Cruising with Mum

By Julie Beun

For weeks after I told my mother I was taking her on a cruise for her 80th birthday, she texted and emailed nonstop. She was eaten up with excitement and curiosity.

What was I packing? (Dunno.) Did I think we should stay an extra night in Fort Lauderdale? (Sure.) Was I checking my bag? (Not a chance.) How big was the cabin’s balcony? (Did math.)

I’ve always been close with my mother, Rose Pardy, but not four-chats-a-day close. Even so, as the days and weeks passed, the shared adventure meant we were having conversations we don’t normally have. It was a lot at first, but once we embarked on the trip itself, spending almost every hour of 10 days together, it turned into an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary with an extraordinary woman.

Julie and Mum, Rose Pardy.

But I didn’t just get insight into my relationship with Mum. We discovered the world of cruising together. Here’s what I learned.

Do your research first. There are more than 50 cruise companies.

The first question anyone asks is, “which cruise line are you going with?” Turns out, it matters because which ship you choose and where you go speaks volumes. All aboard one of the Azamara ships? You will be pampered in first class luxury. Booking on Disney? Expect everything done with families in mind. If you’re more interested in the less beaten shipping lanes, there’s Norway’s Hurtigruten, which sails to the Arctic, Antarctic and of course the spectacular Norwegian fiords. There are even European river cruises, such as AmaWaterways – on some trips, you can grab a ship’s bike and pedal along the waterway as the boat cruises to its next stop. Worldwide, there are 323 cruise ships plying international waters, ranging from smaller ships like Windstar’s 148- to 342-passenger ships to Royal Caribbean’s monolithic Icon of the Seas, capable of holding 7600 passengers. Some cruise lines are ideal for budget-conscious, first-time sailing families, some are more for those wanting an intimate experience. Mum is a veteran of several Caribbean cruises as well as those to Alaska, with several different companies. We chose Celebrity Cruises, specifically for Celebrity Beyond, the brand new, French-built, $900 million, 3250-passenger ship, one of 17 new cruise ships launched in 2022.

e Resort Deck offers lots of amenities.

I learned how to get 10 days worth of clothes into carry-on luggage.

I’d heard about the rolling method of packing perfected by the US Army Rangers and was keen to test it. The idea is to lay the garment flat, fold in the edges to the whole thing is the same width, then roll tightly up the length until you reach the top edge, which can be turned over to form an envelope. It works with anything, although jeans are a bit of a struggle. Using the method, I managed to get in outfits for work outs, evening wear, day trips and lounging. The rolling method is easy enough to master, and works very well with lightweight clothes.

There’s a trick to picking shore excursions.

There are countless shore excursions every time the ship docks, as well as plenty of opportunities for self-guided fun. Celebrity offers their own excursions, with discounts if you book before you go. But we went with the CAA-approved, partly because they give similar discounts to the cruise lines, but they also guarantee you’ll get back to the ship on time. Just plug in your ship, sailing dates and where you will dock and the website finds excursions that will work with your arrivals and departures. also offer small groups with expert leaders, so you’re never one of 60 people on a big coach. On the Yucatan Peninsula, we headed to the ruins at Chacchoben in a small, air-conditioned bus with about 12 people from around the US and Canada. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable – an actual Mayan and a history professor with 30 years of teaching behind him. His insights and ability to describe daily life as we walked through Chacchoben, one of Mexico’s 10,000 Mayan ruins, brought the ancient civilisation (360AD) to life.

Rose Pardy introduced her daughter, Julie Beun, to the world of cruising.

Forget what you thought about shuffleboard on ships.

The range of activities is so varied, the full list formed a four-page daily newsletter delivered to our cabin. Itching to learn to play pickleball? Want to do a yoga class? Keen on a tour of the massive industrial kitchens? Looking for an LGBTQ social hour? If you have an interest, you’re likely to find kindred spirits through cruising activities. Beyond’s fitness facilities are exceptional, including a solarium and a 400m-long outdoor walking and running track, which Mum used almost daily to get her steps in. The tricked-out gym is located right at front of the ship, overlooking the prow, with strategically placed Peloton bikes lined up at the ship’s prow.

Broadway on the high seas.

Every cruise line has some form of nightly entertainment in a theatre, ranging from magic shows and comedians to dance troupes and singers. But the Beyond’s brand new theatre and 110-foot wide high def backdrop set a new standard for what to expect: eye-popping acrobatics and aerial silks, astonishing visual displays, bold and dynamic choreography, and Vegas and Broadway singers belting out tunes night after night.

Thermal Suite – Deck 14 Forward
Celebrity Beyond – Celebrity Cruises

When it comes to eating, pace yourself.

That bit of advice came to us from the head of sales for Celebrity Cruises in Canada, and it was worth noting. Life on board a cruise ship looks something like this: rest, eat, rest, play, eat, rest. With the variety of cuisines and restaurants on board these floating resorts, it’s not hard to overdo it and regret it later. To avoid the eat-til-you-drop buffet on the Beyond, we signed up for five meals at the speciality restaurants. We started with Le Voyage by Daniel Boulud, the two-Michelin star chef who’s made a big name for himself around the world with his signature New York restaurant, Daniel, six other restaurants in NYC, another six internationally and of course, aboard the Celebrity Beyond. Expect exceptional dining and service because that’s what you’ll get. We actually cancelled one of our other speciality bookings to return to Le Voyage, if for nothing else than the oven-warm madeleines served at the end of the meal. The other stand out meal was at Eden, the two-storey restaurant and lounge bar located at the stern of the ship. To get there, diners first take a walk through the trippy Odyssey, a shimmering hall of mirrors with bronze rock structures.

Don’t underestimate your older parent’s ability to tear it up.

Being 80 hasn’t meant a lot to my mother. Her natural bon vivant energy was peaking on the trip, because she still has a lot of living to do. Where I was ready to pack it in at 10 p.m., she was dressed and ready to dance. When I climbed to the top of one of the Chacchoben’s steep ceremonial stairs, she wasn’t far behind despite a serious fear of heights. We explored every inch of the ship, including the renowned “Magic Carpet,” a bar that slides up and down the side of the ship . On the other hand, we also had to allow her a bit more time to rest between activities, but it felt lovely to do so once we discovered quiet groupings of deck chairs and lounges in the shade.

If you go: Airfares tend to be a bit cheaper midweek and if purchased in advance. Plan to arrive a day or two ahead of departure to avoid stress and airline disruptions.

Mum’s hot take: Travellers over the age of 75 no longer must remove their shoes at airport security.

Best bets: Prebook your excursions for the best discounts by checking out

Bring it with you: Something for motion sickness. Special wristbands work on pressure points and don’t cause drowsiness. Pack Gravol or Dramamine just in case.