Five reasons cruising was made for boomers

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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 BalticCruise ship waiter 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 A side view of the Norwegian Jade cruise shipneed 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?

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About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.

9 Comments

  1. Hey Paul, You make a person want to get up and book a trip to Scandinavia and take a cruise in the sunny south Carribean at the same time. There is something to be said about your point of view about cruising. I just did a 4 week road trip from home to California around to B.C. and back home (distance 12,500 km). The cost of this trip which was mostly for motels , gas and food could have paid for a couple of pretty fancy cruises and I could have left all the driving up to the captain. That would be a lot more carefree travelling.

    • Wow, Dennis — I didn’t think anything would lure you away from your road trips. But it’s true — once you’re on board, it’s the easy way to go. And gas isn’t free these days.

  2. Just home from a road trip driving a rooms the northern US to deliver a car with my sister and brother. Lots of time to chat and lots of discussion about travel. My sister swears by cruises as she likes being able to unpack and enjoy. My fear is thatof being herded. I am also not find of tours though they seem a necessity these days. Can you tell us which ships you have travelled on and their size. What about dress ? Is it really necessary to wear evening dress for dinner?

    • These days there’s no need to be herded, Pam — except for the first-day safety muster, you can go to whatever events you want, and only if you want to. Most ships have two set dinner sittings and will put you at a big table with other people, but you don’t have to go if you don’t want to, and you can often ask for a smaller table. On most ships you don’t have to dress for dinner except on formal nights — generally there are one or two during the trip (on luxury lines this may be different). Even then, they won’t kick you out for not dressing, and you can eat at another restaurant that night if you like. I’ve been on the Holland America Zaandam, the Disney Magic, the Star Princess and the Norwegian Sun, plus a sailing ship run by a company called Canadian Sailing Expeditions, now defunct. The Zaandam and the Magic were on the smaller side, the Sun fairly large and the Star Princess one of the biggest ships in the line. Frankly, the size doesn’t make a lot of difference to me, but if walking is a problem, the Zaandam is probably better than the Star Princess. Of those ships, I liked the Sun the best, especially since Norwegian has “anytime dining” — you can just show up and ask for a table whenever you’re ready, just like a restaurant. I always got one. As for tours, it depends on the ports: in some places you can easily just walk downtown or take a bus. Many cities have a Hop on, Hop off bus for $20 or so. Other places you need a real tour to see what’s there, but you don’t have to take the ship’s tours — there are lot of local companies who’ll do it for less. However, if they get you back late and you miss the ship, it’s your problem; the ship will wait for its own tours. Hope that answers your questions. To me, being on a cruise ship is like staying at a big, nice hotel. There are lots of people, but once you get used to things, it works fine.

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  4. Nice article Paul, but it just helps solidify my belief that cruising is not for me. At least not yet. As long as I’ll be able to walk and carry my own bags I’ll prefer the freedom of independent travel. If you’re retired, you should have all the time in the world, right? So what’s stopping you from spending one week in each place on your own overland trip? There are ways to decrease your accommodation and food costs (one of the topics on my blog) so that four weeks overland could cost the same as the one-week cruise. And those problems with WiFi that you mention are a real deal breaker for me! I do enjoy short trips on sailboats or catamarans though. 🙂
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    • Thanks for commenting, Marie-France, and I still do enjoy independent travel too. But at my age, I don’t enjoy dragging my bag from one airport or bus station to another any more. And while it’s preferable to stay longer in one place — one of the weak spots I’ve always noted about cruising — not many baby boomers want to stay in bare-bones accommodation. Even travelling solo, which carries a big premium, cruising can cost as little as $100 a day, including your accommodation, meals and transportation. Most importantly, it’s all done in comfort, and for baby boomers, that’s a big bonus.

        • Yes, but you’re staying longer in one place than most entire cruises — so you’ve spent all the money in one place. And the $100 includes transport to several cities — and usually several countries — along the way.

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