Your Ship Has Come In

By Maggie Reed

May 16, 2008 7 min read

YOUR SHIP HAS COME IN

Whatever floats your boat, it's there on a cruise

By Maggie Reed

Copley News Service

There's a lot more to cruising than shuffleboard and 24-hour buffets.

"Whatever their need may be, whether it be a little or a lot, it will be met on a cruise," said Nancy Harrison of Anderson Travel in San Diego. Cruise ships are known for their gracious hospitality and ensuring everyone has a great time - whatever it takes.

"Especially for seniors, traveling is easy for them on a cruise ship," Harrison said. "Food is always available, no matter what their dietary needs. Medical help is available all the time on the ship. It's not like being on land and having to try and seek out a medical professional."

Cruise ships also cater to older travelers as far as activities go. "There are so many special and separate activities that are geared to them," she said.

There are miniature golf tournaments, pingpong, bean bag tosses, arts and crafts, trivia contests, karaoke, casinos, spas, bingo and quiet libraries all in one place.

"There is nonstop entertainment on the ship from Broadway shows to variety shows and lots of music. It is an ideal vacation," said Jeffrey Thomas, an entertainer on Carnival Cruise Lines.

"But most of all, it's a good way to get out of your normal environment and go to a place that is partially home but away from home on the sea," Thomas said.

And, let's not forget the romance of being at sea.

"It's very interesting to have couples who have spent many years together having fun on a cruise ship," Thomas said. "To see an 80-year-old couple dancing to song after song and they don't seem to tire. Cruises seem to energize their love for each other. It is such a special feeling to know that your music is touching people of that age and you are part of their enjoyment."

Cruises are indeed ideal, but there are some things to take note of before you set sail. Here are some tips:

- Start early. The earlier you book, the better deals you are going to get. Make sure you check with your travel agent for senior rates. AARP and AAA offer outstanding bargains for seniors and most times only one person in the cabin needs to be 55 years or older for everyone in the cabin to get the lower fare.

- Learn about your destination. Read up on the culture, people and history of the places you will travel. Check out your local library and bookstores as well as travel magazines and brochures.

- Passports. Pack an emergency kit in case you lose yours. Make a photocopy of the data page at the front of your passport, write down addresses and telephone numbers of the U.S. embassies and consulates in the countries you plan to visit and put this information along with two recent passport-size photographs in a place separate from your passport.

- Consular services. Consular information sheets, travel warnings and public announcements may be heard at any time by dialing the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. Information is also available on the Internet at www.travel.state.gov.

- Leave a detailed itinerary. Let people know where you will be and when. Give a friend or neighbor your travel schedule, including names and numbers of people you will be visiting; your passport number including the date and place it was issued; and credit card, travelers check and airline ticket numbers. Make a copy for yourself, as well.

- Don't overpack. Think about what you are packing. Wash-and-wear is ideal. There will be times when you want to really dress up, such as formal nights in the dining room, but all you really need are some basic casual outfits. Also, be sure to pack a change of clothes, needed toiletries and medications in your airline carry-on luggage. If your bags are lost, the average time to get them back is 72 hours. And don't pack anything your couldn't bear to lose, such as valuable jewelry or photos.

- Medication. Make sure you have plenty and keep it in the original container, not in pill boxes. It's also a good idea to take along a copy of your prescriptions. If you wear glasses or contacts, make sure you bring along an extra pair.

- Health insurance. Check out your policy to see if you are covered when you are out of the country. If not, consider if you need to purchase a policy that does. There are short-term health insurance policies designed specifically to cover travel. Check with your travel agent or consular services.

- Money. Don't take it all in cash. Have some on you, but take most in traveler's checks for purchases you'll want to make during onshore excursions. Exchange them at a bank to get the best rate. And remember, when you are onboard your cabin ID card is your key to everything. Present it, sign and pay at the end of your cruise. You can either put a specified amount of money in your account or give a credit card number to cover your expenditures.

- Don't overbook yourself. Yes, it may be the trip of a lifetime and you want to do it all, but don't. Make sure to take the time to relax and enjoy. You don't need to be doing something every minute of the day and night.

- Slow down. Take your time to explore the different kinds of foods offered each day and all the dining options available on the ship. Make sure you visit the formal dining room, but don't overlook room service. A quiet dinner for two on your balcony overlooking the ocean might be just what you need to unwind after an active day.

- Wash your hands. Many have heard about the outbreaks of Norovirus on cruise ships. It causes symptoms similar to the stomach flu and is easy spread. You can pick it up by touching a contaminated surface. Ships have strategically placed bottles of hand sanitizers and pre-moistened towels. Use them, but don't rely on them. Wash your hands with soap and water often. This is your best prevention.

"Norovirus can happen anywhere, in a hotel or a restaurant, on a ship or off a ship. Just make sure to wash your hands," Harrison said.

? Copley News Service

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