So many destinations, ever changing scenery, unpacking just once, all whilst the journey itself is leisurely, often luxurious, stress and hassle free.
The cruise experience can be relaxing, reading a book or watching the world go by. You may prefer to attend presentations regarding forthcoming ports of call, listen to guest speakers, take cookery or dance lessons or participate in a quiz. Alternatively, you may consider a visit to the gym, some indulgent “me” time in the spa, just some of the choices available to you on a cruise.
Of course, the selection of activities varies on each ship with a range of resort ships to boutique vessels, some geared to “adult only” and others may be more family orientated, many accommodating something for everyone.
A cruise appeals to multi-generational families because of the diverse range of activities and accommodation now available on many ships. The ability to spend time doing what each family member wants to do, and then perhaps meeting up for a meal, ensures that everyone makes the most of their holiday.
It is important to match your personality and preferences to the type of ship or cruise line that meets your needs. Do you like to dress formally for dinner or prefer a more casual dress code? Do you like lots of activities and entertainment found on the resort ships or is the emphasis on reaching those more unspoilt remote ports, best suited to smaller vessels?
You may choose a themed cruise to develop your skills or because you simply enjoy interests such as photography, dance, cookery, music or wine.
Some people are unable to fly or simply don’t like flying. Sailing from a UK port provides an opportunity to travel to destinations without needing to board an aircraft and removes the stress and hassle that is sometimes experienced at airports. Many cruises sail from Southampton but there is now the option with several cruise lines to also sail from Liverpool, Newcastle, Greenock, Leith, Dublin, Hull, Bristol, Tilbury and Dover. Sailing from the UK usually means more “sea days” to reach warmer climes but this gives you the opportunity to explore the ship, unwind and enjoy the ship’s facilities.
A fly cruise will give you the ability to cruise further afield in a shorter period of time. Some cruise lines offer exclusive charter flights from regional airports, and others scheduled services with the flexibility to extend your stay in your embark / debark port, or break your journey with a stopover if undertaking a longhaul flight.
What is included in the price of your cruise holiday varies with each cruise line but usually your accommodation, meals, service, entertainment, port and handling fees are included. Some cruise lines include gratuities, others give you the option to pre-pay these with the balance of your holiday or add them onto your on-board account. The cruise lines will provide a suggested amount and most companies will allow you to adjust the amount or remove entirely from your on-board account if you prefer the more traditional method of leaving an appropriate amount in envelopes for the staff who have looked after you, particularly your cabin steward and waiting on staff in the restaurant.
Usually shore excursions are not included in the price of your cruise although there are a few exceptions. You can, of course, disembark the ship and explore yourself; some destinations are more suited to this option than others. Occasionally, some cruise lines offer promotions to include a selection of tours, gratuities and /or drinks packages.
Juices, coffees and teas at breakfast time and coffee/tea after dinner are usually included but speciality coffees, bar drinks are not normally included in your cruise fare. Silversea, Regent, Azamara are the general exceptions as they include alcoholic beverages (excluding some premium brands). Most other cruise lines now offer the option to purchase a drinks package, rather than buy drinks ad hoc, which allows you to budget your spending money in advance. At certain times of the year, some cruise lines include these drinks packages in the price of your cruise during promotional booking periods.
Spa treatments, some exercise classes and speciality dining venues are not included in your cruise fare. If you are visiting ports which require visas, these are not usually included in your cruise fare. However, if you are visiting St. Petersburg, for example, and purchase the cruise line’s shore excursion, a group visa is included within the cost of the tour, applicable during the tour only. On some occasions, the cruise line will be able to arrange a ship’s group visa, in Vietnam for example, and the cost of the visa will be added to your on-board account. Certain visas, such as Indian visas, must be purchased in advance of travel.
Cabins usually accommodate between one to four guests, with a few cabins offering five to eight occupancy. You will be able to choose from an interior cabin (without window), ocean view (window or portholes), balcony or a suite. Some ships offer “promenade views” (an inside cabin with a window looking onto the inside of the ship) or a “virtual balcony” (an inside cabin with a high definition screen providing real-time views and sounds of the ocean and visited destinations). Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, offer “spa cabins” giving you access to spa facilities and extra spa-related perks.
Breakfast, lunch and evening meals are normally included. Many cruise lines offer a buffet style venue, often open for the majority of the day, or main dining room at set times for these meals. You may also find a pizzeria or grill-type option on the pool deck. Some ships may also offer “pub food” or offer a themed buffet as an alternative venue. You could also consider a chargeable speciality restaurant (Regent and Oceania include speciality restaurants without a cover fee, once per restaurant, per cruise) often a Steak house, Italian, Tex Mex, Sushi Bar are available. Room service is another option but some cruise lines charge a delivery service fee, particularly if during unsociable hours.
With many cruise companies, you will have the option of 1st or 2nd sitting for your evening meal or possibly open dining. The former offers a designated table each evening at a set time with the same companions. The latter allows you to eat at differing times each evening, possibly meeting new table companions each evening. Selecting either of these still allows you the option to book a speciality dining venue some evenings, or eat in the buffet if you prefer. Evening entertainment performances are usually repeated so that whichever option you select, you will still have the opportunity to appreciate the shows or acts on offer.
Most cruise lines cater for dietary needs, please make us aware at time of booking and the Maitre d’ will be on hand to facilitate your requirements.
Not sure you want to commit to a seven plus nights’ cruise? Why not try one of the many shorter cruises (one to six nights)? These sailings offer great value and consequently sometimes attract groups holidaying together to celebrate an event, creating a livelier atmosphere than perhaps experienced on a longer cruise, something to bear in mind. A taster cruise does allow you to visit some wonderful cities, enjoy high quality entertainment, a huge choice of wonderful food and attentive service which representing terrific value as compared to a traditional city break.