Cruising for The Oldish

Having cruised several times over the past decade I’ve learned what many people already know – cruising is a terrific way to unpack once and see a whole lot. Or see very little if that’s your preference. A cruiser can do as much or as little as they wish. The daily offerings on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises – the two that I have experienced – are many and varied, particularly on at sea days but there’s lots going on for those who choose to stay on board for port days.

While there are cruise lines geared more toward a younger crowd (think Disney, Princess and Carnival) my experience has been that Royal Caribbean has an older crowd and Celebrity Cruises older still. My cruises with Royal Caribbean have offered activities that appeal more to a younger demographic like parades, rock climbing walls and line dancing alongside napkin folding, bingo and belly dancing which tend to be frequented by an older crowd. The Celebrity Equinox didn’t feature a rock climbing wall but did have an infrequently used outdoor basketball court, a well used Baggo game and a constantly busy card room. Both have really well used walking/jogging tracks and exercise rooms.

I’ve seen more multigenerational families travelling together on Royal Caribbean and certainly more honeymooners although there were a few newlyweds on my recent Celebrity cruise along with some families with adult children and a couple with toddlers. Both cruise lines offer programming for children and teens. The Celebrity Equinox offers a Wii gaming experience for all ages that I found constantly in use by older adults. Not surprisingly, bowling was the favourite!

Technology is increasingly supported on cruise ships as they recognize that people like to be connected some of the time and business people may well work for part of a cruise as I did on my last Royal Caribbean cruise. It was supported aboard the Equinox with Internet packages available for purchase to all passengers – pay by the minute or in packages of minutes or pay $300 USD for unlimited use for the duration of the cruise. Expensive but for people like me who get twitchy when disconnected for too long it was a welcome expense. The Equinox iLounge offered daily classes on usage, tricks and tips for iPads and iPhones as well as banks of iMacs available for those who bought Internet minutes.

While aboard the Celebrity Equinox I took note of the high number of passengers requiring assistance getting on and off the ship on port days. The wheelchair lift was put to good use when tendering was required and the staff were clearly experts and happy to help with its use. The port excursions seemed to list activities based on the physical abilities of an older crowd so their idea of strenuous was not what I would define as strenuous for myself and pretty much a cakewalk for my 25-year-old daughter.

Celebrity Equinox is a quieter experience with less loudspeaker announcements encouraging participation in various activities and no final night parade. Our Royal Caribbean cruises have featured many announcements daily with “Bingo, bingo, bingo!” standing out as a vivid memory. To each their own. Some people would prefer the reminders; others would prefer to enjoy the day quietly even though opportunities might be missed. To be sure, the poolside experience is quite similar on both cruise lines with early risers staking claim to their favourite lounge chairs and the latecomers searching for good sunshine. Walking on the Equinox track daily, I was amused by one elderly man who would show up around 6:30 AM, tie towels to eight lounge chairs and then sit across from them in the smoking area by one of the bars where he could keep an eye on them. I have no idea when his companions showed up but clearly they were allowed the luxury of a later sleep.

The food is terrific on both cruise lines although perhaps better on Celebrity and I never once saw a French fry in the Oceanview Café, the buffet restaurant atop the Equinox. Dietary options, not accommodated well only a short number of years ago, are accommodated very well these days. Gluten-free, vegetarian, sugar-free and a variety of culinary options to satisfy cultural preferences are freely available on both cruise lines.

My 27-year-old daughter, a baker by profession, was unimpressed with the dessert selection on our Royal Caribbean cruises, finding them to be variations in flavours but largely gelatinous in consistency. The Tiramisu being offered in that format particularly offended her. While she didn’t join us for our recent cruise on the Equinox, my younger daughter and I both thought she would have been more impressed with the dessert offerings. Both cruise lines are experimenting with a variety of dining experiences and, in my experience, they are all worth checking out.

Cruising has always been a vacation experience strongly supported by aging adults. With many aging adults remaining healthier and more active longer, the cruise lines seem to be accommodating their activity levels in a lot of interesting ways while still accommodating those with challenges.

A recently deceased friend always said that rather than move into a retirement home, she would prefer to live on a cruise ship. After all one gets a room that is cleaned and supplied with fresh linens, towels and toiletries, all the food they can eat, a variety of activities, entertainment every day and evening plus the added bonus of meeting new people constantly. Plus if she ever forgot where she was, she couldn’t get far on a ship at sea! She figured that at a cost of roughly $225 USD per day (as a single she would have to pay for the second non-existent person so her real expense would be $450/day), it might be cheaper than long term care. In 2012 the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc. told us that the daily rate for long term care was $126 Cdn per day so my friend’s wishes for worldwide cruising may have exceeded her budget but it wouldn’t be excessive for some budgets, particularly for couples who had prepared well for their retirement.

Perhaps I need to figure out how to make a living on a cruise ship without having to live on deck 2! Truly, there is little else lovelier than having breakfast on a balcony overlooking nothing but ocean while listening to the water below.