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How to Choose A Specialty Cruise? Tips From an Experienced Cruiser

Category: Adventurous retirement

May 21, 2012 — So you’ve decided to take a cruise. It’s such a marvelous way to travel, especially once you are retired and have the time to enjoy a great vacation. But, with so many choices, how should one go about deciding a cruise that suits your particular interests?  Our first article on cruising provided general tips.  Now, we will focus on the myriad of specialty or “theme” cruises that are available.  These articles are by Patricia Kennedy who has taken and thoroughly enjoyed many cruises all over the world. If you want to share your cruising experience post a Comment to this article.

Start With Some Advice
Truly, there is a cruise for everyone. Before you zero in on a specific option, consider talking to a travel consultant with real expertise in cruising. Why? According to Steve Tanzer at OurCruiseAgent, a CLIA accredited cruise expert who has taken 60 cruises himself, “You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It costs nothing to work with a travel consultant but you can take advantage of the consultant’s expertise, knowledge and experience to put together a trip that is quality and value based.” Tanzer also encourages you to ask the consultant about his/her specific experience with cruising and if he or she has a CLIA accreditation.  You can email Tanzer at Thanks to Steve for the photos shown in this article!

Create a Cruise Wish List

Mariner of the Seas

Work with the travel consultant to build your specific profile. List the type of cruise you want to take, where you want to go, how much you want to spend, are then any special concerns or needs. For example, Tanzer says, if you have mobility issues, you’ll want to know if your stateroom has a tub/shower combination, or just a shower. If you’re a single traveler, you’ll want to be assured that you don’t get the worst stateroom on the ship which sometimes happens.

Based on this information, a cruise consultant should be able to put recommendations together, book the trip, and monitor any important changes that you should know about before your trip.

Do Some Research
Be sure to review travel review sites to be sure that the cruise you select will live up to your expectations. As discussed in Part One of this article, take a look at sites such as:
Cruise Advisor
Trip Advisor has a great resource on your geographic choices and the ships that cruise to that area.

Don’t Forget to Check Out Travel Deals and Discounts
You can act as your own consultant, of course, especially if you’re looking for a deal. There are plenty of Internet-based resources that will help you to do this. “I advise everyone to check out,” says Jan Cullinane, author of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life and an experienced cruiser “It lists discounts on last-minute cruises on some of the world’s best cruise lines.” If you do see a cruise that you are interested in, you’ll have to act quickly, as the average availability is less than 7 days and many cruises sell out within hours of listing.  Cullinane also recommends this site to see if you are eligible for discounts such as for seniors, military, or teachers. There are even discounts that offer discounts for EMTs!

So Much to Choose From

In the Panama Canal

More than ten million Americans took a cruise last year. And, it’s amazing the variety of cruises they enjoyed! Tanzer says that “theme cruises” are really big business. His company is putting together a cruise for 2013 that will take photographers on a Cruise and Shoot trip that will go to four different locations around the world with a professional photographer. “Enrichment Cruises” he says are also very popular right now.

Here are some of the many cruise categories to consider – and some of the cruise lines that offer them.

Action or Adventure Cruises: How about a trip to the Arctic, Antarctica or Greenland?

  •  Many tour companies run Arctic and Antarctic cruises and expedition programs, providing a wide range of Antarctica travel options, ships, itineraries, dates and prices. Polar Cruises is a good place to start if you are interested in this journey. Other cruise lines to consider are Quark Expeditions, Peregrine Expeditions, and for higher end trips consider the  National Geographic expeditions.
  • Cruises to Greenland take place during the summer and in early fall, when the Northern Lights can be seen. The Norwegian line Hurtigruten offers numerous small-ship cruises (from eight to 15 nights). The Fram, a 400-guest vessel built specifically for sailing the Greenland Sea, is used for these journeys, many of which also include Iceland.
  • One favorite destination for travelers is the Galapagos Islands so isolated that many of its creatures cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. Galapagos Cruise is a division of Vacations To Go is a good resource here.
  • Another idea is be your own cruise director. The British Virgin Islands is one of the greatest cruising grounds in the world. Many companies like Sunsail will rent you a boat, and even a captain if you want it. It is paradise: The water is warm, there are tons of places to moor or anchor, and you have line of sight to your destination.
    Soft Adventure: Just as fun and exciting, easier on more mature joints and muscles.

Arts and Culture: Learn something on your vacation through lecturers and guides on history, music, art, and more

  • Many universities offer sponsored trips. For example, Harvard Alumni Association Trips offers a robust spectrum of cruises. According to a representative, “For the vast majority of our trips, you don’t have to have an association with Harvard to take a trip with us.” Upcoming trips include one titled Literary Ireland.
  • Harvard Alumni Association also offers trips that you can share with children or grandchildren including an upcoming July 2012 Mediterranean Voyage of Discovery. This itinerary to Italy, Greece, and Turkey is designed to enlighten the senses and imagination of your children or grandchildren.
  • You can also travel the world with prestigious organizations such as the Smithsonian.

Cruiser’s Cruises: Long, lazy days at sea, especially trans-ocean crossings

  • Cunard’s flagship, Queen Mary 2, operates the only regular Transatlantic cruise schedule, sailing between Southampton and New York from April to November each year. This is a unique chance to savor the classic crossing and experience the awe-inspiring view as you sail into or out of New York.  Many cruise lines offer discounted “positioning” cruises when they return their ships to Europe or the Caribbean at the change of seasons.

Fitness: Active travelers will find no shortage of options here. Top-of-the-line cardio and weigh-training equipment, Pilates, yoga, spinning classes, even boxing rings!

Gambling or Bridge: Casinos, poker tournaments, Monte Carlo Nights, slot machines on the high seas. Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Royal Caribbean International are currently the leaders in reaching out to “high rollers.”

Gourmet/Culinary: Offer an ambiance of sophistication and glamor with culinary adventure as a major thrust.

Mature Traveler:  Many cruise lines create special trips for this market.

Multi-generational: Disney is the master at this if you want to cruise with your grandchildren, but there are many other options.

Any grandchild loves a Disney cruise

Music Cruises: Opera? Orchestra? Broadway-style theaters? You can even attend a rock and roll festival on board.

Retirees: Google is a great resource here. Review the various sites that come up when you key in travel agents who specialize in cruises for seniors. A few suggestions:

Romance: Dining a deux, private balconies. You can even get married at sea!

FIne Dining

Singles: When it comes to singles cruising, there are many options, especially for retirees, with activities for all ages.

Water-lovers: Snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, windsurfing and sailing opportunities

More Information on Cruising

Read our first article on cruising, which gives lots of practical tips for those just started thinking about taking a cruise.

Do you have some great tips for our readers about how to enjoy a great cruise? We’d like to hear those in the space below.

[jbox jbox_css=”border:6px solid #7c7c7c;padding-left:2em;” vgradient=”#dfdfdf|#ffffff” title=”About the Author” radius=”10″ radius=”5″ shadow=”15″]
Patricia Kennedy, a branding and marketing consultant, is transitioning to a more relaxed way of living. She lives in Boston but escapes in the winter to Key West, Florida and to Plymouth, Massachusetts in the summer. Pat’s website is [/jbox]

Ship docked in Skagway, Alaska

Posted by Admin on June 1st, 2012


  1. […] you sort through the many first-questions you need to address.  We start here with general tips, Part 2 covers more specific types of cruises.  These articles are by Patricia Kennedy who has taken and thoroughly enjoyed many cruises all […]

    by » Planning a Retirement Cruise? Top Ten Tips From an Experienced Cruiser Topretirements — June 1, 2012

  2. We are multiple cruisers having been to 60+ countries. Every cruise line is different in its own personalized ways so you should try a couple of short cruises on different cruise lines based on your research. We are Platinum with Princess and still have good things to say about them but have found that for a little more money we have greatly increased our travel satisfaction with Azamara Club Cruies and have our 4th cruise in a row booked with them. Why? We are wine drinkers and they include a nice house wine with lunch and dinner (no extra charge), they have smaller ships which gets us to ports the big ships can’t reach, the level of food service is very high and they really care about the little things for you, the guest. If there is ANY problem our issue is dealt with expediently and always to our satisfaction. You’ve got to find the right cruise line for you, like we have.

    by High Yield Consultant — June 6, 2012

  3. You are correct that every cruise line and even ships have a different feel to them. When looking at cruise lines keep in Ming the there are three types:Mainlines which include Royal Caribbean, Carnival,Norwegian. Premium which include Princess, Holland America, Disney, and Celebrity. An Luxury which is Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas and others.

    As you move up you will find higher levels of service and food plus a focus on port immersion, enrichment programs and, more relaxation. Mainline cruise companies are focused more on the mass market and provide destination ships with things like rock climbing, ice skating, big shows, bowling, etc.

    Here is to happy cruising.

    by Steve tanzer — June 7, 2012

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