Traveller’s Fact File: A Cruising Guide For Beginners

23 October 2017

If you decide to embark on a cruise, instead of staying in a hotel on your next holiday, you could enjoy the voyage of a lifetime. Showing you what’s in store, here’s our cruising guide for beginners.

Getting there

Cruises depart from a range of ports across the world, from Miami to Barcelona to Hong Kong to Sydney. You can even arrange cruises which depart from ports here in the UK, for added convenience!

Exploring facilities

Enjoy a range of amenities on a cruise ship. You’ll have your own room, often referred to as ‘staterooms’, while you can also spend your time in multiple-room suites, and you may also have access to facilities such as complimentary tea and coffee and air conditioning. Some rooms provide no view, but others come with a balcony or even a veranda, so you can relax and watch the waters pass by. Modern innovations are even allowing some lines to provide views for guests in all rooms – on various Royal Caribbean vessels, the Interior Staterooms have virtual balconies!

Dining options can be extensive on a cruise, with both buffet and à la carte restaurants. The Celebrity Reflection ship is renowned for its dining. It offers everything from hearty food like soups and salads in its main Opus restaurant and breakfast buffets in the Oceanview Café, to elegant cuisine such as beef tartar in its sophisticated Luminae eatery. Other facilities you’ll find on a cruise include pools, spas, bars, duty-free shops, fitness centres, rock climbing walls and even ice rinks.

Miscellaneous issues

There are a few other things it’s essential to know about life on a cruise ship. Some food, drink and activities will come as complimentary, while others you’ll pay for. On most cruise ships you’ll travel full board, so the majority of your food will be complimentary. But you can also travel all-inclusive and pay nothing, depending on what company you’re sailing with.

Another issue that may come up is internet access. You may want to stay connected with your loved ones at home, but if you’re on a sea cruise then you’ll be sailing on international waters, where you can’t access the internet. A lot of cruise lines now offer Wi-Fi on their ships, and while some provide it as complimentary, others sell Wi-Fi packages that you can buy to stay connected while at sea.

Dock in port

The world’s your oyster when you’re on a cruise, as you’ll dock in various locations. The good thing about a cruise is you’ll often spend a day in each destination, allowing you to get a flavour of what to expect here, so you can come back for a longer holiday at your leisure. Cruises sail all over the world, from the Caribbean Islands and the coasts of Asia, to the South American Passage and the Antarctic.

You’ll experience a mix of locations on a cruise. Take the Holland America Line’s (HAL) upcoming ‘South America Passage’ cruise. While travelling on the ms. Zaandam passengers can view natural sites such as the ice-capped volcanoes at the Chilean Fjords and the ice fields of Glacier Alley, while losing themselves in the urban sprawls of Latin capitals like Santiago and Buenos Aires in the same trip.

Comparing cruise lines

There are a range of cruise lines on the market, each offering a unique experience. Fred Olsen is said to be the best line for ‘traditional’ cruise experiences. Its ships like the Black Watch are cosy, boast attentive staff and elegant dining options such as its Glentanar Restaurant which serves comfort cuisine. If you’re looking for super luxury on the other hand, Seabourn’s vessels – like the Ovation with its lustrous room furnishings, premium boutiques, casino and sky bar – are ideal for your cruise.

Cruising’s for everyone

Whoever you are, they’ll be a cruise to suit you. Cunard is an iconic cruise line, as their refined ships provide an elegant, timeless experience. The Queen Mary 2 has a range of features designed for the more discerning cruiser. It serves treats such as fresh scones at relaxed afternoon teas, has a Canyon Ranch Spa Club renowned for its signature facials, boasts the largest library at sea with 8,000 books, includes a full-scale Planetarium, hosts arts and crafts classes and more.

There are also ships which provide fun for all the family. The Norwegian Epic ship hosted by the Norwegian Cruise Line has a tonne of things to keep kids occupied, from an on-board aqua park with three slides and an ice-skating rink for the kids, to its chilly Svedka Ice Bar and award-winning Broadway-style entertainment for the adults. Royal Caribbean is another line which caters to families. Its Anthem of the Seas has dodgems, a skydiving simulator and a trapeze school, so the kid’s will be happy!

River vs. sea

Sea cruises are perhaps the most well known, but you can also take river cruises. There are a few key differences, with the most obvious that on a river cruise you can visit places unreachable via sea. Experience the highlights of the Rhine trop and you’ll dock in several popular riverside cities. This includes Basel – renowned for housing the tomb of 16th Century Dutch scholar Erasmus and Cologne – a popular spot with tourists for its iconic twin-spired cathedral and its nearby Phantasia Land family theme park.

River cruise ships tend to be more compact as they carry fewer passengers. You’ll often spend more time in port as river cruises don’t spend days at sea when sailing between destinations. You get whole cruise lines dedicated to these trips, like Viking River Cruises, known for providing an intimate experience. Their river cruises often carry no more than 190 guests via state-of-the-art ‘long ships’ and their itineraries tend to be destination heavy, so you can make the most of your foreign trip.

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