Monday, December 21, 2009

Larger Cruise Ships Tempt Seniors


NY Daily News


Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney and others  have or are about to launch massive new state-of-the-art ships that offer activities, services and amenities never before available on the high seas.

That’s sure to interest a group that’s always helped fill the ships: older vacationers.

“The 65 and over crowd are always excited to hear about the new ships,” said Jill Rosenberg, manager of group travel sales at AAA New York Travel in Garden City, L.I. Nonetheless, she added, “For repeat cruisers, I have found that they often appreciate staying with what’s familiar and will often return to the same cruise line, and even the same ship, year after year.”

Last summer, to celebrate turning 80, Virginia Byrnes invited her extended family − 15 people aged 9 to 80 − on a five-day cruise to Mexico on Royal Caribbean.

“I wanted my whole family together to celebrate my birthday,” said Byrnes, whose family comes from around Manhattan and Long Island. “If we stayed at a resort instead of taking a cruise, we would have been too spread out, and we would have needed at least three or four cars to get around to restaurants and activities. Cruise ships are ideal for traveling conveniently with groups.”

Everyone enjoyed meals together but, in between, people went off to various activities.

“I enjoyed swimming everyday, the dining and the shows at night. The adults in the group enjoyed gambling at night after I went to bed, while the kids participated in the camplike activities offered aboard the ship during the day,” Byrnes said.

“We had the best time, and this was my best birthday ever.”

The newest cruise ships offer a lot more than sundecks, swimming pools and shuffleboard to entertain seniors. While not everyone will try a rock climbing wall or indoor ice skating rink, the golf driving ranges, world-class day spas and land excursions are a big hit.

“Everyone has different budgets, physical limitations and expectations. There are cruises available to fit everyone’s needs, including people with physical or dietary limitations,” Rosenberg said.

When reviewing cruise info that describes land excursions, the cruise lines now rate them based on how strenuous they are.

“Make sure you choose activities that are within your physical abilities,” Rosenberg said.

To find the best prices on cruise packages including Mexico cruises, contact the cruise lines directly, work with a travel agent and visit online services, especially for last-minute deals.

Some of the newest ships have created unusual cruising environments.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Oasis of the Seas, for example, pays homage to Central Park on one full deck, even adding caf├ęs and shopping.

When Norwegian Cruise Lines launches a ship named Epic next summer, it will offer a bar made entirely of ice.

“The cruise lines are trying hard to make the cruise ship itself into the vacation destination. Where the ship actually travels to is now almost secondary for many passengers,” Rosenberg said.