Do cruise liners cater for all generations?
Liz Gill played the generation game when she ventured on a Caribbean cruise along with her daughter, courtesy of Holland America. Here's what happened.
By Liz Gill on 27 September 2012 in Travel Articles
It didn't augur well. My daughter and I had arrived in Fort Lauderdale for the start of our seven day Caribbean cruise – but her luggage hadn't. To be 24 years-old and faced with the prospect of a week sharing your mum's wardrobe isn't the best start to a holiday.
"Never mind," I said trying to cheer her up, "I'm sure the ship's shop will have something nice. These places are floating malls."
Well, up to a point. You can buy jewellery and perfume, fine watches and even fine art. But as far as the clothes were concerned the choice seemed to be confined to voluminous shorts, sequinned tops and faux nautical clobber: all peaked caps and lots of anchor motifs.
As we gazed round gloomily the unspoken question hung in the air between us: if they can't offer clothes for both generations how are they going to cater for the rest of our needs?
For that was the idea. We hoped a cruise would give us the chance to do together the things we both enjoy yet allow us to pursue different interests, all the while knowing the other was not sitting self-consciously alone. So we could both swim and sunbathe and sip the cocktail of the day but I could go to quizzes and cookery demonstrations and bingo and Anna could, er, continue to swim and sunbathe and read her Martina Cole.
In the evening there would be shows and dancing and on port days shore excursions catering for a variety of tastes. We could eat when we wanted, sleep when we wanted, be sociable or retiring and we could escape each other if we wanted to with the reassurance of knowing we were both safe.
That was the idea – and it turned out to be the reality. Duff clothes not withstanding, Holland America's Eurodam had so much going on that it could have catered for every age group from tots to seniors and in fact there were lots of three generational families on board.
The $450m ship is medium size by cruise ship standards: 935 ft long, 106 ft across at its widest with 12 passenger decks, two swimming pools, a spa, a gym, a cinema, a casino, a three tier auditorium and a range of bars and restaurants. It can carry 2,300 guests and has a crew of just over 900. It's luxurious without being oppressively so. The standards are five star but there's none of the hushed, often inhibiting, reverence you sometimes find in an equivalent hotel.
The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and, to British tastes, sometimes cheerily naff. For instance, the highlight of one of the formal dining evenings where everyone dresses up to the nines – you understand what the word cruisewear means when you've seen a thousand Americans in their glad rags - was a procession of dozens of waiters bearing baked alaskas with sparklers in them. Similarly the crew's farewell featured a parade of stewards carrying the towels they fold into animal shapes and put on your beds at the evening turn-down.
In our 2050 mile journey we had two days at sea and four ports of call: Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos, San Juan, Puerto Rico where Anna was reunited with her luggage (its loss, I must add, was the airline's fault – nothing to do with the cruise line), St Thomas in the American Virgin Islands and Half Moon Cay, the company's private island in the Bahamas.
I'd like to say that we took full advantage of the activities and excursions on offer which included snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, sailing, rain forest hikes, kayaking, dune buggy safaris and horse riding. But we didn't. We did take a tour of San Juan, a fascinating mix of old and new, but on the others we were more than content simply to chill out on beautiful beaches.
That might have been because we were conserving our energy for our time on board: there's a lot to fit in when you could start your day with walking a mile round the promenade deck at 7am and end it with dancing in the disco until the early hours.
And in between there were talks (on such subjects as marine life, pirates of the Caribbean and rum running), sports and games (basketball, volleyball, putting, ping pong, bridge), classes ( cookery, cocktail mixing, line dancing, poker, digital photography and napkin folding), movies, shows, dancing and, of course, some serious – and excellent - eating.
And throughout it all there is the wonder of watching the ever-changing sea and the magic of going to sleep in one place and waking up in another.
Getting there: A seven night Holland America Eastern Caribbean Cruise starts from £399 per person cruise-only, based on two sharing an inside cabin. This price includes seven nights' accommodation, all meals and snacks, teas, coffee and water. It excludes drinks, excursions and flights to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Tips for two generations:
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