I’m probably preaching to more than the converted about holidaying on the ocean waves as so many of us have been on at least one cruise. But for those few who have yet to indulge, go on – `Pick a Cruise,’ it’s a worthwhile experience!
In the same way that Christmas is now well behind us, yet soon we’ll be booking our favourite restaurants or venues to celebrate the next yuletide outing, now – or even earlier – is the time to start flicking through the cruise company catalogues to choose a trip that takes your fancy out at sea during the warmer months shortly to be with us during 2020.
Well, it is value for money: one payment and you’re fed, thirst-quenched, entertained and delivered to a number of destinations without having to lift a finger or spending an extra penny – and there are now drinks packages included in the price! I’ve been on a number of them, including river cruises which are more intimate and becoming very popular also. You may have heard about the abundance of food on offer on cruise ships throughout most of the day… well it’s true. You have the self-service restaurants for breakfast and lunch, the main dining restaurant in the evening as well as the cafe for tea, sandwiches and cakes in the afternoons – food is everywhere. For a more intimate venue and perhaps a touch of romance there are chic eateries which you can visit for an extra charge. The issue is if you’re into food, on a cruise you can stuff your face to your heart’s content, however, ladies need to watch out and concentrate on a `morsel-picking-discipline’ and ignore the delicious dishes you’ll be tempted to gorge on if you’re concerned about putting on weight. But on board there are plenty of ways to exercise in a fully equipped gym, deck games and the ever popular power walks around the ship on a clearly, marked-out deck… and don’t forget the must-take-with-you bottle of water and iPod! Your comfy stateroom (as they’re called these days), awaits you for an afternoon rest before it all kicks off again with more food, drink and entertainment. As you relax, those with a balcony can sunbathe with very little on with only the odd seagull or flying fish to take a peep.
The entertainment offered is normally first class with singers, dancers, comedians and others in a fully functional theatre just like the West End. There are ice shows and any number of bars and lounges with more entertainment to keep you well oiled through the night sipping cocktails, a good selection of beers and best wines. Drinks generally have to be paid for unless you have a drinks’ package. Shops, a sauna, spa, massage parlour and beauty salon are where you can spend a little more cash if you want to and you’ll find an art gallery, library and cinema, board games room and even a bingo session or two, all for free, or perhaps spend a little more in the casino or the handful of shops selling top branded goods… plenty to keep you busy throughout your cruise. The ship is run just like a four or five star hotel. All of your spending is done with your Sea Pass credit card which also serves as your stateroom key and ID for getting on and off the ship. Whatever you spend on board is deducted from your card or cards at the end of the cruise, so you can freely have fun and spend – prudently of course! It’s also good to learn about the layout of the ship to get from A to B. Today’s cruise ships are very big, built on 12 or 13 decks so it’s easy to lose your sense of direction. Meeting the Captain happens once when you queue up to shake hands and exchange a quick hello. He’s a busy man and hasn’t a lot of free time for much else. There is one other expense which you need to be aware of and that’s tipping: you’re expected to tip your stateroom attendant and waiters. The service provided is second to none and all the individuals are very pleasant and helpful. Whether extra niceness is put on is difficult to suss out but most seem pretty genuine. Through training and having dealt with so many cruise enthusiasts over time, it probably comes as second nature to them. These days you’re expected to pay specific amounts for stateroom attendants and restaurant staff.
Destinations are usually looked forward to and great to visit. It’s certainly a handy way to get to know places without having to spend all that time in departure lounges, hopping on and off planes, and probably much cheaper considering all that’s included in your one-off-payment-cruise. Tours are offered on board at a price… and what a price! My experience has taught me to get off the ship and make your own way to whichever tourist attraction you fancy. I know some local travellers tend to book all or most of what’s offered on board at a hefty price – this applies also to photographs taken on your cruise from as soon as you come on board to everywhere else – restaurants, gala and fun nights and almost every other activity. My view is to choose carefully what you’re really interested to see and which photographs you’d like to have and not book and buy everything. Some so-called tourist attractions are often not all they’re cracked up to be, in my experience. Clearly it’s the aim of the cruise lines to make as much as they can on each cruise by inviting you to spend and spend at will – as long as you’re in agreement of course – you’re not forced. Spend wisely. Once you’ve done a couple of cruises you begin to sort out what your preferences are and choose accordingly. Looking after your cruise budget is all important. Places of Worship, castles, citadels, fortresses, art galleries and so much more to see if you really want to. For me… well, how many cathedrals, art galleries and old ruins do I want to visit? Call me a philistine if you will but there is a limit. My interest is directed more to the folklore of a place, concerts – classical or otherwise – and how countries have developed but hey, horses for courses and the choice is yours.
All of the above can be experienced on a cruise, sea-going or on a famous river. These days cruising enthusiasts are sailing on ships operating across the world from Alaska to Vietnam, they’re all available for you to choose and think carefully about your preference. They’re certainly value for money whichever you choose and it’s up to you how to spend your time onboard or whilst ashore. Save and count and then count again and when you’re ready, grab those socks full of cash and visit your favourite Travel Agent or dabble on the internet thing and find the best deal on offer… Happy 2020 cruising!