December 17, 2012

Crusing After Retirement: What To Know


This is a guest post by Karolina Shenton from The Cruise Web. Cruising is one of the most popular travel options of those seeking a satisfying retirement trip. But, there are so many options and possibilities it is important to get the right information. Karolina offers an excellent overview.

Cruising the world is a fantastic way to awaken your soul and see some destinations and cultures you’ve always dreamed of seeing. Popularized in the 1970s with “The Love Boat,” cruising has grown significantly since Captain Steubing called it quits. Now there are more than 100 different cruise ships and each one offers something just a little bit different from the next. While the plethora of options is great, it makes it hard to tell which cruise is the cruise for you.

That’s why I've put together a few pieces of valuable advice for you when planning and booking your next cruise vacation. Read on for some tips from inside the industry.

Choosing a ship/cruise line:

·        Ship size is very important. Some vessels accommodate more than 4,000 passengers, and include a bevy of lounges, bars, restaurants, and activities, as well as other cruisers. Other ships are built for less than 200 passengers, and offer a more personalized and smaller-scale experience.

o   Many retired cruisers find smaller ships to be more attractive. These allow for a more personalized service on board, intensive assistance in finding the right activities onshore, and more peace and serenity.

o   River cruising is a fantastic option for retirees—these all-inclusive options make booking a cruise easy: they usually include dining, excursions, and entertainment. That means less hassle for you. In addition, these exclusive itineraries include ports larger ships can’t reach, providing a one-of-a-kind experience.

o   When planning a cruise on a smaller ship, it is smart to book as early as possible. Prices are almost always at their lowest a year before the sail date, and your choice of cabins will be much greater.

·        Each cruise line focuses on a different on board experience. So although we suggest a smaller cruise ship, for retirees, not every ship will include the on board activities you may be looking for.

o   For the sightseeing vacationer: River Cruise lines such as Avalon Waterways and Uniworld offer regional touches such as local entertainment and regional d├ęcor, in addition to an incredible amount of sightseeing. This is because these smaller ships cruise right up against the banks of some of the most intriguing and seldom visited locations in the world.

o   For the active vacationer: Larger cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian offer all types of fitness classes and sporting events on board, as well as more intense, ‘not-for-the-faint-of-heart,’ onshore excursions.

o   For those with the yearn to learn: Some of the smaller ships offer incredible enrichment classes that will enlighten and inspire you. For example, Oceania Cruises has expert-led cooking classes in state of the art culinary kitchens, and Crystal Cruises offers a comprehensive collection of computer and general technology courses.

Choosing a destination/length:

·        There’s a destination for each and every one of us, depending on who you are and what you expect from your vacation. As a starting point, a cruise to Bermuda, Canada, and Northern Europe are popular destinations for the more experienced traveler. Here are some recommendations for different kinds of travelers.

o   I’ve retired, and I’m ready for my first cruise. First cruise? Make sure you get in touch with a travel agent. You may not know it, but you probably have a very specific set of wants and needs when vacationing, which is why having a consultant to assist you is an absolute must. Many retirees love classy, well-developed destinations such as Quebec, or St. Martin, which offer unique experiences, luxury accommodations, and incredible, upscale dining experiences.  Only an agent who has been there, and done that, can effectively help you sort through the sea of choices.

o   I’ve retired, love cruising, and am ready to see the world. To have the opportunity to see as many ports as possible, and therefore as many destinations as you desire, try a World Cruise. World Cruises are a fantastic choice for retirees, because the time constraint of being on board for so long isn’t as much of an issue. As an alternative, many cruise lines offer segments, which are shorter sections of the world voyages that still see a diverse set of ports-of-call in exotic destinations like Indonesia, Africa, and Eastern Europe, in a fraction of the time.  The best part is that you can choose a itinerary that focuses on parts of the world you haven’t yet seen.

o   I’ve seen the world, but would like to cruise to a unique destination. Such is the problem for many well-traveled retirees, because they have seen many places and are not as easily satisfied.  No problem. For those looking for a tropical experience, Tahiti and the South Pacific is a great option that is less visited than the Caribbean. You can find some of the most exclusive cruise excursions in the world there as you enjoy the wonderful weather. For those looking for an enriching vacation, try a river cruise to Asia. Culture, historical sites, and natural wonders are easy to find in Asia.  (ex: Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Dragon Dance in China)


As you can see, there is a perfect cruise vacation for every type of retiree. That’s why doing your research is key, and using a travel agent is strongly suggested. Who knows, your next vacation could be exploring the ancient temples of Cambodia, or viewing the fall foliage on a a cruise to Canada and New England. Get ahead of the game, find the right cruise line, and choose the best destination for you.


Satisfying Retirement received no compensation for this guest post or its commercial links.

21 comments:

  1. Looks like good information, if you are in the market for a conventional cruise. To each his own!

    My perfect cruise vacation would be canoeing in the Fjords of New Zealand! Something like this: http://www.fiordlandadventure.co.nz/ Although I would probably want to rent the canoe and some gear and head off on our own, just me and my wife Lin.

    The giant floating full-service hotel experience does not appeal much. But maybe I shouldn't knock it until I've tried it.

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    1. I have been on one crusie and liked it a lot. But, I am not a big fan of being in the midst of hundreds or thousands of people for days on end.

      That said, Betty and I will take an Alaskan cruise at some point. We also like the idea of a river barge cruise down a French canal. Some experiences can only be had on the water.

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    2. The canal barge cruise sounds like a great way to see a country, I could go for that too, although I hadn't thought of French canals in particular. Just looked them up and Wow! I never realized that France is such a great place for canals. There's loads of them in England where we live, we often visit nearby ones on cycling and hiking routes, and most of the folks we see on the narrowboats seem to be having a great time.

      I agree, there is something special about the pace of life, the light, sounds and smells that you only get on a smallish craft on the water. Being on a large ship you only experience some of that, and at a distance (based on being on large passenger ferries).

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    3. The French canal boats travel only a few miles a day and are slow enough you can actually get off the boat and walk along the canal faster than the boat is traveling! They are expensive and for us a major travel commitment to get to.

      I wonder if there are canal boats along the New York State canal system across Upstate NY?

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    4. Bob, we lived in Upstate NY and were familiar with the canal system, particularly the Erie Canal. I do not believe there is an operator that would take the kind of cruise you are referring to. There are smaller ones that ply individual lakes and the like, but not a larger portion of the canals.

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    5. That's too bad. Around the Utica area it is quite pretty.

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  2. Coincidentally, I'm mulling over an offer right now for a two week cruise around Singapore, Indonesia, Bali, Malaysia and Thailand. The price is right, and the one thing I do appreciate about cruising is how relaxing it is compared to on-our-own travel. Which, ironically, is also what I also dislike about cruising!

    In our case, our best cruises are when we can do get off and do our own thing in port vs. being herded onto a bus to go somewhere. I also love spending as much time as possible out on our balcony in the fresh air. That never, ever gets old.

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    1. That sounds like quite an adventure.

      The amazing food choices, exercise and learning opportunities plus seeing new sights all in a setting of comfort and security makes cruising a great choice for many.

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  3. We've taken 5 cruises over the years, from short hops to the Bahamas to 2 weeks in the Mediterranean. Sometimes a short cruise is just enough on a cold February to relax you and keep you sane until Spring. The Med trip was incredible. I love that you only have to unpack once on a cruise and then can explore many destinations. A floating hotel is ideal in my book. I agree that smaller ships are more enjoyable and provide better service.
    b

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    1. Having cruised enough to have become more particular, my ideal itinerary would be one that overnights in almost every port, none of which are tender ports, and that has no more than one or two days at sea. That would REALLY feel like a floating hotel!

      I don't think I'm alone in looking for this - cruising articles appear to support that seasoned cruisers are increasingly interested in more time in port, less time at sea.

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    2. I've always wondered about the trans Atlantic or West Coast to Hawaii trips. That is a lot of water for a lot of days to stare at.

      The floating hotel part is very attractive.

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    3. You are so right Tamara. On our Med trip we stayed overnight in Venice. It was our 40th anniversary. You can never top having your anniversary dinner sitting along the Grand Canal with a fabulous bottle of Amarone!! Unless of course we go back, which I'm lobbying for. This time I might opt for flying over and staying in an apt.

      Bob, a transatlantic trip or LA to HI would bore the hell out of me. Much more fun to explore!
      b

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  4. We have not done a cruise since the 80s when we did the Mexican Riviera. Starting to think about a European river cruise at some point with their flat bottom boats. A lot fewer people and you get to see a lot more than just water. We have done a lot of vacationing through timeshares and the like since that last one in the 80s; just haven't gotten around to cruising. Sounds like it might be time again.

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    1. The river cruises through Europe are also quite attractive to us. We'd had friends take several of them and love the smallness of the boats and the fact that you never leave sight of land so there is always something to look at.

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    2. We just recently took our first river cruise - four days on the Yangtze in China - and thoroughly enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere. So easy to get on and off, compared to a mega ship. The crew knew us all by name before the trip was over, and with limited public gathering areas, getting to know people was rather essential. It was a wonderful experience which we plan to repeat soon.

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  5. Cruises are what you make of them or what you want. We have taken a number of cruises; on some we have explored, on others we have merely visited the port city and on a few we never left the boat.

    They fit my definition of a vacation: nothing to do and all day to do it. When I finally stop working we probably land cruise the western states at a snail's pace. And take one photographic adventure to Alaska.

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    1. We have friends who live in Florida and have been on cruise ships at least two dozen times. Like you, sometimes they explore and other trips are meant for them to do nothing.

      A photographic trip to Alaska will happen, either on a ship or in the RV.

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  6. I always get interested in cruises but always turn them down. we were all set to take a med cruise for ten days a few years ago. Then I came to my senses (for me). for me, a day in barcelona evena day and a night, a day and night in rome and so on, are insufficient in the extreme. That said I have famiy members who adore cruising, and I will probably take a brief carribean cruise or a river cruise at some point. In general though, I prefer a least a couple days in any decent sized destination.

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    1. You make a good point: it is impossible to be even a casual tourist in a new city if your only exposure is a brief shore trip. Maybe what that ever-so-quick exposure would do is whet your appetite to go back and explore in depth. Good question.

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  7. Malcolm and I love cruising. We started out easy - just a 3 day Bahamas cruise about twenty five years ago, and have graduated to longer periods of time on larger ships in more exotic locations.

    In April we will depart from San Diego and cruise Tahiti and the South Pacific for 38 days. We could have tacked on another 5 days and toured Alaska on the return, but since we are already testing ourselves for this duration we opted to leave the ship at Seattle. Our longest cruise prior to this trip was a transatlantic crossing for 14 days, (6 of which were continuously at sea). Perfectly calm seas made it very enjoyable and we were never bored.

    Our advice to anyone new to cruising is to choose a good, moderately priced line (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America)and a "newer" ship. Most of these have plenty of places to entertain yourself without being in contact with hordes of people all day long.

    Avoid getting caught up in the eating frenzy by booking several nights in one of the ship's specialty restaurants, trying a local restaurant at each port of call, and taking breakfast and lunch at the Spa Cafe which is available on most ships.

    It is easy to explore on your own in many ports, but we highly recommend booking excursions through the cruise line in lieu of a private vendor. We have heard some horror stories about missing ships, getting ripped off, etc.

    I can honestly say we have never had a bad experience while cruising and attribute that mostly to doing our homework. Of course we can't control the weather, but almost everything else is simply a choice.

    I agree with Tamara that the overnight ports are appealing, but they are hard to find on most cruises. It all depends on what you are willing to pay for the experience.

    Maybe by next year we will be ready to cruise the World!

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    1. 38 days through the South Pacific....wow! I could do that.

      Living in Florida you guys have the perfect opportunity to try out all sorts of cruises since so many leave from south Florida. Your expertise and suggestions are very much appreciated. Learning from folks who have done it is the best way to have a great experience.

      So, what did you do for all those days on the trans Atlantic passage to keep from getting bored?

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