Here are the 10 things I have learnt about Cruising.
Up until recently I had never set foot on a cruise ship, but thanks to help from MSC, Oceania and Princess Cruises and collection of very knowledgeable cruise writers I have taken a fast track learning experience that has surprised me A LOT. All that is without even leaving the dock.
I am told there are no bad cruises. According to the experts it’s all in the choice…and there are a lot of them. You just need to find a cruise that best suits YOU. There is one thing cruises are known for and that is food. You will get plenty of it too, but now each cruise line seems to have taken this to the next level.
On the Sun Princess I met Rob. A nice gentleman who wanted to know why I was taking pictures of the desserts and not eating them!. He was on his 19th cruise. In fact he said, holding the back of his hand to his mouth in a whisper that they quite often don’t bother to go ashore on Port days any more. On the Oceania Insignia luxury cruise (which holds about 600 passengers) there are 200 doing the world 180 day tour. AND a couple that have done 1000 days cruising. What?
The one thing that I didn’t consider is that not everyone stays on board the ship along it’s whole route. That means you won’t necessarily be stuck with the same people for weeks on end. You’ll get a fresh batch almost every port
Here’s my 10 tips.
1. Ships are like big floating resorts or hotels. We all get that right?.
Well the more you know about your hotel facilities the better. Hit the ground running. Most cruises have a daily on board guide or even their own radio or video info loops that let you know what is on on each day. What shows are on, specials, attractions, seminars, classes, opening hours, how to navigate the ship, details about ports you’ll be visiting, what you are allowed to bring on and off the ship and timings for getting on and off. You name it. You may feel overwhelmed by the choices and the information in your first couple of days!
2. Did you know that cruise ships have laundromats?.
Well how did you think you were going to do your washing on that 3 week cruise?. Well… you can pay for a bagful to be collected from your cabin and washed for you, after all it is a holiday. Right?
3. Cabins are changing
There are a lot of fresh ideas when it comes to cabins on newer ships. More cabins face out to the water and more than ever have balconies. You can choose a cruise where you can stay in co-joined cabin or perhaps one with enough room for an upstairs bedroom a pull out sofa bed and two bathrooms (MSC Cruises). Princess cruises has invested in new mattresses and pillows that are so good passengers want to buy them at the completion of the cruise. Eveen bathrooms have changed. the new princess suites have spar baths and full showers. But for true and almost unbelievable luxury, you won’t believe these. I am still in shock.
Sun Princesses new beds
4. Everyone knows there are almost unbelievable amounts of food on cruises
There are of course the buffets where you can help yourself, but even these look a bit different on some cruises with outdoor eating areas and cosy corners (Oceania Insignia). MSC Cruises have outdoor promenade style cafes on the deck. There are 24 hour coffee shops and some that just open for a daytime cafe feel. Ice cream shops have become a thing as well as sushi bars, bakeries, chocolate shops, Italian restaurants, Steak houses and restaurants run by celebrity chefs. I tried the new Share (restaurant) by Curtis Stone when Sun Princess visited Sydney. He oversees the menu and operation. It’s a great concept because Sharing a plate of food is probably not an activity you will get to consider on most cruises. It makes for a very different experience.
There is butler cabin service 24 hours a day on some cruises too. Not all cruise lines include these extras in the price, and restaurants can only hold so many passengers. I was told in confidence that experienced cruisers book restaurants BEFORE they even leave the port. Just remember too, ships these days cater to everyone’s needs. Vegetarian, Vegan, Coeliac, Diabetics, and some ships even provide Spa cuisine too? That means you could actually loose weight on a cruise……as if you would want to.
Kai seafood restaurant, Sun Princess
The outdoor dining terrace on Oceania Insignia
5. Did you know you can fly and meet a cruise pretty much anywhere in the world.
Choose a cruise that suits you based on your interests as well as where you would like to travel. Cruising is as much about the sea time as the port time. There is a cruise for everyone, starting from any country pretty much anywhere in the world. You can jump on and off a cruise ship to suit your needs. Just as long as you are booked on or even off in a preplanned way. It’s all in the booking. Start reading sites like this one – cruise passenger or this one – cruise advise or even this one – cruise critic
6. Cruising can teach you a new skill
Cruising is a lot about sea time after all, you are travelling. The pool and the bar may become boring ( I wonder?). All cruise lines have considered this. Besides the on-board casino as an activity, (I’m joking), you can also learn a skill. Attend art classes, seminars, learn to cook, make cocktails, brush up on geography or history just as a start. There are also on board libraries, gyms, spas, hairdressers and don’t forget the shopping (that’s a skill too!)
7. Know where you are going and book early
Not all cruise lines provide Port excursions as part of the cost. In fact unless you have booked one of the luxury cabins in my link above, you will have to pay extra for them. But, if you want to cruise and have the on board staff organise your Port excursions for you, then knock yourself out that’s what they are there for. Just make sure you book early. If you like to take the more independent approach, then hope on the net and check out what you think you might like to do BEFORE you arrive in Port. A cruise liner waits for no late passenger. Just saying.
8. All cruise ships are not created equal
Cruising is growing at such an incredible rate that there is a lot of competition- for the individual cruise line companies, not you. You can pick and choose. You could benefit by travelling on a new or a newly refurbished ship. New bedding, bathrooms, large sports bars, more deck space, new pools, and trending activities. Things are changing all the time including WiFi access. You need to buy a package to access this but you may even get one thrown into the cost of your cruise. Research, research.
The Gym on board Oceania Insignia. Opens at 6 am closes at 10 pm
Oceania Insignia Bar
Sun Princess Sports bar
9. There is entertainment every night
Well you already knew that but it’s not all about dress up parties and drinking games. Some cruises have world class shows with well known dancers, and musicians and international show premiers. Cirque du Soleil partners with MSC cruises for example. There are comedy clubs, bowling alleys, cinemas, quartets playing in the lounge and singers crooning in the bar, so if you like live shows and music you are covered there too. There’s dinner and theatre then drinks in the casino. Every. Night. Sports bars provide access to all games so no one misses out.
Casino Oceania Insignia
Art on The Sun Princess
10. The obvious advantage is that you don’t have to drive home. Or even catch a dodgy taxi
I know it doesn’t really need to be said but there are lots of great bars and bartenders on cruise ships. You can drink beside the pool and no one will judge ( except your partner/ friends) . On Oceania Insignia there is a Margarita bar that serves 18 different kinds!. Drink responsibly and walk home (I said walk make sure you are not carried)
Check this out! This is a picture of the latest ship to join MSC Cruises’s next generation fleet, this one based in Miami. She is about to start sailing the Caribbean in December 2017. When I saw this ship my jaw hit the floor. It will cruise the Caribbean including Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas, the highlight being staying on MSC Cruises’ very own Ocean Cay – an exclusive marine reserve and island experience.
Like I said join a ship anywhere in the world.
Curtis Stone’s Wagyu Beef Pie on Share
Well, hope you have enjoyed this little peak into cruising.
Good luck searching out your own holiday. Just remember. Ask lots of questions and then…….relax if you can between all those activities, restaurants and entertainment.