We appreciate that many took the time to give us some general comments and suggestions in our recent cruise survey (Jun-Sep 2015). We mention many of these here, along with our responses – to let you know what we could consider – and what we can’t – in response to your suggestions.

Click here for your other responses to our cruise survey.

Our choices of the cruises/itineraries are much more limited than many may think. 

  • the need to vary itineraries – most Australian cruise itineraries are New Zealand and the South Pacific, but we have done each of these twice and it seems our people want new itineraries
  • Most ships here do not have suitable conference facilities.
    • Royal Caribbean ships (the larger ones), have the best
    • Celebrity Solstice has a good conference centre, but there are problems with Celebrity and the conference centre itself
    • ships from most other cruise lines do not suit our group requirements
    • two ships, new to Australia (and P&O), give us significant additional possibilities
  • limited cruise season (some are only) down under for most ships. This is further limited – December/January are not popular with our group. Even November and February are not ideal, so that the short window of March/April is the most acceptable time generally. That may change – P&O seems now to give us additional choice all year round with two conference suitable ships to operate from various Australian cities in future
  • need to sign up early before conference meeting room is booked by others (as happened with our preferred 2017 cruise)

Future cruise itineraries will mainly be from Australia
The two British Isles based cruises we have done have all been great itineraries, with top-level conferences, but have not attracted enough overall (especially from the British Isles) to justify doing more in a hurry in Britain/Europe.

Here are your suggested itineraries and our comments:

  1. Jewish eastern European
    UK/European cruises not viable at present
  2. relocation cruise to Singapore
    –this (or Hong Kong) was one of our 2017 proposals, now unavailable to us, but remains a good possibility sometime after 2017
  3. UK, Baltic & European river (several)
    – UK/European cruises not viable at present
  4. Japan (twice mentioned)
    –to the best of our knowledge there are only a few cruises going to Japan and those that do are generally very expensive.
  5. New Zealand (several)
    – our 2nd cruise was from New Zealand (to Sydney), and our coming 10th cruise (still open for bookings) will be from Auckland to Fremantle. Interest in these has not been strong enough to consider further New Zealand itineraries in the foreseeable future.
  6. prefer one way cruises
    –our 2nd, 10th, 12th and prospective cruise to Asia are one-way cruises. But apart from finishing in the port they start from all/most others are more or less one-way into they don’t return via the same route they went out. The advantage of a one-way cruise is that they are sometimes cheaper per day than others. The disadvantages are there is usually at least one international (or long distance) flight to be factored into the cost – and there are not many different destinations/choices for one-way cruises
  7. Alaska (several mentions, including a Canadian who said they would tell all their friends)
    –with good interest in our recent survey there is a reasonable possibility of one between 2017 and 2019
  8. British Isles and Rhine river
    we have a Rhine river cruise currently booking, but further British Isles/European cruises are not viable at present
  9. Prague, Budapest, Dubrovnik
    –UK/European cruises not viable at present
  10. longer time in Australian cities like Hobart
    –ships rarely call at ports from more than one day. Hobart (4th cruise) was an exception – we spent a full day, overnight and half the following day there 2014
  11. Tasmania (twice mentioned)
    –our 4th cruise went to Hobart, it is a possibility, though not a certainty, it could be included in one of our cruises between 2017 in 2019
  12. visit Townsville, instead of Airlie Beach
    –I presume this is because of port limitations. Only smaller ships from specialist (expensive) cruise lines visit Townsville. These would be priced well out of reach of our cruise groups–and are usually part of longer international cruises
  13. South Pacific
    –we have done two to the South Pacific, probably the reason our recent survey showed relatively little interest in more
  14. eastern provinces/states of Canada and US
    –there have been 3 specialist genealogy cruise operators in the US for many years, so we have not considered going into their territory. With the high cost for Australians to travel there, there is unlikely to be enough interest to support this
  15. Ireland, with opportunity for research
    – UK/European cruises not viable at present
  16. Ketichan for the lumberjack show
    –that would depend on two things

    1. Whether we do Alaskan cruise (see response under 7 above)
    2. if Ketchikan is part of the itinerary of any cruise chosen
  17. Northern Lights tour?
    –this would presumably be part of certain cruises to Norway or Iceland, neither of which is on our radar at this stage
  18. Adelaide
    –we visited Adelaide on our 4th cruise and will again on our 10th cruise (Auckland to Fremantle – still open for bookings). With some interesting new ships (conference suitable) operating different ports around Australia all year round from November 2015 onwards, we will consider cruises out of Adelaide, Melbourne and Fremantle are also other possible ports to cruise from.
  19. Western Australian coast
    –we did a southern WA coastal cruise earlier this year.  A cruise northward from Fremantle is a possibility sometime
  20. Barrier Reef if offered again after 2016
    –we wouldn’t do similar itineraries close to to each other in time. The only possibility is one with limited Barrier Reef stops on a one-way relocation cruise to Singapore or Hong Kong (under consideration in the next 3 years).

Topics/themes of interest

the value of memorabilia, objects, preservation, etc
–we could not generally financially support a speaker for topics like these, but if one of our other speakers, or someone just booking for the cruise, with expertise offered to speak on these topics, we would be include them in program

daily short workshops on writing the family history
–Noeline Kyle was on our 4th cruise as a writing expert, Carol Baxter did some writing talks on two of our earlier cruises. On our recent Baltic cruise she did an eight-talk writing series plus small group workshops, and will do the same on our coming 11th cruise (Barrier Reef – still open for booking)

NOTE: we are considering some more in-depth workshop type sessions for the future. Also minimising, where we can the number of competing parallel talks.


need to be diverse
Our cruise program is always built around a very small number of invited lead presenters, supported by others who come with partial or no financial support. The supporting speakers contribute considerably to the diversity of the program we have, but the the commitment to any cruise is founded upon the leading 1 – 5 different presenters – and would function even if there were no others. To highlight our lead presenters here they are for our first 11 cruises (Australian if not otherwise noted)

  • 1st cruise – Ron Austin, Shauna Hicks, Mike Murray, Cora Num, Jeremy Palmer
  • 2nd cruise – Chris Paton (Scotland), Keith Johnson, Perry McIntyre, Richard Reid
  • 3rd cruise ship – Paul Milner (US), Bob Velke (US)
  • 4th cruise – Thomas MacEntee (US), Chris Paton (Scotland), Kirsty Gray (England) Jane Taubman (England)
  • 5th cruise – Paul Blake (England), Jackie Depelle (England), Marie Dougan (Scotland), Eileen & Sean Ó Dúill (Ireland). Lisa Louise Cooke (US)
  • 6th cruise – John Donaldson, Cathy Dunn, Shauna Hicks, Carole Riley
  • 7th cruise – Richard Reid, Mike Murray, Lesley Silvester, Helen Smith
  • 8th cruise – Janet Few, Cyndi Ingle, Paul Milner, Chris Paton
  • 9th cruise – Stephanie Ryan
  • 10th cruise – Judy Russell, Paul Blake
  • 11th cruise – Carol Baxter

Some who speak regularly on our cruises, e.g. Jan Gow, Shauna Hicks, Eric and Rosemary Kopittke and Helen Smith, come mainly in other capacities, either of their own accord or as part of the UTP organising team. As important experts we will always give them a place on the program if they choose to come. Though they may repeat a few talks that have been done before (because they are important basic subjects), they mostly vary their topics from cruise to cruise, often preparing a new topic for the cruise.

other speakers, e.g. Else Churchill, John Donaldson (FTM)
–John Donaldson was a presenter on our 6th cruise–on FTM. We have some excellent presenters, interested in doing our cruises, but do not have enough cruises to use them all on. Some are listed on the presenters page, Other excellent speakers are not listed at this stage.

presentation team will determine my decision, preferably interesting overseas presenters
–that is understandable for many people, though for some the cruise itinerary been dominant factor, knowing there will always be a good general interest conference anyway. Lead presenters are usually settled by the time we announce a cruise, mostly 12-18 months ahead of the cruise sail date.

not the same Aussie speakers whose talks I have heard previously
–see 1st bullet those above speakers. The program is always developed around invited lead presenters, which change with every cruise, with very few repeats. If they do repeat it is usually on cruises several years apart, with many of the talks different and only the most in demand speakers. As for the “same Aussie speakers”, those you would have in mind will be on the cruise in other capacities, whether they speak or not. In a program of 50 sessions (typical on major cruises) we would expect everyone to be selective of the talks will attend. Probably no more than 20% of the talks would repeat talks from previous cruises, leaving perhaps 40 new topics you can choose from, more than most people choose to do anyway.

Other comments

Australian cruises expensive compared with America
–so are a lot of things. As a general rule that would be more due to the economies of scale there is in America–and the larger (more cost-effective) ships which can operate there. It probably applies more to East Coast cruises and those on the West Coast, where Alaskan cruises are probably similar cost to Australian cruises of the same length.

would need someone to share a cabin with
–it is nearly always possible to arrange partner to share a cabin with, especially if you register your interest early. See our blog post Are you are solo cruiser?

airfares are a big consideration
–yes they are, that applies to us as well, as it costs a lot for our own UTP team to fly internationally, and even interstate given we are based in Adelaide. And it adds to the cost of the leading international presenters. For this reason, and the fact take-up for our British-based cruises from the UK is the very low, most cruises in future will be Australian based. But we are still considering an Alaskan cruise. As for the UK, we would not categorically rule out more there, but they are unlikely in the foreseeable future.

would love to go if the price was right and had plenty of time to save
–we aim to give at least 12-18 months notice of any new cruise, and flag significant possible cruises 2 to 3 years in advance. As for price we are largely constrained by the cruise lines to set the price. There is a conference fee on top of this. This is needed as with any conference to cover speaker costs, which are quite high and cruises and other direct expenses. However the conference fee is relatively small part of the total cost to do the cruise, and is lower for the number of sessions offered than land conferences. Our major cruises generally offer around 50 sessions – 2 to 4 times the number it is possible to attend at most 3 to 4  land conferences.

shore excursions to local archives/libraries
–we usually give details on local archives, societies and libraries, where these may be of interest, but as with any shore excursion it is up to the individual to choose what is of interest to them. See comprehensive shore tours page we set up for our British Isles. But to go further with a formal shore excursion is problematic. The nearest thing to setting up a “shore excursion” was engaging a professional genealogist in Dublin for a presentation and tour of the National Library of Ireland. We only had 6 people, from our cruise group of 70 who took this up. Most tended to do general tourist things in Dublin.

joining a cruise part way through
–this is not usually possible, but in certain circumstances (at ports whether a customs services), it may be possible for a special arrangement to be made to join part way through. There would of course be no reduction in cruise fare, as the cabin will need to be booked in your name from the start of the cruise. It is possible to leave a cruise part way through, though this needs to be arranged in advance – and like wise there will be no reduction in fare, as your cabin would normally remain empty for the rest of the cruise.

generally what topics would be discussed/presented
–our cruises, more than any other genealogy cruises, have a wide-ranging program of international appeal. There will always be topics on British Isles research, methodology and general topics on every cruise. We usually have something on Europe, social history, some technology related topics, online resources etc. Each cruise will have topics that a specific to that cruise – just because we have speakers who can bring something different

husband and wife not interested in genealogy, so prefer cruise where they don’t have to pay conference fee
–that is a possibility, and we are giving some thought again to this for some future cruises. But there are fixed costs to cover – mostly the cost of supporting leading presenters which needs to be covered by the conference component of the fare. Further, most couples sharing a cabin, have one partner who is not into genealogy/history. So to run with a two (or even three) tiered pricing structure, the genealogy partner’s fare needs to be considerably higher than if both paid the same. See our blog post Unlock the Past cruises are unique.

cheaper/better internet, especially when talking about websites
–as heavy internet users (and a business to run even while we are still on the cruise), no one wants that more than we do. We can only have what ship provides, and that is provided to them by satellite service providers. All we can say is that in general, the service tends to be improving and at least those needing more than very basic internet rates, will find they are now often cheaper than in the past–at least with some cruise lines. Where access points on the ships were limited in the past, they now sometimes extend to other areas of the ship. Our July 2015 Baltic cruise on Celebrity Eclipse had the best internet access we have seen on any ship to date – available throughout the ship (conference rooms, dining rooms, lounges and cabins), reasonably satisfactory speed wise, never lost a signal, and it had much more cost-effective plans, including some that did not require logging off to avoid using up internet credit. It is rare for speakers to use live internet during a presentation, even land presentations (can waste time and not always work). Even more so with the more limited internet service and sea. Some experts however will have internet access to use during Research Help Zone sessions or just informally when helping others.

cruise timing is an issue
–yes it always will be for some people, and different with different people, e.g. teachers could only cruise in school holidays, whereas we tend to avoid school holidays, because of the higher cost of holiday cruises – and our preference for timing with less children around. To date our window of opportunity for Australian cruises has been largely limited to the Australian summer, when most cruise ships we see come downunder for our summer season. The choice may be expanded however with two new conference suitable ships operating all year round in Australia from November 2015.

am spur of the moment person, so can’t book too far in advance
–that is usually not a problem. We mostly have cabins available in our allocation until about 3 months before the cruise sail date. However some of the cheaper preferred cabins may have gone earlier. It may be possible to book cabins after the cruise line recalls any unsold cabins from our allocation (about 3 months before the cruise), but these will be at the rate of the day, which may still we at a reasonable price, but more often than not will be higher than our rates. Sometimes the cruise line may increase prices significantly (though our group prices are fixed while we still have them). Or they may completely sell out of some/all categories, even before all of our unsold cabins are reclaimed.