Not everyone likes to cruise. For some people, the word “cruising” brings up images of crass tourists in plaid knee shorts stuffing themselves at an endless buffet. But that’s not a true picture of cruising today, and those who’ve cruised know the truth: cruising can be a great way to see the world. And more importantly, cruising was made for boomers.
Here’s five reasons cruising is ideal for travelling boomers:
It’s economical: There’s a million places in the world to see, and if you paid to fly to every one of them, book a hotel and pay for all your meals, it could wipe out your life savings in a hurry. Cruising isn’t cheap, to be sure, but it lets you see a whole lot of places you’ve always wanted to visit for not much more than the price of one trip to one place.
The biggest knock against cruising is that you only spend a day — or part of one — in each port, so you don’t really see the places you’re visiting. One way to remedy that is to take a hotel for a couple of days in the city where you start or end your cruise. I spent a few days in Copenhagen before and after my Baltic cruise in 2012, and it added a lot to the trip without ruining my budget. After all, I had to fly there anyway.
It’s low-impact: Dragging your bags through half a dozen airports and train stations on a long trip can be a real strain, especially if you’re moving a little slower than you used to. Yes, you usually have to take a flight and a cab to get to your cruise port, but once you’re on the ship, you’re home for the next seven or 10 or 14 days.
On board, life can be as easy or as active as you want. You can stay busy all day if you like, but some people just want to lie in a deck chair in the sun and enjoy the peace and quiet, or get pampered in the spa. You can have a good time on the ship doing nothing more strenuous than walking to dinner, and save your energy for when you’re in port. One tip: if you have mobility issues, choose a smaller ship so you don’t have a long trek to the dining room.
It’s cool: I didn’t think I’d like cruising, but once I started I found I really liked being on a ship. Cruise ships have a nautical feel to them even if they’re floating hotels. And while the cabins are small (hey, you’re on a ship, after all), they’re ingeniously designed, and in some cases beautiful. Watching the ocean go by as you sip a drink in the bar, or standing on the top deck as the huge ship slides into port, is a great experience. On a Panama Canal cruise a few years ago, the whole ship turned out on the front decks to watch us go through the Gatun locks, and the crew served coffee and cakes to mark the occasion.
It’s sociable: Because you’re often spending a week or more on the same ship with the same people, you get to know each other — the people at your dinner table, the people you meet on group excursions or at the piano bar. You can get to know some interesting folk, find a bridge partner, or even establish a lasting friendship. Cruising can also be a great chance to spend some time with your family. Parents, siblings, kids, grandkids — the ships can accommodate everyone, and you’ll all be together for a solid week or so, whether you want to or not (in most cases you do).
It’s convenient: Since cruise ships are like great big hotels, just about everything you might need is on board and available, either at one of the shops or by picking up the phone in your cabin. There’s a laundry service (and sometimes coin washing machines), money exchange at the front desk, a medical centre if you get sick, and just about every kind of food. If you want a vegetarian meal or something just strikes your fancy, they’ll make it for you whether it’s on the menu or not, and send it to your cabin if you like. Some of this comes at a price — but doesn’t it always?
Of course, if you’ve cruised, you know the one place cruise ship service falls down is internet access. Ships have to use satellite internet, which is both expensive and slow. But new technologies is in sight: read here. And internet cafes and free Wi-Fi are available in most ports nowadays, so you can have a coffee on shore and skip the ship’s service.
For me, cruising is a great way to see a lot of places I haven’t been to without wearing out my back or my bank account — two big pluses for travelling boomers. And there’s no denying, it has a magic all its own. Hotels are great, but how many are in a different city when you wake up?