By Heather Wood
Cruises and short flights are the solution to ‘rock fever’ and safer travels
Having spent more than a year at home because of Covid-19, people aged 60 and older are ready to get off the island, and according to Gary Kent-Smith, the number of inquiries made to Bermuda travel agency, Trip, has increased in recent weeks.
Driving the demand is the fact that countries are reopening their borders and relaxing movement restrictions that have been in place since the start of the pandemic.
“I think right now people in Bermuda are just anxious to get off the rock,” said Mr Kent- Smith, Trip’s senior travel adviser. “They have ‘rock fever’. It’s, ‘where can I go? I want to go somewhere. I have to get off here for a bit.’ Usually, my first recommendation would be either an ocean cruise or a river cruise.”
With meals, entertainment and excursions all planned in advance, many people over the age of 60 find cruises appealing.
Considering that all passengers must be vaccinated against Covid-19 and the “severe precautions over and above the government requirements” that liners take, cruises are “probably as safe as you can get”, Mr Kent- Smith added.
“They do make exceptions for medical situations – if you have a letter from a doctor – and of course children. Cruises in general are the most convenient way to travel; everything’s included.”
While many people head to the Caribbean, he recommended Alaska for anyone looking for a “total change of climate and scenery”. Holland America Line and Princess will resume cruises to the 49th US state in July after a law making a stop in Canada necessary was amended.
“I’ve always told clients, ‘sure, cruise the Caribbean. But remember, what you see out of your window in Bermuda you’re going to see down there. If you really want something different, try Alaska,’” Mr Kent-Smith said.
“Until they adjusted the law they could not operate because cruises going from Seattle to Alaska would also have to go to another country before they came back to Seattle. The law was changed so they could go from Seattle up to Alaska and back, which is all within the US.”
For people who aren’t interested in cruising, Mr Kent-Smith offers recommendations based on a number of factors.
“How active a vacation do you wish? What is your fitness level? Are you fit for a hiking vacation or mountain climbing or do you just want to go sit somewhere on a beach and relax for a week or two? Do some sightseeing? It can be tailor-made to any desire.”
For grandparents holidaying with children and grandchildren, Las Vegas is an option.
“It is fully open. There are no restrictions on anything, no masks required, you don’t have to be six feet apart, there’s no limit on gatherings. It’s wide open. It’s a very family-oriented destination despite its reputation. They have theme parks, great entertainment and of course, they do have gaming.”
Travellers looking for a slower pace might find a river boat cruise through Europe an appealing option.
“That’s a great alterative for someone who has done a number of ocean cruises,” said Mr Kent-Smith, who recommends Avalon Waterways or Viking River Cruises. “You’ve cruised the Caribbean, you’ve cruised Europe, you’ve cruised Alaska and you’re looking for something different. River cruises fit the bill.
“If you’re looking for a Las Vegas atmosphere – with all the entertainment, all the glitz – don’t go on a river cruise. You’re not going to get it. They are much more laid back, much more relaxed. They’re ideal if you want a relaxing vacation.”
Generally, people are interested in trips closer to home this year. Asia isn’t up for consideration because of the Covid-19 variants coming out of that region. In the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand both remain closed to travel.
“People in their sixties are still young,” Mr Kent-Smith said. “You don’t find them going out and mountain climbing – at least not the people here – but they will look to go to familiar places and maybe do something different there.”
Historical San Antonio, Texas, home of the Alamo and Davy Crockett, also draws interest because of its famed River Walk that showcases dining, shopping and cultural experiences just below street level.
“The river runs almost underground. You go down, maybe 20 or 30 steps from the street level and there’s a river down there with shops along the riverside and you can take a small sightseeing boat cruise along the river,” Mr Kent-Smith said.
“Guys can sit in a restaurant and let ladies cruise around shopping and say meet me back here.”
Should money be no object, the agent is able to recommend various tours that specialise in high-end travel. There are trips around the world on private jets and cruise lines aimed at “the type of person who doesn’t ask the price”.
“These are people who want everything pre-arranged – five-star plus hotels, chauffeured transfers, chauffeured sightseeing. They want it all arranged upfront. Here’s my card, charge it out. There’s a security in knowing everything is done for you.”
Especially during a pandemic, when regulations vary from country to country, there is security in booking through a travel agent who is then held responsible if there is a problem.
“That agent would be obligated to check all the restrictions or the entry requirements. You won’t have a person heading for Italy and finding out he needed something else,” Mr Kent-Smith said.
“I can give you horror stories. It’s not advisable to try and do it yourself. One little minor glitch can ruin the whole itinerary. Germany, for example, has restrictions on people coming from Britain but Spain doesn’t have any restrictions at all – two countries supposedly under the same jurisdiction, but different rules. It’s hard to make a blanket statement that Europe is wide open because it depends on what country you go to.”
Trip Bermuda is located at 68 Washington Mall, Hamilton. For more information telephone 292-8747 or visit www.trip.bm