Want to go on a cruise holiday, but not sure which cruise ship is right for you? Here are my top cruise tips and cruise deals to help you choose the best cruise holiday.
Peoples perception of cruises have changed greatly in the last number of years. While cruises were once considered more suitable for the elderly, nowadays most of the newer ships cater more for families! Not only have our tastes changed but cruise companies have adapted and now have a wider appeal. I have been on board many ships and I can honestly say there is a cruise to suit all tastes. Cruise ships are often referred to as floating hotels, in some cases they are more like floating cities! You can choose the massive ships like Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas which can carry nearly 7000 passengers, or you can opt for a smaller intimate river cruise, like Uniworld’s SS Catherine, which carries 159 passengers. It is not only the cruise companies that differ in style, cruise ships can vary greatly within each cruise company. I have been on some of MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises’ older cruise ships and they are completely different to their newer ships. Similarly with itineraries, while many of Royal Caribbean’s ships are family focused, if you choose a Norwegian Fjords or Baltic Capitals cruise, you will probably find mostly couples on board; families tend to choose Mediterranean or Caribbean cruises.
Cruising is now one of the fastest growing markets in the travel industry. Approximately 35,000 Irish people enjoyed a cruise holiday last year and this is likely to be even higher this year. (credit Eoghan Corry, TravelExtra). There will also be 400 cruise ships visiting Ireland this year, over 150 of those in Dublin port alone, bringing in 270,000 passengers. It seems like every other month there is a new cruise launch, which makes choosing the right cruise, harder and harder. I have listed some of my favourite cruise ships and cruise deals below which may help you decide how to choose the best cruise holiday for you.
Royal Caribbean’s – Symphony of the Seas
If you want non-stop action and great facilities for kids, then it is hard to beat Royal Caribbean Cruises. Symphony of the Seas is the newest and largest ship at sea and was recently launched in Barcelona. I was lucky to be on board it’s sister ship last year for two days with my family, and we had a blast. There are numerous swimming pools, a kids splash park, three water slides and also the largest slide at sea, the Ultimate Abyss. This is a pair of slides that offer a 100 foot drop over 10 decks. You can also zip line (I did and it was terrifying), ice skate, surf, use the rock climbing wall.
There are over 20 different restaurants on board, some with additional charges but there are plenty of dining options included in the cost of your cruise. This innovative ship has bionic bars (where your drinks are served by robots) and a bar that moves between decks so you don’t miss any action, kind of like a large elevator with a bar inside! There are seven different neighbourhoods on board including the Boardwalk and Central Park which has 12,000 real trees and plants! They also offer amazing entertainment at night time with top class west end shows and an aqua theatre at the back of the ship. This modern show sees acrobats and synchronised swimmers perform just as the sun sets over the horizon. The entertainment caters so well for Irish and UK holiday makers and a fun filled holiday is guaranteed. You can read my review here.
7th October, 9 nights Western Mediterranean cruise.
Visiting Barcelona, Majorca, Provence, Florence, Rome, Naples, Valencia.
€1748 including flights, checked baggage, all meals, drinks, gratuities
1st February, 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise
Visiting Bahamas, St Thomas, St Kitts & Nevis with a 2 night stay in Miami.
€2099 including flights, hotel, central park view stateroom, meals, drinks, gratuities, checked baggage.
I am just back from a quick visit for the christening of this brand new ship in Genoa. I was previously on MSC Splendida and expected a more modern version but similar in style. I was wrong. This ultra modern cruise ship can hold 5,000 passengers, has 20 different bars and lounges, 10 different dining venues, a different show each night and a host of facilities for kids. There are three different water slides and a separate adventure splash park for younger kids, with slides and rope bridges. Adrenaline junkies will love the zipline, it is the longest zip line at sea! There is also a bowling alley and two simulator rides, one of which is a Formula 1 simulator.
I loved all the open spaces on this ship, it has more open space per guest than any other ship at sea, 3.2 meters per guest. There is a boardwalk that wraps around the entire ship, with al fresco dining even from the buffet restaurant. Most of the cabins are balcony cabins and they also have a five star area, the MSC Yacht Club which has exclusive suites, private dining and pool area. MSC Seaview is extremely stylish and classy, a great choice for a couple or a family.
Many believe that Royal Caribbean are the market leader in Ireland but MSC actually sold 2000 more cruise packages in 2017. They also have the best value drinks package on the market. For €26 per day you can have unlimited drinks including prosecco and selected branded drinks. Most of the other cruise companies charge about €60 per day for a similar package.
Caribbean Cruise on MSC Seaside ( sister ship)
November – February ( excluding Christmas & New Year ) 9 Nights, including two night stay in Miami and a 7 night cruise visiting Mexico, Grand Cayman, Bahamas and Jamaica.
€1399 including a balcony cabin with all meals and drinks included.
Mediterranean Cruise on MSC Seaview
4th May 2019 – 7 Night Mediterranean cruise visiting Barcelona, Genoa, Rome, Cannes, Majorca and Corsica.
€810 with all meals included.
Celebrity Cruises – Celebrity Silhouette
For those who are looking for something a little more upmarket then try 5 Star Celebrity Cruises. I was on Celebrity Silhouette when it was docked in Dublin and I loved it. It carries 2800 passengers which I believe is a great size, not too big but not too small either. It has a country club feel rather than a large cruise ship and interiors are bright and airy. They have a manicured grass lawn and cabanas on deck and even the sun loungers are luxurious. Over 85% of the staterooms have balconies. Many opt to stay there reading a book on sea days, meaning the pools are never crowded. The restaurants on board are top class. There are plenty of dining options included in the cost of your cruise as well as speciality dining options. They also offer plenty of over night stays which I think is great. They were docked in Cannes for the film festival and in France for the French Open so you can mix with the celebrities or see great sporting events, without having to pay €500 a night for a hotel room. Although there is a great mix of entertainment and kids facilities on board, it is a more relaxed ship and definitely offers modern luxury. Read my review here.
For people who don’t like flying, Celebrity Cruises cruise direct from Dublin Port to Iceland and the Norwegian Fjords. Their 2018 sailings have finished now but they are on sale for May 2019. For a full list of all 2019 cruises sailing from Ireland, click here.
Alaska Cruise 13th September 2018
9 nights including a two night stay in Seattle and a 7 Night cruise visiting Seattle, Oregon, San Francisco ( overnight stay ) Victoria, Vancouver.
€1749 per person with an ocean view cabin, all meals, classic drinks package and WiFi.
Ireland & Iceland cruise 06 May 2019
10 nights Ireland & Iceland cruise, €1,579 per person including all meals.
Norwegian Cruise Line
I haven’t yet had the pleasure of cruising with Norwegian but I was on one of their ships, the Norwegian Star in Dublin port. They are similar in style to Royal Caribbean, with a lively atmosphere and a host of family activities on board. They have been cruising for over 50 years, have 17 ships and they been voted Europe’s leading cruise line for the tenth year in a row. The big game changer is that all of Norwegian’s cruises are all-inclusive. And I don’t just mean local beers and cheap spirits. I mean branded drinks, as many as you like, any time of day, in all bars, lounges and dining areas – with tips included! The award-winning entertainment on board includes Broadway musicals, live music and comedy, as well as plenty of leisure facilities including aqua parks, kids clubs and a selection of sports activities.
Norwegian Bliss is their flagship which was launched in April. This ship has been custom-built to give jaw-dropping views from it’s revolutionary Observation Lounge, which offers the same views seen from the bridge, and has the most expansive views at sea. There are eighteen different dining options including exclusive speciality dining restaurants. The Waterfront is the place to go with thirteen restaurants and bars to choose from, many offering alfresco seating. The first full-service Starbucks at sea is on board too. Bliss has the largest competitive race track at sea where you can ride up to 30 miles per hour! There is also an open-air laser tag course and an aqua park with multi-story The Broadway musical, Jersey Boys is shown nightly and at The Cavern Club, guests can enjoy their favourite songs from The Beatles. The talented cover band will play Beatles tunes in a setting inspired by the Liverpool Club where The Beatles famously performed countless times.
Special Offer: Caribbean Cruise
18th January 2019, 9 Nights, Direct flights to Miami, over night stay pre and post cruise, 7 Night cruise visiting Miami, St Thomas, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Miami
€2085 per person including flights, all meals and drinks on board.
The Norwegian Star is one of Norwegian’s older ships but it has been fully refurbished and now offers fifteen different dining options and eleven bars. You can sip champagne in Gatsby’s Champagne bar or drink a wide selection of international beers in the outdoor Bier Garten. There are two main dining rooms as well as a variety of cafés and fast food outlets, as well as speciality dining options, which incur a separate charge. The pool deck has two waterslides and six hot tubs and there is an indoor lap pool in the Spa. Read my review here.
Special Offer: Eastern Mediterranean Cruise
23rdSeptember, Norwegian Star, 7 night cruise, visiting Croatia, Montenegro, Athens, Venice.
€1435 per person including flights, all meals and drinks on board.