With over three-quarters of the earth’s surface covered by water, it’s not surprising that cruise holidays are such a big part of the travel industry.
Traditionally adored by an elderly clientele, cruises have evolved to offer something for everyone. Last year, over two million UK holidaymakers climbed abroad a variety of ships to venture across the sea or down a river. Many headed out of Southampton to discover Europe’s ancient waterside cities, while others jetted off to join cruiseliners destined for the assured sunshine of the Carribean.
With over 60 cruises to choose from on more than 300 ships, selecting what type of vessel will suit your needs can be difficult. Cruise ships cater to all ages offering a range of appropriate activities. And as a rule, the more substantial the ship, the more extensive the range of activities. So if you are travelling as a family or group, this would be an excellent point to start your search. If you are travelling solo or as a gender-specific group then the opposite advice is more applicable. However, your ideal ship size may also depend upon your chosen destination.
Every continent and many inland countries can be explored via a cruise ship, and the Mediterranean has been a firm favourite amongst most Brits for many years. However, the colder climates of Scandinavia and Alaska have recently seen a surge in popularity with holidaymakers eager to catch a glimpse of the elusive Aurora Borealis or a breaching whale. Likewise, further afield cruise regulars are turning their backs on the traditional sunsets of the Caribbean to venture into the unusual far-flung waters of The Galapagos and Antarctica
Your destination determines your type of holiday and size of the ship, but do they match your holiday ambition? For some, the chance to hop on and off a ship to absorb the cultural delights of multiple European cities is the goal for their vacation. For others, the allure of a cruise is the relaxed nature of sunbathing between gorgeously deserted islands with little or nothing to do other than eat, swim and sunbathe.
The recent trend for restorative travel has now seeped aboard the cruise ships. Wellness activities, yoga, fitness suites, spa experiences, oxygen bars, and healthy menus are on offer to lure those of us who desire a bit of mindfulness and pampering while on holiday. And if you fancy infusing a bit of adrenaline into your holiday, some cruises offer hiking, biking, zip lining, scuba diving, or other water sports while ashore. But it all comes at a price.
Finding a good deal on a cruise holiday can be pure luck, but it is more likely to be a combination of planning and timing. To get the best deals, you need to book early or last minute. If you have the time, energy and resources, this can be achieved from your front room. But if you can’t be bothered, then a traditional travel agent or bespoke travel counsellor can help.
Cruising on a budget is possible, and there are ways to minimise your overall spend. Sharing a cabin with friends or family and going off-season are the most straightforward solutions. Choosing a destination which is served by a range of cruise operators is another, with more spaces to fill the cruise lines tend to offer better discounts.
Experienced budget-obsessed cruisers search for repositioning cruises. Cruise lines often move their ships around the globe to make the most of the seasons. So ships serving Alaska are often relocated to the Caribbean in the autumn, then back to the northern hemisphere in the following spring. Ships in Europe often make an Atlantic crossing just as the leaves are starting to fall or venture further afield to Africa, Asia or Australia. These transitional cruises are often heavily discounted and can be a great low budget option if you are happy to stay onboard for long periods.