Festivals, Resorts, Amusement Parks, and Cruises

“Pleasure resorts are like film stars and royalty… embarrassed by the figures they cut in the fantasies of people who have never met them.”
Doris Lessing

Why Should You Include Leisure Travel in Long-Term Travel Plan?

This blog was written before the COVID Pandemic. The COVID epidemics played havoc on the travel business. In 2022, Fifty Plus Nomad decided to focus on traveling and living in Mexico and language learning posts. We will only update these long-term travel-related posts on a time-permitting basis. We would appreciate your comments and updates on these posts.

Many travel-related blogs and websites scorn ¨leisure travel” experiences like resorts, cruises, and amusement parks. 

Yet. I spent eight months (out of four and a half years) enjoying these ¨leisure travel¨ experiences. I would not trade these leisure travel experiences for something more ¨authentic¨.

After spending months enjoying more “authentic”¨ experiences (like taking short-term classes and volunteering), going to resorts, cruises, and amusement parks) felt like a short vacation and was a lot of fun. I:

  • Admired the tremendous creativity and talent behind the shows and attractions.
  • Relished the chance to sit back and enjoy the party atmosphere.

The only real problems with these ¨inauthentic¨ experiences are:

  • They cost twice per day as more “authentic” travel experiences.
  • After a week (except on cruises), I get tired of all the noise, crowds, and spectacle.

My Favorite Resorts, Amusement Parks, and Cruise Experiences

Some of my favorite packaged tourist experiences include:

Resort Cities

  • Spending five days on the Las Vegas strip seeing shows, visiting casinos and hotels, and eating great meals. (I love the food and decoration of the Bellagio resorts).
  • Enjoying the tourist attractions around Cancun for two weeks. I particularly loved the Xoximilco and Xcaret amusement parks.  Moreover, my favorite Cirque de Soleil show is La Joya. La Joya is a resident show at the Vidanta resort in the Riviera Maya. It is Cirque de Soleil’s only dinner theatre experience. (The theatre is much more intimate than the other Cirque show, and the food is genuinely innovative and tasty). I also really enjoyed the jolly Roger, Cancun’s Pirate Cruise.
  • Visiting Dubai’s incredible malls, which feature, among other oddities, one of the world’s largest aquarium tanks and an artificial snow lift (in one of the world’s hottest cities).

Amusement Parks

  • Taking behind the scenes” tours of all four Disneyworld parks in Orlando (and both Disneyland Parks in California), which showcased:
    • How Disney manages the animals at the Animal Safari Park.
  • The shops where Disney designs and cleans their uniforms and costumes.
  • The nursery where Disneyworld sculpts its iconic topiaries.
  • Some of Epcot’s excellent ethnic restaurants. (The Les Halles restaurant at the French Pavillion has the best French food outside of France!).
  • Walt Disney designed small details that remain even to this day at Disneyland California.
  • Visiting Hong Kong Disneyland to see both a park designed in homage to Disney’s original park vision and observe how the Disney company integrated Chinese culture into the garden. (I highly recommend the experience of eating Chinese pork buns in the Sleeping Beauty Castle)

What I Like About Cruises 

  • Enjoy the variety of entertainment onboard. 
  • Love relaxing with a book while gazing at the ocean. 
  • Relish trying the variety of food and dining options aboard. 

I like cruise ships because I: 

  • Have met some fascinating people by choosing to dine at different tables throughout the cruise. (Most cruises now offer ¨free time¨ dining, which allows you to change tables every night). 
  • Cruises are the best way to get an overview tour of destinations that are hard to reach by other means of transport. For example, it costs as much money to travel between ports featured on Patagonian cruises by plane as the cost of the entire cruise. 
  • Besides, you can get a good feel for these regions by visiting many ports (especially if these ports are on small islands) for a day each. (I do not get a good feel for a big city, country, or region on a cruise). 

However, I would not say I like traveling to many large cities on a cruise ship. Spending one day in Rome, for example, is frustrating. There is so much to do and so many people, and I feel like a kid in a candy store who cannot go inside. However, cruises can be an excellent way to get a feel for small islands and rural areas. 

Holland America is the best cruise ship for discovering a bit about your destination. The ships are small (1000-2000 people), and Holland America usually has a well-educated (though older) clientele. And they integrate their destination into their voyages through academic lectures, local entertainment, and offering local specialties on their menus. 

What I Don’t Like About Cruises 

Cruises do, however, sometimes overwhelm some sights with visitors. When I visited Saint Mark’s Plaza in Venice on the same day as four large cruise ships in 2016, I was a bit scared of being crushed by the crowds of tourists. That said, there are several straightforward ways to avoid this situation on these cruises, including: 

  • Scheduling tours to places outside of the port city. My favorite trips are either day-long visits that explore a particular island or region (my best day tour was around the island of Corsica) or a theme. (I have had excellent luck with food-related tours). 
  • Avoiding visiting places that are incredibly well-known, like Saint Mark’s Square in Venice or the Vatican. 
  • Considering avoiding Mediterranean cruises unless you are willing to go to little-known places. Visitors often overwhelm the main sights when cruise ships are in port. (Remember, most ports were built centuries ago and are not well suited to a large group). Fortunately, all ports are close to some fascinating lesser-known places that are free from the large crowds even when cruises are in port. (For example, one of my favorite cruise tours was to Hadrian palace and Tivoli gardens outside of Rome). 

Fifty Plus Nomad offers personalized workshops and courses in Spanish, English, Living and Traveling in Mexico, and Long-Term Travel Book a Two-hour Free Sample Introductory Session

A Final Note

In my blog post, I explore a related theme: What is the Difference Between a Traveler and a Tourist?

Some Additional Posts About Long-Term Travel Tips

Paul Heller has been a lifelong avid traveler and language learner and teacher, Even as a child, he told Santa Claus that he wanted to visit all the children worldwide. At seven years old, Paul wanted to retire to Mexico. At eight, he memorized the name, capital, location, and some facts about every country worldwide. At twelve, he found a book "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and started developing his own itinerary for a future round-the-world trip. He remained obsessed with travel; after getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and working as an administrator, He spent his vacations going to different countries around the globe studying language, touring, and volunteering. In 1994, he quit his job and lived in Russia as a volunteer English instructor. He discovered that he loved teaching languages. In 2004, he decided to make a living out of his travels and founded a community of people who love to travel just like him. He developed 5 three-hour classes about living and traveling long-term worldwide which he taught in over 50 adult education programs throughout the US. After his parents passed, he realized his dream of traveling around the world; cruising and touring some of the most remote places like the North Atlantic, Patagonia, and Oceania; and learning new languages (he knows Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian). Paul encourages everyone to learn foreign languages. He knows that it can be frustrating and slow but that anyone can learn a language if they put in the work and, most importantly, learning a language is well worth the time and effort because it opens up a whole new set of people, ideas, and cultures. He is currently spending the next chapter of his life in Mérida, México. He is excited about using this blog and his classes and workshops to inspire and equip fellow Fifty Plus Nomads with the language, cultural, and psychological skills necessary to be successful and happy long-term travelers and expats over 50.

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