Genealogy Cruising – Why I Am A Fan!

28 March 2011

Unlock the Past logoBelow is my original post – I have now discovered Day 6 and Overview blogs written by Aimee which give her final points on her experiences during the cruise. Max and I found the smoke free side of the ship early on and I don’t think either of us will go close to only gaining .5kg like Aimee!

The other point that I sadly neglected to make in my original post was to thank Alan, Anthea, Alona,  Rosemary and Aimee from UTP and Jacqui from Clean Cruising for all their hard work organising a smooth running program all week. Thanks everyone.

Original post

Well I am just back from my first ever genealogy cruise on P&O’s Pacific Dawn and I could go again tomorrow. The inaugural Unlock The Past (UTP) history and genealogy cruise in conjunction with Clean Cruising was a success from my perspective on a number of fronts.

This is in contrast, however, to the strangely negative view of  UTP staff member Aimee who did daily blogs while on board – see Day 1 Part 1, Day 1 Part 2, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5.

Internet was expensive on board and I was having my annual time out from my laptop and the Internet just to prove to my loved ones that I am not addicted!

Had I accessed the Internet while on board and been aware of the content of Aimee’s daily blogs, I would have challenged her views and done my own blog. I acknowledge that everyone views things differently but I think if UTP does this again, they do need to have a blogger who is actually a genealogist to get a better overview of how the cruise was perceived by the primary attendees. I hope other attendees will blog their opinions as well.

Perhaps my different view is because I am more than twice Aimee’s age and while I probably do fit into her description of genealogists/family historians with a ‘wild, purposeful look in their eyes’, I also have a history background (as Aimee has) and find that the two disciplines can quite nicely complement each other. Even my partner who has neither discipline, found the sessions he attended interesting.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet Twitter and email friends in person and it is also nice to see that a few of my cruise friends are now trying out Twitter.

I had been on two previous cruises (back in 1975 and 1976 – my first ever overseas trips) so the difference this time was simply staggering. It was everything I enjoyed back then and more. Amazing where 36 years can go! The food was great, service was terrific, entertainment was non stop and there was onboard shopping too. Take all of that and add an interesting program of history and genealogy talks plus being able to network on a daily basis with genealogy friends from around Australia and New Zealand, I was constantly having to decide what to do next.

Talks were held in the International Show Room (huge room which left speakers disconnected from the audience I felt), the Dome (easily the most chilly room on the ship and not well designed for easy viewing of the screen) and the Captain’s Lounge (an on board wedding chapel which was my favourite as it was much more intimate with the drawback of only having 50-60 attendees at a time). There were also theme meetings over lunch and dinner, smaller group meetings around the ship and much discussion over breakfast, coffee and cocktails.

The cruise primary program offered a range of speakers and talks and once on board further talks were added as UTP was allocated time in the Captain’s Lounge. The only issue with the latter was the limited number able to attend but the more popular sessions were repeated. I would like to see these additional offerings added to the primary program on the UTP website as a permanent record of what the full program was during the cruise.

Some of the speakers had also been presenters on the November UTP Roadshow and I had heard their talks before so deciding what sessions to attend was a little easier for me but those who hadn’t attended any of the Roadshows it was a tough choice.

I personally enjoyed listening to Cora Num (handouts on her website click on the gopher), Mike Murray, Jeremy Palmer (handouts on his website), Ron Austin, Helen Smith (new book on one of her shipboard talks – UTP publications available from Gould Genealogy), Leigh Summers, Carol Baxter and Jan Gow. I personally didn’t get to many of the Captain’s Lounge talks due to the limited numbers.

My own presentations were well received and I was given feedback over various meal sessions, in the lift, on the innumerable stairs, on deck and even on shore. Two of my presentations are on my website in the Resources area (scroll down to Presentations) – Google Your Family Tree: Tips & Tricks and Online Trends in Family History but unfortunately you wont’ have the additional commentary that accompanied my talks.

Max and  I got a bit of a buzz hearing my public talk on Genealogy on the Cheap being announced on the ship’s TV program and also in the ship’s newsletter. Cora Num was the other presenter who gave a public lecture on Beginning Your Family History.

The three places visited, Noumea, Lifou and Port Vila, were interesting and I was somewhat surprised that there hadn’t been more development over the last 36 years but then perhaps that is a good thing for the island people! I always love travelling to different countries and observing their history and customs. I bought the obligatory fridge magnets to record my travels.

I must also thank Rosemary and Eric Kopittke for coming to our rescue when our digital camera totally filled up (who would have thought Max would take that much footage?). They lent us a USB cable so that we could download the photos and videos to my laptop so that Max could continue his enthusiastic filming of just about every moment!

For those on the ball, yes I did take my laptop on the cruise with me but that was so that I could review my talks before presenting them and I will also admit to doing some data entry into my Legacy program while Max was off on a quad bike ride. Other than that I was computer free!

While I learnt new things from the various presenters, I think it is the personal networking opportunity to discuss research issues with others that was the most valuable part of the cruise. With so many experts on board, even those not presenting, it was easy to refer people to someone who could assist with their questions. The seven days seemed to go remarkably fast and it was all over far too soon.

After disembarking we went back to Mum’s place and in the afternoon, we drove up to Mount Cootha and saw the Pacific Dawn berthed at Hamilton. We arrived just in time to see her depart and watched as she went under the Gateway Bridge. After a quick coffee, we went back up to the lookout area to see her at the mouth of the Brisbane River and sailing out into Moreton Bay. I found myself wishing I was still on board with all my genealogy friends!  Would I do it again – most definitely!

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  1. I totally enjoyed the cruise as well and the same as you would love to repeat it all again. It was great to be among like minded people. My fear was that maybe some of the talks/presenters would go way over my head but I was extremely happy that everyone presentered in an easy to understand format.

  2. Great summing up of the week, Shauna! I would be hard pressed to think of anything negative about the cruise & the conference, but I did come with an open mind & was ready to enjoy anything. I will be going on a ‘normal’ cruise in future so I can experience a full itinerary of touristy things, but the chance to do this genealogy cruise was fantastic.

  3. I am an avid cruiser so was intersted in hearing about the event, thanks for your report. I am giving serious consideration to the NZ cruise but also want to head back to Rootstech next year…my dilemma is that my dollars can only stretch so far.

  4. Hi Shauna,
    I am saddened to read that you thought my blogs to be negative, and indeed that they would even come across that way, as I value your opinion. Hopefully my final blog,
    will convince you otherwise (it was written before I thought about reading yours). I tried to be as honest as I could be, and obviously my sense of humour wasn’t recognised in some of my comments (referring, of course, to genies having a ‘wild look in their eyes’). I meant no offence to anyone and presumed it would be taken light-heartedly, as with the rest of my blog. My interest is primarily in history and not genealogy, though hopefully as I made clear, the genealogy talks were quite interesting, especially yours and Cora’s, which were presented more towards people like me without a genie background.

  5. Thanks Aimee – I have now added your final two days of cruise blogs at the front of my original post. It is good to know that you did enjoy yourself and I am impressed with your ability to resist the food temptations. You may have been the only one!

  6. Thanks for giving us an alternate view of the cruise, I’m sorry I couldn’t go!

  7. I would love to be able to go on one of these one day. Maybe when my family is older . . . . sounds like fun!

  8. Yes Shauna I do intend to put up the full program for the record when I get back to Adelaide. Also links to talk notes online and maybe some testimonials we have received. I have just caught up with the blogs after driving to Coffs Harbour and back to further planning for the NSW Expo 2011 Coffs Harbour (a great venue and great local support).

  9. Loved reading about the cruise :-))) Wish I could have joined you but have not figured out how to be in 2 places at the same time.

  10. I am not a twitter nor facebook person but couldn’t resist reading yours Shauna. I thought it was a great cruise and thoroughly enjoyed myself the whole time, ashore and aboard. I couldn’t resist visiting Aimee’s site after reading yours! It was great to catch up with you again and hope to see you later today at the Kedron-Wavell Services Club. Bring on the next Cruise…

  11. I have also written a blog of the cruise – available at

    There was one person who actually LOST weight on the cruise. My husband, who is not interested in genealogy, and who religiously ate only fruit and dry toast for breakfast, salad for lunch, and usually salad for dinner. He also walked around the ship purposefully each day for at least 45 minutes. He’s lost 1.3kg. Not bad going!

  12. Thanks for putting your presentations on your Web site – and thanks for visiting my blog and adding a comment to my report of the cruise. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who preferred eating at smaller tables!

  13. The dilemma with tables was that often more than 10 wanted to be in on the discussion. They varied on the recent cruise, depending on location and participants. Also between lunch and evening. All I attended (each with 10 seats) were OK. Smaller tables are clearly better, but we had to cut off many at 10 and in a couple of instances chose to repeat the topic. The November cruise will be entirely different program wise. I expect the Vollendam’s “table topics” to often occur outside meal times in smaller breakout rooms – with the program pretty well fixed before the cruise.

  14. Thank you Shauna for a great read with your blog it encapsulated the cruise brilliantly – My friend Deb and I thoroughly enjoyed the conference, although we were a bit brain dead at the end – and having to leave the ship at 6.35am on Saturday morning was a bit traumatic – we spent 5 more nights in Brisbane, before returning to Sydney – all in all had a wonderful time, and didn’t gain any weight either.

  15. Thanks Shauna for all your contributions, the presentations and the blog. My non-genie husband even attended your first talk on the different sailing conditions, then and now and he enjoyed it.
    Working from a home office where I rarely get to talk to people face to face I had a wonderfully social week and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Even tho some of the venues and arrangements available to the conference were not always ideal, I thought Alan and his team did an amazing job to surmount so many obstacles.
    The first week back at work was something of a rude shock and I’ve only just had some time to look back over all my notes and read the blogs. Like Shauna I decided to stay off the Internet when I saw the prices! it neve hurts to give my “mouse”arm a little rest 🙂

  16. Just wanted to let Shauna know she wasnt the only one who had that view of Aimee’s blogs. I saw the attempt at humour but in general thought they were overly negative and I was left wondering why someone not interested in genealogy was reviewing a genealogy cruise.
    I think Aimee meant well but I wouldn’t want to go on the cruise she described. I am further perplexed by her final blog (link in her post above) as I wouldn’t have expected a positive conclusion from reading the previous ones.

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