While bargain cruise fares are certainly enticing, choosing the best cruise should involve more than finding the lowest price, especially for seniors. You might be no worse for the wear on a no-frills flight or after a night in a discount motel, but when it comes to cruising, the right atmosphere, service, and activities can make or break your vacation.
After all, once you board, you’re stuck with that ship and all its inhabitants for the duration of your trip. And who wants to spend a vacation filled with screaming children, raucous spring-breakers, or wild nightly entertainment if you’re looking for a refined and relaxing experience?
Luckily, there are enough cruises out there to find one that works for you, whether you’re looking for one with mostly senior clientele, activities for older single travelers, a quiet relaxing atmosphere, or any other amenity.
Finding the right cruise
If you are looking for a ship that caters mostly to older travelers and offers activities and amenities specially-designed for seniors, there are a few factors to consider:
- On luxury cruise lines like Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Silversea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, and Orient Lines, the majority of passengers tend to be 55 and over. These lines offer more refined, highbrow activities that appeal to mature cruisers like wine tastings, culinary demonstrations, ballroom dancing, and academic lectures. Also, ships tend to stop in more exotic destinations with shore excursions that focus on cultural and historic sightseeing.
- While tropical destinations are popular with everyone, cruises going to colder destinations like Alaska, Scandinavia, and the Mediterranean are heavily booked by seniors. Cruises to more exotic, far-away regions like the Far East, the South Pacific, and the Panama Canal have high senior numbers as well.
- Longer, pricier cruises, such as the transatlantic and around-the-world sailings offered by Cunard, attract mostly seniors. This trend may be due in part because retired people usually have more free time and disposable income than say, families.
- Unless you’re traveling with the grandkids, you’ll probably want to avoid lines like Disney and Carnival, which are designed for families and can be noisy or overwhelming to a cruiser looking to relax.
- Older single women might consider a cruise that has the Gentleman Hosts program, in which men over 50 serve as dance hosts during social functions aboard. Lines offering this program include Cunard, Delta Queen Steamboat, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Olympia Cruises, Silversea Cruises, and World Explorer.
Evaluating a cruise ship
When determining which cruise is best for you, there are several helpful websites you can use for information and customer feedback about specific ships. 7 Blue Seas allows you to read detailed information about eight major cruise lines including deck plans, onboard entertainment and activities, dining options, and more. This site rates cruise ships based on the average fare price, with more expensive cruises getting higher ratings. The logic behind this system is that the higher the price customers are willing to pay, the higher the quality the ship must be. 7 Blue Seas also offers tips for finding the right cruise, and even has a special senior tip section.
Finding a deal
If you plan carefully, you can find a cruise that suits your interests as well as your wallet. Even the most luxurious lines like Cunard offer specials, particularly if you book early or at the last minute, and some other lines offer senior-only deals on select cruises. Here are some tips for finding those discounts:
- Anchors Away Cruise Center reveals that many cruise lines will offer senior discounts on ships that have yet to be filled four months or less before the departure date, particularly Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Norwegian Cruise Line. The difficult part is that most major lines do not list senior specials on their websites, so you will need to call. However, you can find some of these specials listed on the Anchors Away website.
- Norwegian Cruise Line is the one major line that regularly lists senior specials online. Specials, including exclusive deals for travelers 55 and older, are posted weekly.
- AARP members receive fare discounts or onboard credit of up to $200 per cabin from seven cruise lines including Carnival, Cruise West, eWaterways, Holland America, MSC Italian Cruises, and Norwegian Coastal Voyage.
- For general any-person specials, visit the website for the cruise line that interests you. Almost all of these sites list the current specials. You can also try online travel agents that sell fares for many lines. 7 Blue Seas, for example, lists weekly “Hot Deals” on cruises, particularly last-minute specials.
As always, the key to finding the best offer is comparing rates online and asking cruise reservationists for the best available price over the phone. And, make sure you’re comfortable with your purchase if you’re thinking of booking online. Don’t rule out the advice you can get from a trusted travel agent when it comes to big-ticket items like cruises.