From surf simulators to spa treatments, designer shopping to sky diving, cruise companies are frantically trying to out do each other. Larger ships with ever more innovation are being launched each year. So for those of you who haven’t tried it yet, how do you know which cruise to choose?
Cruising is now one of the fastest growing markets in the travel industry with over 30,000 people cruising from Ireland last year. I have seen many ships and I can honestly say there is a cruise for everyone out there. Cruise ships are often referred to as floating hotels and in some cases they are more like floating cities. You can choose the massive ships like Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas which can carry almost 8000 passengers and crew, or a smaller intimate river cruise like Uniworld’s SS Catherine, which carries 159 passengers.
I decided for this post I needed some help from a cruise ‘expert’ so I spoke to one of Ireland’s top cruise specialists Niki Stanford, from Clickandgo.com. Nikki has been on 28 cruise ships and has been selling cruises for 16 years. Niki constantly keeps up to date with online training. The cruise industry is always changing and she likes to ‘keep up to speed on it all”.
Best cruise for first timers:
A seven night Mediterranean Cruise is always a firm favourite. Usually sailing from Barcelona or Rome and taking in the best the Western Mediterranean has to offer. For many people it is price driven and these tend to offer the best value. People don’t want to spend too much on their first outing in case they don’t like cruising. This rarely happens though because over 90% of cruisers will cruise again.
Best cruise for young couples:
Best cruise for older couples:
Best cruise for families :
Best cruise for adventure:
Best cruise for food:
It is difficult to choose one cruise line over another as the quality of food on board most cruise ships is excellent. However, some of the cruise companies are offering unique experiences, beyond the typical main dining restaurants and buffets. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises offer many speciality restaurants on board, some are included in the price of your cruise and some incur a supplement. “Qsine” on Celebrity Cruises is the ultimate in modern dining. From the iPad menu to the different tastes and experiences on offer it’s is more of a dining experience than a dinner date! Wonderland restaurant on the Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas offer a bizarre take on the Alice in Wonderland movie, with unusual statues and odd chairs, you almost feel you are in the movie. They call it imaginative cuisine! You are given a blank menu and a paintbrush, the waiter will then instruct you to dip the paintbrush in the water and paint the canvas and as if my magic your menu appears!
Best cruise for entertainment:
Best value for money cruise:
Best cruise for luxury:
Silversea and Crystal cruises are luxury at its best. If you seek the luxury yacht feel then the smaller Silversea ships with butler service and luxury surroundings are one of the best in luxury cruising. Alternatively if you want to try something different, Uniworld is the ultimate in river cruising. Like a floating boutique hotel, Uniworld offer a 5* all inclusive cruise, with fine dining and outstanding service. Celebrity Cruises offer luxury with a modern style and are not as expensive as Silversea or Uniworld. Their food and service is excellent and the overall feeling is quite relaxed.
Best Cruise if you don’t want to fly:
Fred Olsen’s MS Boudicca will operate six sailings from Ireland in 2016 including a nine night spectacular trip to the Norwegian Fjords in July and a 14 night Rugged & Rural Canada cruise in September.
Any other advice?
Select your stateroom wisely.
Look at the deck plans before you choose your cabin / stateroom. You may wish to be close to the swimming pool or away from the nightclub. If you don’t want to be awoken at 7 am with the sound of people going to breakfast, don’t select a stateroom beside the lift or stairs. Some ocean-view staterooms may have a view of life boats, they are usually called obstructed view rooms. Perhaps it is better to select a full seaview room or even a balcony cabin and watch the sunset beneath the horizon.