One of the best gifts my husband Richard and I ever gave our moms was a cruise vacation to spend with their son and daughter. For me, it was a round-trip cruise on Island Princess from Acapulco to Los Angeles — and they were thrilled to take a cruise on this glorious ship that both of them knew so much from its days on the “Love Boat” TV series. In fact, they kept looking for Julie and Capt. Stubing, Gavin MacLeod, who kissed her and gave her an autographed picture on a later cruise I took my mom on.
Now, that's a memory.
So you might want to consider taking your momma on a cruise for her special day, whether it's her birthday or Mother's Day or another special occasion. Just keep in mind, you should book months in advance to get the best stateroom, best prices and best available itinerary.
If you do splurge for your mom — for her and a companion or for a multigenerational cruise — she'll appreciate the gesture and be thinking about it for months to come (until sailing day!).
Here are 10 gift ideas your mom will flip over (assuming she likes to travel!).
A shore excursion about wellness or cultural discovery
You know your mom best. Is she all about the casino and game night? Or does she appreciate the occasional soothing getaway to refresh the mind, body and spirit (see the photo of the SeaDream Yacht Club yoga class at top). Maybe she's a foodie and would enjoy a cultural immersion that explores the cuisine of different regions. Several cruise lines offer that, such as luxury brands Seabourn and Crystal Cruises. Crystal offers 60 different options in culinary-themed land excursions.
Give her the treatment: A rejuvenating spa
Every ship worth its sea salt today has a spa (except for river and excursion ships), so if she's sailing on, say, Princess or Celebrity or Royal Caribbean, you can order any wellness treatment for your mom from a facial to a mani/pedi to a body wrap. Maybe she'd like one of the deluxe pedicure treatments where she gets a foot soak, reflexology and her toes painted. Don't forget there are couples massages offered on various cruise lines' private islands if you prefer land-based relaxation.
If you really want to splurge, arrange “A Body Wrapture” from Silversea. It's a 100-minute Elemis Exotic Frangipani Body Nourish Wrap with Full Body Massage. From the exotic shores of Tahiti, coconut and frangipani flowers are soaked together to produce Monoi, which literally means “scented oil.” Guests drench in its moisture and bathe in serenity before being cocooned in a comfortable foil wrap. Afterward, a fabulous full-body Elemis Deep Tissue Muscle Massage awaits. It's expensive, though: You can order this on Silversea’s website for more than $300, or ask a Cruiseable travel advocate to help you out.
Splurge on some Hinerava Tahitian pearls
If your mom will be sailing the South Seas aboard the Paul Gauguin, you can order a shipboard credit in advance and the cruise line will mail a note to her about the gift. For instance, you might want to splurge on some Hinerava Tahitian pearls or pearl jewelry in the ms Paul Gauguin’s boutique for an amazing present. Paul Gauguin Cruises is the exclusive cruise line carrying this jewelry line.
Other options: The line also offers what they call a “General Celebration” that costs $185 and includes an in-stateroom bottle of Champagne, flower turndown service, 8-by-10-inch photo portrait and a $50 shipboard credit that Mom can use toward some onboard fun.
Surprise her with Champagne
If your mom likes Champagne, have a bottle placed in her stateroom on arrival— who doesn't love a welcome like that? You can also order wines to be served at her dinner table in advance by going on the cruise line's website. Another option is to order a gift card for a set number of dollars that she can spend on drinks, wine or whatever she want.
On Paul Gauguin, you can order her a Champagne breakfast in bed that costs $80 for two people, in case she goes with your dad or someone else. The package includes a half-bottle of Champagne, toast points with caviar, pastries and coffee, tea and orange juice.
Another tip: If Mom is heading out on a Seabourn cruise, order a caviar platter to be placed in her suite on the day of departure. It’s complimentary — but you have to order it.
Book her on a food and wine cruise
Several cruise lines offer wonderful food and wine cruises, often in the southern Mediterranean on inland waterways or along the coasts of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Croatia and elsewhere. Some of these are full-on productions, with winemakers discussing the finer points of wine tasting, and accompanied by lavish spreads where she'll get to sample local delicacies. One cruise line that operates a few dozen food and wine cruises through Europe, particularly in the spring and fall, is AmaWaterways.
Treat her to a culinary class
Several cruise lines now offer wonderful culinary enrichment classes. In Holland America Line's Culinary Arts Centers, participants can do as much or as little as they wish while preparing dishes under the chef’s supervision and learning some inside secrets. Make sure you choose a class that's hands-on, not just passive. Your mom will get her own cooking station at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center from Oceania Cruises aboard Marina and Riviera. Courses range from pizza and pasta making to cooking healthy, Mediterranean-inspired meals. The course costs $69 per passenger.
Another good choice is Silversea's program in conjunction with famed L'Ecole des Chefs Cooking School by Relais & Chateaux. And on several of the top-tier cruise lines, including Viking's new ocean ships, Mom can accompany the top chef into market at a port to watch how he selects items he'll be bringing back to the ship to prepare that evening.
Buy her dinner at a specialty restaurant
Almost all modern cruise ships have specialty restaurants these days, from Princess to Disney, from Norwegian to Royal Caribbean. While high-end restaurants are included on most luxury cruise lines, they generally run $20 to $49 and up at the contemporary lines. Why not arrange for your mom and a guest to enjoy an elegant dining experience? You can generally arrange for a certain dollar amount to be credited to a guest's bill through an onboard credit.
Luggage, electronics or cosmetics containers
How about some new, lightweight luggage on rollers? Or a passport case? If Mom doesn’t already own one, consider a smartphone, tablet or digital camera to stay in touch and let you know how much fun she’s having. And, if you have a practical streak, make sure she has shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, facial cleansers or creams in sizes approved by the Transportation Security Administration. Or you can buy her TSA-size containers to pour her favorite products into that’s 3.5 ounces, by the way.
Send your mom a bouquet of flowers
Every women loves flowers in her cabin and all ships have florists so it's fairly hassle-free to go on the cruise line's website and order them. On Norwegian, for example, you can order flowers that will set you back $44 for an arrangement of assorted daisies, filler & foliage to $59 for a dozen roses — not bad compared with prices on land. On Carnival, the options are more extensive: $45 for a mixed flower bouquet or half dozen roses all the way up to $115 for two dozen pink, yellow or red roses.
Buy your mom an Internet package for her cruise
10Does Mom like to email and surf the Web? Buy her an Internet package so she can surf from the comfort of her stateroom instead of having to schlep down to an Internet cafe or the business center. A Wi-Fi package should be available on all major cruise lines’ websites. Note: If you really want to go all out, buy her a sailing on Regent Seven Seas or Crystal or Silversea, which offer guests free Wi-Fi in many cases.
Dedicated shipboard gift ordering services links
- Celebrity Cruises makes it easy to pick up gifts on its Bon Voyagepage from Canyon Ranch Spa treatments and products to onboard beverages and more.
- Crystal takes orders for bon voyage and other gifts here.
- Holland America also has an Indulgences section on its website for ordering gifts from hors d’oeuvre to flowers. alternative dining venues, cabana rentals and more.
- Princess Cruises has a dedicated page for celebrations and gift orders.
- Order gift certificates on the Royal Caribbean site.
Other cruise lines also have gift ideas and order forms available on their websites. Just go to the site of the line she’s booked on and browse the offerings.
Contact a travel expert
If you need help with any of this, such as booking a cruise for your mom, your best bet is to contact a Cruiseable travel advocate to get expert assistance. Call the Business Department at 1-877-322-3773 — I hear they're very helpful, and they love moms.