Thousands of people visit The Villages in Florida each year, some staying with relatives, some visiting on the Lifestyle Preview Plan like we just did and many others renting a home in The Villages.
There is something to do everyday that every baby boomer will find fun.
Here are some 16 tips and places to visit during your stay at The Villages Florida.
1. Pick up a copy of The Villages Daily Sun newspaper, especially the Thursday edition with the Recreation News and schedule for the week.
2. Visit and walk around all three town squares, Lake Sumter Landing which borders Lake Sumter and has a Florida seaport theme and is located centrally. There is the original town square of Spanish Springs on the South side. The newest town square of Brownwood with a wild west theme is on the North side. All three town squares are very walkable and have restaurants, shops and a movie theater. Also there is live entertainment in each square every night of the year!
While many dream of traveling around the globe to see such wonders as the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China, there is an equally spectacular site in the western hemisphere. And it is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
What is it? The Panama Canal
This 50-mile waterway, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, changed our world. When it officially opened in 1914, it cut nearly 8,000 miles off the shipping routes from New York to San Francisco,
Considered the eighth wonder of the world, today the Panama Canal accommodates more than 14,000 ships a year carrying cargo ranging from automobiles to grain, on their passage between the oceans.
More than 10 percent of all U.S. shipping goes through the canal.
Cruising the Panama Canal
But for travelers who want to not only view interesting places but actually experience them, cruising through the Panama Canal is unforgettable. Cruise lines offer an array of such trips from a variety of starting ports.
Depending on a traveler’s pocketbook and calendar, transits can be partial (where the ship enters the canal, goes to Gatun Lake, then turns around and goes back out the same locks used to enter the canal) or full (entering the canal from one ocean and exiting at the far end into the other ocean).
When my husband and I cruised on Holland America’s ms Zuiderdam in 2012, it took more than eight hours to make the entire transit.
Our 82,000-ton ship barely fit in the locks, and being smoothly lifted and lowered 85-feet as the locks filled or emptied, was like riding a magic carpet.
There are three sets of locks at each end of the canal. Two lanes allow two ships to move through the locks at the same time. Each ship climbs up three locks at the start of the canal, and then down three at the end.
Lock chambers are 1,000-feet long and 110-feet wide.
One of the magical aspects of our transit through the locks, then through the nine-mile cut through the Continental Divide (think Rocky Mountains), then through the huge man-made Gatun Lake, and out the locks at the Canal’s far end, was that we and our ship did the transit exactly like that first ship had when the canal opened on August 15, 1914.
No computers at all. Everything is run by gravity and electricity. Gravity fills and empties the locks, lifting ships 85 feet above sea level at the beginning of the Canal, and then lowering them again at the end. And the electricity that opens and closes lock doors, and runs everything else at the canal is created by the canal’s dams. It’s all very self-sufficient.
Our trip was a spectacular and historic experience.
This centennial year would be the perfect time to visit this engineering wonder of the world. And cruising along its watery pathway is both inspiring and sobering (when you consider that more than 26,000 lives were lost in the building of this most famous short cut).
My only suggestion to make the trip more meaningful, would be to do some historical research into the building of the Canal. As you learn about the dream and how hard it was to make it all come true, you’ll appreciate the amazing journey across the Isthmus of Panama.
About the Author
Sunny Lockwood and her husband, Al, have traveled by foot, car, rail, air and cruise ship. Wherever they go, they capture unforgettable moments – Al with his camera and Sunny with her reporter’s notebook. Their work for newspapers and magazines has won national, regional and local awards. Cruising Panama’s Canal, savoring 5,000 nautical miles and 500,000 decadent calories is their first travel memoir. It’s available at amazon.com.
Here are some trends happening with us of the baby boomer generation. If you are a boomer, can you relate to any of these?
Buying a New Car
Boomers have been buying new cars, even though many of us are driving less. The catalyst for baby boomers to buy a new car is the safety equipment in new cars these days. My wife Mary Ann picked up her new Honda yesterday with Navigational system and Sensing, replacing her 2009 model car. It is amazing what cars can do these days. Boomers feel these items make today’s cars safer and easier to drive. One day when self driving cars become available, there may be another boomer car buying spree.
Being More Active
Boomers are becoming more active and getting out for walks and playing pickleball and other sports. I joined 10,500 boomers at the National Senior Games a couple of months ago and witnessed the passion first hand.
Attend to Our Health
All boomers’ lives are affected by their health and that is becoming more clear by the day. The Medicare nurse comes to our homes each year to check up on us (if you have an Advantage Plan). Many of us do annual physicals and preventative dental work. We visit health fairs and do Health Screenings which are medical tests that doctors use to check for diseases and health conditions before there are any signs or symptoms. Screenings help find problems early, when they may be easier to treat. Many of us are dealing with chronic health conditions that alter our lifestyle.
Downsizing and Moving
Almost every boomer I talk with has downsized or is downsizing, getting rid of stuff they no longer need. Many times this is in preparation for a future move to a home more suitable to their needs, like a retirement home in a 55+ active adult community or small town.
Travel while you can is our motto. Traveling is our new purpose it seems. I am astounded at the amount of travel quite a few of my friends are doing. Back to back major trips that would have been considered “trips of a lifetime” are taken in a year.
That’s the way I see it from here.
Village at Deaton Creek, a 55+ Del Webb Community
Find out why Aruba is being visited by Boomers and what makes in an ideal Boomer vacation destination
I just returned from a seven night stay at the Aruba Radisson resort and thought I was at a Boomer convention. There were all ages of Boomers and some younger Seniors too enjoying the island lifestyle, if only for a short time. There were tie die T-shirt classes at the pool, bingo, sunset cruises, but the main draw is the excellent beaches.
The weather is ideal beach weather with highs in the 80’s and lows in the 70’s. You really can stay on the beach or lounge at the pool all day long. You know our bodies are not what they used to be, but it doesn’t matter when most of the people at the beach look just like you do. No one is going to stare at your pot belly and you won’t feel out of place. We are just there to enjoy ourselves. Now that I am retired I have tried to grow my hair longer and I noticed that must be a trend as evidenced by the Boomer crowd in Aruba this week. A few little ponies but most just sporting longer hair. Anyway why not, we have conformed long enough and it’s our time again.
Another thing bringing Boomers to Aruba is their excellent restaurants, many within walking distance from the hi-rise hotels along Palm and Eagle beaches. They are expensive but are uncommonly good for the Caribbean Islands I have visited. After dinner, there are casinos in many hotels and even some Las Vegas type shows for your entertainment. Most of the hi-rise hotels have a bar with live entertainment every night. Not even to mention the two and one half hour long cocktail hour starting at 4 pm where you can try the Pina Colada or some exotic drink of the day.
Everything happens on island time which is just fine with us Boomers after we get used to it. The favorite saying on the “happy island” is relax, you’re on vacation. It can be a little disturbing when you order food or a drink and it takes forever to get to you, but that is the exception. What is not the exception is getting your bill at the end and getting it paid. That can take some time so you might as well not let it bother you.
We talked with one dear lady in her 70’s who moved to Aruba from Boston over 25 years ago and has made it her home quiet well. She filled me in that there are no retirement communities on the island and not that many people retire there either. Aruba is just a fine place for a Boomer to travel to and enjoy for a week or a season. TripAdvisor.com is a great place to research Aruba or any other travel destination for that matter.
Mary Ann and I just got back from a 11 day Western Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Equinox, which is about our 24th cruise. Here are some observations from our trip.
We observed and have heard from 3 other frequent cruisers that the cruise lines are now targeting younger people in the 45 to mid 50s age range. Well after cruising some time with the older people, now we are right in the mainstream being an older boomer of age 67. So the cruise lines want to pass over my age group to target younger people? Doesn’t make sense. As an example, Equinox presented their Modern Luxury theme with a new stage production which has men wearing only girdles and all cast members looking androgynous. Yuk!
Cruise ships do change. Equinox used to be our favorite ship. That is why this was our third cruise on the Equinox. But things have changed. No activity staff at the upper lawn areas or throughout the ship like previous cruises. Cruise staff changes, entertainment changes, ports change, so don’t expect just because you liked the cruise last time you will like the same ship next time.
On many cruises, the best part is meeting the people. We met many people we related to on this cruise and it was nice talking with them. Unless the cruise is really port intensive, you will have time to socialize and meeting people is super easy.
Too much of a good thing is bad. When you first get on a cruise ship, you will love to eat and maybe drink too much. By about day 4, things start to catch up with you and you will have to pace yourself or else a good time turns bad.
Taking too many cruises back to back will burn you out on cruises. I think that is where I am now. Taking a 14 day cruise in Sept, then this 11 day cruise in December, I just decided to cancel my California Coast cruise in March because that is just too much cruising. I will wait until the urge comes back, which won’t be long.
These two ships are recent additions to Princess Cruises and my wife wanted to sail with the Royal Princess. We just did the reposition cruise on the Royal from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal down to Fort Lauderdale with three stops in the Caribbean.
It is hard to answer when people ask me what is the best cruise line for baby boomers and just as hard to compare ships because it really is up to your personal taste and desires. But having taken 22 cruises and having sailed on the Royal with 2600 guests with Princess Platinum or better cards, here are some observations. The sweet spot of the ages on this cruise was say mid 60’s to early 70’s, so we now fit it perfectly. That is kind of strange since we used to think the people were older, now they are our fellow baby boomers.
The Royal is a nice big glitzy ship with 3560 guests and 1700 crew but you don’t feel too crowded. There are some large spaces like the Piazza atrium which some felt was too much for their taste but most people liked it. We noticed there is no problem finding a seat at the bar lounges and around the Piazza atrium’s three levels. That was nice.
I must say the food and the Royal’s singers and dancers were the best I have seen. Also we had no problem at all with our anything dining getting in without any wait. Those are a big part the cruising experience right there.
Smaller things people were complaining about were no stairs above deck 8 on the center of the ship. Shower curtains rather than glass doors. A small balcony in their cabins.
But as the cruise got on you saw many positives like I have mentioned above with the food, shows and no wait to dine. There is Alfredo’s Pizzeria, a new no fee restaurant with is nice for lunch and a full size Gelateria bar serving ice cream and Italian crepes. The SeaWalk on the side of the ship was fun to walk across and look down 128 feet to the ocean under your feet.
The Movies Under the Stairs on Pool side was amazing. It is the largest movie screen of any cruise ship. It look great even during the day. The sound qualify was amazing and resulted in some great pool parties during the day.
The Princess Theater has the most up to date technology and the digital props on stage were amazing.
I loved the Royal’s ship horn which plays part of the Love Boat Theme which I capture here as we were leaving Antigua. The passengers on the Carnival ship next to us got a kick of it and cheered us goodbye!
The Royal Princess (and Regent Princess) are beautiful ships and you should give them a try. They will be sailing the Caribbean this Winter through April.