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zeppole Jul 6th, 2008 07:42 AM

Need advice about taking my healthy 80+ years Mom on a Transatlantic voyage

I just discovered this section of the Fodor's board, and I'd like to ask some questions of cruise veterans.

I live in Italy and my mom lives in Portland, Oregon. I'd like to have her stay with me for awhile in Italy, but she really doesn't like to fly. (Last year, she drove from Portland to Houston to visit other family.)

So I'm thinking that if we hook up in NYC, we could take a transatlantic cruise from NYC to ---???? I guess Southamption, right?

From there, I think it would make sense to grab a private transfer to Gatwick Airport, where I can get a flight to Italy that is only two hours long, which my mom can handle, I'm sure.

Some questions:

First of all, does that sound like a plan? Do you know healthy 80 year olds who do it comfortably? My mom is an excellent sailor (she used to own a small boat), not prone to seasickness.

Second, how much hustle and bustle is it to board the boat? Should we spend a few days in NYC relaxing, or can we pretty much meet up in NYC, spend the night, get on the boat the next day without feeling like I'm pushing mom?

Third: Mom and I are not fashion plates, and since I'll be carrying her luggage, I want to get away with just a rolling carry-on for her. Can we wear nice pants outfits to dinner? Are there any washng machines aboard a cruise ship (sorry for the dumb questions!)

Fourth: I am thinking that we'll be just fine with an inside cabin (low down for me, the bad sailor). Am I nuts to think we can live without a window and just go on deck during the day?

Fifth: Can I only get a repositioning fare in Spring? Do I need to book them way in advance?

Sixth: Could I still get a good deal for a September crossing?

Last! I doubt mom and I will want extras. Are all our meals included in the price of the cruise? How about cocktails? Anything that you or I would consider a "basic" that I need to know I really have to pay for?

Thanks so much! Feel free to comment or volunteer information I might be overlooking.

traveller69 Jul 6th, 2008 07:54 AM

Just to start you off with answering your questions. I see that Vacations to go website has repo cruise leaving New York Sept 4th on the Queen Mary 2. They are showing the lowest price of $1098 for inside and of course it goes from there but even the balcony cabins are reasonably priced on that particular crossing. Here is the link for it You would probably be able to get a deal on the return in the spring. Start there anyway and it will give you an idea. Also, yes, a dressy pant suit is acceptable in the dining room. The rest of it is you knowing how you Mom would be but she sounds like a fantastic lady!!!!!

zeppole Jul 6th, 2008 08:05 AM

Thanks a lot for that info! I'll check that out. I'm actually thinking that she would do OK with a return flight transatlantic (I'd go with her) because there is not the jet-lag, red-eye problem. We'd break up the trip in NYC or perhaps fly into a town with other relatives there to put us up.

Mom's a trooper -- once she signs on to something!

If she likes the idea of a cruise, I know she'll complain less than anybody on the ship. But if she's wary of the idea, she'll balk like a mule and I will never get her on board.

traveller69 Jul 6th, 2008 08:59 AM

I am sure you and your mom would have a wonderful time on board. I must say that of all the cruises I have done (over 50) I haven't been on the QM2 so I can't comment other than she is a BIG ship!! For a transatlantic crossing if it were me, I would just take an inside cabin if not being able to see daylight doesn't bother you. It is a straight across the ocean cruise with no ports. All of the meals are included but they do not worry about charging a LOT for cocktails. What you pay up front is it other than tips and bar bills. They would have other dining rooms on board where you can go for more "gourmet" meals for an extra charge but the regular dining room food is excellent as well.

As far as hustle and bustle on board - I don't think that is a problem especially on the trans atlantic - won't be any kids I would think. On the cruise ships unless you are on a one week "party ship" you can have as much relaxation as you want. If you have any other questions just ask. In the meantime just enjoy the time planning the trip with your Mom.

traveller69 Jul 6th, 2008 09:04 AM

One more thing if you decide on QM2 here is a website for the deck plans

maryann Jul 6th, 2008 09:34 AM

You can get repositioning cruises to Rome, Barcelona and other places. However, they may leave from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and try New York but that would be rare.

Cunard is the cruiseline that regularly travels between NYC & Southampton.

My friend & her Mother (84) go around the world by ship every year !!

Let us know what you decide.

zeppole Jul 6th, 2008 11:01 AM

Hi again! Thanks for all this info.

I didn't realize there were repositioning ships that left from Florida. I have a sister in Florida, so we might look it into that. There is another boat that goes from Barcelona to Genova which would land us quite close to where I live in Italia. Or i could drive my mom easily from Civitavecchia (or Livorno, even better!)

I wasn't worried so much about the "hustle and bustle" on board the ship as I was about what it is like to actually board the ship. I don't want to make my mom do too many things, day after day. I want to give her a chance to catch her breath after she arrives in New York before I make her get on a boat.

But if it is simple to get on the boat with just some carry on luggage, then mom and I will just spend one or two nights in NYC. If we have to wait in line, or be there real early, or if it is confusing and crowded, then I'll build in more space from when she arrives in Portland to when we get on the boat.

I'm imagining that if the boat leaves at sunset, we can just go sometime after lunch and it's no hassle. Or is that just my imagination?

I take it from reading cruise message boards that leaving the boat on the other side is kind of a time-consuming drag.

zeppole Jul 6th, 2008 11:02 AM

PS: If I left from Florida, I should only do that in springtime, right? No hurricanes for me! (Mom could take it. I couldn't.)

Is the sea choppy in spring?

traveller69 Jul 6th, 2008 11:31 AM

Hi again. Actually the repositioning cruises going from the US to Europe are usually done in the spring. A lot of them do the Caribbean, Mexico, S. America etc during the winter months and the summer in Europe. As a matter of fact we are off on a Med cruise this Aug/September so I am looking forward to that. I would recommend giving your mom a day or two to get over jet lag but boarding the ship can be quite painless. Normally if you have suitcases other than carryon they are dropped at the containers by the ship and that is the last you see of them until they are delivered to your cabin. It depends on the cruise line but normally you can board the ship by noon and the cabins are usually ready for occupancy around 1pm. If you boarded at 1pm or so you could go straight to your cabin to rest. On the other lines (as I say I haven't done Cunard) there is a buffet lunch available most of the afternoon. I don't know if they have it the first day (I doubt it) but any other time you can get room service as well if you want to just relax. You know that there are lots of public rooms that are not going to be overun with people. I don't know if you realize that cruising can be very relaxing so you can be as busy or as quiet as you want. If you book the cruise you can usually fill out the forms on line (or with a travel agent) and then when you board all you have to do is show your boarding pass which you will have ahead of time and your identification. They will issue you with a plastic card which is your ID/room key/charge card. You use this card if you make any purchases and it all goes on your shipboard account. You settle up with that on the last day. As you wont have any ports on this crossing you don't have to worry about getting on and off the ship. When you disembark you will be able to get off without too much hassle if you have your bags with you. Once the ship is cleared you can get off. You can request ahead of time early disembarkation as you don't have to wait for your luggage. If you have checked luggage they pick it up the night before departure and you are issued coloured baggage tags. They then will call your colour to disembark so that they do it in increments so there isn't a big rush. Bags are always in an area by colour tag and you just find your bag and off you go. I am just letting you know this in case you decide to not carry your cases. It really isn't a problem. They do have wheel chairs etc and they have porters who will take your bags to the taxis etc. Don't worry about it being too much of a problem - they are very well organized. Hope I covered that for you well enough. Again - just ask if you have any other questions.

zeppole Jul 6th, 2008 12:27 PM

Thanks very much! That does 'cover the waterfront.' One of the reasons I thought of a cruise was that I figured it would be very relaxing. My mom is pretty social, so I imagine that in the course of 5 days she might enjoy talking to more people than me.

When I was kid, my mother used to complain that my grandmother (who lived to be 98) was "too proud" to use a wheelchair and therefore missed out on seeing lots of places that involved a lot of walking, which finally she was too old to do. So I'm thinking my mom will let me whiz her around some places if she starts to feel tired.

I think if I can present all of this too her as a piece of cake, something we can do at a leisurely pace with no jet leg, and maybe see her great-grandchildren along the way, she'll decide it's more fun than sitting home.

traveller69 Jul 6th, 2008 01:04 PM

Good luck with that. It sounds like just a wonderful thing to do and to be able to spend the time with your mom. My own mom developed early onset Alzheimers so I really lost her far too soon. She lived for many years after that but she just didn't know us. My own daughter and I are very close but she does live a long way from me (Texas and I am in Canada). We used to travel a lot together when she was young so although we have been many times years ago to Disneyland we are going to go - just the two of us for old times sake. Please keep me updated on your progress with Mom!

Philbill Jul 6th, 2008 04:54 PM

Forgive me if I repeat anything but I am cooking dinnerand just saw this thread and did note read all the responses.
I took my late 80s mum back from Ft Lauderdale to Rome on a 20 day cruise in May. It was fabulous and we had a great time (Princess).
Of course it does the reverse in the Fall.
When we got to Rome disembarkation was a breeze (easier than any other port I have been to) with no customs or immigration (just pick up bags and leave). Evening would be easy with black trousers and different tops but there is really no need to restrict yourself to carry on.
My mother and I flew to FL the night before and we got a cart at the luggage carousel which I pushed to the shuttle which took us to the hotel. The next morning we took the shuttle from the hotel to the port and the stevadores took the luggage from there.

zeppole Jul 6th, 2008 06:42 PM

Thanks for that info!

My mom and I will have to hoof it in and out of a few places with luggage to make this trip a reality, and since we are going to my place -- with a washing machine! -- I think we'll do best packing light. Besides, if I'm not mistaken, my mother doesn't own a skirt anymore. And I've been wearing the same black silk trousers outfit for at least 10 years!

After a long discussion with my husband, we both concluded that the chances of getting mom to sign onto this by the end of summer are remote. I'm going to sell it to her as a spring departure. I'm aware that time is of the essence, but I'll let mom make that call if she wants to think that way.

I'll try to keep you all postd, and thanks again for this wealth of information, which is making it seem more doable (and sound like a lot of fun).

nicelady Jul 7th, 2008 07:12 AM

Hi Z, Pull up; you will see all 34 of Spring TAs. 4 go FORT LAUDERDALE- ROME,all April.Princess, Holland America, even Celebrity. I was on Cunard years ago w. my aged parents. Of 30 cruises,Bon Voyage! it was only one I was not felt welcome on. Princess still has an Italian kitchen, very nice.

zeppole Jul 7th, 2008 08:47 AM


I must be doing something wrong because I can't seem to get the site to show me the cruises you are talking about.

I should also ask: I only want a "one-way" ticket. The costs I'm looking at for Transatlantic crossings area one way, right?

clarasong Jul 7th, 2008 09:03 AM

Here's my thoughts. I have done it many times...altho not quite 80, but my mom in law flew all the way to the Middle East alone (involved lots of transfers, etc) when she was 85 without trouble, and back. We take a crossing often, as it is an easy way to get 'sea days' with less expense. We are going in Nov (actually coming) from Lisbon to Barbados, and lots of elder folks do this...on the Windstar line. It's more personable and the crew really looks out for single folks. If she loves to sail, might look in to this...we love itl.

zeppole Jul 7th, 2008 09:34 AM

I bet my mom would rather swim across the Atlantic that make transfers through airports. She's an incredibly calm and collected woman who has some idea that commercial air travel is a big deal -- even though she used to fly in private planes for fun. She's not afraid of heights! I can't figure out what it is that makes her dig in her heels about taking jets. (Not that airports are any fun, mind you.)

I'm still writing the speech I plan to deliver to get her to do this. I may start out slow, and build up to the finish!

taconictraveler Jul 7th, 2008 01:12 PM

Zeppole: I am about to be 78 years old, and I would give anything to have a daughter like you who would even think of organizing a cruise and go with me. (Also would love to have any children in Italy - what a treat!!)

I think your Mom would love any cruise, and my only concern for you is that I once had an inside cabin (it was only for one night going from Stockholm to Helsinki, and I found it so confining - I really got claustrophobia and I couldn't sleep at all. My friend with whom I was traveling slept calmly thru the night tho.

Keep us informed about your plans and the trip. It'll be great.

zeppole Jul 7th, 2008 02:24 PM

Well, my mom has plenty of other reasons to complain about me, believe me!

For many years, after her retirement, my mom toured the U.S. in a recreational vehicle, living in it full time. And she also had her own motorboat, which had bunk-type beds. I realize those have windows, if only portholes, but I don't think mom will have a problem sleeping in a box.

Still, it's a good point, and I'll discuss it with her. (I won't tell her the price difference because, even though I'm paying for it, she'll say she wants the cheaper one, no matter what.)

fosterag Jul 7th, 2008 06:33 PM

My husband and I did a repositioning cruise from Barcelona to Galveston,Tx. in Dec.2007. With flight to Barcelona, 15 day cruise with balcony we only paid $3000 for both of us. Made several stops in spain, and Canary Islands with 5 days at sea and several stops in Caribbean. We flew Houston to Frankfort to Barcelona. Check B-T Store for one way flights to Europe. Has to originate in US. I think your repositioning cruises are less expensive from Europe to US. By the way I took my mother on an Alaska cruise when she was 92! We sailed RC and they treated her like a queen. She was also hesitant about using wheelchairs, but once she did she loved it. She also had her own private steward that took her on and off the ship and wheeled her around in the ports with us. Mother balked about going because she had to fly but ended up loving every minute of it.

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