The number of people who take cruises has been growing steadily for the past several years. In fact, cruise vacations have risen in popularity faster than land-based trips, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. While there are many reasons this vacation type is so popular, one of the biggest is the bang cruise travelers get for their buck.
“Cruising is the most cost-effective vacation available,” said cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron of CruiseGuy.com.
The affordability of cruises makes them an ideal mode of travel for retirees on a fixed budget. Yet, just 21 percent of cruise travelers are retired adults, according to a Cruise Lines International Association report. If you are retired, here are 11 reasons you should consider making a cruise your next vacation.
1. You Pay All Costs Up Front
If you’re retired and on a fixed income, you probably don’t like surprise expenses on your vacation. With a cruise, you know your costs ahead of time because your accommodations, meals and entertainment are all included in the fare, Chiron said.
Sometimes, you can even pre-pay for gratuities and extra amenities, such as spa treatments and excursions at ports, according to Darci Upham, a CruiseOne franchise owner in Hampstead, N.C. “A cruise is perfect for retirees because they know what their vacation will cost, and they can pay it off before leaving home,” she said. “I have many retirees who book well in advance, and then make monthly payments.”
2. You Can Visit Multiple Destinations for Less
Cruises offer people the ability to visit multiple destinations for a fraction of the cost of traveling to each of those locales individually, said David Betlejewski, a CruiseOne franchise owner in Norton Shores, Mich. “A single cruise, for example, can take in the sights of London, Copenhagen and St. Petersburg, without incurring either the expense or inconvenience of visiting each of those locations separately,” he said.
If you traveled to European destinations on your own, you’d pay about $700 a day per person, after factoring in airfare, hotel stays, food and modest daily entertainment, Chiron said. With a European cruise, though, you'd pay only about $250 to $350 per person each day.
3. You Can Get Age-Specific Discounts
Cruising is even more affordable for retirees because they can take advantage of age-specific discounts. Many cruise lines offer discounted rates for travelers 55 and older on select sailings and itineraries, said Colleen McDaniel, managing editor of CruiseCritic.com, the world's largest online cruise resource.
AARP members can get 5 percent off bookings on Norwegian Cruise Line and Windstar Cruises and up to $100 off Grand European Travel river cruises. Additionally, AARP offers special cruise perks for members who book through its Travel Center, McDaniel said.
4. You Can Take Advantage of Reduced Rates
Retirees can take advantage of significantly reduced cruise rates because they have the flexibility to travel at different times from the ones that families tend to choose, McDaniel said. Because they aren't restricted by school vacations, seniors can save hundreds of dollars on their trips.
“Retirees can also take advantage of last-minute deals, which generally start about three months out from a sailing, when the cruise lines are trying to fill empty cabins,” McDaniel said.
5. Cruising Is Safer Than Traveling on Your Own
The security of cruising can be a big plus for retirees. Said Chiron, “Ships aren’t going to go to unsafe destinations."
More than 40 percent of cruisers surveyed by the Cruise Lines International Association said safety was one of the benefits of cruising compared to other vacations. Not only do cruises offer a secure environment, but also they provide a support system for shore excursions, said cruise industry consultant Allan Jordan.
“You have the ability to be fully independent,” he said. “But if you want some support or are not as comfortable venturing out on your own in a foreign country, you have the services of the ship.”
6. You Can Travel With a Group
Retirees who want to cruise with friends can save money by booking group tours, said Greg Geronemus, co-CEO of smarTours, a guided tour company that offers river cruises in Europe, Asia and South America.
“There’s a perception that river cruises are expensive, but when you travel with a group, we can offer a much lower price because the costs get shared,” he said. Geronemus went on to reveal that retirees can spend 50 percent to 60 percent less by booking a group tour.
7. You Won’t Be Alone While Traveling Solo
For single retirees, cruising offers a way to travel in the company of others and make new friends. And there are cruise lines that cater to solo travelers.
For example, Holland America Line offers a Single Partners Program that provides activities for single guests and a way for solo travelers to share rooms with other same-sex singles, so they don’t have to bear the full cost of a double-occupancy room. Moreover, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic ship has studio cabins designed and priced for solo travelers.
8. It’s a Hassle-Free Way to Travel
Planning and taking a cruise vacation involves a lot less hassle than other trips. In fact, it's a practically effortless way for retirees to travel. You get to visit several cities with a cruise, but you don’t have to make multiple hotel reservations, Jordan said. And you only have to unpack and settle in once.
9. You Have Access to a Full Range of Activities
You don’t have to seek out activities — or pay extra for them — while cruising. Ships offer a range of entertainment, including dancing, contests and live performances. To get similar entertainment on land, Chiron said, you’d pay about $150 a night per person.
Cruisers surveyed by the Cruise Lines International Association said cruises provide better entertainment opportunities than other vacation types. Because cruises offer an array of activities, they can be a good way for retirees to travel with their kids and grandkids. All age groups can find ways to keep themselves entertained.
10. You Can Learn Something New
Cruises can offer retirees opportunities to keep their brains challenged by learning new skills. For example, Princess Cruises’ ScholarShip@Sea program offers 40 classes ranging from art history to digital technology basics. Additionally, the Crystal Cruises' Creative Learning Institute offers classes in arts and entertainment, business and technology, wellness and lifestyle, among others.
11. You Can Have an Impact
If volunteering more is one of your retirement priorities, you can make it happen on a cruise. Carnival Corporation has a new brand called Fathom, which carries passengers to the Dominican Republic to do volunteer work. Cruisers spend three days on the island, getting involved with projects that focus on education, the environment and economic development.
The benefit of this sort of volunteer trip for older adults is that they get to return each night to the comfort and safety of a cruise ship — and enjoy the amenities it has to offer, Chiron said.