Any conversation about cruising will ultimately include phrases like, it’s just for old people, I’m not old enough to go on a cruise yet or I don’t want to be stuck as sea with 1000s of people. The world of cruise is the fastest growing sector in the travel industry and the variety of options available is almost a well-kept secret. If you’re not familiar with the vast array of cruise sectors available, here is my snap shot guide to the ever-expanding world of cruise.
Why would you choose a cruise over a regular holiday destination? For most cruise lovers, there are many benefits – quality of food and exceptional service, multiple destinations on a single holiday and only unpack once and the ability to walk on board without the need to ever need your wallet or purse.
If your impression of cruising is a bunch of old people in a floating retirement home, prepare to be amazed at what is on offer.
By far the largest sector with new ships being built every year. Anything from luxury 6* all-inclusive to 5* and 4* multi-generational ships and affordable traditional cruises.
Ocean cruising covers almost every corner of the world with some outstanding itineraries including exotic and unusual destinations– ranging from 2/3-night taster cruises to world-wide 145 day cruises. 7 to 14 night itineraries are certainly top of the list in popularity with cruises to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Asia, Australia and Alaska.
Ships range in size from a small boutique hotel style with a maximum of 100 guests and a 1 : 1 staff to guest ratio – very much a feel of exclusivity luxury. At the other end of the scale the largest ships in the world can carry over 6500 passengers – these cruise ships have the very latest in on board facilities from water parks, surfing, outdoor cinemas, ice rinks and climbing walls. Restaurants to suit every taste and style, possibly more restaurants than you can try in a cruise.
Smaller ships offer fewer facilities, and have a more relaxed traditional cruise atmosphere with a focus on destinations the larger ships cannot reach. These cruises excel in food quality and service with a calm, friendly on board experience.
Departure points for ocean cruising are increasing every year. Southampton is by far the largest cruise departure point in the UK, with many new cruise companies basing ships there year after year. Liverpool has quite several cruise departures as do many other smaller ports around the UK. Fly cruise still remains the most popular for UK travellers – with the majority opting for pre or post cruise stays in the departure and arrival cities.
Like ocean cruising, river cruising is growing at an extraordinarily rapid rate with the average age of passengers lowering year on year. There is even a new concept for 21 – 45 year olds proving to be very popular.
River cruising also covers the 6* luxury, 5* and 4* varieties with butler service available on many cruises, specialist wine, golf and music cruises as well as some specialist family itineraries where children travel free.
The attraction of a River cruise is most certainly the central city embarkation and disembarkation points. Passenger numbers are much smaller meaning longer in port and boarding in minutes. European river cruising is perfect for those that prefer not to fly and travel by train to the embarkation point. If you’re not a summer time person, then the Christmas Market trips offer excellent value for money.
River cruising is not confined to European waterways. Asian cruises through Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar are some of the most frequently requested journeys. Don’t forget Africa, Egypt, The Mississippi and new this year Canada will see the launch of a new river cruise concept.
EXPEDITION, SAILING & NICHE CRUISING
Last, but certainly not least are the cruises that don’t quite fit in ocean or river cruising.
Boutique sailing is quite well known in the cruise sector; however, expedition cruising is becoming so popular almost all cruise lines now have new ships coming out every year offering ultra-comfort for far flung destinations. Increasingly innovate design features are ever present in these new ships with a focus on environmentally friendly low carbon emissions to suit the cruise destinations. Activities on board expedition cruises are a world apart from normal ocean cruising. To allow passengers to get up close to the wonderful wildlife, zodiacs, kayaks, e-bikes, scuba equipment and snow shoes are all available for the ultimate expedition experience.
Not to be forgotten are the original working ships that now take passengers on board or port to port or 12 day voyages – perfect for those chasing Aurora Borealis – a very affordable way to experience the spectacular Norwegian coast and catch the very unpredictable Northern Lights.
The best cabins sell out first – you may bag a bargain booking last minute on a cruise, but remember your choice will be limited. Savvy cruisers book way in advance (sometimes 2 years) to get their preferred location. All cruise companies offer a deposit only option to hold your booking (always check cancellation policy) and final payment is normally due 12 weeks prior to departure.
Before you board make sure you have arranged your drinks packages, gratuities (if available), any excursions whilst in port and in some cases wifi. Booking these in advance is less expensive when arranged in advance, prices on board are always higher. The last thing you want after a fabulous holiday is a horrifying bill before you are permitted to disembark
Now that your mind has been opened to the endless possibilities of cruise, how will you choose where to go? If I’ve sparked your interest in cruise and you’d like to discuss your preferences, please contact me for further advice, we can catch up over a coffee (or glass of wine) and find the best cruise to suit your style of holiday.
Guest post by Travel Counsellor Leah MacKay