13 Tips for First Time Geneacruisers

Unlock the Past has held three genealogy cruises so far, and I’ve been lucky enough to be on two of them, and am booked to go on two more next year. In no way would I call myself a seasoned cruiser … ( actually far from it), nor would I even say that I’m a seasoned geneacruiser, but I’m not a first timer either … and I can remember how nervous I was on the first cruise. Not about the actual cruising part, but more on the whole where do I have to be, what do I have to do thing? Who needs to see what documentation etc?

So, as Unlock the Past’s 4th genealogy cruise only a few months away, with the 5th genealogy cruise a few months after that … it seemed like a good idea to jot down a few tips for first time geneacruisers.

Just so you know, these are in no particular order, other than that’s they way they got typed up. And I know I’m going to think of more tips after I hit the “publish’ button, but if I wait till I think I’ve thought of everything, this post just won’t happen at all. I’m also sure that other geneacruisers will come up with further tips too. So if you are going on a genealogy cruise for the first time take note of all the tips.

First up, be sure to take some long sleeve tops. It might seem a little odd, but this is one that I learnt on the 1st cruise, and that is just because it is hot outside, does not mean that it’s hot inside. In fact the ships tend to be cool/cold as they are airconditioned the entire time. So it is advisable to have a light cardi, or a overshirt that you can pop on while sitting in the conference rooms. While your head and hands might be working overtime taking notes, the rest of you might well be on the cool side.

Wear comfy shoes. The ‘Voyager of the Seas’ ship in enormous, being 15 decks high, and almost the size of three standard football fields long (310 = 1020 feet), so even though there are lifts, there is still walking to do to get from one end to the other. By all means on Formal Dinner nights, bring out the swanky shoes, but for the rest of the time, stick to something that you can walk around in. Note: it is a ship rule that you do wear shoes at all times in public places (excluding IN the pool of course).

This was also something I also learnt from the first cruise, and that is because the ship is enormous, if you are trying to find someone it is simply impossible to find them. And what’s more as you rarely get a phone signal, you can’t even phone or send a text message to your fellow cruiser, asking where they are. So, my suggestion is to nominate a time and place to meet up, and that seems to work.

Now I’m not meaning taking a bag with your luggage in, but rather a small one that you can carry around with you on the ship. Say you’re on your way to a talk, so you’ve got your pen and notebook, but afterward you want to head outside, so you have your camera as well. Also you’ve got yourself a bottle of water in case you get thirsty, and a book in case you find a nice spot on the deck chairs outside to just sit … you don’t want to have to carry all of that individually, so it is handy to have a little carry bag, or backpack to cart this stuff around in.

This is an important one, as everyone will have items that they want plugged in to use and/or charge. And as the ‘Voyager of the Seas’ ship is an American ship, they have different plug to us Aussies. In fact they have both US and European plugs in the cabins. So be sure to head to your local Officeworks or luggage store to get a plug converter before you leave.

Australia to US plug power adaptor

Australian to US plug power adaptor

This is the most important piece of plastic you’ll have for the entire cruise. You get your Sea Pass Card just prior to boarding, and once boarded you have to keep it with you at all times as this little credit card size thing, lets you get on and off the boat, lets you into your room, says where you are seated for dinner (in the main dining room), and lets you shop without having to whip out cash or your own credit card! So this card stays with you all day, everyday. Note, no physical money is actually used on this ship (except if you want to purchase anything from Gould Genealogy, then it’s either AUD$ or credit card).

Royal Caribbean Sea Pass card, together with my 3rd Unlock the Past Cruise name tag (which then allows me into the talks)

Royal Caribbean Sea Pass card, together with my 3rd Unlock the Past Cruise name tag (which then allows me into the talks)

Now this is an important one to know, particularly for internet junkies like me. I admit that I am addicted to the internet, and did find it tough not having internet 24/7 while on the cruise. But at least they do still have internet available, but be aware it’s not cheap. On the Voyager of the Seas ship, they do have an internet cafe set up in the library, so you can log on using their computers. However if you have your own laptop of mobile device, you can access the internet from six designated wi-fi hotspots around the ship.  To give you an idea on prices, these are the prices as listed on the Royal Caribbean website (as at October 2013).
The basic rate is USD 0.65 per minute or choose from one of our pre-paid packages:
US$35.00 for 60 minutes
US$55.00 for 100 minutes
US$75.00 for 150 minutes
US$100.00 for 250 minutes
US$150.00 for 500 minutes

Now before you say “OMG, where do I start?”, I’m not meaning organise your entire collection of research, but rather if you are wanting to make the most of the genealogy cruise, be sure to get the bits together that you’re having issues with. Printout, or put on your laptop or mobile device, a copy of your tree, which you can use as a reference when chatting to others. And have details when chatting to those in the Research Help Zone. Fellow geneacruiser, and blogger Helen Smith has written an excellent post on this very topic so please check her post out as she does explain this all extremely well. And another reason to have your research with you, is so that you can I do believe connections between previously-unknown-to-each-other-geneacruisers have been made on each of the three so far. So it pays to be prepared!

This can vary from cruise line to cruise line. But on the Royal Caribbean “Voyager of the Seas” they don’t have any self-service laundry, but do offer laundry and dry cleaning services (at a cost of course). You’re always welcome to do your own washing and hang it up in your room, but note there is no iron is included in the rooms.

The ships (at least those that I’ve been on) have a daily newsletter which list all of the cruise ship activities that are on each day. This can be movies, craft classes, cooking demonstrations, quizzes, art auctions just to name a few. Even when certain outdoor facilities such as the rockwall or the inline skating circuit is manned and operating each day. On top of that Unlock the Past has created an entire genealogy conference, particularly for “sea days”, but also there’s some talks on “shore days” once we’ve reboarded. Don’t feel you have to go to everything or anything. You’re on board to enjoy the cruise and the genealogy. How much you choose to go to is entirely up to you.

Voyager of the Seas daily newsletter, of what's on and where

the Voyager of the Seas daily newsletter, of what’s on and where

As happens with every cruise, they stop at various ports along the way. And while doing so everyone is allowed off and can go and be a tourist for a few hours. The cruise line works in with local tour companies and offers various options. These are usually booked prior to you going on the cruise, or can be booked at the Main Help Desk once on the cruise. All of these are an extra cost, and are not included int he cost of the cruise. The ‘Shore Tours’ on offer for the 4th Unlock the Past Cruise can be found here. Alternatively if you have family of friends in that region you may wish to arrange to visit them for a few fours … or even visit the local archives or genealogy society, if they’re open at that time.

I just wanted to add this one on quickly. Each ship has a range of food options, but here I’m going specifically mention those on the Voyager of the Seas, since that’s relevant to the 4th Cruise.
– three story formal dining room (set seating, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a set menu each day)
– Windjammer Cafe (buffet dining, breakfast, lunch, dinner and I think morning tea and afternoon tea too – the choice in AMAZING)
– Johnny Rockets (a 50s style burger bar)
– Portofino Italian restaurant where for one low-cover fee you can choose any item from the menu from starter to dessert
– Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream for your milkdrinks and ice creams
– the Cupcake Cupboard supplies freshly baked gourmet cupcakes (yes, you can even get cupcakes on board a ship!)

You’re more thank likely to get a little snap happy while onboard ((well many are anyway), and if you can’t wait until you get back home, you can visit the Photo Centre and get them printed onboard. And if you’d like a special photo taken with friends or family , you have have that done too. The photographers are usually set up somewhere around the ship each day, so you can go and have your photo taken. Check back later at the Photo Centre to see the photos, and then choose if you wish to buy them or not. Having the photos taken is free, buying them is a cost of course.


So that’s just a few tips for first time geneacruisers, and maybe it’s a reminder to others as well. I know some things will vary from cruise to cruise, but others won’t. But hopefully it’s given you an idea on somethings to be aware of, or at least check out when you are cruising. The 4th cruise in February 2014 isn’t far away, and July 2014 which is when the 5th Unlock the Past cruise that goes around the UK is on will be here before we know it. I know I’ll be seeing a bunch of first time geneacruisers on each of them, so hopefully this list will be useful. And I hope to see you on a future Unlock the Past cruise sometime too.

5 Responses to “13 Tips for First Time Geneacruisers”

  1. Gayle Bosworth says:

    Hi Alona,

    I too went on the 1st Genea Cruise. For this cruise, a seasoned cruiser published a list of what to take with you on the cruise. I’m going on the 4th cruise and am keen to get a copy of this list again. It was really helpful.


  2. Pauleen says:

    Great tips, Alona. I’ve always been cruise-resistant but I’m weakening…never know when I might need these, geneacruise or not.

  3. Anne Stafford says:

    Thanks for the heads up Alona.

    I have been on other cruises but this will be my first geneacruise


  4. Jane Taubman says:


    If all else fails leave messages on the room voice-mail of the person you are trying to find. They can then pick up the messages, not sure about RC, but on some ships you can use the public phones to access your voice mail messages.

    9. but note there is no iron is included in the rooms.
    On all the ships I have been on you are not allowed to use your own either, as they constitute a fire hazard. How ever there is normally an Ironing room somewhere. Personally, I just make sure my cruising clothes are iron free and I pack my husbands shirts with tissue paper to stop them creasing.

    11. Shore Tours
    Another option to the Ship tours are to check out Trip Advisor for local tour firms, many are happy to offer trips, we have used recommended providers in Italy, Spain and Portugal and found them very good. Make sure to allow plenty of time to get back to the ship, if you are late they will not wait for you, unless on a Ship organised tour.

    12. Food Choices
    Be aware US ships have service charges for all items needing purchasing, so remember to add 15% to all prices for drinks and specials.

    Standard Filter Coffee and make your own Tea, are normally available in the Windjammer/self service cafe, but specialist coffees are paid for, unless you pre-purchase a drinks package.

    If you expect to drink a bottle (or half a bottle, the sommelier will keep it from night to night and it’s normally cheaper than buying by the glass) of wine most nights with your meal and don’t have an all inclusive package, look out for bundles you can buy on the first night to use during the trip.

    I have not been on RC ships, but most ships allow you to use the TV in the room to keep an eye on your ship board costs (saves a shock at the end).

    Jane Taubman (12 cruises and counting)

  5. Margaret Flaiban says:

    Thanks for the handy tips Alona. This is my first cruise and first genealogy cruise, so I am a “virgin” as to what happens. So looking forward to it, only thing I am a little worried about is getting lost! Look forward to seeing you on the ship!

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