Review: Wholly Genes Cruise, 2006

by Dae Powell

This was a cruise on the Princess Diamond ship, which included about 400 genealogy enthusiasts. It was sponsored by Wholly Genes Software, the creators of The Master Genealogist, or TMG for short. I'll address the cruise first, then the genealogy sessions.


The cabin was on the port side, not an internal room with no view. However, the view was obstructed by a lifeboat. Still, a reasonable view of the sea and of other ships availed itself. The ship's stabilizers were excellent — no sea-sickness!

The Safety

The very first afternoon we had a safety drill, which taught us how to fasten our lifejackets. Throughout the week the crew underwent 3 or 4 additional safety checks and drills.

The Entertainment

All through the week, we were entertained by various musicians who played absolutely NO RAP. They did play show tunes, pop melodies, torch songs, some soft rock, and some big band hits. There was even a Broadway musical they called "Piano Man" featuring the words and music of Billy Joel, Neil Sedaka, Barry Manilow, Liberace and Elton John, with well-choreographed dancing and luscious costuming.

Most of the decks had alcoholic beverages, but I was good and did not partake. The Fitness Center was well laid-out with handsome trainers to envy and lovely models to ogle, but I was good and did not partake. There were computers in the Library and the 24-Hour Internet Café which cost 50˘ per minute, so I was good and did not partake. There were shops where one could buy clothing, makeup, purses, shoes, sandals, wine, hats, lotions and sundry other things people may have forgotten to bring. The opportunities to gamble were legion as we traveled in international waters, still I was good and did not partake. There was even a free massage giveaway, but ... well, you know. You could even have your teeth whitened.

The entertainment was free; the shops were not.

There were golf lessons on the golf course, pilates, yoga and aerobics in the gym. We had Bingo, Trivia, Ping Pong, Bridge, Shuffleboard, Tennis, Swimming and Dancing, although not in the same place.

There was television, but it was mostly dominated by Princess Cruise infomercials. Even so, they did show some recent movies like Sandra Bullock's "The Lake House."

The Ports of Call

While not at sea, the shops aboard ship were closed. However, most other facilities were not.

  1. Puerto Vallarta. Tuesday. From the tour guide: "A developers dream and a rustic's nightmare tell the Cinderella story of Puerto Vallarta. A small and remote agricultural village until the early 1960s, it is today one of the fastest-growing seaside resorts in Norte America. Its resident population (which includes many foreigners) is approximately 250,000, a figures that swells when tourists fill its 13,000-plus hotel rooms at the height of the season. About 215 miles from Guadalajara and an hour from the jungle, Puerto Vallarta, in the state of Jalisco, lies between the rugged tropical Sierra Madre to the east and 25 miles of sandy beaches along beautiful Banderas Bay to the west."
    We were told that there has been a long history of spiked drinks in Mexico and to buy only bottled beer or wine.

  2. Mazatlan. Wednesday. Mazatlan rests on a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean in the state of Sinaloa, with a natural bay and a sheltered harbour. It is one of the most popular resorts in all of Mexico. I think some of us walked all over that town. (Others were so laden, I think they purchased it!) I purchased a ring I liked.

  3. Cabo San Lucas. Thursday. From the travel guide: "Graced by the spectacular rocks of Los Arcos, Cabo San Lucas calmly watches the cool Pacific waters merge with the Sea of Cortes. Once you experience its crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and dry climate, you'll understand this Baja city's transformation from quiet cannery village to international resort. The underwater life, so richly colorful and unspoiled, provides an unforgettable experience. Cabo boasts one of the best swimming beaches, too."
    As tourists, we were pounced upon by chicanos bidding us to ride a glass-bottomed boat, enter their lairs of wares or take a taxi into the city. I opted for a bicycle-taxi ride. The kid earned his money and it was enjoyable as I had a captive audience to my pocho Spanish.
    At one place I paused to cross the avenida and a man invited me in for a drink. He said, "Come on in. Don't be afraid!" I said, "Well, I am afraid." He laughed and said, "Then let me be the man for both of us and help you inside." Had I been a drinker, his humour would have been sufficient to coax me in.

Most of the prices I saw in Mexico were fairly reasonable for a U.S. market. BUT, very few prices are fixed in Mexico, so with a bit of haggling a very good bargain can be had for both. As Dr. Covey would suggest, "Think Win-Win."

For Cabo, we had to take a "tender" to shore as the port was not deep enough to accommodate our ship. It wasn't as bumpy a ride as I'd imagined, but one little Japanese girl kept getting her face sprayed by the wake as it splashed into the craft. She was a cute little lass and was delighted at the new experience.

The Food

The food was plentiful, delicious and fabulous. There were several restaurants and one double buffet. In addition, there were pizza, ice cream, hamburgers and hot dogs available around the 14th deck pools. Every bite was scrumptious. I found I preferred the buffet because I could choose exactly what I wanted and how much of it. Continental breakfasts? Sure, if that's what you wanted. I had everything from kippurs to yogurt . . . and fruit in abundance!

This cruise introduced me to several new kinds of fish, whose names I don't recall. I enjoyed them all . . . especially the salmon and the swordfish. I even liked the octopus salad. I tried the Beef Wellington and found it tender and tasty. The leg of lamb was perfect. I went back for seconds on the Royal Pheasant and found to my delight there was still some left.

Hosted Breakfasts

One of the draws to this conference, for me at least, was the Hosted Breakfast. This isn't a presentation, but a small group of attendees gather for an informal breakfast with one of the speakers or experts. I was fortunate to get my first choice, Marsha Hoffman Rising, FASG.

At the table, we had 7 folks from all over the nation and Caroline Gurney from the U.K. She's a delightful, knowledgeable person who joined the cruise as the one who took the last minute vacancy.

Marsha told us a little about herself and entertained us with stories about placing children in homes. She always called them her children. She asked around to all of us about our situations. I told them about GENTREK and the websites Bits of Blue and Gray and ShoeString Genealogy. And, of course, I handed out the brochures Jayne McCormick and I created. Barb Paris helped on the editing, too. They loved them!

Ok, so I enjoyed the cruise and the ports of call. What about the Genealogy Conference?

Sunday, Nov. 12th

We had 5 speakers with 5 topics, as follows:

Monday, Nov. 13th

Monday morning was dedicated to The Master Genealogist software. I attended every session, although some sessions were better than others. Dorothy Turner and Phil DeSilva began the first session but tried to handle questions and details from the audience and got into trouble. Bob Velke, President of Wholly Genes, stepped in and eventually got us back on track.

Monday afternoon greeted us with three genealogy speakers.

Tuesday, Nov. 14th

Wednesday, Nov. 15th

Thursday, Nov. 16th

Friday, Nov. 17th


It was a wonderful week. Good food, good information, fun experiences and good company to share them with. I built a notebook full of ideas, plans and contacts to pursue. My digital recorder still has more information to transcribe, but that will have to wait until I have the time . . . or can find an amanuensis.

At the end of each session, Bob Velke gave away a door prize to one of the attendees. No, that wasn't the reason I attended ALL sessions, but it was a nice incentive. I also have the $250 gift certificate that Wholly Genes Software gave to each of us for CD-ROM titles in genealogy. (Just when you thought it was over, eh?)

Well, it is, alas. Thanks for reading all this. We really hope that several of you can attend a FUTURE cruise!

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