The 2008 Genealogy Conference and Cruise sponsored by Wholly Genes Software came to an end this morning in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Two hundred or more smiling genealogists joined the other passengers departing the Caribbean Princess cruise ship at the San Juan cruise ship terminal. All the genealogists that I talked with seemed to enjoy themselves.
The Caribbean Princess left New York City a week ago, on October 26. It seemed fitting that we weighed anchor and immediately steamed past the Statue of Liberty and also past Ellis Island, the focus of so many of our research efforts.
Well, not everyone has ancestors who passed through Ellis Island. For instance, I do not. Indeed, not all Americans have ancestors who passed through Ellis Island, although millions do. We can assume the same for many of the genealogists on board from Canada, England, Ireland, Belgium, and New Zealand. Indeed, this was an international group.
The first evening saw a welcome party hosted by Wholly Genes Software, followed by “One-on-One” sessions with the various presenters and others offering personalized assistance with various issues. In some cases, speakers offered suggestions in finding records about ancestors. Others offered help with The Master Genealogist software. Some of us, myself included, offered assistance with other software questions.
During the week, I offered one-on-one assistance to several Macintosh owners who use The Master Genealogist on their Macs. (Tip: It works well on a Mac.) In fact, I was surprised to see so many Mac users on a cruise sponsored by a company that produces software for Windows systems. Clearly, the choice of operating system is becoming less and less important these days.
The first three days of the cruise were spent at sea as the ship headed from the chilly waters of New York Harbor to the warm climate of the first stop in St. Kitts. Those three days were filled with genealogy presentations. It was similar to attending a three-day genealogy conference in most any American city except that the food was better. Lectures were presented by Bob Velke, John Titford (from England), Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, Elizabeth Shown Mills, Barbara Vines Little, John Grenham (from Ireland), John Cardinal, Craig Scott, Tony Burroughs, David Allen Lambert, and Cyndi Howells (of Cyndi's list fame).
On the fourth day, the ship stopped at its first port of call: St. Kitts. Many of the genealogists went on various adventures: photography tours, sightseeing, scuba diving, lying on a tropical beach, or simply shopping in the local town. The weather was perfect: mid-80s with a nice sea breeze blowing steadily. The ship weighed anchor about 6:00 PM and headed to Antigua, where the fifth day was spent in similar activities to the previous day.
On the sixth and last full day, the ship stopped in St. Thomas, which seems to be the shopping capitol of the Caribbean. A number of the genealogists participated in a special tour arranged at the Caribbean Genealogy Library in St. Thomas. This research facility is small but has a great collection of genealogy data about Caribbean residents through the years.
On the seventh day, the Caribbean Princess arrived at its final destination: San Juan, Puerto Rico. Many of the cruise participants headed straight for the airport while a few, myself included, checked into local hotels. I plan to do a bit more sightseeing.
Most everything on the cruise clicked like clockwork. If there were any problems with the genealogy-oriented activities, I didn't see them or hear about them.
I have to say “thank you” to Bob Velke, Cathy Velke, Barbara Grempler, and the other folks at Wholly Genes Software for their hosting of a great genealogy conference and cruise. I know they spent many hours preparing for this year's cruise, and they also worked hard during the week so that so many others could relax and enjoy themselves. The result was a first-class effort.
If you are thinking about taking a genealogy cruise next year, I can heartily endorse the idea. Several such cruises are available to choose from. Prices vary but are generally about the same or even cheaper than going to a 3 or 4-day genealogy conference in a distant city. In addition, the food and the accommodations are much better. Then there's the sightseeing...
Your family members who are not interested in genealogy will probably love to accompany you on a cruise to exotic ports of call, something that might not be true of a trip to a genealogy conference held in a downtown convention center at some distant city.
I suspect that announcements about 2009 cruises will be made in the next four to six months. Stay tuned.