According to cruise industry statistics, more than 20,000 people take cruises every year—and this number is growing annually. The baby boomer generation accounts for a large portion of these travelers. They have the time, the money, and it seems they’re making up for lost time by visiting places they’d only read about in National Geographic or an encyclopedia.

We’ve been traveling with a group of close-knit boomer friends for several years. Though we reside in U.S. cities from the east to west coasts and places in between, what we have in common is a long-sustained friendship and a love for travel and adventure.

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At least every two years we plan an extended group trip together. After an Alaskan cruise a few years back, we all agreed that cruising was the type of travel we love best.

Why?

For a variety of reasons. Cruises provide a snapshot of a region. They are a convenient method of travel and make trip planning easy since ports of call are pre-arranged. The variety of adventures provide a wide range of activity choices. And we get to spend time onboard between port visits catching up on our busy lives, dining together and even planning our next cruise adventure.

Because our travel group is approximately the same age with similar tastes in travel and activity levels, it really comes down to choosing destinations that have always been on our bucket list and our wander-lusting radar screen. The world is one big beautiful place and these are just some of the cruise destinations guaranteed to provide unforgettable experiences.

Alaska

Breathtaking, exhilarating and mind-blowing. These are just some of the words describing Alaska—America’s true and last great wilderness. Virtually everyone who comes back from an Alaskan cruise describes it as one of their favorite trips—ever. And many say it’s the most spectacular of all the cruises they’ve taken. The biggest draw is the jaw-dropping scenery which includes massive glaciers calving icebergs into the ocean as well as wildlife like Orcas, bald eagles and brown bears.

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska
PHOTO: Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo via Noreen Kompanik)

Alaskan cruises run from May to September with July and August the high season. Passengers can choose from a number of different cruise lines and select either the inside or outside passage. We loved the Inside Passage from Vancouver, with major stops in Juneau, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point. Inside Passage provides a smoother sailing with almost indescribable views. Timing the summer cruise with the annual salmon run makes for an even more fantastic adventure!

Mediterranean- Italy and the Greek Isles

The opportunity to be in so many incredibly beautiful destinations in one trip is the reason the Mediterranean is such a popular cruise destination. Itineraries vary according to cruise line and length of cruise (typically seven to ten nights) divided between Eastern and Western regions, often beginning and ending in different ports of call.

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Our seven-night departed from Venice, with magnificent port stops in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the magical Greek Islands of Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos, Naples and the unmatched beauty of the Amalfi Coast, Italy and lastly, Rome, the Eternal City. Other port visits in the Med may include coastal cities of Portugal, Spain, Monaco and the French Riviera. Our group included extra days in Venice and Rome, well worth the added experience.

The Hawaiian Islands

For travelers who either haven’t been to Hawaii or want to drink in more than one island’s aloha on a vacation, a Hawaiian Islands cruise is ideal. Travelers with more time can cruise from the West Coast for a 14-day roundtrip voyage or fly into Honolulu and cruise the islands on a typical seven-night adventure.

Kauai's Napali Coast


PHOTO: Kauai’s Napali Coast. (Photo via Noreen Kompanik)

Most cruises allow passengers to explore the soul and spirit of four island paradises. Oahu, the Gathering Place, is home to Diamond Head, historic Pearl Harbor and the giant swells of its wild and wonderful North Shore. The myriad of magnificent waterfalls and soaring cliffs of the Napali Coast on the Garden Isle of Kauai are simply breathtaking.

Maui, Hawaii’s Valley Isle, is filled with pristine beaches, rainforests, historic towns and the glorious Road to Hana. The Big Island—Hawaii—is famous for its active Kilauea volcano with lava spewing into the azure blue Pacific waters. Each island has its own unique charm and all are simply spectacular.

The Caribbean- East and West

The tourmaline waters of the Caribbean are a draw to many travelers. Both the Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries are popular not only for capturing the stunning beauty of the islands, but they tend to be some of the most value-priced of all cruise destinations. Conveniently close for many American travelers, Caribbean departure points typically include Florida, Louisiana and Texas seaports.

Many of these cruises feature idyllic picture-perfect private islands unavailable to non-cruise visitors like Disney’s Castaway Cay and Royal Caribbean’s Coco Cay. And trust me, these private island destinations are not just for families traveling with kids. They include adult-only beaches and facilities.

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
PHOTO: St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. (Photo via Noreen Kompanik)

Eastern Caribbean itineraries often include Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, the U.S and British Virgin Islands, Antigua, Dominica and Tortola. The Western Caribbean zone consists of the Caribbean coasts of Central America, from Yucatán in Mexico to northern Columbia and islands west of Jamaica. Among Western Caribbean ports of call are Grand Cayman, Belize, Aruba, the Florida Keys, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Cancun. Having done both the East and West, it’s hard to say which we enjoyed more as they’re so different.

British Isles

Ireland remains at the top of bucket list destinations for many boomers as it is for us. The great part about a British Isles cruise is that not only can travelers see parts of the Emerald Isle as it’s often referred to, but as an added bonus, get to enjoy port stops in the U.K., Scotland and even Northern France. Urban adventure in bustling cities like Dublin and Ireland is combined with rural beauty, natural wonders, lush highlands, historic villages and picturesque countryside.

Blarney Castle in Ireland
PHOTO: Blarney Castle in Ireland. (Photo via Noreen Kompanik)

Mexican Riviera

A few years back, my daughter-in-law and I were on a west coast Disney cruise to the Mexican Riviera. We thought the cruise would be filled with families but we’re pleasantly surprised with the number of baby boomers on board. It’s an ideal way to introduce Mexico to those who haven’t yet ventured into this region for one reason or another.

El Arco in Los Cabos, Mexico
PHOTO: El Arco in Los Cabos, Mexico. (Photo via Noreen Kompanik)

With cruise stops in Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán, the seven-night sail was one of our favorites. The Pacific Coast of Mexico is stunning and its port visits gave us an amazing taste of Mexican history, culture and its regional culinary delights. The Mexican Riviera is such a convenient draw for so many travelers that tend to return with family and friends for non-cruise destination stays.

American author and journalist William Langewiesche once said: “So much of who we are is where we have been.” Not only boomers but for other travelers alike, there’s no doubting the benefits cruising provides. It often gets us to places we might not otherwise see while offering conveniences that make our travel adventures easy.



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