Cruising is incredibly popular and for good reason. You arrive at a destination a couple of days before to have a good look around, then onboard you go, unpack only once for your week or two weeks and all your transport, accommodation and meals are taken care of.
I’ve talked to lots of people who would love to go on a cruise, but are not sure which ship or which destination would be best. So since I’m a 9-time veteran of the old cruise ship (and river boat) I thought I’d list 4 very different cruises to help you decide which might be right for you.
Alaska – I flew to Seattle and spent of couple of days shopping, drinking Starbucks – uggh I know, but this is the home of the burnt-tasting coffee so it would have been rude not to, and browsed through the famous Pike Place Market. Then onboard Holland America Line’s Westerdam bound for Alaska I went. This is a large ship. We’re talking 1900 passengers (that’s about 900 cabins) and another 800 crew.
There are 4 restaurants and all your meals are included as well as wine with dinner. You’ll be treated to 5-course dinners in the main dining room and Bomb Alaska was always a hit for dessert! Buffet breakfast and lunch have delicious choices, then there’s the snack joints if for some reason you get hungry. Actually these are good if you return from an excursion outside dining hours for a burger or nachos, etc. There is also a fancy restaurant where you pay about $20 per head and you’ll get lobster, filet mignon, etc.
You’ll need to bring formal gear for at least one “Captain’s Dinner”. Men can rent jackets or tuxedos onboard though. Us girls can pretty much get away with anything as long its black and you bling it up!
I met families who had brought young children and they were loving the onboard Kids Club even more than the Disney Cruise they’d done the year before.
Who would it suit? Families with young children, older folk who would enjoy the show and good food, and photography hobbyists who will be in their element with the amazing wildlife and glaciers.
Caribbean – Leaving out of Miami my sister and I enjoyed a couple of days at South Beach following our cruise. This was a week-long trip on the Carnival Liberty around the Western Caribbean stopping at Cozumel Mexico, Cayman Islands and Ocho Rios Jamaica. Carnival unashamedly call themselves the Party Ships and we had a fantastic time, laughing until we cried most days. This is a mega ship and the biggest I’ve been on with just under 3000 passengers and another 1200 crew.
The pool decks were crowded but we managed to find loungers together most afternoons. It’s a necessity to have your own balcony I say, so you can get away with a book and a cocktail on your own. There is an outdoor cinema screen, 2 pools, a huge water slide, teen-only areas including dance parties and kids clubs. There’s a casino, cinema and theatre and food aways available either from the main dining room, the buffet dining or outside of those hours, gourmet burgers and other snacks and ice creams.
Who would it suit? Groups of adult friends, uni students, families with teens.
Eastern Mediterranean – A couple of months ago I cruised for 8 days from Istanbul to Nice on a small boutique ship. Ponant’s L’Austral has 132 cabins taking up to 264 passengers and 139 crew.
This is best described as elegant and low key. You won’t have a cruise director interrupting your cabin via a TV broadcast of the day’s activities. You’ll have the ship doctor play jazz on the grand piano in one of the lounges. Food is not all-day dining but with afternoon tea wedged in between lunch and dinner, you won’t go hungry. Wine is included with lunch and dinner. You pay for alcohol on most other ships. There is a small theatre for evening shows and daytime lectures, afternoon tea served daily on cake stands and with this sized crowd you very soon get to know your fellow cruisers.
Who would it suit? Honeymooners, empty-nesters who have the money and want to explore new cities without the throng.
Murray River, Australia – Last year I joined a media group on a houseboat on the Murray River just out of Adelaide and had such a good time I’ve booked to go back this year with my husband and 10 friends.
Unforgettable Houseboats has 11 boats of varying sizes in their fleet and the prices are very good when you divvy it up over a whole group. They range from 2 to 6 cabins, sleeping up to 12. The larger ones have a jacuzzi on the top deck and all come with a bbq as well as a fully kitted kitchen including oven, microwave and dishwasher. You drive it yourself after a quick lesson with the owner, and it’s actually very easy. You join the river at Mannum, nearly an hour from Adelaide,and can have the boat stocked with food for you or buy it on your way through the city. The river is gentle and quiet. Some may find it boring as the scenery changes little, but you can rent kayaks, jet skis and fishing rods to amuse yourselves.
Who would it suit? Two families with kids who’d enjoy the kayaks and fishing or a group of up to 6 couples for long nights with a cheeky wine in the spa pool under the stars.