The golden age

At last, op­er­a­tors are ca­ter­ing to the needs of ma­ture solo trav­ellers

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Holidays For Seniors - HE­LEN AN­DER­SON

FASTER, higher, stronger — the Olympic motto could aptly de­scribe the spirit of ma­ture Aus­tralian trav­ellers, who are dis­play­ing the kind of stay­ing (and spend­ing) power that in­spires elite ath­letes and ex­cites tourism mar­keters.

The ap­petite for ad­ven­ture among the over-55s is re­defin­ing pric­ing struc­tures for solo trav­ellers, the way op­er­a­tors ap­proach and treat older clients and the prod­ucts they de­velop, such as multi-gen­er­a­tional itin­er­ar­ies.

The most strik­ing trend re­ported anec­do­tally by tourism op­er­a­tors in Aus­tralia is the rise of the sin­gle se­nior trav­eller and, in par­tic­u­lar, solo women of a cer­tain age.

In re­sponse, more cruise lines are con­fig­ur­ing sin­gle cab­ins and of­fer­ing solo fares. Op­er­a­tors such as APT have solo trav­eller clubs with ex­clu­sive of­fers, while AAT Kings of­fers to match trav­ellers of the same gen­der for twin-shar­ing.

Ma­ture trav­ellers are a ma­jor force driv­ing the sus­tained growth of the Aus­tralian cruise pas­sen­ger mar­ket, with more of them em­bark­ing on sev­eral trips a year and for longer pe­ri­ods, says Brett Jar­dine, the gen­eral man­ager of Cruise Lines In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion Aus­trala­sia (for­merly the In­ter­na­tional Cruise Coun­cil Aus­trala­sia). There’s an ap­petite among the over-55s for back-to-back voy­ages, re­ports Cruise Ex­press man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Meg Hill, and for ex­pe­di­tions to des­ti­na­tions such as Myan­mar, Bor­neo and Antarc­tica.

‘ ‘ The term ‘ ma­ture trav­eller’ does not have the con­no­ta­tions it used to,’’ ob­serves Su­jata Raman, the Aus­tralia and NZ­manag­ing di­rec­tor of global travel com­pany Aber­crom­bie & Kent. ‘‘In our ex­pe­ri­ence, to­day’s ma­tureage trav­eller is ac­tive, rel­a­tively in­trepid and in­ter­ested in en­gag­ing with the cul­ture and des­ti­na­tion they are vis­it­ing. The re­quire­ment is for com­fort in ac­com­mo­da­tion and cui­sine, and [there is] ab­so­lutely no re­luc­tance to ex­pe­ri­ence new and dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tions.’’

Here’s a se­lec­tion of ad­ven­tures to suit. Vive la dif­fer­ence: In recog­ni­tion of the di­verse needs of ma­ture trav­ellers, Uni­world has solo sav­ings and multi­gen­er­a­tional fam­ily- friendly pro­grams on se­lected bou­tique river cruises in Europe. Ex­cur­sions in se­lected cities are of­fered at var­i­ous paces. Among the pack­ages, sin­gle sup­ple­ments are waived on a 10-day Paris and Nor­mandy cruise de­part­ing on May 3, from $5150 a per­son (save $2159); and on an eight-day Venice and the Po River cruise de­part­ing on Au­gust 4, from $3994 a per­son (save $1999). More: 1300 780 231; uni­world­cruises.com.au. All the rivers run: Scenic Tours has a raft of pack­ages on its Euro­pean river cruises de­signed for solo trav­ellers. Among them: a 15-day Jew­els of Europe cruise from Amsterdam to Bu­dapest from $13,585, de­part­ing May 13; and a 15-day Ro­man­tic Rhine and Moselle cruise from Zurich to Amsterdam from $13,305, de­part­ing Septem­ber 4. Pri­vate but­ler ser­vice, WiFi, meals, bev­er­ages and sight­see­ing are in­cluded. More: 1300 723 642; scenic­tours.com.au. Lone rangers: Aber­crom­bie & Kent has a port­fo­lio of ad­ven­tures de­signed for solo trav­ellers. Sin­gle sup­ple­ments are waived on a range of sa­faris in Kenya, Tan­za­nia and Botswana, while sup­ple­ments are re­duced dra­mat­i­cally on se­lected de­par­tures on es­corted tours of Turkey, Egypt and cen­tral Europe. Sin­gles pay no sup­ple­ment for their own cabin on Sanc­tu­ary Yangtze Ex­plorer’s se­lected four-day so­journs in China. And lone trav­ellers can set­tle into their own lux­ury bolt­hole for no ex­tra charge as the splen­did Royal Scots­man train wends its way from Ed­in­burgh past high­land cas­tles and across misty moors on di­verse itin­er­ar­ies. More: 1300 851 800; aber­crom­biekent.com/travel-spe­cials. We are sail­ing: Sin­gle sup­ple­ments are waived on an eight-day Mediter­ranean ad­ven­ture on the lux­ury wind­jam­mer Sea Cloud de­part­ing May 1. From $3678 a per­son (sin­gle or twin-share), this sail­ing fol­lows no fixed route from Malta to Pi­raeus, Greece, re­ly­ing on the wind to de­ter­mine ports of call. Car­ry­ing up to a max­i­mum of 64 pas­sen­gers, Sea Cloud is small enough to stop at bi­jou ports such as Monem­va­sia, Mi­los, Hy­dra and Lavrion. More: sea­cloud.com. Best of Bri­tish: Re­turn flights from Aus­tralia to Lon­don are in­cluded in Cruise Ex­press’s 18-day Glory of the Bri­tish Isles cruise de­part­ing Au­gust 1. Add the sights of Lon­don and Glas­gow to a 12-night round trip from Southamp­ton aboard Caribbean Princess, tak­ing in the Chan­nel Is­lands, Ire­land, Scot­land and France. From $7490 a per­son twin-share or from $8990 for sin­gles. More: 1300 766 537; cruise­ex­press.com.au. Set your pace: For its es­corted coach jour­neys, In­sight Va­ca­tions has devel­oped ‘‘easy pace’’ tours, with at least three nights at each des­ti­na­tion and plenty of sight­see­ing flex­i­bil­ity, and ‘‘coun­try road tours’’ that ex­plore be­yond the tourist hon­ey­pots, ideal for re­peat vis­i­tors. Its 16-day Best of East­ern Canada and USA tour, from Toronto to New York City, costs from $4825 a per­son twin-share (save $244 a per­son on 2013 de­par­tures if booked by April 30) and save 5 per cent on sin­gle sup­ple­ments. Un­til July 31, In­sight Va­ca­tions’ 13-day Im­pe­rial Ra­jasthan tour from Delhi to Udaipur costs from $3295 a per­son twin-share and in­cludes re­turn econ­omy in­ter­na­tional air­fares to Delhi. More: 1300 237 886; in­sight­va­ca­tions.com.au. Moun­tain highs: Bench In­ter­na­tional has sched­uled eight-day hikes to the sum­mit of Africa’s high­est peak, Mount Kil­i­man­jaro in Tan­za­nia, for sin­gles and women only. The climb takes the Machame route, a grad­ual as­cent con­sid­ered the most scenic and beau­ti­ful path. The sin­gles-only climb de­parts July 13, from $2190 a per­son; the women’s-only climb de­parts Novem­ber 16, from $ 1880 twin- share, $ 1990 solo. More: 1300 195 873; bench­in­ter­na­tional.com.au. Mix and match: Book a quad-share cabin for $1330 a per­son with Com­pan­ion Cruis­ing for a seven-night Cruise ’n’ Groove sail­ing in the South Pa­cific and the on­line cruise com­pany will match you with cabin com­pan­ions. De­part­ing Syd­ney on Oc­to­ber 5, the 1970s mu­sic cruise aboard Rhap­sody of the Seas features per­for­mances by orig­i­nal mem­bers of the Vil­lage Peo­ple, the Temp­ta­tions, the Supremes and oth­ers. Book by April 30. More: 0468 964 996; com­pan­ion­cruis­ing.com.au. Kiwi ca­pers: Lux­ury coach travel is in­ter­spersed with a Mil­ford Sound cruise, a TranzAlpine train trip, con­certs and a hangi on AAT Kings’ 10-day Con­trasts of New Zealand First Choice guided ex­pe­di­tion. For de­par­tures from Oc­to­ber 18 to De­cem­ber 26, it costs from $2595 a per­son twin-share or from $3580 for a solo room; the com­pany of­fers to match solo trav­ellers of the same gen­der for twin- shar­ing. More: 1300 228 546; aatk­ings.com.au. Have guide, will travel: Solo trav­ellers com­prise 20 per cent of trav­ellers on Trafal­gar’s itin­er­ar­ies. Its new nine­day Scenic Spain and Por­tu­gal First Class guided hol­i­day costs from $1685 a per­son twin-share and from $2095 for a room alone, avail­able for de­par­tures un­til Oc­to­ber 19. Ar­rive in Jasper by train and Banff by dog sled on a 10-day West­ern Canada Win­ter Ad­ven­ture; from $4650 a per­son twin-share or from $5670 for a room alone, avail­able for de­par­tures from Novem­ber 23 to Fe­bru­ary 8 next year. More: 1300 663 043; trafal­gar.com. Eight rea­sons why: View eight ports in New Zealand, from the Bay of Is­lands to Fiord­land Na­tional Park, from a pri­vate state room bal­cony on 13-night round trips from Syd­ney on a range of Sun Princess and Sea Princess de­par­tures from Oc­to­ber to March 2014. The bal­cony up­grade is free in a package that costs from $1699 a per­son twin-share. More: 132 488; princess.com. Gala­pa­gos for gals: Aber­crom­bie & Kent re­search shows women are the pri­mary hol­i­day de­ci­sion mak­ers, so it is of­fer­ing sav­ings of $US900 to women book­ing a seven­night cruise of the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands on MV Eclipse de­part­ing May 25. Car­ry­ing 48 pas­sen­gers with berths from $US5385 a per­son, the MV Eclipse will have pho­to­graphic work­shops aboard and daily shore ex­cur­sions guided by a nat­u­ral­ist. More: 1300 851 800; aber­crom­biekent.com.au.

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