Christmas is over, and we are about to hit what the holiday business calls The Peaks, the best time to book your summer holiday in the sun, when prices are likely to be significantly lower and there will be much better availability. But for Cruises, booking can be much further in advance, with cruise lines already filling Winter 2019 and Summer 2020. Cruising is booming, and not just among the old and doddery. Many cruise lines cater for young families and when we say “cater” it is not just a case of throwing in a basic Kids Club. Forward thinking cruise lines have so many activities that kids of all ages will want to do, that you will have a major struggle to get them off the boat…. Sorry, off the ship.
Traditional reasons for not cruising like, “It’s expensive”, or “I’ll feel seasick” or ‘What happens if I don’t get catch the ship in a foreign port” hardly apply to modern cruise liners. I will look at particular cruise destinations and activities in more detail in future posts. This post will confine itself to a brief introduction to Cruising for people who have not cruised before.
Disney Cruises are obviously aimed at the younger generation, and feature many of the things you would find in a Disney Park. Destination wise they are somewhat limited, with the Caribbean being a particularly well served destination…… all those pirates! There are also Disney Cruises along the Nordic Coast. This is a good option for those who do not want to drag small children through airports as the ship departs from and returns to Southampton.
Children who are a little older would perhaps benefit from the facilities offered by MSC or by Norwegian. Cruise companies are falling over themselves to compete for this market sector, so we see Flow riders, and racing cars, sea slides and shoot ‘em up games, both computer and paintball type. Junior Master Chef classes and other educational but fun sessions compete with amazing swimming pools.
Cruises have been criticised for being expensive, and this can be the case. However they tend to offer terrific value for money. A typical night on, say, a Norwegian Cruise, might cost £100 per person, but for that money, their Premium Inclusive includes fabulous food at a huge variety of eating outlets, drinks, activities on the boat, a West End style show. That sort of day on land would cost far more than it does on sea. Of course, you might not want to spend every day of your holiday being wined, dined and entertained (unlikely, but possible). There are cruise lines where everything is optional, so you can control your expenses more carefully.
One factor of cruising that attracts both praise and criticism is that you see a lot of places on the same holiday, but only have to unpack once. If, for example, you cannot choose whether to visit France, Italy, Greece or Croatia, why not choose all of them? On the other hand, will you really get to “see” and experience any of these destinations if you only spend one or two days in each one? Some cruise lines will address this by spending longer in a particular destination, particularly those which arrange excursions to ancient sites. Others may seem as if the excursion is just an appendage to a very luxurious time on board.
And that is the attraction about cruising: there really is a cruise for everyone. Norwegian describe their ships as having everything a top class resort has to offer, but they change the scenery every day. It’s not just about being in a different locations. One of their main public spaces has huge LED screens in place of windows, so the view can change from sea to jungle, from urban to mountain at the flick of a switch.
Some cruises only accept adults, some will focus in greater depth on the destinations that they visit. Some are huge ships accommodating 5,000 guests, others are more intimate, offering accommodation for just over 100. More and more attention is being placed on providing the utmost luxury, with spacious suites or staterooms, magnificent food and drink, spas, gyms, libraries. Destinations are from Alaska to China, from the North Pole to the Antarctic. And that is just the oceans. River cruising is also booming in popularity, with cruise companies running cruises along pretty much every major river, from the Rhone to the Rhine, the Danube to the Volga, the Ganges to the Mekong.
Seeing a destination from the water can provide an entirely different perspective, and the choice of cruise company can be critical. Viking, for example, own many of the berths in the centre of towns and cities, and this can make a huge difference to the amount that you can see in the time you have on board. Particular mention should be made of Hurtigruten, a Norwegian line, which, among other cruises, offers a cruise to see the Northern Lights. There is obviously much less light pollution at sea, so the view is better, and apparently a much better chance of seeing them. In fact so confident are they of being able to arrange a sighting, they provide a guarantee that if you do not, you get a 7 days cruise free of charge to try again. This offer only needs to be taken up in 1% of tourists.
Over the next few weeks we will be writing in more depth about particular cruises and destinations. We hope that this post will persuade you to consider including a cruise in your travel plans over the next few years. But be warned, once you have done one cruise, there is a very substantial chance that you will want to do another.