The statewide headquarters of the Florida Historical Society is in Cocoa, but the organization hosts their Annual Meeting and Symposium in a different Florida city each year. In recent years the event has been held in Orlando, St. Augustine, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Pensacola.
In 2013, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the naming of our state, the Florida Historical Society hosted their annual meeting aboard a cruise ship that sailed out of Port Canaveral. The return voyage from the Bahamas followed Ponce de León’s path of discovery, sailing up the east coast of Florida.
“That cruise was the most popular conference we’ve ever had,” says Tracy Moore, president of the Florida Historical Society. “We’ve been around since 1856, so that’s really saying something. People enjoyed it so much they began asking us right away when we were going to do a conference cruise again.”
The answer is here. The Florida Historical Society will hold their next Annual Meeting and Symposium aboard the Carnival Sensation cruise ship, May 18-22, 2017.
“We’ll be leaving out of Miami, and spending a day in Key West taking tours of historic sites and museums such as the Harry S. Truman Little White House, writer Ernest Hemingway’s House, and other exciting places,” says Moore. “From there we’ll travel to Cozumel, where we’ll take a tour to the breathtaking Mayan ruins at Tulum. This ancient city sits high on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It’s really spectacular.”
The theme for the conference is “Islands in the Stream: Exploring History and Archaeology in Key West and Cozumel.”
“While we’ll be on a cruise ship and having a lot of fun, all of the scholarly elements of our annual meeting that people expect from the Florida Historical Society will remain intact,” says Ben DiBiase, FHS director of educational resources. “In addition to the historic tours on land, we will have fascinating paper presentations and round table discussions on a wide variety of Florida history topics while on board ship.”
One of the keynote speakers for the conference will be Robert Kerstein, author of the book “Key West on the Edge: Inventing the Conch Republic.”
“Dr. Kerstein’s book is a thoroughly researched study of this unique town that we’ll be visiting,” says DiBiase. “It follows the development of Key West from an isolated outpost of people who salvaged shipwrecks, to an important military installation, to the tourist mecca it is today.”
Another keynote speaker for the conference will be Sandra Starr, senior researcher emerita from the Smithsonian Institution. She will be giving a presentation called “Maya Mariners, the Yucatan, and Florida: A Researcher’s Tale of Seduction into the Cross-Gulf Travel Theory.”
There has been speculation for decades that the ancient Maya may have used boats to cross the Gulf of Mexico to visit Florida. Some have argued that evidence of this contact can be found in the language, pottery, and earthen mounds of some of Florida’s indigenous people.
“The possible connection between the ancient Mayan people and the indigenous people of Florida is a fascinating topic for discussion, and Sandra Starr will help us to explore those possibilities before we tour one of the most impressive Mayan cities,” says DiBiase.
The Florida Historical Society Archaeological Institute is based at the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science in Cocoa, and archaeology has been a primary focus of FHS for more than a century.
To participate in the Florida Historical Society Annual Meeting and Symposium cruise, you must register through the FHS website at myfloridahistory.org, or call 321-690-1971 ext. 205. A $50 per person deposit will hold a cabin for the conference.
The cost of the event varies based on what kind of cabin a participant wants, but all registrations include the cruise, meals, the featured tours at Key West and Cozumel, symposium registration, taxes, fees, and port charges. Inside cabins start at $699.99 per person, double occupancy.
“Last time that we did a conference cruise, we filled all of our allotted cabins quickly,” says Moore, who also owns Robinson Cruise Planners in Cocoa. “We suggest that you contact the Florida Historical Society right away to reserve your cabin so you don’t miss this once in a lifetime event.”