As an award winning *cough* cruise writer and blogger and after spending many years of hard work and dedication trying out a huge variety of different cruise holidays (I do the research so you don’t have to – you’re welcome), I’d say I’m as qualified as anyone to give a bit of a rundown on the huge variety of cruises, as well as giving you a few tips about choosing your ideal cruise holiday. As I pointed out in my guide for first time cruisers, there really is a cruise for everyone – you just need to find the one for you. This depends mostly on the cruise line you choose and the kind of itinerary that you plump for. To be honest, researching a cruise holiday can be a bit overwhelming, with so much information available online and with so many cruise travel agents all with their own advice to give, so I thought I’d take a bit of time to break it all down for you, so you can see which cruise is right for you.
If you’re looking for a fun-filled family holiday, you should check out P&O Cruises, Marella Cruises or Royal Caribbean. These lines have ships chock full of entertainment and activities for all the family; imagine a theme park at sea, throw in the sun drenched Caribbean or Mediterranean and you’re just about there. I’d say the main difference between these cruise lines would probably be cultural, and based generally on their target audiences. Royal Caribbean is an American cruise line with a focus on supersizing everything. Their technology-heavy ‘smart ships’ are packed full of water parks, robotic bartenders, virtual reality trampolines and all-American style shows. Meanwhile, P&O is boldly British, with shows such as ‘Astonishing‘, an all-new magic show by Stephen Mulhern, and focusing on themes that are big in the UK (they hosted an episode of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway onboard their flagship Britannia, and even offer Strictly-themed cruises). P&O’s new ship Iona will be giving Royal Caribbean a run for their money, carrying 6000 guests and boasting new features like the whizzy new SkyDome, an entertainment hub inside an impressive glass dome boasting a pool with a retractable stage, which will host everything from deck parties to aerial performances. Add to this, fabulous cuisine provided by P&O’s food heroes and a reputation for brilliant itineraries – everything from short breaks to paradise islands – and P&O are a cruise force to be reckoned with.
Cruise and Stay
The best thing about cruising is that you don’t have to pack and unpack multiple times. I know I’ve said it before, but waking up in a new port is honestly one of my favourite things. If you’re interested in exploring, a cruise and stay holiday is the best way to capitalise on this, by combining your cruise with a land-based break. This could be anything from a few days in Walt Disney World, Florida, followed by a relaxing Caribbean cruise, to a traditional Cunard transatlantic voyage with a long weekend in New York.
If you’re a nature lover, an expedition cruise is definitely the best way to observe some of the world’s most gorgeous natural habitats in all their glory. From observing the wonders of the Galapagos Islands on board Celebrity’s new ship Flora, specially designed to be environmentally sustainable (an issue that you know is close to my heart), to taking in the breathtaking fjords and glaciers of Alaska, spotting whales and other polar wildlife before taking a trip inland to the awesome Rocky Mountains. You can even make this part of a cruise and stay holiday by booking a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer railroad to go hand in hand with your time along the coast.
If you want something a bit more quiet and intimate, Cruise and Maritime Voyages are experts in adult-only cruise getaways that’ll make you feel right at home. They have smaller, more intimate ships that let you unwind and take in ports other ships are too large to gain access to. These smaller voyages give you a chance to really mix with the rest of the guests and crew and result in them being labelled the friendliest ships at sea. Along with seeing fantastic destinations up close such as the Greek islands, Norwegian fjords or Scottish Hebrides, they provide expert guest speakers and cultural workshops onboard to really enhance this enriching experience and make the most of each fascinating destination when on land.
Other cruise lines also have great enrichment programs and interesting niches onboard too. Viking Cruises have even branched out into horticulture, sponsoring a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, and art, sponsoring the gorgeous Ocean Liners: Speed & Style exhibition at the V&A. Meanwhile, Celestyal Cruises, mostly sailing around the Greek islands, offer the opportunity to immerse yourself in Greek culture, and explore ancient cities and fascinating UNESCO sites with an expert tour guide, perfectly combined with cultural events onboard as well.
Messing about on the river
When you think of cruising, many people just think of the big ocean-going cruise ships, but river cruising is gaining in popularity as well. Imagine sailing the Mississippi with the American Steamboat Company on an old-timer paddle steamer, or travelling Asian rivers such as the Yangtze (very excited to tell you that I’m going to be doing this for Cruise International in October!). Realistically, the most booming waterways are the iconic rivers that span Europe such as the Rhine and Danube. From here, you can traverse a variety of countries in one trip and see Europe’s most famous cities such as Budapest, Vienna, Cologne and Amsterdam (it’s like a new city break every day!). Uniworld have even designed ‘hipster’ river cruises on their new concept ships. The A and The B are like floating boutique hotels, where you can consult a wellness coach, sip a smoothie and, of course, Instagram your progress to your waiting audience.
Phew! Something for everyone there, I feel. As always, if you have any cruise-related questions or need any advice on deciding which cruise is right for you, drop me a line. If I don’t know the answer, I’m bound to know someone who will!