Cruising the Smart Way: Ship Choice, Activities, Safety and More!
Statistically, cruising has one of the highest, if not the highest, vacation satisfaction rating. And it’s easy to understand why.
With the ease of unpacking only once, no meals to cook or dishes to wash, these floating resorts carry you to fascinating and beautiful places around the world. No wonder cruising is considered the most stress-free way to travel, especially for those over 60.
Before you jump on your first or next cruise, here are five often-overlooked yet common-sense cruise tips for anyone over 60, gleaned from my 50+ years of cruise vacations.
Choose the Right-Size Ship for You
Small, medium or large; cruising is not a one size fits all vacation.
If a quick getaway and low price are your main objectives, the best rates are offered on older ships. Deep-discounted long weekend cruises are very attractive to families with kids, party people and budget-conscious vacationers.
On the other hand, the newest and largest ships offer over-the-top amenities with spectacular evening entertainment, multi-level outdoor sports complexes, daring water slides and dozens of dining options (some with a fee). Enrichment lectures are usually non-existent.
Remember, the larger the ship, the more walking you’ll do. If your mobility is restricted and you don’t bring a wheelchair or scooter, a mega-ship might be too immense.
If a mega-ship is your first choice, check out the newest 3,000+ passenger ships from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity and Norwegian.
Medium Sized Ships
Maybe a medium sized, 1,000-2,999 passenger ship is more appealing. What it doesn’t have in outdoor activities and pool parties, it might make up for in slightly more personal service and upscale ambiance. There will be fewer out-of-pocket dining venues and slightly less time spent waiting in lines.
These ships include some of the slightly older vessels of Carnival, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean. Holland America’s ships are traditionally smaller. They’re the only cruise line in this category with the most ships with fewer than 2,000 guests.
Because of Holland America’s long-standing commitment to curate a following of “older” clientele, this cruise line has a higher percentage of retirees than many of the other lines. But if you’re young at heart, you won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of activities for all ages.
Small ships with fewer than 1,000 passengers, carry a higher price tag but with a more all-inclusive experience plus in-stateroom features like designer bath products, a cozy, soft robe and slippers, and hangers that aren’t permanently attached to the rod. Service is much more personalized, too.
Another advantage of small ship cruising is that these ships can reach more diverse and remote ports than the larger ships. The guest to crew ratio is low and dining venues are fewer and more refined.
Look into Azamara, Silversea, Regent, Crystal, Viking Ocean and the small ships of Princess Cruises, the Island Princess and Ocean Princess.
If cultural immersion and serious enrichment are appealing, consider a river or inland waterways cruise. From Paris to Prague and the Mississippi to the Mekong, there’s a river cruise for almost every budget, intellect and physical ability. With fewer than 200 passengers on Europe river ships, it’s a very congenial, relaxed atmosphere. For what to expect on a river cruise, click here.
Major river cruise companies to consider for Europe are: AmaWaterways, Viking River, Tauck, Avalon and CroisiEurope and Uniworld. Cruising the USA are American Cruise Line, Un-Cruise Adventures, Blount Small Ships and American Queen Steamboat.
Select the Itinerary within Your Physical Abilities
Caribbean cruises are known for their wide selection of high-energy shore excursions. Zip-lining above rainforest canopies, parasailing over crystal clear water and climbing waterfalls are just a few of the more strenuous or adventure-filled activities.
If you prefer something a little more intellectual or relaxing, try a 15-day Princess cruise round-trip from California to Hawai’i, a seven-night transatlantic crossing aboard Queen Mary 2 or a river cruise anywhere.
Just because you’re on a vacation doesn’t mean it’s okay to let down your guard for safety. From a slip and fall on a wet pool deck to forgetting to put your cash in the safe, there’s always something that can accidentally go awry.
Going ashore in the evenings is very popular. Passengers head out for local bars and restaurants. Almost everyone disembarks at similar times. It’s going back to the ship that’s tricky. You might find yourself alone on a deserted and dark street. Solution: have the restaurant call or flag a taxi or wait and tag along with others leaving the restaurant to head back to the cruise port. Don’t go it alone.
Stay Healthy at Sea
One way to totally trash a great cruise vacation is to get sick. The best way to prevent disease transmission is to wash your hands well and often. Use hand sanitizers as you enter the restaurant and again after handing the menu back to your waiter.
Avoid elevator buttons and hand rails (use only as needed and then wash your hands), wash your hands as soon as you return from shore and use sani-wipes for the TV remote.
A couple of weeks before your trip, ask your doctor to prescribe a “care package” to cover any unforeseen maladies. This might include Imodium, sea-sick pills, cold medication, prescription cough syrup and antibiotics for severe colds or stomach illnesses. This could prevent an expensive visit to the ship’s doctor.
Even if you could predict that you won’t get sick or fall and break an ankle, what if an immediate family member back home is rushed to the hospital or worse? Primary, third-party travel insurance isn’t only to insure your health during the cruise. The right policy will cover lost luggage, delayed or missed connections, pre-existing conditions and even fly you home if needed. Note that this is not the type offered through the cruise line, which is secondary to any existing policy coverage.
Cruise line insurance acts as backup to what your own at-home health insurance covers. If you’re a US citizen on Medicare, you’re not covered if the ship is more than 6 hours away from a U.S. port.
Private travel insurance companies include: Travel Guard, Travel Insured and Travel Safe. Compare different companies’ rates and plans at InsureMyTrip.com.
Now that you have some of the basic information, it’s time to plan your cruise. Do you have a preference for a dazzling new mega-ship or a laid-back, luxurious small ship cruise? If you could choose any river cruise in the world, where would you go? What tips would you share with first-time cruisers? Please join the conversation.