Tag Archives: Family reunions

Travelling with family gets ugly

They say family reunions on vacation is a wonderful idea and a great way to see those cousins, aunties and grandparents that you haven’t seen for such a long time. Some people might disagree. In fact a lot of people probably feel this way because it only happens roughly once every ten years (if at all).

First of all the organisation involved is multi-layered so it usually takes the OCD member of the family to do all the detail stuff such as explaining to Aunt Hilda that she cannot bring her dachshund Willy to the resort. Of course cousin Joe will have to be told not to bring THAT type of girl to the function – the aunts will be shocked and Great Uncle Bill won’t be able to keep his hands to himself. Oh and we have to make sure that our flight doesn’t connect in a US airport because you know Uncle Dennis had that “incident” with the police years ago – it really wasn’t his fault!

Things can go wrong rather quickly – On a trip with my family, many years ago, to Dublin to reconnect with cousins and aunts the excitement was overwhelming (at least to us kids). If you have ever heard a crowd of Irish people talking you probably won’t have understood much of it. I still have problems today when I phone my cousin in Dublin because the accent is so strong and she talks so fast. Now multiply that by 20. Everyone hugging and talking – Mom and Dad were over from England, Auntie Betty had come from New York and Uncle Joe had come down from his hermit like existence in his hilltop farmhouse. After much back slapping and “Jaysus, Mary and Joseph – look at the grey hair on you, will ya?” it was decided to make off for the pub where everyone could enjoy a Guinness together. Out the little house they all piled into their separate cars and drove off in six different directions – all going to a different pub. You see – organisation was very lacking there – but it was all very Irish.

As a child I grew up in Mullion, Cornwall – a favourite seaside destination for people from “up north”. As my grandmother lived in Birmingham it was decided that she should get the train and come down and have a holiday with us. My parents gave her the main bedroom and mom and dad made do with a single bed in the spare room – well it was only for a week – right? Hahaha – the gods were laughing. We took a lovely trip out to St Michael’s Mount – the tide was low so we were able to walk all along the causeway to the castle but we didn’t make very good timing because of Nanny. Well it wasn’t that she couldn’t walk very well – it was because she had noticed the periwinkles latched to the side of the causeway and started picking them. Periwinkles are described thus in wiki –

“The common periwinkle or winkle (Littorina littorea) is a species of small edible whelk or sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc that has gills and an operculum, and is classified within the family Littorinidae, the periwinkles. This is a robust intertidal species with a dark and sometimes banded shell.”

These, apparently, are a popular snack in British sea side coastal towns. I found them listed in an article about 25 Classic British foods that foreigners find gross – and I am definitely in the foreigners club here. So were my mom and dad. “Mom, c’mon stop picking them periwinkles. What are you going to do with them for Chris’sake” said my dad. “Oooh son, you’d pay a fortune for a packet of these. Going to cook them up when I get home. I just happen to have a paper bag her in my handbag.” Yep – that paper bag was full before we knew it and we had to sit in the back of the car with Nanny and the periwinkles. UGH.

But it got worse – Nanny kept the packet of winkles on the dressing table – and they were STILL ALIVE. My sister and I would creep into the room when she was out and listen to the rustling going on inside the packet. They were trying to escape. We had nightmares of being chased by huge periwinkles all slimy. That was until they died.

After a week my mom and dad were threadbare with sharing a single bed and not getting much sleep – but they had done their job and now the next day we would take Nanny to the station and she would get on the train back to Birmingham. Except that afternoon she tripped, fell and broke her arm. We all went in the car to the hospital while she had her arm set in a plaster cast. My dad was so fed up. “She’d trip on her own spit” he said! The nurse was shocked. She was even more shocked when my dad asked if she would be alright to get on the train the next day. “Mr Holland” she said sternly “Your mother is an elderly lady and she has broken her arm.”

“Exactly!” said my dad. “Her arm – not her leg!”

Yep – family vacations – small and big – can be stressful and sometimes don’t have such a happy ending.

My ship is bigger than your ship

I will be sailing on the inaugural cruise of Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas in November.  This is a MOTHER of a ship.  8000 human beings including guests and crew.  Wow!

It got me thinking about all the choices out there and what the differences are between cruising on a small ship of, say 300 guests, versus a big ship accommodating 5000 guests. I have cruised on big and small – some of the smaller ships like Paul Gauguin and Windstar with just 300 guests.  I have sailed on the in-betweeners like Celebrity, Azamara and Holland America and I have also sailed on the inaugural voyage of the Oasis of the Seas – sister ship to the Harmony.

So what to consider – do you go big or small.  (Go big or go home).

Big ships have more “stuff” – more restaurants, more entertainment, more choices.  For multi-generational families this might be a good thing.  The large ships are big enough to escape Cousin Maude or Uncle Henry on that family reunion.

Big ships have entertainment for all types – whether you want to sit in a quiet area and listen to some classical music or dance the night away.  The shows on the mega ships are world-class Broadway style and the kids’ entertainment is exceptional.   Children’s groups are divided according to age and with all the activities on board, a large cruise ship is especially ideal for those older teenagers as they can zipline, rock climb or learn to surf onboard.


So what about the small ships?
Well they don’t have climbing walls, mega Broadway shows or 22 restaurants but those features are not what small ship cruising people want.  Smaller ships are often more about the destination – so think of it as a floating boutique hotel taking you into hard to get to places and small ports.  Small ships will often have facilities such as a small marina at the back of the ship where you can go swimming or kayaking.  Oh the thrill of jumping off the back of the ship off the coast of Split, Croatia!  Fabulous!  I loved that!

Because small ships don’t have a host of singers, dancers, musicians and jugglers on board they will often bring on local entertainers and guest lecturers so the evenings are different and somewhat quieter.

For those who want a little bit of each, such as a wider choice of restaurants and some nightlife but still a touch of intimacy with smaller numbers, there are lots of choices.  New kid on the block Viking Ocean Cruises have launched their new ocean ship Viking Star hosting just 900 people.   As on their river cruises the Viking Star will offer complimentary wine and beer with lunch and dinner as well as speciality teas and coffees any time during the day.  I am looking forward to sailing with them next month.

So you see – there is a choice for everyone whether you prefer the BIG BIG ships or the eeny weeny ones.