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Choosing the Best Cruise.
A Guest Post by Kathy Marris.
I remember a time when I thought cruises were a little too laid back and boring for my liking. In addition I had this preconceived notion that they were like floating retirement villages for senior citizens! I couldn’t be more wrong! A cruise can be one of the best holiday experiences ever. It all comes down to choosing the right cruise for you and your particular preferences.
The main advantages of cruises over land tours are you only have to unpack once rather than lugging your suitcase around, there are activities and entertainment to suit everyone of every age group, you can be as active or inactive as you like, everything is taken care of from room service to meals and you get to travel to a different port everyday and chose from a wide range of excursions off the ship.
Ed’s Note: You might like to read some of these posts – you’ll find over 50 helpful cruise articles from cruise tips to destinations to cruise excursions on this page: Cruising
Types of Cruise Ships
Cruise ships are classified into 3 different categories:
- Luxury ocean liner cruises or large resort ships that carry between 1200 to 6000 passengers.
- Mid-size ships carrying 500 to 1200 passengers
- Boutique & river ships catering for 50 to 500 passengers
Large Resort Ships
Resort is a very apt word for these luxury ocean liners. These floating resort hotels feature gymnasiums, day spas, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, jacuzzis, shopping galleries, libraries, internet cafes, hair salons, live shows, casinos, mini golf, coffee shops, rock climbing walls, kid’s games rooms, live musical entertainment, lounge areas, movie theatres, activities galore, indoor and outdoor bars and a selection of restaurants ranging from fine dining to buffet eating. Basically you could spend every day on these resorts at sea and never be bored because there is a list of activities pages long, to enjoy each and every day.
As for the cabins or staterooms, you have a choice of inside, outside, balcony, suite, penthouse or villa. The cabins are quiet spacious, all with ocean views (excluding the inside cabins), ensuite bathrooms, comfortable queen size beds, flat screen TVs, wardrobes, desks, sofa, table and chairs on balconies, mini bars, tea/coffee making facilities, hairdryers, bathroom products and bath robes. You also have your own cabin attendant who is available to serve you day or night. My tip is to be nice to your cabin attendant and reward them well at the end of the cruise because they are absolute angels.
I haven’t personally cruised on a mid-size ship, but I guess if you don’t like the idea of being aboard a cruise with thousands of other passengers, then this would probably suit you. Although they don’t quiet have the same features as the large ships they still pack a punch with a good range of activities and onboard entertainment. The other advantage of mid-size ships is that they are well suited to smaller ports, which allow cruise lines to operate itineraries that aren’t accessible by the larger ships.
They also offer the same choice of cabins as the larger ships and because of their smaller size it is much easier to find your way around the ship. The other great thing is that when taking into account the ratio of passenger numbers to available facilities, there are less crowds and waiting queues. We are embarking on a Mediterranean Sea cruise in April on a mid-size ship with the maximum number of passengers being 1900, so this will be a new experience for us.
Boutique & River Ships
If you are seeking a more intimate cruise experience with personalised service, a small ship would suit you to a tee. However if you are budget minded, they are generally a lot more expensive than the bigger ships. Boutique ships offer a quieter more relaxed experience with fewer passengers, facilities, entertainment and dining options.
Of course the big advantage of these smaller ships is that they have access to off-the-beaten-track ports with culturally rich and unique destinations on their itineraries.
These ships can be anything from coastal vessels, river cruise ships, sailing ships or expedition ships that take you on nature-based journeys. We have for example undertaken a Halong Bay cruise in Vietnam with only 60 passengers onboard, where we sailed between these unique monoliths of the sea.
Cruise destinations are broken up into twelve main world regions:
- European Rivers
- Norwegian Fjords
- Scandinavia & Baltic
- South America
- South Pacific & New Zealand
Each cruise line offers an individual itinerary for each of their ships stopping at different ports. Once you have selected the region you would like to cruise to, my advice is to compare each cruise line and barter with them for inclusions and extras. Request stateroom upgrades, onboard credits, air fare credits, dining experiences, beverage packages or cruise excursions. You will find that most of the cruise lines are competitive with their prices, particularly if they are trying to fill their ships with passengers. Also be on the lookout for re-positioning and last minute cruise deals as they are generally much cheaper.
Lastly, I would recommend that you select a cruise that suits your personality and expectations. There is no point in going on a Disney cruise if you don’t want to cruise with a lot of children and if you dislike crowds stick to the smaller cruise ships. There are several options available with different cruise lines, such as:
- Cruises that offer exotic scenery like the Seabourn Encore’s 34-day Seas of Sinbad voyage, which takes in the Greece’s eastern Mediterranean coast, Israel, Oman, Jordan, India, the Malay Peninsula and Singapore.
- A culinary escapade aboard Oceania Cruises specialising in tempting the tastebuds of gourmet travellers, where you might visit destinations such as Spain, Portugal, Morocco, France, Italy and Greece.
- Adventure cruising aboard Azamara Club Cruise’s 12-night Fjords & Iceland Voyage from Copenhagen in Denmark to Southampton in England, takes in stunning countryside and includes hiking.
- Island hopping in the Pacific Ocean with P&O Cruise’s Pacific Explorer 10-night Discover Vanuatu visits Noumea, New Caledonia, Lifou, Port Vila and Mystery Island.
Cruising holiday options are endless really. It is all a matter of taste and selecting a cruise that best matches your personality. Cruising these days is a completely different experience to what is was 20 years ago. In fact the number of Australians taking an ocean cruise this year alone has reached a new record of over 1 million, reinforcing the notion that cruising is the ultimate holiday experience.
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A big Thank You to Kathy for writing this really really informative post about cruising. If you’d like to read more about Kathy’s cruise adventures and travel tales from around the world and Australia, then pop over to her blog at 50 Shades of Age or join her on Facebook.
Have you any tips to add about how to choose a great cruise?
Janet Camilleri (@middleagedmama1)
There are so many cruises I would still love to do! Thanks for giving me a few moments out of the day to dream a little …
Hello Janet, I know, me too. So so many.
It’s a pleasure, and thank you Kathy. Really looking forward to hearing about your next adventure on a mid-size cruise ship 🙂
Cruising holidays really are about personal preference, so I hope I’ve been able to give readers an insight into what you can choose from. I have cruised on two of the larger ocean liners and one smaller junk boat and enjoyed all three experiences equally. Next month I’m embarking on a cruise on a mid-size ship so will be able to make a comparison to the previous cruises I’ve been on. I highly recommend a cruise holiday to travellers as you can design it around your own desires. Thanks for hosting me Jo. 🙂
I haven’t embraced the cruising holiday yet but I think we will in the future. I’d like to start with a river boat cruise. I’ve always fancied one on the Mekong or the Douro in Portugal. I’ve been on large boats before (Italy to Greece) and (Melbourne to Hobart) and I couldn’t bear to be inside. Maybe I’ll have to sleep and eat on deck lol. I know this is how they do it in Turkey.
Hey Jan, oh yes, a river boat cruise would be lovely – I’d love to do the Mekong and the Douro. Maybe if you do a large-ship cruise you should try and book a cabin with a balcony. I honestly didn’t feel enclosed at all, and was at all times able to fix my gaze on the horizon if necessary. Just knowing you could step out and gaze at the sunset or sunrise was blissful – and breakfast in bed with a view was a real pampering privilege!