A-Z Guide To Booking A Cruise
Planning your next cruise or your first? Here are 26 things worth considering before you book, from eating out at sea to staying healthy on board.
A Is For Ashore
This is where a lot of your time will be spent, so pick an appealing itinerary and check out the shore excursions. If you really want to push the boat out, look for cruises with land-tour extensions. Choices include cuddling a panda with Crystal Cruises and watching an Outback sunset at Uluru in Australia with Princess Cruises.
B Is For Book Ahead
Contrary to popular opinion, cruises – and especially river cruises – do sell out quickly. If you have any type of event in mind, cultural or otherwise, are travelling with family (during school holidays) or in a group or want a particular type of cabin, secure it as soon as you can. Christmas markets and New Year cruises are often booked a year in advance. The same applies for booking flights.
C Is For Cabins
Most cruise lines don’t call them that. For stateroom, read en-suite bedroom. For suite, read the same, but much larger, with a seating area; rarely does it mean two separate rooms, usually just more room. For studio: read en-suite bedroom with seating area and curtain divider.
D Is For Dining Options
The venues menu is more mouthwatering than ever, so pack an appetite. Celebrity chef choices include Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Jamie’s Italian on Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, and Atul Kochhar’s Sindhu on P&O’s Azura, Aurora and Britannia cruise ships.
E Is For Enrichment
This term embraces destination-related lectures and locally sourced experiences on board. Don’t miss them: they will help you get more from your cruise.
F Is For Fun
The sky’s the limit on newer, larger ships, with skydiving, surfing, ice skating, rock climbing and dodgems among the thrills on offer.
G Is For Gratuities
These are covered only on genuinely all-inclusive ships. Other cruise lines either add them to your bill or suggest appropriate amounts. On most ships, gratuities are shared between all the service staff.
H Is For Health
It’s in your hands. As on land, at least 30 seconds lathering with soap and hot water before leaving toilets or entering public areas reduces the risk of contagion.
I Is For Internet
Connections are still patchier and slower afloat than ashore, but improving. Crystal has upgraded Wi-Fi fleet-wide. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships claim to offer industry-leading bandwidth and speed. Many ships charge for Wi-Fi but it’s free on Viking river cruises in Europe, Russia and Ukraine.
J Is For Just You
Going solo? Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships Breakaway and Getaway each have 59 single studio cabins, within a keycard-accessed complex featuring an exclusive lounge. The refit on Cunard’s Queen Victoria will create nine single cabins. On rivers, Emerald Waterways ships each have two single cabins and every Scenic Tours vessel has one. Elsewhere, look for sailings offering 'no or low single-occupancy supplement'.
K Is For Keeping Fit
It’s easier to keep fit on a cruise ship, which usually has a well-equipped gym and promenade deck that you can walk around. Some river ships carry bicycles. Or choose an active cruise, such as the itinerary offered by Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, which includes a guided walk tour in France as part of a cruise on board Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ Braemar.
L Is For Luggage
Weight restrictions will apply if you fly but cruise lines don’t impose them on board. The night before you disembark, large cases must be left outside your cabin.
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M Is For Mealtimes
For increasing flexibility, more and more ships are offering when-you-like, where-you-like and with-whom-you-like venues and menus. Those who prefer assigned seating at dinner are catered for on many cruises.
N Is For Numbers
The smaller the ship, the fewer passengers, venues and activities on board. Bigger ships have many more activity, entertainment and dining options; but more passengers also means more queues.
O Is For On-Board Spend
Normally there’s an additional bill at the end of a cruise, so be sure to budget for it. Only a handful of luxury lines are truly all-inclusive: Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club and Silversea. On the rivers, there are three: Emerald Waterways, Scenic Tours and Uniworld.
P Is For Ports Of Call
Where you dock determines how much you can see and do ashore. You’ll get more time at step ashore ports than somewhere like Civitavecchia, which is the port of call for Rome but is set 80 kilometres away from the city.
Q Is For Quantum Class
Royal Caribbean’s new game-changing vessels will sail in Australia from November 2016. Ovation of the Seas will be the newest, largest and most technologically advanced cruise product Australia has ever seen!
R Is For Rivers
Cruising’s fastest-growing sector shows no signs of slowing, and remains the most relaxed, immersive and intimate way to see countries from the 'inside'.
S Is For Sailing
Star Clippers has the world’s largest full-rigged tall ship, the five-masted Royal Clipper, and two four-masted ships. Ponant has the three-masted Le Ponant. Luxury Windstar Cruises is another alternative.
T Is For Transatlantic
This isn’t a cruise, it’s a crossing; and the ship that most famously makes it, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, is not a cruise ship but an ocean liner. Several other lines offer twice-yearly transatlantic repositioning cruises.
U Is For Under The Radar
Up-and-coming destinations: Cuba, with Star Clippers; Japan, The Philippines or both with Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal, Celebrity, Holland America Line, Princess and Silversea. Exotic new river routes include Vietnam’s Red River, and, in India, the Brahmaputra with Pandaw Cruises and the Lower Ganges with APT.
V Is For View
But what will you be able to see from your cabin? 'Obstructed view' means there’s a lifeboat or structural feature in the way. On river ships, views are a given (but see Windows, below).
W Is For Windows
The higher your deck, the bigger your window. In lower cabins they’re shallow and high on the wall, or portholes. Inside cabins don’t have windows but a few ships create 'virtual portholes or balconies' by projecting outside views on to a wall.
X Is For Ex-UK Cruises
Every year, more cruise lines send their ships to Australia. New cruise ships are due to arrive, including the Diamond Princess from Princess Cruises plus two new ships from P&O, the Pacific Dawn and Pacific Aria. Among larger lines basing ships in Australia include Royal Caribbean, with four ships sailing in Australian waters, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America and Cunard.
Y Is For Youngsters
Ships that cater for children do so in spades. They’ll be so busy you won’t see much of them, unless you want to.
Z Is For Zodiac
These rigid inflatables are not for the faint-hearted. You need to be nimble on your feet to get on and off, and happy to balance unsupported on a sturdy rubber edge.
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This article was written by Pat Richardson from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.