Last fall, I did a price comparison between Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean for a 4-night spring break cruise in 2020. My family decided to book Royal Caribbean as our first foray into a non-Disney cruise as a family.
Well, it looks like we are going to get a taste of Royal Caribbean much sooner than that, in about 4 months on Anthem of the Seas!
Drop, Change and Go
When your mom is 80 years old and in declining health and she says she wants to go on a trip with you this summer, you drop everything and go. In addition to our big summer trip to Australia and New Zealand, we had plans to send our kids to some local Texas summer camps early in the summer. I had already booked a hotel to visit my mom in Colorado, and I had tentative plans to go to a conference in Atlanta. But most of these things were cancelable, and a trip with my mom takes priority.
Are You Ever Too Old to Travel?
My mom has always enjoyed traveling, and my family went on vacations faithfully when I was growing up.
After my parents retired, they kicked their travel up several notches. They began to travel heavily overseas on organized tours and river boat cruises.
Despite their declining health, they continued to travel each year. In fact, the summer before my dad died they had booked a train trip across the Canadian Rockies (which unfortunately they had to cancel because my dad was too sick).
After my dad passed away, my mom told me she was done traveling. She said she felt like that part of her life was over and she was content to just stay at home.
Except apparently she wasn’t content with that. She got the itch to travel again after about a year. Last fall, she went on a cruise with family. And again after that, she told me she was done traveling.
But then a few months later, she changed her mind and she called me. Maybe the travel bug is hereditary.
Making the Plans
I asked my mom where she wanted to go. She said she really didn’t care, as long as my kids and I could go with her. But not Disney World, she said. She’s been there and done that too many times.
I knew that we would need to make the trip as easy as possible on her. My mom has mobility issues, so we needed to go somewhere wheelchair-friendly. She also tires out easily, so we needed a trip without a lot of schlepping and hotel changing.
Another challenge was that my mom can’t travel anywhere solo, and she needs to be accompanied everywhere. Since we live in a different state, that adds a level of complexity.
For years my mom told me about her honeymoon in Bermuda, so I suggested a cruise to Bermuda. She became so excited about that idea! She hasn’t been back to Bermuda since her honeymoon over 50 years ago.
We decided that a 5-night cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas was a good fit. My sister agreed to fly with my mom and join us.
The Ship and Itinerary
Anthem of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean’s newer ships that launched in 2015. It holds ~4200 passengers and is slightly larger than the Disney Fantasy.
My sister and my mom are sharing an ADA room on the cruise. We will rent a wheelchair for my mom to use on board the ship, as she cannot stand or walk for long periods of time. The kids and I have connecting oceanview rooms just down the hall from them.
The ship’s most prominent feature is the North Star, a glass pod observatory that takes passengers 300 feet above sea level for spectacular views.
Anthem of the Seas also features a Flow Rider, bumper cars, circus trapeze lessons and Ripcord by iFLY indoor skydiving.
The ship has a large adults-only indoor solarium as well as both indoor and outdoor family pools.
Our cruise leaves from Cape Liberty cruise port in New Jersey, just on the other side of the river from Manhattan. The itinerary includes two full days at sea plus two days in Bermuda. The ship actually stays overnight in Bermuda, so we don’t have to rush back from our adventures on the first day.
After the cruise, I plan to stay in NYC with my kids for 2 nights. We took the kids to NYC in 2015, and they’ve been begging to go back ever since!
I always buy travel insurance when my family goes on a cruise or leaves the country. But if there was ever a perfect trip for travel insurance, it’s this one. Did I mention my mom will be 80?
With the help of my travel agent, we bought insurance through a 3rd-party company just a few days after putting a deposit down on the cruise. We purchased the insurance early so that we would be covered for pre-existing conditions.
Hopefully, we won’t need to use the insurance.
Using Miles and Points
Of course, we are using miles and points for flights and pre-cruise hotel.
My sister is using Southwest Rapid Rewards points (from credit card bonuses) to fly herself to Denver. She will pick up my mom and fly to and from Newark with her, and then fly herself back home, all with points. (See this post on the current Southwest credit card offer). She is using her Hilton Honors points from a credit card bonus for two hotel rooms for all of us for the night before the cruise.
I’m using Southwest Rapid Rewards points (transferred from my husband’s Chase Sapphire Reserve and my Chase Ink) for flights from NYC to Dallas after the cruise. I’m currently working on minimum spending on another credit card for our flights from Dallas to Newark.
For the post-cruise NYC stay, I have a Marriott gift card I received at Christmas that I can use and combine it with points. Or, I can use Hyatt points. I’m taking my time to decide where to stay in NYC.
Setting Realistic Expectations
My kids haven’t traveled with my mom in a long time. Sure, we’ve visited her in Denver and gone out to eat or to a museum with her there. But, we haven’t traveled with her since we met up with my extended family at Disney World in 2010. My boys were 2 and 5 at the time, and my daughter wasn’t born yet. This trip will be much different than that trip.
At home, my mom goes to bed by 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. and wakes up by 3:00 – 4:00 a.m. I expect she will keep a similar sleep schedule on the cruise, which may mean she won’t be seeing any evening shows.
I know that she eats dinner very early, so we may need to adjust our schedule in order to be able to eat with her. I don’t want to go on a cruise with her and not see her that much.
While my mom won’t be able to do many of the recreation activities on the ship (like rock climbing and Flow Rider), I think she will enjoy seeing the kids participate in those things. I plan to invite her to watch everything!
I’m both nervous and excited about this trip. I’m thrilled that my kids will get to hang out with my mom in a different environment. I’m nervous that something will go wrong (because I’m a worrier). I pray that my mom’s health remains steady so that she can enjoy this trip with her family.
I’m glad that my mom isn’t letting her age and mobility issues prevent her from seeing the world. I wonder if I will be doing the same at 80? I hope so!
Have you traveled with an elderly relative? What are some benefits and challenges you’ve experienced?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.