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Travel Tips for Planning the Perfect Vacation Cruise

Vacation cruises are a popular vacation choice for many older adults, and it’s easy to see why: Cruises make it easy to get away on a luxurious cruise ship vacation that includes world-class entertainment, spas, 24/7 dining, shopping, and excursions in one travel package. Vacation cruises take the work out of relaxing and unwinding because everything you need is provided. They’re easy to navigate, even for older adults with accessibility requirements.

Bonnie O'Connor
Travel Tips for Planning the Perfect Vacation Cruise

Cruises make it easy to get away on a luxurious cruise ship vacation that includes world-class entertainment, spas, 24/7 dining, shopping, and excursions in one travel package.

Vacation cruises are a popular vacation choice for many older adults, and it’s easy to see why: Cruises make it easy to get away on a luxurious cruise ship vacation that includes world-class entertainment, spas, 24/7 dining, shopping, and excursions in one travel package. Vacation cruises take the work out of relaxing and unwinding because everything you need is provided. They’re easy to navigate, even for older adults with accessibility requirements. 

Perhaps the biggest appeal of cruising is the ability to travel to many different destinations without the hassle of packing and unpacking, finding hotels and restaurants, or booking entertainment. Here are some tips for planning a vacation cruise.

Choose Your Ship Size 

The options for vacation cruises vary from massive, elaborate ocean ships like Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, with 18 decks and a capacity of 6,988 passengers, to Celebrity Xploration, a catamaran-style ship with a maximum of 16 guests occupying eight available cabins. River cruises, such as Viking and Crystal cruises, offer more intimate trips built for travel along inland waterways with port stops along the passage. 

Ocean cruise liners need large ports of call, and Florida terminals such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Port Canaveral are some of the most popular in the United States. Charleston, South Carolina, New York City, and Boston also have terminals, making them easy to get to from most areas within the United States.

River cruises explore narrow waterways not accessible by large ocean ships, so they offer travelers the opportunity to visit historical sites and experience new cultures up close. Because of their small size, river cruise ships can dock and post up in small port destinations, like the Amsterdam River in the Netherlands; the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary; or the Mekong River in Hanoi, Vietnam.

While most cruise lines come with a great number of amenities and comforts, larger ocean cruises offer more onboard activities and entertainment because of the sheer size of the vessels. In fact, go-karts, skydiving, slides, zip lines, ice escape rooms, surf simulators, and planetariums are some of the over-the-top amenities you can find on an ocean liner. Yet the trade-off can come in convenience as you’ll be traveling alongside thousands of other passengers, so long waits to board and deboard the ship can be expected.

Set Your Cruise Budget 

Ocean cruises are larger and can offer more value for your dollar. Do your homework to know what’s included in your cruise ship package to ensure you’re getting the best deal. For example, does your cruise vacation package include your flights? Package deals can save you money over the cost of booking your cruise and airfare separately. 

Amenities are also a budget consideration, and some ships offer more for your money. For example, many ocean cruises offer excursions and drink packages at separate charges, while some river cruises will offer complimentary beer and wine with lunch and dinner, and some include walking tours. Compare different amenities, such as all-inclusive drinks, alternative dining options, types of balconies, included shore excursions, onboard bicycles, laundry services, availability of gyms, spas, pool, and hot tubs, complimentary internet and Wi-Fi, and find out whether gratuities are included. 

Cruise ship stateroom costs vary depending on size, location, and balcony type. Cabins on higher decks tend to cost more than those on lower decks. Generally, interior cabins with no window or balcony will be the most affordable. If you or your travel companion are prone to motion sickness, an ocean-view room with a window that lets you see the horizon line might be worth the extra cost. Balcony rooms are great for travelers who prefer more cabin time. Suites offer separate living and sleeping areas, balconies, and extra perks ideal for extended stays or larger groups. 

Booking early and cruising off-season can help stretch your cruise budget. According to Cruzely, some of the highest rates to cruise are during the holidays, like Christmas and New Year’s, while some of the most affordable cruise times are in the fall when people go back to school and work. They also say low rates can be found between New Year’s and spring break. Consider cruise insurance for peace of mind should your trip be disrupted by weather issues or if you have a health emergency that prevents you from traveling.

Plan Your Length of Stay

The length of a cruise is a personal decision and depends on your interests and budget. Some people prefer shorter cruises that last a few days or a week, while others favor longer cruises that can last several weeks or even months. A wide variety of cruise options are available to suit different preferences and needs.

Cruise durations can vary widely, from a quick three-day excursion to the Bahamas to as long as a 52-night world cruise on ships like the Celebrity Edge, with more than 20 ports in 11 countries and spanning three continents. Know your limits and plan your duration wisely. First-time cruisers may want to try either a three-day sampler or a one-week cruise. These will allow you to test out a few destinations so you can decide whether cruising is right for you.

Some cruise ships offer a more comprehensive range of amenities, while others may be more basic but offer a more laid-back atmosphere. When choosing a cruise ship for a longer journey, some things to consider include the size of the ship, the types of accommodations and dining options available, and the activities and entertainment offered on board. If you’re managing health issues on an extended cruise, look for a cruise ship that has an onboard infirmary and medical staff, along with a pharmacy.

Pick Your Destination 

For many people, the length of stay and budget will help determine their cruise destination. The further you travel, the more costs add up. When choosing your cruise ship destination, think about what you enjoy doing and what you want to get out of your vacation. Do you want to relax on the beach, visit historical landmarks, or experience new cultures? Are you okay with a long flight to get to your boarding location, or do you prefer to drive to the cruise ship terminal? This will help narrow your cruise options to destinations that align with your needs and interests.

Another factor to consider is the time of year when you’ll be traveling. Some destinations may be more appealing at certain times of the year because of weather or cultural events. For example, the Caribbean is a popular destination in the winter months thanks to its warm climate. Similarly, Alaska is a popular destination in the summer months due to its long days and mild temperatures. Some popular destinations include:

  • The Caribbean: This region is known for its beautiful beaches, clear blue waters, and tropical climate.
  • The Mediterranean: This region offers a mix of cultures, history, and natural beauty, with destinations like Spain, Italy, and Greece being particularly popular.
  • The Bahamas: This group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean is known for its crystal-clear waters, coral reefs, and laid-back atmosphere.
  • The Mexican Riviera: This region along Mexico’s Pacific coast offers a mix of beach resorts, historical landmarks, and rich cultural experiences.
  • Alaska: Cruises to Alaska offer the opportunity to see glaciers, wildlife, and stunning natural landscapes.
  • The Panama Canal: A cruise through the Panama Canal allows you to experience this engineering marvel and visit destinations in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
  • Europe: River cruises in Europe offer the opportunity to visit multiple destinations in one trip and experience the region’s history, culture, and natural beauty.
  • Asia: Cruises to Asia offer the chance to visit destinations like China, Japan, and Vietnam and experience the rich culture and history of the region.

Check for Special Accommodations

Do you or your travel companion have accessibility or special medical requirements? Cruise vacations are one of the more accessible ways to travel when you’re on a ship with accommodations for passengers with limited mobility or who may need to use a wheelchair. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that cruise ships that sail in U.S. waters be equipped with accessible accommodations. New ships will have more accessible options than older ones. Small ships and river cruises may have fewer accessibility features because of the smaller size of the vessel. 

Accessibility features to look for are wider gangways, automatic doors, grab bars, shower seats, pool lifts, and elevators. Check with your cruise line about accessibility features before booking your cruise. Many will offer wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, and canes. Accessible staterooms are also available should you need one. 

Passengers who have food allergies are also covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and many cruise lines can accommodate special dietary restrictions for requirements like peanut allergy and those who have celiac disease. For example, Modern Travel Professionals reports that the Disney Cruise line, Royal Caribbean Cruise line, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise line can accommodate people with food allergies.

Cruise liners can also accommodate passengers who have food preferences for vegan, vegetarian, or kosher meals. While cruises are well known for their buffet dining, special meals can be prepared on most ships. Contact your cruise line about their specific dietary offerings, disclose your requirements upon booking, and book your trip early so cruise staff will have plenty of time to prepare for your needs.

Date posted: Dec 28, 2022
as we age
Bonnie O'Connor

Bonnie is a content and copywriter for the technology and healthcare industries.

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This info is very helpful to as I want to treat myself my grandma, daughter, grandson to a family cruise in warm weather excursion very soon this year before my next birthday in Dec 2023! This article had very precise answers to my questions I thank you in advance for I know it will help me and my family agreat deal.thanks again. Much as gracias!!!

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