Originally created 07/12/98

Unusual reunions



Think back to your last family reunion. It probably entailed a trip to your old hometown, and a pot-luck picnic that included, among other delicacies, fried chicken, potato salad and iced tea. If your family follows the latest trends, your next get-together could be a trip to Disney World or a three-day cruise to the Bahamas aboard a luxury ship.

People are getting more creative with reunions, says Edith Wagner, editor of Reunions magazine. From camping trips to cruises, more groups are opting for nontraditional reunion destinations.

"I think reunions are like an opportunity to create your own family holiday," Ms. Wagner said. "Some people are doing really exciting things."

Among the ideas Ms. Wagner has heard are beach vacations, meeting at desert resorts, scavenger hunts, family campouts and traveling together to exotic destinations.

"It's becoming increasingly popular to do things like cruises or resorts," she said. "A lot of families that have longstanding reunions want to do something different, or maybe a new generation is taking over and has new ideas."

Cruise reunions have become especially popular in recent years, according to Marilyn Adam, reunion director for the California-based company Cruise Reunions, which makes travel arrangements and plans reunions.The phenomenon's popularity may be due to word of mouth, she said -- one family goes on a reunion cruise, has a great time, then goes back home and tells friends about it. The convenience of having all meals provided and several entertainment options to choose from is a big lure for large groups, Ms. Adam said.

"It's an easy way for families to travel together," she said.With a group discount, which most cruise lines offer for groups of 16 people or eight cabins, a three-day cruise starts at between $250 and $300 per person, Ms. Adam said. Seven-day cruises usually begin at about $1,000 per person. Additional discounts are available for early booking, approximately a year in advance. Ms. Adam said a cruise reunion should be planned at least six months in advance, and she recommends a year of planning.

Unusual reunions aren't just limited to families. Joe Johnson, president of Laney High School's class of 1960, planned a cruise to the Bahamas last year for several of his classmates and is currently in the process of planning a late-summer trip to Las Vegas.

Members of his class get together several times a year, he said. Often, they'll just have dinner together or go to church together, but sometimes they like to do something big, like the cruise. They've also gone on shopping caravans together, to outlet malls in Jacksonville, Fla., and Boaz, Ala.

The frequent gatherings have enabled Mr. Johnson and his classmates to strengthen the bond they formed as teen-agers and provides a supportive network of friends.

"I think class reunions are becoming more prevalent today than 10 or 15 years ago," he said. "People are wanting the camaraderie. They want to establish connections with old friends. You need to have something to hang on to from your past."