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Why we golden-agers love our cruises

Some seniors even choose to live on ships for extended periods while seeing the world, often saying that it is cheaper to do that than staying at home and enduring another Buffalo- or Chicago-type winter, doing laundry, and only venturing to their church or library. Sometimes the loss of a spouse is the motivation for jumping aboard a ship, especially when children and grandchildren live at a distance or are a bit indifferent to their surviving parent’s new situation.
So why do golden-agers who are still traveling so often choose and enjoy cruising the seven seas? Silly question. There once was a time when many of these water-borne fun seekers backpacked through Europe, jumping aboard Eurail Pass trains at the last moment, not knowing how far they would get nor where their heads would rest that night. But those days are clearly over for this group that now appreciates, if not actually needs with a degree of urgency, a bit of pampering while traveling in a stimulating, yet safe, environment. Cruise ships fill the bill for senior travelers in spades.
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It is true that many in this age group don’t move as fast as they used to, or hear as well, but they share a desire to live out their days in as pleasing a way as possible. On my three recent post-COVID cruises, the average passenger had to be close to 70, though there were those in their 40s aboard, balanced by an equal number in their late 80s. No zip lines, climbing walls, waterslides, or roller coasters for this crew. Why risk injury at this age when one could be attending the midnight buffet following the last set at the piano bar instead, or playing cards by the pool with new friends into the wee hours?
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Some passengers make use of canes, walkers, and motorized and non-motorized wheelchairs because nothing is going to stop them from taking part in all that is offered. Many of the spry ones get dressed up and dance to the live music at various venues around the ship well into the morning, often to the songs they learned to dance to decades ago. Some leave no doubt that at one time they were hell on greased wheels at their favorite ‘60s and ‘70s rock concerts.
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Inhibitions on board the ship easily get tossed aside, a gentleman told me. He was showing off his new Texas line dancing skills acquired at afternoon lessons by the pool. He said he always struggled with two left feet but had made great strides during the voyage, even though the ship challenged him with some wave-enhanced moves of its own. “Do you think that the gift shops on Deck 5 sell cowboy boots?” he wondered.
Newer cruisers rave about the Las Vegas-caliber nightly entertainment and the culinary variety. On any given evening in the various dining areas, you may see a roasted pig, a towering ice sculpture in the shape of a dolphin, or fruits and vegetables carved to resemble flowers, birds, or creatures of the sea.
After excursions off the ship, where whole new worlds are discovered, newbies can be heard saying that they wished that they could have started cruising earlier.
Senior cruisers are a breed apart for sure. The cruise lines haven’t quite figured out that while seniors are often adept at applying technology, they just as often don’t want to. They have found out the hard way that the statement, “It’s easy, just download our app and avoid waiting in line,” really means, “It is ridiculously hard, unnecessarily convoluted, and definitely more time-consuming by the time you figure out why the app doesn’t work on your particular smartphone or computer.” The consensus is that wasting valuable senior time isn’t worth it. Ship maps, land excursions, and a smattering of world news slipped under the door beats app-delivered info any day. (Hey, that’s how it was done for generations and it worked just fine.)
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Do cruisers indulge themselves? A little. While we were waiting in line for a cone of afternoon gelato, a woman with an impish smile confided in me that her friends thought she was on one of the upper decks walking laps and doing exercises.
Those cruisers with what some would refer to as a degenerative streak could enjoy gambling if they chose (but not in Hawaiian waters because of state laws), perhaps even the slightly excessive consumption of alcohol fostered by creative cruise ship “beverage” plans. There are also a few designated smoking areas on upper decks where smoke is quickly dissipated over the trackless, uninhabited sea. I am sure that a couple of my brothers would happily congregate in this space to enjoy cigars accompanied by a small glass of aged rum. The almost universal feeling of those who have wagered a few dollars, drank, smoked, or enjoyed lots of unique and tasty food was that if these foibles have not already done them in, they weren’t ever likely to do so.
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At disembarkation, on wrinkled faces, I could plainly see the pleasure and wonder engendered by the experiences over the previous few days, the facial furrows not just the result of age, but lots of laughing and smiling.
Post-COVID cruises can be had for $100 a day per person or less. There certainly are a lot of other ways that a senior could spend hard-earned money, of course. But given the chance to hop on a ship at these bargain prices, why wouldn’t they?

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