we never had to sail through any bad ones. On the second day, we sailed straight east for some time and then later turned south, sailing around one particularly bad storm. That was better than taking the direct route to St. Maarten through the worst of the storm. We avoided the worst weather although most passengers remained indoors for two days as the overcast continued and occasional light rain fell. The weather was warm, however. The seas on the second day were a bit rougher than normal, and a number of passengers had a bit of motion sickness for one day.
We all awoke on the third day to find the ship anchored in the Dutch island of St. Maarten and the sun shining brightly. There were no genealogy presentations during the day as most of the genealogists went ashore to enjoy a variety of excursions.
I spent much of the day riding a Segway scooter up and down the St. Maarten "boardwalk." I'll use quotes around the word "boardwalk" as I never saw a board. It sure looked like pavement to me. The so-called "boardwalk" was a twenty- to forty-foot-wide strip of pavement along the edge of the beach. The Segway's wheels rolled easily on the pavement. This was my first time on a two-wheeled Segway, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Other people on the cruise ship took tours of the French side of the island, only a few miles away. Still others went snorkeling, visited a butterfly farm, took historical tours, or enjoyed some of the many other tourist activities. Many went shopping. This wasn't much like a genealogy convention in a downtown U.S. city! Everyone went back to the ship in late afternoon, and the Caribbean Princess soon weighed anchor.
On the fourth day of the cruise, passengers awoke to find the ship anchored at the dock in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Again, the weather was perfect with bight sunshine and temperatures in the eighties. Once again, the genealogists joined the other passengers in a wide variety of shore excursions. I spent much of the day visiting numerous boutiques in St. Thomas. I also enjoyed a lunch of conch chowder and other fresh seafood.
The fifth day of the cruise was spent at sea, sailing northwards towards Princess Cays. We were now on the return leg of our voyage. The weather was a bit overcast but mild. Genealogy presentations filled the day at sea.
In the midst of one of my presentations, the ship's captain made an announcement on the public address system. He reported that the storms had hit Princess Cays and made quite a mess of the place. Everyone there was safe, and there was no major property damage. However, clean-up activities would take several days. In short, the tiny island wasn't ready for us. He announced that the ship would spend an extra day at sea and the return to Fort Lauderdale on schedule.
Bob Velke and the Wholly Genes crew quickly whipped up a series of presentations for the unexpected available time. Several of the speakers offered presentations of something they had delivered in the recent past at other venues.
Perhaps the most interesting session of the unexpected day at sea was the screening of the film, "Blackbeard's Ghost," starring Peter Ustinov, Dean Jones, Elsa Lanchester, and Suzanne Pleshette. Cyndi Howells had the DVD of this Disney Classic movie in her suitcase, and one of the actors in that film was none other than Hank Jones, one of the presenters on the cruise. Hank offered commentary while the gathering watched the movie.
Note: Hank has many years' experience as an entertainer. He appeared in several movies and also appeared hundreds of times on the Tennessee Ernie Ford television show. Nowadays, he seems to be more proud of his title of FASG, a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists. (One cannot apply to be a Fellow; you are appointed by your peers.) Hank is a very popular genealogy speaker.
After our unexpected day at sea, the Caribbean Princess arrived back in Fort Lauderdale on time on Sunday, November 3rd.
I will long remember many different episodes from this one week cruise. Indeed, life on a cruise ship is always great. There were hundreds of activities to choose from. For instance, I attended many of the evening stage shows. The food was outstanding. In fact, I was amazed to find New England lobster was served several different evenings, and it was available as "all you can eat." I made sure that I got my money's worth.
However, the greatest part of this cruise was traveling with 350 other genealogists, including some of the greatest genealogy presenters of our time. We had speakers from England, Ireland, and all over the U.S. The genealogists on board came from all over the U.S. and Canada, plus one lady came all the way from England to participate. The camaraderie and enthusiasm of the genealogists is difficult to describe but certainly will be long remembered by all participants.
The only "downside" was the Internet connectivity. Almost all of today's cruise ships offer Internet access via satellites. I have been on several cruise ships in recent years and have found that Internet connectivity is almost always slow. However, the Caribbean Princess was by far the slowest connection I have ever encountered. When surfing the web in a web browser, clicking on any link took about a minute and a half before the next page appeared on the screen and even that was true only if the new page didn't have many graphics! Navigating to a graphics-intensive page required about three minutes for the page to appear. All of this happens on a very expensive connection of 40 cents to 75 cents per minute, depending upon which plan you choose when you sign up for Internet access. Spending as much as $2.25 per page was ludicrous.
As a result of the slow Internet access and all the "distractions" of a genealogy cruise, I posted very few articles to the newsletter and spent very little time on e-mail. I'll try to catch up this week.
Perhaps there is a silver lining in this glacial Internet access. Online access was so slow that I spent more time in genealogy seminars, in the various entertainment offerings, and especially more time than usual talking with fellow genealogists on board. I must say that I enjoyed all that immensely.
To Bob Velke and everyone else at Wholly Genes, I have two words to offer: "Well done." This company produced a first-class genealogy event in a floating hotel/convention hall/entertainment complex called the Caribbean Princess. I know it required many hours of hard work, and their results were impressive.
If you would like to take a great vacation, I'd strongly recommend you consider a genealogy cruise. As one of the "cruisers" told me, the 7-day genealogy cruise and related travel expenses totaled less than what she normally spends to attend a 4-day genealogy conference in an American city. She also reports that the cruises are much more fun. I know that she is planning to take another genealogy cruise next year. You might want to join her and us. Yes, I hope to take a cruise or two next year also. The Wholly Genes cruise is high on my list.
Now here is a bit of a "heads up:" RootsTelevision.com had a video crew on board. (Hey, Brian, can I refer to you as a "crew?") Yes, Brian Smolenyak ran a video camera for much of the time although I also saw Megan Smolenyak doing the same from time to time. Over the next few days or weeks, various video segments of the cruise will appear on www.RootsTelevision.com. If you are considering a future genealogy cruise, you will want to view these videos.
As I write these words, I am in a hotel room in Fort Lauderdale, resting from the week's activities. I also have hundreds of pictures from the cruise and plan on uploading a sample of them to the newsletter's web site at www.eogn.com.
Wholly Genes Software has already promised there will be another genealogy cruise next fall. The itinerary and agenda are in planning right now. I am guessing that the announcement will be made in mid-winter or possibly early spring. You might occasionally check this newsletter as well as www.WhollyGenes.com for updates.