GalactiCruise: A Fan's Convention at Sea

| March 17, 2008

Planning the show's 30th anniversary fan convention at sea provides unexpected benefits to group's organizer.

I am a big fan of the television series Battlestar Galactica. For those unfamiliar with the show, it debuted in 1978 as a science fiction series. In its several incarnations, it's amassed quite a cult following, and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the original series. To celebrate this landmark, the fan club decided to take their convention to the high seas for the first time.

The cast of the original Battlestar Galactica television series;Richard Hatch (Capt. Apollo), Lorne Greene (Cmdr. Adama) and Dirk Benedict (Lt. Starbuck)

CruiseMates gave me the opportunity to interview Shawn O'Donnell, president of the Battlestar Galactica Fan Club. This year, the fan's convention will take place on the four-night Carnival Paradise sailing departing Long Beach, California on September 15th.

I asked Shawn if he found the planning process for his fan club events different for a cruise than a land-based venue.

"Holding the event at sea is going to make the entire convention completely different -- and much better in a number of different ways," Shawn told me. "When we have held our events in a hotel we found people coming for the sole purpose of participating in a weekend of fan club-related activities. Their purpose for being there was the event, and nothing else, and so we ran programs on a continuous basis for two solid days."

"On this four-day cruise, we also want people to enjoy the amenities of the ship and the various ports of call as much as the convention itself. So, by planning to spread our events out over the course of the cruise our guests can also play in the casino, get a spa treatment or do just about anything else their hearts desire without missing a thing."

"Having extra time and a captive audience, so to speak, has also allowed the attending celebrities to get creative with the kinds of programs and activities they want to host during the cruise. Having the convention at sea is giving us the opportunity to plan some really neat lectures, panel discussions and first-time unique events that we probably could not have done on land."

Help Available from a Variety of Sources Even Shawn was surprised at the many ways holding his event on a cruise ship makes for a much richer program than he ever imagined.

"For the first time I am finding I don't have to 'do it all' myself. Not only is our travel agent handling all of the bookings, she is also running interference with the Carnival people. We just tell her what we need in terms of rooms and support, and she is making it all happen for us. We just sent her a list of our requested dining arrangements and she took over. It's such a relief not to have to worry about all of those little details."

Terry Carter (Col. Tigh) will screen his documentary film "A Duke Named Ellington" onboard

Freed up from much of the organizational details, Shawn now has more "executive time" to plan a more ambitious event than in years past. He is spending much of that time focusing on the stars of the show, the series' principal actors, who are the main draw for the convention.

His extra time for the celebrity figures means Richard Hatch (Capt. Apollo) will be presenting a seminar about his history with the show. Dirk Benedict (Lt. Starbuck) will be doing a "free form" presentation entitled "Where have all the Starbucks Gone?" which is a planned combination of Q&A and discussion of his role on the series. Terry Carter (Col. Tigh) will be screening a documentary he produced called "A Duke Named Ellington," about the life and times of that musical great.

In the planning stages are shore tours led by the celebrities in each of the two ports on this cruise, Catalina Island and Ensenada. Aaron Douglas (character Chief Petty Officer Galen Tyrol on the reimagined series) is a wine aficionado and wants to lead an excursion into the wine-producing regions of Ensenada. Onboard ship, Dirk Benedict will host a cigar party, while Jack Stauffer (Lt. Bojay in the original series) is going to be presenting his cabaret act. Stu Phillips, the composer of the Grammy-nominated orchestral score of the show, will give a presentation on the music of Battlestar Galactica.

The Battlestar Galactica cruise can be booked by paying a total fare for the cruise and convention events onboard, with some convention events, like shore excursions, carrying an additional nominal charge. There is also a $199.00 fee for the event pass which includes most of the activities that will take place during the convention. Sample cabin prices for this sailing are $285 pp (double occupancy) for an inside, $335 for an outside, and $685 for a junior suite. And, there are some nice bennies available for folks booking with the group, including free champagne and chocolates delivered to your cabin on embarkation day, as well as a private welcome aboard cocktail party for event participants only.

Pre-Cruise Events Planned for the Queen Mary in Long Beach Organizing this event has been going so smoothly that O'Donnell and his staff have already begun setting up pre-cruise activities, including designating an "official" pre-convention hotel; the original Queen Mary ocean liner permanently moored in Long Beach.

"Many of the attendees and celebrities will be flying in from far off places, so we decided to add some pre-convention events. We were very lucky to secure a fantastic room rate of $119 per night with the Queen Mary in Long Beach."

Convention organizers have even found the time to firm up arrangements for an elegant group dinner the night before embarkation. "We will be dining in the ambiance of the beautiful Capstan room aboard the Queen Mary, and will hopefully have several of the celebrities in attendance. For $52 per person, attendees can dine on such entrees as a succulent broiled breast of chicken served with Alaskan crab meat and Asparagus tips with bernaise sauce, with sides, and a Caesar salad. For dessert a marbled cheese cake, bathed in either blueberry or strawberry topping is on offer."

"With the beautiful amenities of this historic ship, many folks are planning to fly in early the weekend before, and our discounted rates are good from Friday night. Other events being considered onboard the Queen Mary include a group Champagne Brunch, as well as some possible sightseeing opportunities in and around the Long Beach area."

Planning for this event began last April when several members of the fan club who had been on cruises in the past suggested doing the next convention at sea. Shawn admits they are much farther along in the planning process for this convention than they have ever been for previous land-based events, due in large part to the support they've gotten from their agent and from Carnival in the planning process. They already have over 40 cabins booked, and the convention is still six months away.

If you think you might want to attend the BattleStar Galactica 30th anniversary cruise, just click on There you will find information on all of the events being planned, as well as a link for booking.

Coming next week: Organizing a group cruise doesn't have to be a hassle. You can easily do it if you know where to get the right help. Whether it be for your bowling league, trade association or just a group of friends and family traveling together, CruiseMates tells you how to put together your own cruise group the easy and fun way!

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