Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

9 Bucket List Cruises for Seniors and Retirees

Cruises are an often dreamt-about retirement goal, especially for long-time cruise lovers who have always been short on time. Retirement can be the ideal season of life to sail off into the sunset for several weeks, whether to far-off lands like Antarctica or a peaceful journey down the Danube. In some cases, seniors embrace their golden years by booking epic, monthslong voyages around the world.

Many small- and medium-sized ships cater to the over-60 crowd, but that doesn’t mean guests will be relegated to shuffleboard and bingo games. Today’s seniors still have plenty of adventures to experience and memories to make, both on board and on shore. The following cruise lines offer the top bucket list sailings for seniors and retirees.

(Courtesy of Windstar Cruises)

Anyone who has ever fancied a near-private yacht-style cruise experience will love the vibe of Windstar Cruises. Each of its yachts holds between 148 and 342 guests, with a 1-to-1.5 crew-to-guest ratio. This makes for more intimate sailings – not only because there’s simply less ship to maneuver on foot, but also because Windstar ships have access to ports that megaships aren’t permitted to enter. The end result is the unique ability to explore lesser-known destinations and smaller cities. While Windstar is not a strictly adults-only cruise line, you won’t see any little ones on board, either. Children must be at least 8 years old to sail on the line, which further adds to the high-end ambiance.

In 2021 and 2022, Windstar’s Star Breeze, Star Pride and Star Legend ships received a refresh. The three all-suite yachts were cut in half and enhanced with new suites and amenities, bringing the capacity to 312 passengers on each vessel. These Star Plus Class ships also boast new restaurants, a reimagined spa and fitness center, and more efficient engines, among other improvements. Elevators help make the Star Plus Class ships more accessible for anyone with limited mobility (note that Wind Class ships Wind Star and Wind Spirit do not have elevators). Additionally, Star Breeze, Star Pride and Star Legend each have four wheelchair-accessible suites, which feature a smaller queen bed and reduced “wheel around” space.

On board, passengers can drop by the Open Bridge anytime for an impromptu lesson in chart reading, listen to live music in the Lounge or jump directly into the water from the Watersports Platform. Culinary highlights include restaurant Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso, which serves a twist on modern Spanish cuisine by the 10-time Michelin-starred chef, as well as culinary shore excursions with hands-on cooking classes and chef-led market tours to explore fresh local ingredients.

The cruise industry is abuzz with interest in one of Windstar’s newest itineraries, which introduces passengers to the Middle East. The Inaugural Sparkling Sands & Cities itinerary sets sail in November 2023, visiting Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates; Doha, Qatar; and Muscat, Oman, among others. Foodies will be especially interested in the James Beard Foundation’s Sparkling Sands & Cities of the Persian Gulf itinerary, scheduled to embark in February 2024. Windstar’s other destinations include Asia, Canada and New England, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the South Pacific and more.

(Adam Hillier/Courtesy of Viking)

Spanning seven continents via river, ocean and expedition vessels, Viking is considered a quintessential high-end cruise experience. For more than 25 years, it has provided destination-focused sailings designed to allow its guests to explore the world in supreme comfort. Its voyages particularly appeal to travelers older than 50 who are interested in science, history, culture and cuisine.

Every Viking cruise fare includes a complimentary shore excursion in each port of call, onboard meals, beer and wine (with lunch and dinner service), Wi-Fi access, and all port charges and government taxes. On Viking’s ocean and expedition vessels, guests also enjoy complimentary self-service laundry, access to the Thermal Suite in The Spa, high tea service, alternative restaurant dining and 24-hour room service. But the best part for older cruisers may be what’s not included on Viking sailings: kids. This adults-only cruise line is dedicated to guests 18 and older.

Viking’s fleet – with capacities ranging from 80 to 998 passengers (on river and ocean cruises, respectively) – feature elegant Scandinavian-style decor. The small ship cruises get closer to their destinations, spend more time in port and include more overnight stays, too.

One of Viking’s newest ocean vessels, the all-veranda Viking Saturn, debuted in 2023 and focuses on European sailings. Its 10-day Empires of the Mediterranean route from Venice to Athens is particular popular, with stops in Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Greece. Another in-demand route is the Danube Christmas Delights itinerary on the Viking Longships, which visits enchanting villages, cultural capitals and iconic Christmas markets for a festive holiday cruise.

To suit their needs, guests can choose between different activity levels for walking tour-focused shore excursions. For bibliophiles, The Library on each ship is curated by acclaimed London bookshop Heywood Hill, as well as Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute on the expedition vessels. Viking also holds exclusive partnerships with prestigious scientific institutions, which makes it possible for at least 36 experts – including field research scientists, mountain guides, submarine pilots and other specialists – to accompany passengers on each expedition journey.

Book a Viking cruise on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.

(Courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises)

Billed as one of the world’s most luxurious all-inclusive river cruise lines, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises features small ships with an average capacity of 120 guests and one of the highest crew-to-guest ratios on the rivers of 1-to-2.4. Part of the allure of the small ship size is a more personalized travel experience that delivers passengers to destinations ocean liners aren’t able to visit (such as the Venetian Lagoon, where large ships have been banned from entry).

Uniworld ships are akin to floating boutique hotels, designed to reflect the destinations in which they sail – a vast list that includes ports in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Guests will appreciate the exquisite details on board, including unique artwork from some of the most famous artists in the world (think: Pablo Picasso and David Hockney), handmade fabrics from local artisans and handcarved furnishings.

Additionally, Uniworld’s all-inclusive cruise experience includes all onboard meals, which are made with fresh farm-to-table ingredients, as well as unlimited premium spirits and fine wines. In the base fare, voyages also include a selection of shore excursions, daily entertainment, fitness centers, wellness classes, airport transfers, onboard gratuities, high-speed Wi-Fi access and more.

Uniworld makes it particularly easy to visit many of Europe’s most enchanting Christmas towns on a single cruise, where passengers can visit the festive holiday markets and get all their seasonal shopping done. For seniors with more time to spare, the Rivers of the World Cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime journey. This 55-day itinerary departs from Lima, Peru, in October 2024 and takes 40 guests across three continents via four ships to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

This upscale brand recently relaunched under A&K Travel Group with a reimagined vision. Crystal Serenity (which holds up to 740 guests) and Crystal Symphony (carrying up to 606 passengers) underwent a combined $150 million dollar refurbishment that includes updated suites and new wellness offerings at the Aurōra spa. While sailing the high seas with Crystal, passengers’ needs are met at every step of the way – a perk made possible by the nearly 1-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio. A dedicated butler in every stateroom and suite will help with packing and unpacking, stocking your fridge, making restaurant reservations, booking excursions and more.

Crystal offers impressive enrichment programming, hosting high-profile lecturers with backgrounds in sports, entertainment and science. Spend some time refining your technology skills at Computer University@Sea and perfecting your ballroom dance moves, photography abilities, golf swing or bridge game. There’s also a well-stocked library containing books on a range of subjects, along with board games and a pickleball court.

Dining options on board include Umi Uma, a Japanese-Peruvian dining venue developed by Michelin-starred chef Nobuyuki (Nobu) Matsuhisa. Unlike some other cruise lines that charge a fee for each specialty dining reservation, Crystal allows guests to enjoy one complimentary reservation per person for sailings of 11 days or less. After dinner, nightly entertainment can be found in several venues, such as live music in the Galaxy Lounge.

Crystal sails on itineraries of varying length to the Mediterranean, the Baltic, Alaska, the Caribbean, Canada, Africa and the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific, and Asia. If you’re planning a bucket list trip, consider the line’s 123-night 2025 World Cruise, which travels to 62 destinations across 31 countries between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Barcelona, Spain.

(Courtesy of Oceania Cruises)

Seniors with a penchant for epicurean delights tend to gravitate toward Oceania Cruises for their cruise vacations – it’s known for having one of the finest culinary programs at sea. This cruise line focuses on small ship luxury, with seven ships currently in service carrying between 670 and 1,250 passengers each. An eighth ship, Allura, is set to debut in 2025.

Newer ships like the Vista – the first of the Allura class vessels, which joined the fleet in May 2023 – have wheelchair-accessible rooms and a plethora of onboard culinary venues. A few highlights include Aquamar Kitchen, offering an array of wellness-inspired dishes; The Bakery at Baristas, serving freshly baked pastries; and new signature restaurant Ember, an upscale American eatery. Don’t miss the Cellar Master’s Wine Luncheon: a two-hour, hand-selected tasting led by the head sommelier that features a five-course menu paired with premium wines for each dish.

Senior cruisers will enjoy the Aquamar Spa’s signature massage therapies, which use natural ingredients and modern techniques to release stress and tension. The Vitality Center offers a steam room, a thalassotherapy pool and heated lounge beds for extra relief. Onboard entertainment on Oceania, meanwhile, includes musical performances and immersive shows with dance numbers led by “Dancing With the Stars” choreographer Britt Stewart. The Culinary Center is a fan favorite for seniors, offering the opportunity to practice cooking techniques and learn about the unique flavor profiles of regional dishes.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a location Oceania doesn’t sail to, with cruises to Africa, Asia, South America, the Middle East, the South Pacific, the Caribbean, Antarctica and more, as well as transoceanic voyages and 180-day world cruises. Oceania also provides a good overall value, thanks to its included specialty restaurants, Wi-Fi access, shore excursions, round-trip airfare and transfers, and in-port shuttle service.

(Courtesy of Holland America Line)

As a premium, midsize cruise line, Holland America Line offers plenty of destinations, excursions and activities aligned to an older audience. The smaller ship size, which averages around 2,000 passengers per sailing, allows for many of the ships to dock in ports that are inaccessible to larger ships, getting passengers even closer to the destinations they’re visiting. For older passengers who may have limited mobility, the option to simply disembark the ship without waiting for a tender or other means of transportation can make or break a trip.

Holland America Line, though family-friendly, offers myriad excursions that are primarily adult-oriented and open to all types of adventurers. Shore excursions are clearly marked with an activity level ranging from easy to strenuous, from leisurely wine tastings and relaxing strolls through ancient towns to ATV rides through the jungle and dog-sledding on a glacier only accessible via helicopter.

Onboard entertainment and activities are plentiful; guests often enjoy the multiple music lounges and venues on each ship, along with hosted programs such as bingo and trivia. For seniors who can’t get enough of the pickleball trend, Holland America Line has partnered with the Professional Pickleball Association to bring branded courts and equipment on board. After all that action on the court, unwind in the Greenhouse Spa & Salon with a rejuvenating treatment. (Pro tip: Add on the Thermal Suite for access to the healing hydrotherapy circuit and heated, tiled loungers that will melt all your cares away.)

The numerous onboard dining options bring together cuisines and flavors from all over the world, with specialty restaurants featuring menus developed by a team of master chefs known as Holland America’s Culinary Council. In addition to casual dining in the Lido Market and multicourse affairs in The Dining Room, each ship also features the Pinnacle Grill, an onboard steakhouse offering high-end meats and seafood. Other specialty restaurants vary by ship and may include Italian eatery Canaletto and the French-inspired Rudi’s Sel de Mer.

Holland America Line sails all over the world. It does an especially nice job with its Greek island cruises and Adriatic Sea adventures. One of the line’s newest ships, Rotterdam, is a crowd-pleaser with its sleek design details and an onboard art collection valued at more than $4.1 million. Still, longtime favorites like the refurbished Oosterdam and Eurodam host plenty of happy guests.

(Courtesy of Azamara)

Another all-inclusive, senior-friendly brand is Azamara, which boasts a long list of perks covered in the base fare. Your one-time payment covers meals and beverages, including standard spirits, international beers and a limited amount of wine by the glass; you can upgrade to a beverage package if you’d like access to premium brands. Other included amenities range from self-service laundry to gratuities to special cultural evenings featuring onboard or onshore performances by locals.

There are four ships in Azamara’s fleet. Each carries up to 702 passengers, so they still fit comfortably into the small ship category and can access less-visited ports than larger vessels. Destinations on Azamara include ports throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand, the Americas, and the Caribbean; there are also transoceanic itineraries. If spending roughly half a year on a cruise ship sounds like your ideal retirement plan, consider the Azamara World Voyage in 2025. Over 155 nights, you’ll visit 37 countries.

Each of the line’s ships has staterooms designed to accommodate guests with mobility limitations, and Azamara has created customized shore excursion tours for guests with disabilities as well. Accessible tours are designed for full-time wheelchair users or guests unable to navigate motor-coach steps.

There are plenty of entertainment options on board, including Club Crooner’s hits from current and classic songbirds, as well as ship-specific venues with various song and dance performances. Plus, every cruise hosts a White Night signature dinner and entertainment event on the pool deck (so be sure to pack your favorite white attire). Unwind with darts, arts and crafts, pingpong, shuffleboard, trivia contests, bingo and dance lessons. Don’t miss opportunities to attend lectures through the enrichment program.

Find an Azamara cruise on GoToSea.

(Christopher Ison/Courtesy of Cunard Line)

Cunard Line’s ocean liners have sailed between the U.K. and New York since 1840 – and the brand’s relationship with the British monarchy is integral to its heritage. As such, each ship is named after a British queen. The newest ship, Queen Anne, joins the fleet in 2024.

In keeping with its history, Cunard Line has several signature experiences that help set the brand apart. Afternoon tea is a Cunard tradition observed daily in the Queen’s Room; expect white-gloved waiters serving scones and finger sandwiches alongside infused teas in silver teapots (add Champagne for an additional fee). During gala evenings, guests don tuxedos and ballgowns for a sophisticated celebration you won’t soon forget. Themes range from Masquerade to Roaring 20s; you’ll get a heads-up before you pack your cruise attire.

Each of the four stateroom grades has its own dedicated fine dining restaurant with excellent service and indulgent menus, though there are several casual dining options as well – not to mention specialty dining venues for an additional fee. A host of activities will keep you busy day and night, including a library, open-air pools, fitness facilities, live music, theater performances, guest speaker events, board games, film screenings, art classes, planetarium shows (on Queen Mary 2) and group dance classes.

Accessible shore experiences are available in many ports, ranging from lower activity-level tours to adaptations for wheelchair users. Accessible staterooms are available on Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2; these come with modifications like wider entryways, nonslip bathroom floors and shower seats.

(Scott Portelli/Courtesy of Aurora Expeditions)

Nothing says “once-in-a-lifetime” quite like embarking on an expedition to the world’s most remote destinations – and, specifically, to Antarctica. For cruisers looking to explore this far-off land, Aurora Expeditions is one of the most trusted names in the industry. Founded by legendary adventurer Greg Mortimer, the brand sends an education-focused expedition team on each voyage, with a ratio of about one team member per every eight passengers. With an average of just 132 cruisers on these sailings, you’ll get more one-on-one time with your expedition team.

Seniors can climb aboard Aurora Expeditions’ Greg Mortimer or Sylvia Earle ship for innovative itineraries to the Great White Continent. When the ship isn’t pausing to watch breaching whales, passengers can kayak between icebergs, visit penguin colonies or take guided hikes across the tundra. Aurora describes its cruises as “100% climate neutral,” with a commitment to reducing its environmental impact.

All of Aurora Expeditions’ voyages let travelers explore at their own pace, making it a great option for all ages. There are many included activities on each expedition, such as bird-watching, photography, lectures on wildlife, Zodiac cruises and near-shore excursions. The line will even outfit you with Muck boots and waterproof polar jackets. The entire voyage is laid-back, with an informal dress code.

On board, all cabins have a view of the ocean, and most have their own balcony. Tips are included in the cost of your cruise, and guests can enjoy a complimentary house wine or beer with dinner. Look forward to hearty dishes to help fuel your activities, with some buffet-style meals, a la carte options and a reservations-required restaurant on each ship.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Jill Schildhouse has been an avid cruiser since the mid-’90s and has since visited dozens of destinations around the globe. Whether she’s on the newest megaship, an older small ship or a luxury yacht, she loves life at sea. She used extensive research and her decades of experience as a cruiser to write this article (she has taken two cruises with her 70-year-old dad just this year). Schildhouse covers the travel industry for myriad top-tier outlets, including U.S. News & World Report, Travel + Leisure, AARP, Fodor’s, Reader’s Digest and Insider.

You might also be interested in:

Vacation Ideas for 2023

Source link

Bernard Greenhall
Bernard Greenhall

Bernard is a sports and physical education expert with years of experience. He's passionate about promoting health and wellness through physical activity, and he's worked with athletes and non-athletes alike to help them achieve their fitness goals. Bernard holds a degree in Physical Education and is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and research in his field.

Articles: 1397