While it might appear that cruises are best for young travellers, honeymooners or families with children, a cruise vacation can also be ideal for senior travelers. Cruises are perfect for those who want to experience several different destinations without the hassles of travelling, packing and unpacking in multiple cities.
However, seniors who are planning cruise vacations have different considerations from other passengers. Chances are that they’re not interested in onboard surf simulators, climbing walls and waterslides (although some might be!). Comfortable accommodations, good food and interesting activities are among the chief concerns of older travelers, and many cruise lines have created offerings to serve this market.
Cruise Ship Considerations
Megaships are called that for a reason – they are huge, sometimes nearly half a mile long or more. While these ships are essentially small cities, offering plenty of options for dining, shopping, and other activities, they may be harder to get around and usually require lots of walking to get from Point A to Point B. Seniors with mobility issues may be more comfortable on a smaller ship that requires less walking to get around. As an added bonus, these smaller ships may be able to access ports that the larger ships can’t, making them a good choice for off the beaten path destinations.
Every cruise line has its own particular atmosphere; some are generally elegant and refined, while others are a nonstop party. Seniors should carefully read all the cruise descriptions and reviews and get recommendations for the atmosphere that they are looking for. For example, some cruise lines hearken back to the Golden Age of ocean travel, with chimes announcing dinner each evening (which is a formal affair, with passengers dressing up for the meals) and a daily afternoon tea, while others are more informal, with passengers eating whenever they please at casual buffets and restaurants.
While Caribbean cruises are always popular – and seniors may certainly enjoy some time in the warm sunshine of the islands – older travelers may prefer cruises to more exotic destinations featuring rich culture, beautiful scenery and less of a party atmosphere. Destinations such as Alaska, Europe, and even Canada and New England allow seniors to enjoy all of the shipboard amenities while exploring historic ports and cities and experiencing cultural attractions such as art museums and heritage sites.
Another popular option for seniors is the river cruise. Most river cruises are on smaller ships, but they give passengers the chance to see places that a typical large cruise ship might not be able to access.
While many people associate cruising with adventurous excursions on land in and in the water, there are often onboard activity options that are less strenuous but still enjoyable. Hobbyists and specialty groups often plan cruise getaways focused around a particular interest, such as quilting, with workshops and time to quilt in addition to shore excursions.
Cruise ships also offer enrichment and education programs for passengers, including lectures, cooking and dance classes, tastings and more. Some ships, particularly the smaller luxury lines, include extensive book and music lending libraries and might have discussion groups for passengers. Of course, most cruise ships include entertainment options that appeal to all ages, such as music and comedy shows, dancing, theater and movies.
While some cruisers might look for an itinerary that has them in a new port every day, senior cruisers may prefer a trip that includes fewer ports, with either more time at each stop or more days at sea. An easygoing pace is more relaxing and enjoyable for many older travelers – and more days at sea provide more opportunities to enjoy the ship’s amenities and enrichment activities.
When choosing your cruise, especially if you are a first time cruiser, you can avoid disappointment and discomfort if you carefully read the cruise descriptions. For example, cruises that focus on “fun in the sun” or filling every minute of the day with activities are generally better suited for young singles or families. The same goes for cruises that focus mainly on price. Cruises advertised for rock bottom rates are probably better suited for younger travelers – and the ship will be filled with young people in search of a good time for little money. However, be sure to inquire about senior discounts; some lines offer significant savings to guests over age 55.
Finally, if you do want to take a Caribbean or Mexican cruise, pay attention to the sailing dates. Trips that depart during March and April are likely to be packed with spring breakers eager to win the belly flop contest – not learn the foxtrot.
Chances are, seniors will have a great time no matter what cruise they decide to take. However, choosing the cruise line and itinerary carefully increases the likelihood of a fabulous trip.
This guest post was provided by Shannon Pierce, who is a freelance writer and cruise coordinator. She helps hundreds of people book great discount cruises, and believes that whether you are booking a Hawaii cruise or visiting New York City, it is important to get out and experience the world.