The Meaning of Cruise - April 2014
Helen Worthington – 25-04-2014
Cruising is getting more exciting and more innovative every year and as a result of this it is true to say that there really is a cruise to suit every style and every budget.
Yes - everyone has at least one cruise in them!!
This what a cruise means to me:
C stands for cruise lines –I can book you on any of over 40 different ocean cruise lines, from Azamara Club Cruises to Voyages to Antiquity or Hurtigruten to Regent Seven Seas via Star Clipper and Disney Cruise Lines. There are ‘soft’ expedition cruises for the adventurous and luxury cruises with cruise lines ranging from Silversea to Hapag Lloyd. You can cruise under full sail, lie in the rigging and watch dolphins swim alongside or take a banana boat out from the swimming platform. What about a historic and cultural small ship cruise to ancient Mediterranean civilisations or a round Britain cruise featuring RHS gardens or National Trust properties? Why not sail on the largest cruise ship afloat, eat 28 day old aged steak or watch fireworks at sea. The range of possibilities is endless.
R is for river cruising which is becoming increasingly popular. This is not just on European rivers where the Douro, Po, Elbe, Dordogne and Vistula are opening their waters to new itineraries, but further afield on the Snake and paddle steamer-ed Mississippi rivers in the USA, as well as the Arakan and the Salween rivers in Burma. River cruise ships are being launched at a phenomenal rate, but demand still outstrips capacity and there are seldom good last minute offers around. Different river cruise lines include wide ranges of ‘extras’ in their price – from shore excursions to the use of ships bikes, alternative dining venues and complimentary drinks with meals, to home pick up services. You can travel to the ship by plane, train or coach depending on the itinerary and it really does pay to book early (often a year in advance), to secure the cabin of your choice on the date you want to travel.
U means you choose!! Do you want a 2 night taster cruise, a weekend break or a venue for a hen party? Can you spare only 7 nights, want a fill in cruise for a few days whilst holidaying in Europe or have you got 89 days to spend embarking on a World Cruise? If duration is important to you sailing to the Med and back from Southampton takes 14 nights, whereas if you fly to somewhere in Europe you can cruise for 7 nights and still visit the same number of ports. Don’t forget too, a flight to the USA is the same price whether you cruise for 7 or 14 nights – why not spend some time on land and make the most of the cost of your flight. Back to back cruises allow you to extend your holiday and companies like Holland America and others that don’t repeat itineraries, routinely offer cruises of 30+ nights. How romantic would it be to tie the knot at sea or renew wedding vows? What about a landmark birthday with all the family (several generations, say) in one of the new Royal Caribbean family suites where you can all be together? Did you always say that when you retired you would sail into New York, glide past St Marks into Venice, drop anchor and walk into Sorrento or sail through the Panama Canal. Do you fancy a musical cruise with the London Festival Opera on board, a jazz cruise, one revolving round chocolate or wine tasting, taking shore excursions as rambles or rounds of golf (in the Caribbean say). You can knit and star gaze. If that’s not enough (or indeed too much) why not just visit the Spa on board and be truly pampered? Have a head massage, a hot stones massage, a pedicure or facial and watch out for the daily spa offers. They are usually very good value for money on port days when the majority of passengers are ashore.
I is for itineraries which are one of the most exciting parts of cruising. There are seven continents and ships cruise to each of them at different times of the year. World Cruises tend to chase the sun, leaving the UK in January, sailing via Cape Town or South America, the Panama or Suez Canals to the Far East and Australasia and arriving back at the end of the winter. Grand Voyages are similar to World Cruises, but tend to be more port intensive (ie. less days at sea), focus on specific regions and don’t just sail in winter. Of course, it is also possible to do sectors of World Cruises anything from 8 nights upwards. There are cruising seasons: summer for the Mediterranean, winter for the Caribbean and the weather also determines cruising in the Far East, on European rivers (the season starts with cruise to the Dutch Bulb fields and Belgium in spring) and the best times to sail to places like Antarctica and Tahiti. Repositioning cruises – where cruise ships sail from one region to another to undertake different itineraries can often represent excellent value for money and are often cruises of longer than usual duration – MSC sail from Europe to South America on 18-20 night itineraries. British and American ships reposition between the Caribbean and Mediterranean in different ways – American ships sail from the US to Britain or Europe and call at ports in Europe (Canaries & Azores), whereas British ships call at more Caribbean ports on the journey. Why not combine an Alaskan cruise with a Panama Canal transit to Florida (or vice versa) in either spring or autumn? There are ships based all year round in ports too: in the UK, throughout the Mediterranean and Florida and Hurtigruten sail every day from Bergen, 365 days a year on their Classic Voyage to Kirkenes and back.
S stands for Service, which is what sets cruise holidays apart from other types of vacation in my book. From the pre booking stage to arriving home, my role is to help you with all aspects of your holiday. Perhaps your cruise starts at the airport or station or when you drive up to the dock to unload your luggage, but once you embark your ship, the staff are there to assist you at every turn. Whether it is your cabin steward, the wine waiter who remembers you from a previous cruise, the bar staff who soon learn exactly how much ice you prefer in your drink or the staff in the Children’s Clubs who welcome your children with a wide smile. A cruise ship may carry over 2000 passengers but don’t forget the ship will also house all the hotel staff and ships crew as well. There is a large community living under you at all times! On mainstream cruise ships there is typically 1 crew member for every 3 passengers but on luxury cruise ships (where you may even enjoy the services of your own Butler) the ratio is closer 1:1.5 passengers. Service also raises the thorny subject of gratuities! Socially, us Brits usually tip for good service, or for something over and beyond the call of duty, whilst Americans and Australians add gratuities as a matter of course, as the tip is actually the wages for the service providers, in their home countries. Many of the luxury cruise lines include gratuities in their fare prices, as do some of the river cruise lines. On the rest of the river cruise ships, gratuities are at your discretion. There is usually a suggested amount per day, but you place a plain envelope with your tip in, in a box on the Reception desk. For the rest of the ocean cruise lines, it is becoming increasingly common for the gratuities to be added to your on board account, as a matter of course (assuming you haven’t pre paid them). You can ask for these to be removed (and pay staff independently), but don’t wait until the last day to do this!! Also, check the amounts charged – if you are going to pay your gratuities anyway, it may be cheaper to pre pay in sterling, rather than settle up in euros or dollars, depending on the on board currency used.
E relates to Entertainment, which means different things to different people and on a cruise ship, this is definitely the case! Modern cruise ships may have Aqua Theatres, ice rinks, dodgem cars, large outdoor movie screens, planetariums, 10 pin bowling alleys, carousels and TV studios. You can watch shows like the Blue Man Group, Mama Mia! Hairspray and Cirque du Soleil, Chicago and Saturday Night Fever. What about fencing or cookery lessons, wine tasting or more traditionally learning to dance or play bridge? There are Children’s Clubs usually from 2 – 17 years of age and cruises with celebrity acts appearing throughout the cruise – be it famous singers, dancers, entertainers, renowned speakers or celebrity chefs. Finally, there is the sea, quiet spaces to get away from it all and read a good book, relax, listening to a favourite piece of classical music or just take in the sights.
I hope this has ‘tickled your travel buds’ and given you some idea of the scope of what is available in the cruising world at the moment.
I should be happy to discuss any aspect of cruising – be it on oceans or rivers – with you at any time, so if you have any queries or anything I can help you with, please get in touch!
My aim is to ensure that all my clients embark on the ship and itinerary which suits them best!!