cruise tips

CruisesIn The Media

Choosing The Right Cruise Holiday – As Discussed with Ivan Yates on Newstalk FM

spectrum of the seas

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.

best cruise holiday

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.

best cruise holiday

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.

best cruise holiday

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.

best cruise holiday

Special Offers:

7th October, 9 nights Western Mediterranean cruise.

Visiting Barcelona, Majorca, Provence, Florence, Rome, Naples, Valencia.

€1748 including flights, checked baggage, all meals, drinks, gratuities

Click here for more details: 

OR

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.

Click here for more details:

 

 

MSC Seaview

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.

best cruise holiday
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.

Special Offers:

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.

Click here for more details:

OR

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.

Click here for more details:

 

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.

best cruise holiday

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.

 

Special Offers:

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.

Click here for more details:

OR

Ireland & Iceland cruise 06 May 2019 

10 nights Ireland & Iceland cruise, €1,579 per person  including all meals.

Click here for more details:

 

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.

best cruise holiday

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.

best cruise holiday

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.

Click here for more details:

 

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.

 best cruise holiday

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.

Click here for more details:

 

Like Cruise Holidays? See all my cruise reviews and cruise deals here

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

CruisesTravel Tips

Top 10 Tips For Booking Cruise Holidays

cruise-601527_1920_opt

While I believe that there is a cruise for everyone out there – knowing which one to choose is the tricky part! Check out my top 10 tips for booking cruise holidays and ensure you choose the right cruise for you.

 

1. Speak to a cruise specialist.

Booking flights and hotels online is one thing , but booking cruises – I don’t think so! There are so many different cruises to choose from and so many special offers available, I would be amazed if anyone managed to get a cheaper deal on line than you would find with a cruise specialist. Most travel agents have staff dedicated to selling cruise. They will have first hand knowledge of most cruise ships and be able to advise you which cruise is right for you. They will also know about the latest special offers available and you may be able to secure free flights, free drinks packages or free upgrades.
 

 tips for booking cruise holidays

 

 

 

2. Pre book drinks packages, WiFi and gratuities before you go.

Buying drinks on board can be pricey so I always advise to purchase drinks packages before you go. Many companies offer these as early booking incentives but check exactly what is included. Some drinks packages don’t include spirits yet some include any drinks up to a $15 value. Check Wi-Fi prices and try to pre book a package if you are planning on using it a lot on board. Remember if travelling on a Med cruise you will probably only have one day at sea, so you can always catch up on your emails or social media when in port. Pre pay your gratuities too, some automatically include it in the price but if not, its better to pre pay than tip each time you get a drink or meal on board.
 

Top 10 tips for booking cruise holidays

 

 

 

3. Pre book speciality dining restaurants.

Some of the most popular speciality dining restaurants can be extremely busy so I would recommend pre booking those that you specifically want to dine in. Norwegian’s 12 seater Teppanyaki restaurant where chefs perform and cook in front of you is always busy, as is Jamie Oliver’s Italian on Royal Caribbean’s ships. If you forget to pre book before you cruise, try to book them on the day to board.

 

Top 10 tips for booking cruise holidays
 

 

 

 

4. Choose your cabin wisely.

If you are going to be in port on most days, don’t waste your money on a balcony cabin / stateroom ( btw they mean the same thing!)  If on the other hand there are lots of days at sea, you may find you will be in your cabin more – therefore can justify paying for a cabin upgrade. Look at the deck plans before you choose your cabin. You may wish to be close to the swimming pool or away from the nightclub. If you don’t want to be woken at 7 am with the sound of people going to breakfast, don’t select a stateroom beside the lift or stairs. Sea-sickness is minimal on modern cruise ships, however if you are one of the unlucky few who suffer from it, choose a cabin mid-ship as they are less affected in rough seas. Some ocean-view staterooms may have a view of life boats, they are usually called obstructed view rooms.  Many modern ships have interior balconies which look out on to the promenade decks on the ship, these can be a better value option than sea-view balconies.

Top 10 tips for booking cruise holidays

 

 

 

5. Check the dress code.

Some cruises have one formal night, others have two or three. If you don’t want to dress up, you can avoid these in most cases, by going to the buffet restaurant for dinner. Norwegian dress code is casual but Cunard and P&O Cruises are more strict on formal nights and really encourage it for their guests. Cunard even offer masquerade balls and a Royal Ascot Ball!

 
Top 10 tips for booking cruise holidays
 

 

 

6. Book cruise connection with your travel insurance cover.

If your flight is delayed or if an airline goes on strike (which is not uncommon nowadays!) and you miss your cruise, cruise connection cover allows reasonable onward travel expenses and accommodation until you reach the next embarkation point of your cruise. Multitrip.com and Blue Insurance.ie have an option to add on cruise connection with any standard travel insurance policy. This could prove invaluable and I would strongly recommend anyone booking a cruise to make sure they have it.
 

 

 

7. Check in online and arrive early on embarkation day.

Depending on the cruise ship and the port, this can actually be quite an ordeal. Some of the larger cruise ships that carry 6,000 passengers can take a long time to board. If you have checked in online you will generally go to a shorter queue, but my advice is to arrive early and take a tour of the ship before the masses arrive!

Top 10 tips for booking cruise holidays
 

8. Spend a day on the ship when it’s in port.

If you have already been to one of the port stops, use the time to stay on board instead. Pool areas are less crowded, many of the speciality dining restaurants have special offers and spa treatments are always available at reduced rates 🙂

Top 10 tips for booking cruise holidays
 

 

 

9. Pre book shore excursions

Some of the top excursions can get booked out early, so if there is something you specifically want to see, pre book it. In some cases if you dock in the heart of a city you can easily explore yourself. However, if you need to travel a long distance to see an attraction it’s is usually best to book the shore excursion. There are lots of independent shore excursion companies that will probably offer cheaper prices than the cruise company, but if travelling long distance I like to book direct with the cruise company – at least you know the ship will not leave without you if you get delayed!

Top 10 tips for booking cruise holidays
 

 

 

10. Try something new.

Modern cruise ships are so innovative you will be amazed at what amenities are at your disposal.  You can try surfing, rock climbing and even sky diving on some ships – where else would you get the chance to try these activities, and most of them are free! Go on, make it a holiday to remember…
 
Top 10 tips for booking cruise holidays

 

Interested in cruising, for cruise news, reviews and the best cruise deals, click here.

 

 

 

Like this post? Why not pin me!

 

Sarah

 The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

 

Pin It on Pinterest