‘Nay-sailors’ bulk at the idea of paying a fortune to be crammed on to a floating ship with a couple of thousand people for days or weeks on end and queuing for buffet food. But is this the reality?
Let’s take a look at some of these concerns, which, as a committed cruising convert, I now refer to as myths.
MYTH NO.1: CRUISE SHIPS ARE TOO CROWDED
Myth busted: Yep, there are a lot of people on board but you can find quiet nooks in places like lounges, the library, chapel, spa zone, a quiet coffee shop or on a deckchair away from the pool. And staterooms may not be cavernous but you might only use them to bathe, dress and sleep. A stateroom with an outside balcony is recommended if you want a private alcove — staring out across the open blue is endlessly cathartic.
Most ships have adults-only pool areas and lots of bars and restaurants, which are only as full as their land-based equivalents. And you can pay for exclusivity. For example, AquaClass guests on Celebrity Cruises have unlimited access to the spa relaxation room and their own restaurant.
MYTH NO.2: I COULDN’T STAND BEING STUCK ON A SHIP FOR DAYS WITH NOTHING TO DO
Myth busted: Actually, there is so much to do cruise lines have taken to declaring “the ship is the destination”. A race among cruise lines looking for the next wow-factor has led to a rapid escalation in shipboard activities. There are ships with wave riders, water slides and water flumes, indoor skydiving, bumper cars, climbing walls, ropes courses, bungee trampolines, ice skating, zip lines, ten pin bowling, Formula 1 race car simulators and even robotic bartenders. Not even the sky is the limit. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas actually has a London Eye — inspired observation pod that extends out over the water. And Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced its next ship, Norwegian Bliss will have a two-level electric car track.
Standard entertainment on most big ships includes Broadway-style shows, comedians, magicians, bands and themed parties. You can work out in the gym, learn a dance or language, play trivia, gamble in casinos, sing karaoke, watch movies on big outdoor screens, attend lectures and craft workshops or chill at the piano bar. You can pay for a spa treatment or a wine, whiskey, sake or cocktail appreciation course. And all of this is on the ship. Exotic ports-of-call await.
MYTH NO.3: I’M A FOOD SNOB AND I DON’T LIKE BUFFETS
Myth busted: Another benefit of the nautical-upmanship has been the competition in cuisine. All standard meals are included in the fare — including restaurant-quality dinners — but most ships also boast fine-dining specialty restaurants for an additional — and usually reasonable — cost. Michelin-starred influences abound — think ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa on Crystal, Jamie Oliver on Royal Caribbean, Guy Fieri on Carnival, Jose Garces on Norwegian and our very own Curtis Stone on Princess. The eclectic Qsine restaurants on Celebrity are as funky a dining experience as you’ll find anywhere with groovy decor, clever international share plates and ordering by tablet.
Buffets are still around but the range and quality is more than acceptable. And you can always avoid the queues by ordering room service. P&O has replaced the buffet on four of its ships with a cafe-style concept called The Pantry. Cruise lines often host celebrity chefs and offer food and wine-themes, including Holland America Line’s popular America’s Test Kitchen and Crystal’s Experiences of Discover.
MYTH NO.4: IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE
Myth busted: All meals, entertainment and daily serviced accommodation (plus a turndown service with a towel sculpture) are usually included in a fare that is often cheaper than the price of a resort hotel room. Cruises start from about $100 a day. You’ll pay for your drinks, restaurant upgrades and spa treatments but the cost of these generally compares favourably with land-based resorts. Choose your shore excursions wisely. Sometimes a local tourist map will suffice. Then again, holidays always cost more than you planned and you’ll be talking about snorkelling with turtles and dolphins or shopping and cooking with a local Nonna or drinking water from the glacial stream you reached by helicopter long after the Visa pain has passed.
MYTH NO.5: CRUISE SHIPS ARE PACKED WITH OLD PEOPLE/DRUNKS/NOISY KIDS
Myth busted: Well, yes and no. Seniors do make up a fair proportion of cruisers but they are mostly active and interesting. “Booze cruises” are rare these days and cruises without drinks packages attract fewer party animals. Some cruises are more kid-friendly than others and seasoned cruisers go outside of school holidays to reduce the splash factor on the Lido Deck. Talk to a cruise agent (like myself) so we can place you on the right ship,, itineraries and demographics.
READY TO CRUISE? Contact me today. As a Certified Cruise Specialist, you can’t go wrong!
(except from Escape)