Reunion cruising makes memories

Karl and Michelle Teel

There is something for every generation aboard the Carnival Breeze including a large outdoor movie screen, mind-blowing water park, and Serenity Deck.

Like all great events in life, family reunions require planning, but they are well worth it. Family reunions bring us together from all points of the earth, and from all generations. They create memories, solidify families, and carry on traditions — all of the important stuff in life.

But, there can be the headaches, as well. Who will host it? Where and when will it be? Who handles the expenses, the planning, and the myriad details?

There is something for every generation aboard the Carnival Breeze including a large outdoor movie screen, mind-blowing water park, and Serenity Deck.
There is something for every generation aboard the Carnival Breeze including a large outdoor movie screen, mind-blowing water park, and Serenity Deck.

We found the ideal solution in a family reunion cruise.

Why a reunion cruise? We simply couldn’t find a better alternative when we weighed all the factors.

No one person has to lay out a deposit for the whole group. Everyone needs a vacation and usually has it budgeted anyway. Even if the expense may be more than one normally might budget, a cruise is a special event — an appropriate way to celebrate an anniversary, graduation, or special accomplishment, and spending a little extra may be in order.

On our reunion cruise, we had nine cabins and 17 people. In addition to the reunion aspect, we had a college graduation, three birthdays, and a post-hospitalization to celebrate.

And, on a cruise, there is something for every budget. Cabins on a cruise can go for as little as $299. On our cruise, an upper-level balcony represented the higher end at about $1,500. Many levels of price and luxury in between satisfied the retiree, the young family with a new baby, the early-20s server, and the more established adults. Keep in mind, the price included all the food we could eat in a week — and we mean good food! When you factor in the cost of groceries alone for a party of that size, it becomes apparent that a cruise is a wise choice.

Like any reunion, there isn’t a single universally acceptable time window. We picked a date when the kids just got out of school and began the process about six to 12 months in advance — plenty of time to juggle work schedules, save, and plan.

Carnival provided assistance

We selected the Carnival Breeze out of Miami based on simple criteria. Miami offers easy airport access to either Miami or Fort Lauderdale airports, both of which are airline hubs with low rates and multiple carriers and times for people flying in from different parts of the country. The itinerary looked great (San Juan, St. Martin, St. Kitts, and Grand Turk) and so did the ship (one of the newest, best appointed in the fleet).

Best of all, once we made our decision, Carnival took over at no extra cost. The cruise line gave us a dedicated representative with direct phone and email access who created a flyer we could mail, email, post on Facebook, and distribute. It had the dates, itinerary, best possible rates for a variety of cabin levels, and all the other vital information. From that point on, the representative took the calls and emails, answered questions, booked us as close together as possible, collected the money, and set up our dining all together.

Three generations on a family reunion cruise plus an additional guest, the “monkey on your back,” great memories.
Three generations on a family reunion cruise plus an additional guest, the “monkey on your back,” great memories.

We expected a fantastic time and got even more than we ever believed possible. For an entire week we had the best of all worlds. The perfect balance of time together and time apart kept us both engaged and refreshed.

Over the course of the week, the different pairings of people throughout the day and different events gave everyone a chance to really get to know each other and bond. Kids with kids, elders with elders, and elders with kids … every combination you can imagine. At the end of the week, unlike a traditional reunion, nobody said, “Gee, I never got a chance to speak with so-and-so.”

Cousins who traditionally only see each other for a few hours at a wedding or Christmas gathering hung out at night clubs, sat on balconies talking philosophy until the wee hours of the morning, and discovered tropical paradise sites together. Grandchildren sat with their grandmother hearing stories from 75 years ago about their heritage. Just as there was an infinite combination of age, geography, and interest among our reunion attendees, there was also an infinite combination of opportunities: day and night, peaceful or action-packed, luxurious or exotic, at the dinner table or at the water slide.

What Carnival Breeze offers

The Breeze is a 130,000-ton ship in Carnival’s Dream class that holds around 3,600 guests. In addition to the great new feel of the ship, it offered some fantastic features.

There is plenty of outdoor recreation including SportsSquare, with full-court basketball, ping pong, mini-golf, foosball, volleyball, and more. SkyCourse is a ropes course with views of the sea 150 feet below. One of our favorites is the outdoor movie screen which, when combined with a state-of-the-art sound system, is great for watching feature-length movies, music videos, and port previews, all while enjoying the comfort of a lounge chair, hot tub seat, or the multi-level pool area (complete with food and beverages). We love lounging on the peaceful Serenity Deck, an adults-only sun deck on the 15th floor with hot tubs, bar, shaded areas, padded chaise lounges, jumbo wicker clamshell cabanas, and hammocks big enough for two. The entertainment is fantastic every night, with a live band playing great music for dancing.

Breeze has a huge water park, with plenty of seating surrounding it for parents, and loads of other activities to participate in, as well as Camp Carnival and “Hasbro the Game Show.” George Lopez’s Punchliner Comedy Club was standing room only for both the family-friendly and the adults-only shows.

Insider tip: Get in line around 30 minutes early if you want to have a seat.

Karaoke or singing along with the piano man is always an option, while dancing the night away in the Liquid Nightclub or trying your luck in the casino also offer great times. If you are looking for fun for the entire family, check out the Thrill Theater, a theme park 4-D interactive movie experience.

The Serenity Deck offers adults a peaceful oasis with trendy rattan clam shell cabanas and lounges.
The Serenity Deck offers adults a peaceful oasis with trendy rattan clam shell cabanas and lounges.

Another great place to hang out is the fifth-floor Ocean Plaza, an indoor/outdoor space that has

additional bars and cafes, an entertainment area and dance floor,

and, outside, a lanai full of addi-tional chaise lounges and a cantilever whirlpool on each side of the

ship.

The ship has many excellent restaurants and a huge variety of food choices, including Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina Mexican, Indian Tandoori (some of the best we’ve ever had), Lido Pizzeria and Grille (really good pizza and open 24 hours a day), the Mongolian Wok, and more.

For a top-of-the-line culinary experience, try 555 Fahrenheit Steak House (it does carry an upcharge) or the fresh Bonsai Sushi. The Cucino del Capitano (also has a small upcharge) offers a delicious authentic Italian dining experience so good our future son-in-law had to have it two nights in a row.

Staying in touch and figuring out who is where on the ship and making plans is now easier than ever. Download the new Carnival HUB app available on the Breeze.

Insider tip: Download the app while in port in Miami where the Internet speed is much faster than while you are at sea.

The app works perfectly on an iPhone or Android phone. We found it invaluable, using the free chat function to meet up with other members in our group regardless of where they were on the ship. It also had the schedule of shows and events, hours for every bar and restaurant, menus, and a ship map. You could even check the status of your sail and sign account.

By the end of the trip, bonds that would carry the family forward another generation were formed and firmed up. History was shared and memories created. Countless comments along the lines of “best vacation ever” or “I really love my family” lead to a host of plans for future get-togethers.

Are you ready to make you family reunion cruise a reality? Ask any of the travel agents on this page, visit carnival.com, or call 800-Carnival. Bon voyage!

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