Cruising continues to grow in popularity, and a large percentage of cruisers are age 55 or older. While many mature travelers choose cruise vacations for their value and convenience, destinations are important, too. Here are our top five senior-friendly cruise destinations.
Long before river cruising became popular; Rhine River cruises were an important part of many European travel itineraries. You can still take day cruises on the Rhine River on a KD ship, either between landing stages or as a one-day round trip from Cologne, Düsseldorf or Frankfurt.
For a truly memorable Rhine River experience that includes castles, wine towns and cathedrals, book a one-week Rhine River cruise. As you journey down the river, you'll see steep, vineyard-covered hillsides, imposing medieval fortresses and market towns that have greeted disembarking passengers for centuries. Pack your walking shoes and explore, either with a shore expedition group or on your own.
There's a reason that Alaska is a popular cruise destination – it's spectacularly beautiful. Alaska's cool coastal temperatures, abundant wildlife and gorgeous glaciers attract seniors from all over the world. During your port visits, you can go on a whale watching trip, take a scenic ride on a historic train, soar over the glaciers in a floatplane, and hike or kayak in pristine wilderness. If you'd rather avoid a group experience, investigate each port on your own; you'll find plenty to see and do within a few blocks of the pier.
You'll truly appreciate the ingenious system of Dutch canals and locks when you take a river cruise through the Netherlands. During port visits, you'll find Dutch cities and towns to be walkable, friendly and scenic. Because the country is so flat, you can easily manage walks and bicycle rides in the countryside. The Netherlands is home to many famous art treasures, too. Don't miss your chance to tour a working windmill and sample Dutch cheeses.
The Panama Canal
Seeing the Panama Canal from the deck of a cruise ship gives you a new perspective on this engineering wonder of the world. Some cruise lines combine a trip to the Panama Canal and Gatun Lake with port calls in the Caribbean, while others offer a full Panama Canal transit experience. Either way, you'll understand the important role the Panama Canal plays in the world of modern transportation. Panama Canal cruises often involve more days at sea than cruises to other destinations; if you enjoy shipboard life, you'll have a great time on a Panama Canal cruise.
Montreal and Canada's Maritime Provinces
A cruise to Montreal and the Maritimes combines the best of river and ocean cruising. You'll explore Canada's earliest history as you tour Montreal and cruise on the St. Lawrence River. Visit Prince Edward Island's provincial capital, Charlottetown, and explore historic Province House. If your ship stops in Sydney, Nova Scotia, consider an excursion to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck; it's a bit of a drive, but you'll appreciate the numerous achievements of this famous inventor in an entirely new way. In Halifax, take a tour of the Citadel, visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic or strike out on your own and explore the historic waterfront. Don't miss out on the delicious local seafood, including P. E. I. mussels and lobster rolls.
Senior Cruise Tips
Wherever your cruise adventures take you, there are certain things you'll need to take care of before you leave home.
Talk With Your Doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor several weeks before your cruise. Go over your health record, immunizations and prescriptions and get separate, written prescription forms for every medication you take. If you need to fill a prescription during your trip, having a signed prescription form in hand will save you time.
Plan for Your Needs
If you use a wheelchair, scooter, walker or supplemental oxygen, you will need to contact your airline and cruise line to discuss your options. Ask your cruise line representative about gangways, tenders and wheelchair and scooter size and weight restrictions.
Airlines and cruise lines will allow you to bring portable oxygen concentrators on board, but most require at least 48 hours' advance notice. Call your airline and cruise line to learn more about policies and procedures, including requirements for physicians' statements. Be sure you pack enough batteries to power your oxygen concentrator for at least 150 percent of the planned duration of your trip; for a one-hour flight, you'll need at least 90 minutes of battery power, and for a 7-day cruise, you should bring enough batteries to power your concentrator for 11 days.
Organize Your Travel Documents
You won't get very far without a photo ID, passport and, if needed, visa. Begin applying for your travel documents several months before your departure date. You'll need a valid passport in order to apply for visas. Once you have all of your travel documents in hand, make two copies of the main page of each. Leave one with a trusted family member or friend and carry the other copy with you. If you lose your passport, take your copy to the nearest embassy or consulate and ask for an emergency passport. Having the copy in hand will speed up the passport replacement process.