Why I LOVE cruising...
My first ‘cruise’ experience was not a particularly great one I have to say. Our honeymoon on board the Thomson Topaz, back in 1998. A very old, reconditioned ship, which was in much need of more than a bit of TLC, but none the less from this trip on – we had the ‘bug’.
We spent a week in Florida and then sailed from Port Canaveral to the Florida Keys, Mexico, and the Bahamas. The destinations were stunning and I instantly loved waking up each morning in a new and exciting place - and only having to unpack once!
Fortunately, working for P&O up to 2003 meant that I had the opportunity to get some good ‘staff’ deals on their sailings and sailed twice on the ‘old’ Arcadia (which went on to become the Ocean Village) where we flew to Barbados and sailed back. First time I loved it, but the 2nd time I did get a little “cabin” fever. So whenever a client is thinking of their first cruise, I check how many sea days it has first and may suggest you try a shorter cruise first and see if you like it!
By getting to know my clients, I can help them decide on the right choices for them. One client was ready to book a "World Cruise" with me a few years , having never sailed before. I suggested they take a smaller trip first before such a commitment of time and money. Rather than just make a "sale" I want my clients to have the right experience - and they were very appreciative of this on their return. They love cruising now too - and taken many since but are not quite ready for the World Cruise just yet...
Since our first trip, we’ve sailed with Thomson, Island Cruises, Fred Olsen, P&O, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Ocean Village, Azamara and later this year I am thrilled to be sailing on the brand new Regent Seven Seas Explorer, as well as doing various in port ship visits too.
Doing both fly-cruises and ex-UK sailings, I’ve visited the East and West Mediterranean, the Canaries, North Africa, the Caribbean , the Far-East and Vietnam, Mexico and the USA , Dubai and the Middle East. So although a lot ticked off – there’s still plenty more to go at on the bucket list. Next, I’m hoping for Canada , Alaska, and Northern Europe, Baltics, and if lucky enough, to see the Northern Lights.
Cruises offer such great value for money, as everything is included – all meals and entertainment – including daytime activities from sports to arts and crafts, and usually lots of fun and games out on the deck. You can take part in competitions, or if you want to just sit on a sun bed and watch the world go by – Some of the larger ships now how screens out on deck so you can catch a movie under the stars.
The service on every ship I’ve sailed on has been superb. The ship’s crew always seem to love what they do – constantly smiling, and happy to make your trip a memorable one. Your cabin steward never seems to be ‘off-duty’ as they clean the cabins twice a day. On one of the first cruises we went on, a comedian made a joke that if you get up to use the bathroom during the night, when you return to bed it’s been turned down and another chocolate appears on your pillow!
The crew may see 1000’s of customers every week but somehow they learn your name and remember you and usually "your drink" too! We’ve actually sailed on a couple of ships more than once , and the crew has remembered us by name on our return.
Dining on a ship is a massive part of the whole experience, and there are so many different options to choose from. Plus, celebrity chefs such as James Martin and Marco Pierre White are regulars on cruise ships now - and you can even learn how to cook in their cookery schools. But one of the best for me, and I’ll detail more in my blogs, was on a Celebrity Cruise. Their buffet restaurant was so vast that you were never stuck for choice, and the experience of dining at Quisine was one I struggle to describe. Orders are taken on an i-pad and you get a sampler of what everyone on the table ordered, so it was a great opportunity to try new foods which ordinarily you would not have wanted to order, and maybe waste – a really unique culinary journey.
Many cruise lines will offer a ‘drinks’ package if you book early, or can pre-pay this on board – so again offers exceptional value for money. My personal favourites are the cocktails – and every ship I’ve been on do their own ‘Cocktail of the Day’ – so great fun to see the waiters doing their “Tom Cruise” impression and serving up some tasty treats. I think there are two main misconceptions of cruising first being that it’s too formal. I feel this has been eradicated now. Yes, there are cruise lines which still have traditional dining set times, and have a formal dress code, which lots of people still love to do, but if this not your thing, the majority have moved to a more freestyle approach to dining – still expecting a smart casual dress code but not Black Tie.
Secondly – a regular comment I get is, “I’ll cruise when I’m older”. Many cruise ships now cater 100% for younger families and couples, so you’re never too young or old for a cruise holiday. I have customers who take their toddlers on a cruise, and a couple of ladies I book in their 80’s
The ships are ultra modern with amazing facilities on board – including water parks , golf course, rock climbing walls and full-size arcades. Even without these, children on board are very well catered for. I recall the first trip we did, on the last day the children were brought in for a fancy dress competition, as they flooded into the room we could not believe how many children there were on board, as we hadn’t seen them all week!
Another major benefit for an ex-UK cruise sailing is there is no limit on the luggage you take, but, remember there is limited storage space in your cabin and no long airport queues to endure. You will sail away to a brass band playing and rarely is there any delays departing!
As you can see from what I’ve mentioned with cruising, the world really is your oyster and there really is a cruise to suit everyone. They offer value for money, you can visit thousands of new destinations, learn a new skill, soak up the culture of a country, or simply relax and watch the world go by - if you’ve never tried it – give it a go !