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Plan a Winter Getaway on a Cruise Ship

I live in Philadelphia, a city that gets cold and snow during the winter months. (I can feel my Canadian friends sniggering at that sentence.) By February, I’m ready for a “get me outta here” trip to somewhere warm. In some years, we’ve opted for our winter getaway on a cruise ship.

Azamara Quest, Sea of Cortez

The Azamara Quest tied up at a port in the Sea of Cortez.

People are all over the map (literally and figuratively) in their opinions of mass market cruises. Some think they are evil incarnate, symbols of First World excess, polluting behemoths.

Some think they would hate to be one of 3,000 guests—in a floating hotel that you can’t just leave whenever you want to—unless you are an amazing swimmer and not afraid of sharks.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, some think cruise vacations are the best idea since Noah’s Ark.

Cruises Can Help Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sunset on the deck of the Azamara Quest

I never tire of watching sunsets from the deck of a cruise ship.

We’ve been on at least 15 cruises. With a few exceptions, they have been kind of formulaic, mostly seven days to somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. They are sometimes hastily planned when I realize I’m not going to escape Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by telling myself that this will be the winter I don’t become depressed.

The benefit of planning a last minute winter getaway on a cruise ship is that there are some good deals that crop up. The downside of waiting until the last minute is that cabin choices will probably be limited.

Positive Aspects of a Winter Cruise Getaway

Although “formulaic” might have certain negative overtones, there is also something to be said for the comfort of knowing what to expect.

Cruise ship fruit carving

Many people enjoy the food on cruises, but it’s important to pace oneself.

Mr. Excitement and I enjoy  independent travel to new places where we don’t know the language; where public transportation is mystifying; where insects might be on the menu; and where the scenery, arts and culture are National Geographic worthy. However, in February, when Seasonal Affective Disorder descends, I want to enjoy seven days:

  • of being able to go outside without attire that makes me indistinguishable from the abominable snowman,
  • where someone else makes the bed and cooks my food,
  • where the staff is invariably friendly,
  • where I can mingle with the other guests from all over the world or pretty much avoid them altogether,
  • where I don’t have to carry a wallet,
  • where I have my choice of zip-lining through the jungle on a Caribbean island or curling up with a book (and/or my Zentangle supplies) on a chaise lounge and looking up to gaze at the azure sea;
  • where Mr. Excitement and I can go dancing without much fear of being recorded by someone we know,
  • where we can go to a decent (as in, not poor quality) show every night,
  • where we can both enjoy several a mojitos without worrying about whether we have a designated driver; and,
  • where I can visit, but don’t have to fly to, an island on “Pray for Me” airlines.
Deck of the Azamara Quest

Some people think cruise ships are too crowded, but I’ve always been able to find my quiet spot.

Different Criteria for Choosing Specific Cruises

Many of our cruises have been on Celebrity Cruises which is the mid-tier of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. brands. The Celebrity brand is intended to occupy a niche between the upper end Azamara Club Cruises and Royal Caribbean International’s more frenetic, family friendly brand.

For a February “get me outta here” cruises, my main criterion is warm weather, and I don’t care that much about the itinerary.

However, we’ve picked certain other cruises very much based on their itinerary. In 2014, our cruise on the 694 passenger Azamara Journey was a 13 night Southeast Asia cruise. At each port, we were off the ship early and spent the entire day on excursions in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore.

Karst Scenery, Halong Bay, Vietnam

The beautiful karst scenery in Vietnam’s Halong Bay which we visited during a cruise in Southeast Asia.

We also picked Azamara for a 13 day cruise around Baja California to the Sea of Cortez. On the Azamara cruises we’ve been on, there have been “enrichment” lectures about the history, politics and culture of the places we visited.

Azamara cruises are more expensive than the seven day cruises on big ships. We compensate by getting an inside cabin, that is, a cabin with no windows to the outside. Our concerns about feeling claustrophobic never materialized. In fact, we find we do some great sleeping in the pitch black of an inside cave cabin.

Inside cabin, Azamara Quest

Our “cozy” inside cabin on the Azamara Quest

Cruises Can be a Good Choice for Intergenerational Vacations

I think cruises are a good option for intergenerational vacations. When our sons were teenagers, we went on an intergenerational cruise to Alaska. Our 10 person group ranged in age from 13 to 90. During the day, we separated to do age appropriate excursions, but we all had dinner together.

Many cabins can be converted to sleep 4 which keeps cost down. Although our teenage boys adamantly refused to participate, most mass market cruise ships have good shipboard programs for children, so parents can snag some alone time.

Tips for Planning your Winter Getaway on a Cruise Ship

  1. When booking a cruise ship cabin, location is very important. Make sure you will not be trying to sleep under the gym, a disco, or an active deck (i.e. the pool deck or jogging track), nor near an elevator or a major dining room.
  2. I highly recommend perusing the Cruise Critic website when picking a cruise. This site has candid, detailed passenger reviews of all cruise lines, ships and specific cruise itineraries. You know best what amenities and environment you need to be happy. In my experience, you can glean a very good idea of what to expect by taking the time to read as many cruise reviews as possible. There are also reader forums (fora?) where you can ask specific questions.

Are you a person who considers taking a cruise vacation? Do you have any cruise planning tips or recommendations to share with other Midlife Boulevard readers?

Suzanne Fluhr, Travel Editor

Suzanne Fluhr, Midlife Boulevard's travel editor, is a recovering Philadelphia lawyer, empty nester, wanderer, dog person and Zentangle® enthusiast. She also writes about Baby Boomer travels for the body and mind on her personal blog, <a href="http://www.boomeresque.com">Boomeresque</a>. Instagram: Boomeresque2

Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

Friday 22nd of December 2017

I love cruising any time of year. Living in Brisbane, Australia means we don't get very cold winters to escape from and at the moment we are in Summer. However, my husband and I enjoy cruising, you only unpack once and I can see the benefit of taking a break if you live somewhere that is cold in winter. You can escape to the sun and relax.

Barbara

Friday 22nd of December 2017

We've taken several cruises and enjoyed every one. I like the idea of staying in one place while enjoying sightseeing in a different place each day. b

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