Gone are the days when the blue rinse ruled the seas – cruising is now the fastest growing travel sector in the world, with the average age of passengers getting younger every year. Ships have come a long way since the days of the Titanic, and there is a cruise line, ship size and itinerary for everyone including families. If, like me, you can’t think of anything worse than spending a week laying on a sun lounger, then cruising is for you. If you can think of nothing better than spending your holiday laying on a sun lounger, then cruising is for you. I am yet to encounter any type of holidaymaker which I couldn’t recommend a cruise to! “What’s so great about cruising”, I hear you ask? Let me tell you about my first cruise experience and why I will definitely cruise again.
In January 2017, my husband, my mother and I decided we would like to book a cruise. We knew we wanted to sail with P&O from Southampton as they are Britain’s favourite cruise line, the currency is Sterling on board and they address a nice balance of casual and formal without being stuffy or exclusive. We also knew we wanted a balcony cabin as there would be three of us sharing one cabin so we needed the extra space, not to mention the thrill of opening the curtains to reveal a stunning new view every morning! We chose to sail on the beautiful Britannia due to its range of amenities and modern interiors (plus the larger ships tend to be a better price due to the staff:passenger ratio). We booked 16 months in advance of our sail date with just £75 per person as a deposit. This really helped spread the cost for us all as we ended up paying around £12 each per week. The best kind of holidays are those that you don’t feel you’re really paying for! We booked through our local travel agent so that we could get plenty of top tips and advice on how to prepare. We were also given the reassurance that it would be the same price booking through them as it is directly with the cruise line, so their service didn’t cost us a thing.
In the run up to the cruise, we did lots of research in to what life is like on board, but nothing can prepare you for having too much to do and not enough time. You can choose to pre-book some payable extras, such as spa treatments, speciality dining & shore excursions (more on that later) but it is up to you how much or how little you plan ahead. Every evening, whilst you are enjoying your dinner, your cabin steward will place the next day’s timetable in your cabin (on P&O it is called the Horizon newsletter). On here will be a schedule packed full of information from activities, show times & bar opening times to shop offers and port arrival & departure times. I recommend taking a copy with you around the ship so you don’t have to keep returning to your cabin. Scheduled activities range from dance classes to acupuncture seminars, cocktail making masterclasses to pool parties. And all of this is in addition to the ship’s usual activities such as swimming in one of the pools, relaxing in one of the jacuzzis, eating, drinking, watching a show or live band, doing a pub quiz, treating yourself to a spa day, working out in the fitness centre, enjoying a good book in the library, trying your luck in the casino, shopping… One thing is for sure – you won’t be stuck for things to do!
One of the other key reasons we love cruising is the value for money. That’s not to say it is ‘cheap’ as such, but you do get so much more for your money when comparing it to a similarly priced package holiday. With starting prices from £599 per person for 7 nights, you could enjoy 4* accommodation, full board with buffet & à la carte options, pool-side waiter service, 2 pools, 4 hot tubs, gym, spa (payable locally), huge activity program, kids clubs & live entertainment in a variety of forms daily. You can even upgrade to a balcony cabin for uninterrupted sea views! For me, what puts cruise holidays above the rest is the high level of service and attention to detail you receive. You will have a designated cabin steward who will introduce themselves when you first board the ship. They will tend to your needs every single day of your cruise, cleaning, re-stocking your refreshments, delivering your on board communications and completing the daily turn down service. They are thorough, discreet and expect nothing in return, although good reviews on the feedback form and a tip are of course greatly appreciated.
Of course one of the most important parts of a cruise for many passengers is the itinerary. What climate, country, time of year, shore excursions and duration your cruise offers can change the atmosphere of the whole voyage, but that is a subject for another post!
I strongly urge anyone who has never considered cruising before to explore the possibility before booking another holiday. I know there is a cruise out there for you, if only you know where to look! I strongly advise visiting your local travel agent as they can make personalised recommendations based on your needs and are usually the same price in store as if you were to book online directly with the cruise line (sometimes they can even offer additional savings or on board spending money).