Who would have ever thought that boomers could go expedition cruising? But it’s there, readily available! Join us in conversation with cruise journalist Jane Archer, who shares a lot of experiences and great advice. Enjoy the show!

 

 
 

Margaret Manning:

My guest today is Jane Archer. She is an award-winning cruise journalist for the Daily Telegraph. She lives in the UK, but it seems she spends most of her life on cruise ships. Welcome, Jane.

Jane Archer:

Thank you very much.

Margaret:

I’m so happy to have you here. I don’t know much about today’s topic, but there are a lot of women in our community who love to cruise.

Jane:

Cruising is a great holiday for people over 60, that’s why they like it.

Margaret:

There are a lot of positive sides to cruising, like not having to unpack and repack every day. You just settle down and enjoy a journey into another place.

Jane:

That’s true, and there are all kinds of other aspects to it, too. People feel very secure and safe on a cruise, and I know that sounds a little bit trite maybe. Not everyone wants to feel secure and safe, but you do know that you are in an environment where there are people to look out for you if you like.

You might want to go out and do your own thing, but you know that at the end of the day somebody is there to make sure you get back again.

Margaret:

That’s very true. Also, you are bound to meet interesting people and get to know them over the course of a few days. You can build a relationship over what you have in common: cruising and exploring new, interesting places.

Jane:

Absolutely. Cruising is a very easy way to make friends because you are all in one area together. The smaller the ship the easier it is to make friends, because you are going to see them on a very regular basis. It is a controlled environment where you know there is going to be somebody there looking after you and people to make friends with.

Margaret:

Women in our community love to cruise. Given that people’s view of travel might change as they get older—from partying and clubbing to maybe wanting more experience and learning— I really would love you to help us to understand the available options out there.

Jane:

I was on a cruise over Christmas, and I met a woman there who was certainly over 60. She told me that one of the things that really annoys her about all the articles that she reads about cruising, is that they focus on families and young people.

She said, “What about us? What about the older people? Why don’t you write about our generation?” I thought this was really strange because one of the misconceptions people have—those who never go on a cruise—is that cruising is only for old people. Yet, there she was, going on cruises and getting annoyed because everything she reads about cruising targets young people.

For some older people, going on a cruise might have to do with getting away from family. They’ve had their kids and grandkids, and though it’s great to have grandkids around, it’s also nice when they go home again, and so the holiday can be a little bit of ‘me’ time.

A company like Cruise Maritime Voyages is very good for older people. Their ships are adult-only and don’t allow kids on board. I think the age of the passengers has to be at least 16 or 18 to go onboard. PNO also has ships that are just for adults, so you know you are going to be in an environment that you want. Saga is a prime example—you have to be over 50 to go on a Saga ship.

This way you know you are going to be with likeminded people, enjoying the kinds of things and experiences that you want to enjoy together, as opposed to having to take into account kids’ wants and needs. It sounds terrible, you can never get a real holiday experience with little children running around.

Margaret:

I think that is really true. Many people over 50, women especially, have done a lot of family travel in their lives. The cruise experience is different; this is where you can pamper yourself a little bit, or you can really feel like you’re on a special journey somewhere.

It’s really nice to have that time to yourself, to know that you have planned a trip that will enrich your cultural experience. When you know that the cruise line has planned for excursions that are designed for the older age group, who like to think of things on a deeper level, is really great.

Jane:

Yes, I think that is true. A lot of these ships will also hire people onboard to talk, to give lectures, to discuss things that will be of interest to a more mature audience. Of course, you are going to have off board excursions which are geared to the kinds of things that you want to do, but that doesn’t mean that your cruising experience is going to be sedate.

You are not going to sit in a coach only looking out from the sides of the ship. Although you can do that, there’s all kinds of really exciting fun things that you do both on board and on the excursions, all geared for older people.

Margaret:

I think they even give you options. For example, there might be an architecture tour you can go on, or you can go visit a castle. This way you can really tune into your interests and passions. Isn’t that what 60 is all about, doing the things you love?

Jane:

Absolutely. All of these cruise liners provide a whole range of excursions at every port. You can find the one that best suits you and are most interested in. So, if you just want to sit back and relax, watch the sights as they go by, then you can do that.

If you want an experience that involves getting out there, walking around the cities and really discovering different cultures, then you can do that as well. There is a whole host of things you could do: you might be able to go on a boat trip around the coast, getting up close to certain little villages and meeting the locals.

Margaret:

What is the difference between a boat and a cruise ship?

Jane:

A boat is a boat. Basically, what they say is, you can put a boat on a ship, but you can’t put a ship on a boat. Now you can take with that what you will.

Margaret:

Okay, so there are lots of activities on the cruise ship as well, and they’re geared for the older. I know SAGA have themed events you can join, or you can organize your own event as a group.

Jane:

Absolutely. Also, about the excursions. Most people go on cruises on their own. But when they fancy going on a particular excursion, they would like to do it with some company. So the cruise lines find a mechanism to hook you up with other people and go on that excursion together.

Margaret:

You mentioned earlier that a lot of older women love adventure travel. We have gotten quite a few people asking, “Would you recommend a good adventure or an expedition cruise?” I know you’ve probably been on a few, so what’s your recommendation?

Jane:

There are so many adventures cruises out there. You can go to Antarctica, or the Artic. It’s funny how people know about Antarctica, but not about the Artic. You can also do circumnavigation of Spitsbergen, which is the largest island of the Svalbard Archipelago.

Margaret:

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Isn’t it up in Norway?

Jane:

It is part of Norway, but it is part of the Svalbard Archipelago. To get there you would fly to Oslo first, and then catch a plane from Oslo. The ships’ goal is to circumnavigate the island. As with Antarctica, there is a set itinerary when you set off, but you might not keep to it because there is a lot of ice up there. The entire trip depends on the weather conditions and the captain’s decisions.

When I did that cruise, we managed to circumnavigate, but they had to zig zag a little bit here and there. You do get to go to shore, but where you land will depend entirely on the ice conditions, the weather conditions and the polar bears.

If they plan to land in a certain area, but they see there is a polar bear wandering around, then they have to move on. They have to find somewhere else, because even though those animals look lovely, they are trained killers. In short, you cannot go to shore when there is a polar bear.

Margaret:

That is amazing.

Jane:

That is great excitement, a real expedition, because you don’t know exactly where you are going to go. Everything depends on the captain working with the expedition team to decide where is the best place to go on shore.

When I did the cruise, they happened to spot a polar bear in a certain area. So, they moved the ship over to that area and held it so that we can watch what the polar bear was doing. We had a classic one; it was absolutely amazing.

The expedition team spotted this polar bear, picking at a blackened carcass. Goodness knows how long it had been there or how old it was. It was picking at the bones trying to get any last lingering bits of meat that he could from it.

The captain held the ship in this position in the ice, and we had a frontal view watching this polar bear—it was just astounding. When the bear got bored from picking at the carcass, he walked straight up to where the ship was and sat down right beside the bow of the ship.

We were all looking over the edge, watching him. He cleaned himself off—licking his paws and all the rest of it—then off he walked again.

Margaret:

You were his entertainment.

Jane:

I swear he never even noticed us. We were there, cameras clicking and excited from seeing this polar bear so close. And yet, he just did what he wanted to do and walked off. It’s just an extraordinary experience, and you really wouldn’t get that anywhere else.

Margaret:

Last time we spoke, you talked me through a complete journey you’d gone on, and I got to experience it a little bit through you. That’s what cruising does—it gives you a memory marker, it gives you a moment that you never forget. It’s just so powerful.

Jane:

Absolutely. I’m sure I will never forget that moment. It was just so amazing, and also, we’d been standing outside in icy conditions for two hours. My goodness, I was really pleased to get inside.

Margaret:

Have a hot cocoa. So you mentioned the Artic and Antarctica. We’ve talked about the Galapagos Islands and Patagonia before. Are there other places where the smaller ships can maybe get into?

Jane:

I’ve done the Kimberley in Northern Australia. It’s a cruise between Broome and Darwin, and it is as exciting as the Arctic, but for completely different reasons. I went there in the summer, and it was hot. Most of the time you can’t actually dock because there is nowhere to dock, for one thing.

The other reason we couldn’t dock were the salt water crocodiles, or salties as the locals call them. Most of the time we were going out in Zodiac boats with strict instructions, like ‘don’t put your hands into the water over the side,’ because you never know what is lurking under there.

When you go out in the Zodiacs, you see the most amazing things. Every single day was different—that’s what I really loved about that. On the first day, we actually were able to go to shore, and they took us to Crocodile Creek, which actually doesn’t have any crocodiles in it at all. It was just a little pond you can swim in, which was fantastic.

Then, the next day we went out in these boats through these flat rapids where water is funneled between one part of the sea and another part of the sea through a very narrow gorge. Depending on the direction of the tide, water is either coming in or out, which creates these fantastic rapids.

They were a lot of fun, with the water splashing all over the place. You’ve got to get the tide right, but they have enormous tides out there, which makes such a big difference. If the tide is going out the rush of water coming out, or vice versa going in, is just phenomenal.

Margaret:

Many of the women in our community have done the traditional tours, and now they are looking for something more extreme where they can face their fears and build their confidence. It’s really amazing when you put yourself in that kind of situation.

Of course, as you said, you are not alone— you’ve got cruise guides and people that know the area—but it gives you a chance to do things that your kids wouldn’t think you can do, that you didn’t think you could do. It pushes your limits.

Jane:

Yes, and that’s what’s so good about it—you can actually do it! If you ever experience a difficulty, like when trying to step from the ship into the Zodiac, there are crew there to help you. They are so well trained, and they will make sure you can get on safely.

Everybody can do these things as long as they have a degree of mobility and an adventurous spirit. Part of that means that you should be able to adapt to changes in your itinerary.

For instance, if you are supposed to be in Rome on Tuesday, but you find yourself in Naples, you don’t want to worry about that, because if that’s going to be an issue for you then expedition cruising is not for you.

Margaret:

You really need an open mind. So it seems like cruising is great for older women, while expedition cruising is great for adventurous older women. There are so many choices out there, and this is a perfect way to complete some of those bucket list items. You can do four or five of them all in one go.

Jane:

In fact, most of them are not even bucket list items. You can actually create a whole new bucket list just for your trip. How fantastic is that?

Margaret:

I love your spirit. Thank you so much, Jane, this has been a great discussion. Do you have any expedition lines that you would recommend?

Jane:

Hurtigruten is one of them. That’s a Norwegian company. Another one is Silver Sea, which also have 6-star luxury ships, in addition to an expedition fleet. They are definitely ones worth looking at. Fiddles and Cruise lines is another one to consider.

Margaret:

Fiddles and Saga, PNO and Hurtigruten, all seem great cruiselines.

Jane:

Cruise and Maritime Voyages as well.

Margaret:

That’s fantastic. Jane, you’ve given us so many good ideas. Thank you so much for being here. It’s been wonderful chatting with you. Thank you.

Have you been on an expedition cruise before? Which part of the world have you seen? If you haven’t been yet, where would you like to go? Please join the conversation!

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