Cruising for Seniors - Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Cruising for Seniors

People everywhere are living longer and healthier lives, and cruise lines are keen to cater to their particular needs.

Although cruise lines have been striving, with some success, to embrace all age groups, the over-60s remain an important segment of the market. Group cruising for seniors, in fact, is growing in popularity and is a good way for like-minded people to vacation together. Nowhere is this more evident than in Japan’s ‘Golden Week,’ a collection of four national holidays within seven days in late April/early May, when seniors clamor for available cabins.

One trend for seniors is toward longer cruises - even round-the-world cruises, if they can afford them. Some opt for an adults-only ship such as Adonia, Arcadia, or Oriana (P&O Cruises) or Saga Sapphire (Saga Cruises). There are bargains to be had, too. Organizations for seniors such as AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) in the US and Saga in the UK often offer discount fares and upgrades.

Some seniors who may have had major surgery or have mobility problems cannot fly, or don’t wish to, are helped by the ‘Homeland Cruising’ trend, which enables them to embark at and disembark from a nearby port in their home country. In the US, the number of homeland ports increased dramatically following the terrorist attacks of September 2001. In the UK, some cruise ships sail from ports in both the north and south of the country. The same is true elsewhere, as language-specific cruise lines and ships proliferate.

But all is far from perfect. Some cruise lines have yet to recognize that, with seniors as with other groups, one size does not fit all. Only a few, for example, take the trouble to provide the kind of items that millions of seniors need, such as large-print editions of daily programs, menus, and other printed matter.


Making new friends aboard Oasis of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean International

Why seniors like cruising - but can often find it frustrating

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A cruise is an excellent choice for those who like to be independent while having the chance to meet other like-minded people.

Cruising is stress-free and relaxing. You don’t have to keep packing and unpacking as you do on a land-based tour.

It’s safe. You travel and dine in comfort and safety, while your floating hotel takes you to a choice of around 2,000 destinations all over the world.

Lecturers and lessons in everything from golf to computing provide a chance to learn something new.

There’s plenty of entertainment - shows, cinema, casinos, games, dances.

All main and self-serve buffet meals are included in the fare, and those passengers on special diets can be easily accommodated.

Senior singles, in particular, find it easy to meet others in a non-threatening environment. Some ships provide male dance hosts, screened and subject to a strict code of ethics, who can also act as escorts on shore excursions.

Most ships have 24-hour room service and a 24-hour reception desk.

The disabled can find ships that cater to their needs.

Ships carry a medical doctor and one or more trained nurses. In an emergency, treatment can be arranged.

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Online check-in procedures, and unreadable Passenger Ticket Conditions and Contracts that are provided only online.

Credit card-size electronic key cards to cabins - it is often unclear with these which end to insert, especially for passengers with poor eyesight.

Booking events and meals via the in-cabin ‘interactive’ television/keypad system; it is user-unfriendly for many seniors (all services should be readily accessible via the telephone).

Poor, difficult-to-read signage such as ‘You are here’ deck plans unreadable from farther away than an inch (2.5cm).

Menus with small, hard-to-read typefaces, and daily programs that require a magnifying glass.

Buffets with plates only, requiring several visits, and cutlery too heavy to hold comfortably.

Anything that requires a signature - for example: bar, shore excursions, spa bills with small print.

Libraries with few books, if any, in large-print format - notably recent novels.

The absence of a ‘concierge’ for seniors.

Public toilets not clearly marked.

The lack of music-free lounges and bars for conversation and drinks.

Special diets

While the wide range of cuisine aboard many ships is a big attraction, cruise lines understand that many passengers are on special diets. Lighter menu options are available aboard most ships, as well as vegetarian and vegan choices. Options include low sodium, low fat, low cholesterol, and sugar-free entrées and desserts. A booking agent will ensure that special dietary needs are recorded.

Healthier eating

You don’t have to put on weight during a cruise. Many health-conscious seniors prefer smaller portions of food with taste and nutritional value rather than the overflowing plates.

Heart-healthy diets are in demand, as are low-fat, low-carbohydrate, salt-free, or low-salt foods. Denture wearers often request food that includes softer items.

Those seeking lighter fare should be aware that most cruise lines have an ‘always available’ section of heart-healthy items that can be cooked plainly, such as grilled or steamed salmon, skinless chicken breast, lean sirloin steak, or baked potatoes.

Gentlemen hosts

Because more female than male seniors cruise, cruise lines have developed ‘gentlemen host’ programs. These are gentlemen, typically over 55 years of age, selected for their social skills and competence as dance partners, for dining table conversation, and for accompanying passengers on shore excursions.

Cruise lines with gentlemen hosts include: Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea Cruises, Swan Hellenic Cruises, Voyages of Discovery Cruises, and Voyages to Antiquity.


Lecture aboard the Minerva.

All Leisure Holidays

Enrichment programs

Many seniors want to learn about a destination’s history and culture rather than be told which shops to visit ashore. Lecturers of academic quality are found aboard some smaller ships such as Aegean Odyssey (Voyages to Antiquity), Minerva (Swan Hellenic Cruises), and Saga Sapphire (Saga Cruises). Some lines, such as Crystal Cruises, have special-interest lecturers on topics such as archaeology, food and wine, ornithology, and military history.

Tips for seniors

If you’re traveling solo, it’s important to check the price of any single supplements.

If you take medication, make sure you have enough with you. Some ships have a dress-up code, while some are casual. Choose a ship according to your own lifestyle and tastes.

If you have mobility difficulties, choose one of the newer ships that have public rooms with an ‘open-flow’ style of interior design. Examples include Arcadia, Balmoral, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Oosterdam, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, Westerdam, and Zuiderdam. Older ships, such as Marco Polo, have ‘lips’ or doors between public rooms.

Best facilities

Among the cruise lines that provide the facilities and onboard environment that seniors tend to enjoy most are: American Cruise Lines, Azamara Club Cruises, Blount Small Ship Adventures, Crystal Cruises, Delphin Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Hebridean Island Cruises, Holland America Line, Noble Caledonia, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises, Pearl Seas Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Saga Cruises, Sea Cloud Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea Cruises, Swan Hellenic Cruises, Voyages of Discovery, and Voyages to Antiquity.