‘Senior cruiser’ is a broad term for the over-55s that does not apply to everyone in the same way. A 60-year-old might not want to spend their holiday with people in their 80s and 90s.
Likewise, a fun-loving 70-year-old may prefer a party cruise rather than a quieter ship aimed at seniors. Cruising caters to this wide spectrum of mature travellers because the industry has a long history of entertaining differing age groups.
Generally, the longer the cruise, the older the clientele, as they have the time and money to travel for two weeks or more. A three-month round-the-world voyage will likely be full of retirees. Itineraries that focus on history and culture also tend to attract more seniors. Popular destinations include Alaska, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, the Panama Canal, transatlantic crossings (between the UK and New York) and circumnavigations of Australia and New Zealand. River and expedition cruises have a mix of demographics, but most will be aged in their 60s and 70s, with no or few children onboard.
Cruises for older travellers are not significantly different to cruises for younger people, but there are some subtle differences. Traditional activities include bingo, bridge, ballroom dancing classes, trivia, quoits, shuffleboard, lectures, wine-tasting and cooking classes. Entertainment is largely musical, with performances by big bands or classical duos, or Broadway-style productions in the ship’s theatre. Some ships will have a library, games room and casino, while others are proudly casino-free.
For people with mobility issues, accessible cabins can be found on most big ships, with more space for wheelchairs, walkers and walking frames, and specially equipped bathrooms.
Best cruise lines for seniors
Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises are good for all ages. To sail (probably) child-free, spend more on a luxury line such as Silversea, Seabourn, SeaDream, Regent Seven Seas, Windstar or Ponant. Premium brands such as Cunard, Azamara and Oceania Cruises are also less likely to have many children onboard. Adults-only ocean cruise lines include Viking, Saga Cruises (over-50s only) and Fiji’s Blue Lagoon Cruises. Based in the UK, P&O Cruises, as opposed to P&O Australia, has two adults-only cruise ships: the 1874-passenger Aurora and 2,094-passenger Arcadia. British line Marella Cruises’ 1,814-passenger Marella Explorer 2 is also adults-only and includes tips and a selection of drinks. All river cruising is suited to seniors; excellent choices include Travelmarvel, Avalon Waterways, Scenic, Viking, Emerald Cruises and APT.
Rosemary Riddell is 66 and is loving life as a cruising couple with her husband Mario , in their retirement. They’ve already ticked off five cruises and are sailing to the Pacific in March.
She says between the convenience, the atmosphere and the service, nothing makes for a better holiday than cruising.
“There’s no lugging around luggage, no dishwashing and cooking, all your entertainment is included, it’s the same bed every night. Everyone is up for a chat. There’s always friendly crews and fellow passengers,” she says.
In particular, Royal Caribbean not only makes the Riddells feel special, but also sets the couple up perfectly for romance and indulgence.
“Royal Caribbean, from day one, just spoils you. We don’t do suites or drink packages, but we love being pampered,” she says. “We enjoy food, our choices vary and it’s always delicious whether main dining or upgrading to Wonderland, Izumi or Giovannis.”
Highlights of their cruising life include: “A simple cruise from Sydney to Cairns is fantastic. Cruising from Barcelona to Venice was amazing especially the dawn sailing down the Grand Canal in Venice was a once-in-a-lifetime great experience.”
On board, Ms Riddell is a bingo-lover, with her husband equally adept at quizzes, and you can catch them anywhere from letting loose at disco nights to swerving on the dodgem cars.