The number of cruise passengers has been increasing annually, and was projected to reach 27.2 million in 2018, about 10 million more than a decade ago. With more than 440 ships in operation, 50 cruise lines, and a dozen or more vessels debuting every year, choosing the best voyage can be a challenge. Demand increased by more than a fifth between 2011 and 2016. One of the emerging groups of cruisers is the so-called “skip-gen.” These are grandparents traveling with children, without the parents. Adult-only cruises are also on the rise.
The cruise industry has realized that the clientele is changing and is looking for more than endless pool parties and Broadway-like shows. Some passengers, especially the older ones, want more stimulating entertainment. As a result, many cruise lines have partnered with organizations to create enrichment programs. The so-called “edutainment” is now a common onboard offering.
Interactive workshops, cooking classes, photography classes, language classes, stargazing seminars, stress management, and even art auctions — these are just some of the most common features of enrichment programs.
To determine the cruises with the best entertainment options for seniors, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed several independent review sites focusing on senior and/or cruise travel. The cruise lines that were most frequently mentioned as offering large enrichment programs were cross-referenced against independent travel review sites such as Yelp, CruiseCritic, U.S. News and World Report, Cruiseline, and Consumer Affairs. The ships with the highest number of reviews, and the excellent and very good ones, were selected and listed in no particular order. Click through the slideshow above.
1. Cunard Line: Queen Mary 2
Passengers agree — Cunard Line definitely caters to retired cruisers and it’s best for seniors. The Queen Mary 2’s full-scale planetarium lets you go on a virtual tour into outer space. The cruise line invites writers, filmmakers, explorers, scientists, and even astronauts to participate in its CUNARD INSIGHTS® talks. You can sign up for workshops to learn about anything from technology to distant constellations.
2. Celebrity Cruises: Solstice
With Celebrity Cruises’ Discover Series, you can improve your dance moves, go on a self-guided art tour, expand your computer skills, finally learn how to use Photoshop, and even learn a new language. You can also take part in tasting fests, speaker series, and hands-on art classes and lectures. The Hot Glass Class is one of the cruise lines’ best known activities — you get to witness the art of glassblowing.
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3. Crystal Cruises: Symphony
Entertainment sailings, with themes focused on jazz, ballroom dancing, film, theatre, golf, and even a wine and food festival, are all part of Crystal’s Experiences of Discovery cruises. The Symphony even features a golf program. PGA pros help you with your game, and you get to chat with golf celebrities about their experiences. Jazz days and cabaret nights are also popular.
4. Azamara Club Cruises: Journey
Passengers can attend port-of-call lectures focusing on destination highlights, history and culture. Wine tastings hosted by the ship’s sommelier, as well as culinary demonstrations, are part of Azamara’s enrichment programs. They also include computer classes in Excel, PowerPoint, and Photoshop. The casino features blackjack, roulette, slot machines, and three-card poker games.
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5. Princess Cruises: Caribbean
Stargazing on the top deck and activities based on hit shows like “Finding Bigfoot” are part of the new Discovery at Sea enrichment programs on Princess ships. You can attend auctions and bid on fine art or book a professional photography session. Princess Cruises offer “edu-tainment” courses with guest lecturers and experts who teach various courses, including pottery, which is a first in the industry.
6. Holland America Line: Westerdam
If you never had time to become tech-savvy, traveling at sea may be a good opportunity to learn. The Holland America Line offers digital workshops, training people in video editing and digital photography. You can sign up for America’s Test Kitchen, which offers onboard cooking shows and workshops.
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7. Royal Caribbean International: Oasis of the Seas
A 70s Disco Party for flashback fun, learning new dance moves, behind-the-scenes tours of the kitchen, starring in a live game show — these are just a few entertainment options and activities, a category that got 5 out of 5 rating on CruiseCritic. You can also play trivia, go to art auctions and beer tastings, visit martini mixology sessions, and learn Spanish or baking.
8. Oceania Cruises: Riviera
Oceania’s enrichment entertainment options include wine tastings, trivia games, exclusive lectures with celebrity guests, cooking demonstrations and classes, and creative workshops on painting and drawing. An accredited bridge master instructor is often onboard teaching classes and conducting tournaments.
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9. Silversea Cruises: Spirit
The Spirit has one of the highest space-to-guest ratios of all vessels in the fleet.
Silversea has partnered with Accademia Teatro alla Scala in Milan, so you can go on opera-themed cruises. Bridge games, tournaments and daily sessions are also featured.
10. Carnival Cruise Lines: Glory
Along with many dining options and an adults-only retreat, Carnival Cruise Line features a large variety of musical entertainment, including a Vintage Pop show where 1920s jazz meets modern hits. Punchliner Comedy Club is another popular venue for senior entertainment, especially for family reunions.
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