Huge flexibility and multiple options for food, fun and destinations make a cruise ship the perfect setting for getting a group of people together. It might be a family Christmas, a hen do, a wedding, a milestone birthday, or another reason to get together on the high seas - like a family reunion.
Reconnecting with the clan is a difficult thing to organise, but if everyone is willing to match their schedules for a family holiday together, a cruise is the perfect way to cater to a diverse group seeking to spend some time together.
So many options onboard
What makes a cruise ship so great for a big family group? We've said it before: it's all about choice. Great-Aunt Mildred might make the choice to play bingo while teenage Sally chooses to lie by the pool in a bikini - or it might be the other way around. There are programs galore for the children, organised activities which are great to participate in together, enrichment programs for anyone with a scholarly bent, and of course plenty of places you can do next to nothing - by the pool, at a bar, in your cabin and on a deck with sea views.
After pursuing diverse interests during the day, a shared meal is the best way to get everyone in one place at one time, and on a cruise it is extremely easy. There is no cooking or cleaning to be done, just a huge dining room where you can sit together, order anything you want (no deciding on a set menu to please everyone) and enjoy each other's company.
Choose the right itinerary and your family reunion cruise will go off with a bang. The beauty of a cruise is that it does not stick you in one place but visits a variety of different ports - and without the "herding cats" kind of effort it can take to move a large group from place to place. Compromise will surely be required, but it is much easier to pick a holiday everyone will agree to when it can include beaches, cities and more all in one.
Cruises from Australia offer plenty of great itineraries for the family group. The South Pacific islands are a classic favourite. Most people love a good idyllic white-sand beach, and the cities of Noumea and Suva can inject a little urbanity. What's even better, there are plenty of South Pacific cruises leaving from Sydney and from Brisbane throughout the year, so it's not a problem to find a time when everyone's available.
One of our favourite options for a family reunion cruise is one to New Zealand. Apart from the trip across the Tasman and back, these are usually well packed with port stops, and include great variety. You can still hit the beach in Napier, Tauranga and other coastal cities, you will get in some amazing scenery at Fiordland National Park, and there are great city vibes in Auckland and Wellington. There is also an extensive range of shore excursions available in NZ ports offering everything from eco-adventures to winery tours, and you can cruise to New Zealand from Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne.
There are also a range of domestic Aussie cruises which make easy getaways for families: trips to Queensland and Tasmania are common itineraries. Sailing from Western Australia gives easy access to Indonesia and the rest of southeast Asia - but these are often long cruises to which not many people can commit, so perhaps not ideal for your reunion unless you all have a lot of spare time.
If the destination doesn't concern you and the window of opportunity is limited, you will appreciate the many short break cruises now becoming available. P&O Australia and Carnival are especially good for these, with a huge range of itineraries of 3-5 nights. Some of these include one port stop, others are simply a jaunt out into the open waters where you can enjoy not only the facilities of the ships but catching up with family members.
Themes such as comedy, music and food and wine can spice up a reunion, providing seminars, classes and shows of special interest to create shared experiences and memories. There are short break cruises departing Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, giving multiple opportunities for families to get onboard.
Thanks to its short breaks, interconnecting cabins and family-focused atmosphere, we think P&O takes the cake for family reunion cruises. However, your choice of cruise line depends entirely on what things are important to your goals: for great enrichment programs and learning opportunities, try Princess. For some fun North American extravagance, Royal Caribbean is the way to go. If your family reunion calls for a little luxury, Celebrity might be the right line. As we mentioned before, the options are endless - just make sure it's a family decision!