What's not to love about a cruise? The opportunity to experience several destinations, relax in the sea breeze, take a dip in the pool, head to the bar and dine in one of many restaurants - all within walking distance...
A cruise holiday is suitable for all ages and is the perfect way to create lasting memories whilst exploring what the world has to offer, but the planning can be daunting - particularly if this is your first ocean adventure. With so many factors to consider, we have broken it down to help you decide which cruise is best for you.
When you hear the word cruise, we imagine you automatically think of the huge ships seen on television adverts with on-board rock climbing walls, surf machines and no less than five swimming pools; but it's worth bearing in mind there are other options available. Smaller cruise ships offer a more intimate experience, with some ships offering enough cabins for as few as twelve people.
A cruise is similar to an all-inclusive package holiday, as your accommodation, travel, entertainment and food is included in the overall cost, but some cruises can be pricey. Before you get too carried away looking at cabin suites with private balconies and butlers, it is best to set a budget - that way you will have a rough idea of how much you have to spend and can book your dream cruise accordingly.
Speaking of cost, cruises are notoriously more expensive during the summer months, therefore it may be more suitable to book a cruise to depart in April or May. The climate will still be hot in most countries and you'll have more money to spend on upgrades or excursions!
Climate is another factor to consider particularly if you are not a fan of the heat. It may be worth carrying out a little research into different climates before deciding which destinations will be best - after all, you don't want to spend all your time below deck when you could be enjoying picturesque views in the sea breeze.
The length of a cruise can range from one week to one year, depending on the destinations you will be visiting and the route the ship is taking. Be sure to look for a cruise that will suit your schedule. Shorter 2 to 3 day UK or European cruises may suit those who have limited availability.
Consider the activities you would like to undertake and sites you wish to see when booking your cruise. Does lounging in the sun listening to the crash of the waves sound like the perfect holiday or would you rather head for land at each port and explore what the countries have on offer - perhaps visiting a museum or two along the way? Cruises tend to stop over at popular destinations and offer guided tours of famous cities and landmarks. Before booking it may be worth checking the port stops or excursions to make sure they suit your personality. Pre-book any must-do excursions early to avoid disappointment.
Some cruise ships leave from a UK port and have onsite car parking (we highly recommend you book a space in advance - some travel insurance policies will even offer a discount on port parking!) alternatively, you can fly to a destination and catch the ship abroad instead. The latter can be slightly more stressful as you will need to get to the airport, fly to the destination and make it to the cruise ship in time to set sail.
We understand the best holidays are shared with loved ones and who said cruises are just for adults? Today's cruise ships are like floating entertainment resorts with swimming pools fitted with slides, wave machines and flumes, surf simulators, sky diving simulators, teen-only discos, cinemas, crèches and kids-only zones!
A cruise will give you and your family the opportunity to create lasting memories, enjoy quality time together and discover the hidden treasures of the world without ever having to hear the dreaded 'I'm bored'.
Most cruise ships offer kids clubs and teen areas where your little ones or not so little ones can relax and network with people of a similar age whilst you and your significant other enjoy a romantic meal and a glass of bubbles - or two.
Don't forget you can also book family-suited onshore excursions or enjoy a family meal where you can catch up on the day's adventures.
What's more romantic than watching the sun disappear into the waves whilst clinking glasses with your partner? Cruises are perfect for couples who have an itch for travel, enjoy city breaks, want to celebrate an anniversary or are simply after a well-deserved break from the real world.
Smaller vessels or adult-only cruises offer a more relaxed atmosphere, giving you and your significant other the opportunity to enjoy the peace and quiet and spend some quality time together.
Whether you want to just lay on deck during the day and enjoy the on-board entertainment in the evening or fancy heading ashore to explore each destination - a cruise is the perfect way to take that much needed break, without the fuss of a normal 'hotel holiday'.
Just because you're getting a little older doesn't mean you should start slowing down! Enjoy a holiday of a lifetime without the hassle of connecting flights and hotel transfers, or maybe you're just looking to tick off a few of those bucket list destinations and see the sights? Whatever you decide to do, many cruise companies offer senior-only cruises.
If your mobility is a concern, many liners will also boast wheelchair access and assistance across the whole vessel so don't let your ailments hold you back - look for a cruise line that will suit your needs.
Many companies offer single senior cruises which are usually offered at a discounted price (some companies will charge you the same price as two people when you book a cabin so they are not losing out if you are travelling alone). These cruises are perfect for people who are looking to relax, meet new people and form lasting friendships - why not dust off your Sunday best and get booking?!
The most important thing to remember when booking your travel insurance is a cruise is not like a normal holiday - the hospitals are not as easily accessible and if anything was to go wrong the costs of getting you the help you need can soon mount up...
Some travel insurance policies will cover a cruise as standard, however most will not offer cover for the loss of any associated expenses such as cabin confinement, should sickness break out and the Captain declares everyone is to stay in their cabin until told otherwise, and cover for any missed ports or pre-paid excursions that you are not able to make due to adverse weather, a change to the itinerary or cabin confinement. Also, be aware that the definition of a cruise can differ between policies (for example, some insurers will consider a cruise as a pleasure voyage that is 72 hours or longer) so be sure to check the policy wording carefully before purchasing.
Many travel insurance policies will offer a cruise 'extension' or 'add on' for an additional premium that will cover for additional expenses or alternatively there are specialist cruise policies which are suitable for cruises that are slightly more expensive therefore cannot be adequately covered by an 'add on' or 'extension'. Whichever policy you choose, you should look make sure the insurer also provides cover for your individual needs.
If you have booked excursions or are planning on taking advantage of the on-board entertainment and activities make sure these are also covered under your travel insurance. Most policies will cover a number of activities as standard but those that are a little riskier may require an additional premium.
Don't over pack
The good thing about a cruise is there is no need to pack an outfit for every day - unless you want to of course - as most vessels have on-board laundry facilities. Just make sure you remember which dryer your delicates are in.
There are also shops on most ships that stock toiletries, just in case you forget your toothbrush!
Allow plenty of time
If you have booked a cruise that involves catching a flight abroad first, make sure you have left enough time for any unexpected delays; the cruise ship is not going to wait because you were caught up in a traffic jam - and you're not likely to be covered under your travel insurance either.
It may be possible to book excursions whilst on-board but to avoid disappointment, make sure you book in advance. Keep a copy of your itinerary with you, that way you won't miss that trip to the museum because you've lost track of what day it is.
Make sure you remember your Sunday best
Many cruises will host a Captain's dinner or Gala nights where all attendees are required to wear formal attire. These nights are a chance for you to go 'all out' and enjoy a night of luxury.
Book on-board hair and makeup appointments early as the salon and spa are likely to get quite busy on these days!
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