These couples say a cruise is the only way to vacation


Three years from now, Fred and Lisa Abbey want to have finished traveling around the world so they can decide the best places to spend more time. The Alexandria residents have hit the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Antarctica, Alaska and Iceland.

Their globe-trotting method? Cruise ships.

Last year, they spent a total of 120 days on cruises, including one 55-day stretch — their longest continuous cruise yet.

The Abbeys, who are in their 60s, have a lot of company on the high seas in their age bracket. People aged 50 and above made up more than half of all cruisers in 2014, the latest numbers available, according to Cruise Lines International Association.

There are many reasons those who are retired — or close to retirement — prefer to spend their vacations cruising. For the Abbeys, one of the reasons is the sheer efficiency of a cruise.

“Many years ago, we took three-day holidays with the kids and for us a cruise was the best way to maximize our time and do something fun,” Fred Abbey said.

Now, he adds, a cruise is a way to explore places that traveling to — say, the Canary Islands — might otherwise require a big commitment.

The ideal part of a cruise is that it’s transportation and hotel all in one, Abbey said. You get on the ship, unpack once and all your food is provided. It’s practical, the couple says.

For Fred Blumenthal, 70, and Hermione Caplan, 73, of Arlington, their love of cruises went beyond the practical. They just love the water. Blumenthal estimates he’s been on a dozen cruises.

“We are water people,” Blumenthal said by phone. “I have a small condo in Ocean City and even as we speak, I am looking out over the ocean. We want to hear the sound of the ocean. Just to smell the salt water is comforting, soothing to us.”

Cruise ships also offer a wide variety of entertainment and activities — speakers, shows, movies, dancing, gambling, tastings, live music, trivia, competitions and art classes.

Blumenthal said he and Caplan availed themselves of onboard dance classes and went to see live music.

At 56, Michael Shochet, is not retired — he’s the cantor of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church. But Shochet belongs to one of the largest, and growing, populations of cruisers — baby boomers. Once he and his wife, Denise, retire, they want to ramp up the number of cruises they take. Shochet says for them, a cruise is the perfect vacation because it simplifies an otherwise stressful life.

“I love the fact that it’s so relaxing and so easy to be relaxed on the ship,” he said. “For the most part, you only really have to decide what you’re going to eat or where you’re going to sit by the pool.”

The couples interviewed for this story say they’ve had good experiences celebrating Shabbat and other Jewish holidays aboard ship. The staff is willing to work with you, they said. Shochet has even found himself leading services. On the Abbeys’ recent 55-day cruise, there was a rabbi on board who conducted services.

On other cruises, Fred Abbey said, Shabbat services are lay led. He enjoys that such services attract onlookers who learn about Judaism while watching the service.

Another benefit to a cruise is the ability to meet new people, the couples say.

“We love to sit at a big table in the dining room to meet new people,” Shochet said.

Some of those onboard acquaintances turn into friendships on dry land, Fred Abbey said.

“You get to know other people and other cultures and see the similarities in values,” he said. “You can’t do that when you’re flying somewhere and staying in a hotel.”

Hermione Caplan died July 11 after this article was completed.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here