cruise crazy seniors

18-time cruisers reveal why cruising is worth every penny

Phil Wertman was raised on a 480-acre dairy farm. He didn’t think he was the sort of guy who wanted a chocolate on his pillow.

Then, Phil and his wife Sandy went on their first cruise. In 2005, the couple spent 10 days with Princess Cruises touring the coast of western Mexico, an area often referred to as the Mexican Riviera.

“We liked it so much we booked another (cruise) on board,” Sandy said. “The services are phenomenal.”

Now veteran cruisers (their loyalty to Celebrity Cruises has earned them perks such as free laundry service and complimentary cocktail parties), the Wertmans recently took their 18th cruise, traveling through the Panama Canal’s newest locks. It was a bucket list cruise for Phil.

“It’s hard to find a cruise ship that will go through the new locks,” Phil said. “I had to do a little research, but I found one.”

All-in-one vacation

Although some people in land-locked Colorado might consider even a few days at sea intimidating, unappealing or nauseating, the Wertmans and fellow Grand Junction couple John and Linda Lynch find cruising is an idyllic way to unwind and see the world in their senior years.

“It’s not just disposable income,” said Linda.

Linda and John Lynch stand in front of the American Queen paddleboat they took on a Mississippi River cruise highlighting American music. It was the couple’s favorite cruise they’ve taken.

She acknowledged that while cruises can be expensive, booking two years in advance gives them time to save money. Now that they are retired, it’s easier to book a bigger trip a couple of years ahead of time.

“The reason we do it at this age is because we don’t have kids in school. We don’t have to live by that K-12 schedule. And when you have kids in college, you don’t have any money,” she said.

In addition to their ability to leave western Colorado whenever they want, the Wertmans and Lynches agree that going on a cruise is an opportunity to see numerous places while enjoying superb food, drink and entertainment all in one vacation.

“The best reason to go on a cruise is that you get to see a lot of cool things and you don’t have to unpack your suitcase every night and move to a different hotel,” Linda said.

Although the couples have similar reasons for taking cruises, each couple prefers different ways of experiencing them. For instance, the Wertmans pay extra for a balcony room, which makes the room feel bigger and gives Phil a morning coffee spot while Sandy sleeps in. The Lynches, on the other hand, are more flexible with their room’s location.

The best ways to cruise

While the Wertmans handle everything themselves when it comes time to book the cruise, the Lynches seek out a travel agent. Linda often uses First Class Travel in Grand Junction to handle all logistics, find better prices, double-check the details and potentially have access to exclusive coupons.

Additionally, travel agents carry extra insurance, giving Linda peace of mind that if something goes awry—a possibility when scheduling a multi-day trip two years in advance—the travel agent will deal with airlines, cruise lines and the likes to recoup losses.

Linda’s interest in using a travel agent versus Phil’s preference to do things himself also translates into how the couples experience off-board excursions. Excursions are day trips people can take when the ship stops at a port, and are Phil, Sandy and Linda’s favorite part of cruises (John said on-board entertainment was his highlight).

Each cruise line offers an extensive list of excursions. Linda often seeks out the ones that include hiking or biking local hot spots. Everything is booked and done for her.

Phil, however, wants to find the best excursions at the best price. He looks to see what the cruise offers at each port and how previous users rated it on www.tripadvisor.com. If people loved the excursion, he often finds a private company that offers a similar—or the same—excursion for less money. The Wertmans are responsible for booking it and paying for it outside of their other cruise expenses.

Sea the world

cruise crazy seniors Wertmans
Phil and Sandy Wertman stand in front of Mendenhall Glacier during an Alaskan cruise excursion.

This led to Phil’s favorite excursion in St. Lucia. In addition to eating tons of native food prepared at the tour guide’s house, Phil took a mud bath near a volcano and then washed off in a waterfall.

“We took a tour of the island,” Phil said. “We got on a water taxi…and it took us to my favorite beach in the whole wide world, Jalousie.”

The differences between the couples prove there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to take a cruise. As Linda explained, it’s one of those things people always say they want to take but just never do. Regardless of continent, country or city, the couples have found the diversity of places they’ve visited and the quality of entertainment and amenities to be worth every penny.

“We have only done two cruises with somebody we knew before we got on the ship, but we’ve left every cruise with a bunch of friends,” Phil said. “If we didn’t cruise we never would have been able to see the places we’ve seen.”

The couple’s top favorite trips:

• The Wertmans loved their Celebrity Cruise to eastern Canada and New England in the fall. It’s a trip informally called “Lobster & Leaves.” They said it’s best if you love eating lobster.

• The Lynch’s favorite cruise—and most expensive—was along the Mississippi River aboard the American Queen paddleboat. They started in New Orleans and went up to Memphis. Expect plenty of excellent music along the way.

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