Why go on a cruise holiday, and what would you expect from the experience? I first went on a cruise ten years ago, much to the surprise of my friends, and really enjoyed it.
If you are considering a cruise, it is essential to be sure that you, and anyone going with you, feels confident about the trip and “being at sea”. Modern ships can cope with any weather conditions, but huge waves and high winds will affect even the largest. Fortunately, motion sickness tablets work well for most people, and hopefully, you will not need them!
Seeking adventure but with royalty? Go on a cruise!
What makes a cruise so attractive for many people, including myself, is the combination of adventure and travel with all the luxuries of a first-class resort hotel. In addition, sea travel links places in ways that are not possible by land. It widens the possibilities for sightseeing, for example, the Baltic ports and St Petersburg. Ships normally sail in the late afternoon and, irrespective of distance, arrive in the next port of call at dawn, allowing the maximum time for a days’ sightseeing and shore trips. It is impressive looking down from the deck as the ship is pushed crablike sideways into its new berth using its hugely powerful side thrust engines. Imagine Selfridges being moored up in Oxford Street!
With so many choices available even on the same ship, passengers’ holidays will all be different. They will have had various reasons for choosing a cruise. It works well for mixed generation family celeb. Equally, it provides an ideal travel solution for divorced, widowed or single women. It is a perfect holiday for anyone with disability problems as sliding doors and lifts allow easy access around the ship. There is a mini Las Vegas for gamblers on larger ships, whereas smaller ships may only provide cards and board games; so for those of you who have never tried your hand at gambling, this is a chance to try out your beginners’ luck.
If you have time, it is a glamorous way to cross the Atlantic without jetlag, taking unlimited luggage and the opportunity to get dressed up in the evenings. Nightlife in such elegant surroundings is important with possibly four black-tie Gala nights on a two-week cruise, and a visit to the spa ensures your photograph with the captain will be a memorable souvenir!
Go on a cruise and enjoy all the luxurious establishments
Ships run to a tight schedule. On ‘sea days’, if like me, you are worried about putting on weight, help is at hand: the fit and healthy can visit the gym, climb an artificial rock wall, swim, play tennis, surf ride, have a few rounds of mini-golf or go skating. There are also lectures, workshops, Art Auctions for the would-be collectors and quizzes which arouse unexpected loyalty and team spirit. Ballroom dancing has replaced sailors dancing the hornpipe to provide exercise. The shows in the theatre are popular, though over-amplified with musicals, classical music and comedians.
A luxury cruise is good value as all meals are included, but drinks are expensive. There are two sittings for dinner in the main formal restaurants. The waiting staff are trained to make every meal ‘an occasion’ and a memorable Christmas at sea. As a respite from nightly three-course dinners, there is a buffet restaurant and a couple of good, but expensive, speciality restaurants. Extra temptation is offered in the pub, ice cream parlour, wine bar, and cocktail lounges, depending on which ship!
Go on a cruise without worrying about hygiene
Health and Safety are a priority, and all cruise lines have improved their safety standards for crew and passengers. Obligatory safety drills are more rigorous. Their message is clear as you are marshalled to your designated lifeboat area for a roll call shortly after embarkation, so rest assured and banish any memories of past horror stories.
Strict hygiene rules are in operation as illnesses such as norovirus are a significant risk with many people in a confined space and may result in ships failing US Immigration. There is an ongoing cleaning program in all public areas of the ship with mandatory hand sanitisers at restaurants and re-embarcation; staircase handrails gleam, and on a recent cruise, a recorded message reminded us to wash our hands. In addition, staterooms are cleaned and refreshed throughout the day.
Go on a cruise affordably by booking on time
Your choice of cruise line will be determined by where and when you want to travel, expense and for how long. Suppose you want a special interest cruise focused on history, music, art or archaeology with a guide lecturer onboard. It will be on a smaller ship that can access ports the larger ones cannot. They carry fewer passengers, they are quieter, more personal and are immensely enjoyable. Booking online is easy as all cruise lines have good websites and informative brochures, and you can call their agents directly for an unhurried discussion and advice on your trip. Take advantage of last-minute offers, and heavily discounted prices and ‘repositioning’ cruises are good value. An outside cabin is always preferable, but the usefulness of a balcony will depend on weather conditions.
Shore trips and excursions highlight your holiday, but they are expensive, so best to pre-book any you definitely want, especially if they involve complicated travel arrangements or limited numbers. Also, pre-booking is essential in any country like Russia, with visa restrictions.
Leave the rest till you are onboard and maybe attend some destination lectures. Once you feel confident, hiring a licensed local taxi or walking into town are good options. Your legs will feel different walking on dry land again!
It is reassuring to remember that Columbus was right, and the world is round, not flat, and cruising provides a great way to see it!