Genealogy Cruises versus Convention Centers

Several genealogy cruises take place every year. Cruising genealogists get to enjoy courses, software demonstrations, “how to” 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. The combined RootsTech and Federation of Genealogical Societies conferences attracted about 22,500 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 every year typically attracts close to 15,000 attendees. The accompanying Who Do You Think You Are? television series about genealogy is popular in several countries around the world. Genealogy Roadshow and Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. are U.S. television shows that also attract millions of viewers.

Thousands of genealogy web sites also attest to the current level of interest. The number of genealogy programs available for mobile computing devices 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!

About a dozen, possibly more, 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 during the days at sea, and 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 can 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 or more. 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 genealogy 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. However, both are in stark contrast to the luxury meals served on cruise ships. Most ships serve five or six gourmet meals per day, and the snack bars even remain open 24 hours a day on some cruise ships.

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 typically will show presentations somewhat similar to those found at a state, regional, or national genealogy conference. Topics will include both beginning and advanced research techniques, genealogy software, resources on the World Wide Web, DNA, and much more.

When compared to traditional genealogy conferences, you will note one other thing is missing entirely on cruise ships: the exhibitors’ hall. If this is important to you, perhaps a cruise is not your cup of tea. Then again, you could always visit the exhibitors at one of the land-based conferences and turn your focus to the unique benefits of your chosen cruise for its duration.

Don’t forget that all of these cruises include shore tours. These produce excellent sightseeing expeditions. For instance, I have tasted native foods in many island countries, picnicked on a tropical beach, wandered through an ancient fort, and flown an airplane over mountains in a foreign land. You can find your own adventures as well.

This year’s cruises include:

Unlock the Past Cruises

Unlock the Past Cruises has to be the largest genealogy cruise operator in the world. Actually, I have never heard Alan Phillips, the owner of Unlock the Past Cruises, make that claim. However, his web site presently lists four different genealogy cruises in the next 12 months plus one that will be held 13 months from now and another to be held about 17 months from now. I don’t know of anyone else who offers that many! Even better, the Unlock the Past Cruises vary from 2 nights to 15 nights and visit ports of call all over the world. If the first cruise you see in the catalog doesn’t suit you, simply look for another in a more convenient location. Then again, maybe you would like to take a cruise somewhere on the other side of the world!

Unlock the Past Cruises is presently offering:

Baltic cruise – from England, visiting northern Europe, St. Petersburg, and Scandinavia – 14 nights 11-25 July 2015

2-night short cruise out of Brisbane, Australia – 2 nights from 8 December 2015

Australia-New Zealand cruise, one way from Auckland to Fremantle (Perth) taking in various New Zealand and Australian ports – 18 nights from 14 February 2016

7 nights from Brisbane, Australia, to the Barrier Reef – 7 nights from 6 March 2016

In addition, a bit more than a year away is the European river cruise – 7 nights from 31 July 2016 along the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

The company also just finished a 5-night cruise last month, stopping in ports in Southern Western Australia.

Speakers on the Unlock the Past Cruises include a number of the better-known genealogy presenters from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (I hope I didn’t overlook any other nationalities.) The list of speakers is different for every cruise. You can check the Unlock the Past Cruises for the list of speakers on a cruise that appeals to you. I am delighted to mention that I will be one of the presenters on the 15-night Transatlantic cruise in November 2015.

You can learn more about Unlock the Past Cruises at Check that web site often as it is frequently updated.

Western Caribbean Genealogy Cruise

Click on the above image to view a larger version.

Gary and Diana Smith are sponsoring a genealogy cruise in the western Caribbean on January 16 to 23, 2016. They will be offering presentations on a variety of topics, aided by Donna Moughty and myself. The week-long cruise should be great fun on board the Celebrity Reflection. This ship 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 explore the uniqueness of each port-of-call.

The Genealogy Cruise will depart Miami, Florida, on January 16, stop at Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Coco Cay, Bahamas; and return to Miami on January 23. The week-long cruise includes two days at sea during which genealogy presentations will be offered on board. Guests traveling on the Genealogy Cruise may also request a private meeting with one of the host genealogists.

Gary and Diana Smith are still building the web site for this cruise, but a brief announcement can be found in my earlier article at

Second Annual Genealogy Conference and Cruise with Heritage Books

Craig Scott of Heritage Books, Inc. will sponsor the company’s Annual Genealogy Conference and Cruise on October 18, 2015, finishing ten days later on the 28th. This cruise even features a partial transit of the Panama Canal. Leaving from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the ship will stop in Aruba; Cartagena, Colombia; the Panama Canal; Colon, Panama; Limon, Costa Rica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and then return to Ft. Lauderdale.

This year’s Annual Genealogy Conference and Cruise with Heritage Books will include a special emphasis on DNA and will feature presentations from some of the foremost experts in the field. The cruise also offers the opportunity to share a meal with a world-class genealogist or geneticist or to schedule one-on-one time to discuss specific research challenges. Some people find these private consultations alone to be worth the trip. Several evening group brick wall discussions add to the learning experience.

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

Cruising with Legacy Family Tree 2015

This year’s Cruising with Legacy Family Tree 2015 will include a Western Caribbean Cruise. It starts on Saturday, June 20, 2015, and goes through June 27. The cruise starts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and makes stops in Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; Cozumel, Mexico; and returns to Fort Lauderdale on June 27.

There will be a variety of genealogy and technology classes as well as classes specific to Legacy Family Tree taught by its developers.

The cruise will be on board the Royal Caribbean “Oasis of the Sea” and includes the Oceanside Aqua Theater, Starbucks, Broadway hit musical Hairspray, 3D movie theater, a daring zip line that passes over the fun below, a real carrousel, Johnny Rockets old fashioned hamburgers, handmade milk shakes and bottomless fries, giant rock climbing walls, Surf Rider, putt putt golf, designer shopping at COACH and GUESS stores, and much, much more.

You can learn more about the Legacy Family Tree 2015 cruise at

New England Historic Genealogical Society’s Great Migration 2015 Tour

NEHGS is sponsoring a cruise to follow the Atlantic crossing aboard the Queen Mary 2 followed by a land tour in Hampshire and Wiltshire, led by Robert Charles Anderson, FASG, on September 4-16, 2015. Participants will travel from New York to Southampton aboard the Queen Mary 2, arriving in Southampton on September 11, 2015.

While on board the Queen Mary 2, Robert Charles Anderson will present a range of lectures on the topic of the Great Migration to New England, 1620-1640. He will also guide discussion groups in addition to formal presentations. NEHGS CEO Brenton Simons will offer group presentations on family heritage preservation, NEHGS activities, and also will provide glimpses into his own research subjects.

Upon arrival at Southampton, the group will continue as a land tour and will visit the villages and cities in Hampshire and Wiltshire that were the origins of many of the early New England settlers.

You can read more about the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s Great Migration 2015 Tour at

FGS 2015 Alaskan Cruise

The Federation of Genealogical Societies will hold its first ever genealogy cruise on August 28 through September 4, 2014. The ship will set sail from Seattle, Washington, on August 28, 2015, for 7 nights aboard Royal Caribbean’s luxurious Jewel of the Seas in the Federation’s maiden voyage of genealogy cruising.

The ports of call will include Alaskan cities Juneau and Skagway, and Victoria, British Columbia. Cruise goers will experience breathtaking views while cruising the Alaska Inside Passage and Tracy Arm Fjord.

The genealogy speakers on board will include Elizabeth Shown Mills, Judy G. Russell, David E. Rencher, and D. Joshua Taylor. That should be a great week of genealogy at sea! There will be so many presentations that, at times, there will be two presentations held simultaneously in order to squeeze in all talks while the ship is at sea.

You can learn more about the FGS 2015 Alaskan Cruise at

Other Genealogy Cruises

Did I miss any cruises? If so, please post a comment at the end of this article below so that I can add it to this list. I know that several of the larger genealogy societies also sponsor cruises for their members. Probably the best source of information about a society’s cruise is at the society’s web site.


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, just to mention that there is a third option – it’s not simply a choice between city conference centers and the high seas.

In two weeks I’ll be running the second Genealogy in the Sunshine course at the beautiful Rocha Brava resort on Portugal’s Algarve coast (and, whilst this might sound like an advert, we’re sold out).

Speakers at the week-long event include Else Churchill from the Society of Genealogists, John Hanson, Chris Paton, Professor Rebecca Probert, and from Canada John D Reid and Donald Davis. Our DNA expert is Debbie Kennett, and I’ve got such a full program lined up (including social events) that many of those coming will be staying on for a few days afterwards in order to recover!

Liked by 1 person

The cruise mixed with genealogy sounds great, but the cost of internet on board a ship is a fright. Kind of expensive to access the genealogy websites while onboard.


You did not mention that conferences are held in other cities than Salt Lake City, most of which have libraries, courthouses, cemeteries, and other stationary resources for personal research. Surely, some researchers like to make their own discoveries, not everything is online yet. Exploring records still on paper and microfilm, or in the ground, can open up exciting new discoveries.

Liked by 1 person

This is all lovely. For those who are wealthy. Factor in the cost of round-trip airfare, overnight lodgings, restaurant meals, and other travel costs and it immediately leaps out of sight for huge numbers of us. More-local land-based conferences offer interesting presentations and plenty of new information to digest for a small fraction of the cost. A busload of travelers sharing the costs makes a trip to the Fort Wayne Library – or maybe even Salt Lake City – more reachable. Cruises would be lovely, but Social Security checks just don’t make it. So, thank you so much, you and others, who travel from conference to conference and allow us the opportunity to share your knowledge! We appreciate it more than you could know!


The Family Tree Magazine Cruise to Norway was cancelled last Fall, but I will be speaking on the upcoming Legacy cruise in June.


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