Cruise Holiday Guide For First-Timers
Whether you want adventure on the high seas, a destination-rich river cruise or to pick up celebrity cooking tips for the next dinner party, a cruise can fit the bill. There’s more to cruising than wandering the ocean, as the growing appetite for specialist trips shows, says Jane Archer. Check out the range of journeys on offer.
Adventure & Wildlife
Forget dressy evenings and day trips to Rome; adventure cruising is all about boldly going where few cruisers have gone before. The Arctic and Antarctic are top when it comes to adventure – not to join a sightseeing cruise (which some traditional cruise lines offer), but to sail on an ice-strengthened expedition ship with a team of experts who take you ashore to icebergs and glaciers in inflatable Zodiacs.
Extreme adventure cruise companies, such as Lindblad Expeditions and Quark Expeditions offer the opportunity to go kayaking among icebergs and even go up, up and away in a tethered hot-air balloon over the Arctic. Hapag-Lloyd sails through the Northwest Passage with likely sightings of polar bears, caribou and whales.
All sounds too cold? There are voyages in the crocodile-infested waters of the Kimberley in Australia, to see orang-utans in Borneo, on the Amazon in Ecuador in search of dolphins, monkeys and piranha fish, and island-hopping around the Galapagos, with expeditions ashore to see iguanas and blue-footed booby birds.
Leave the bow-ties behind, but pack cold or warm weather gear, wellies, walking boots and a thirst for adventure. A good degree of mobility is needed for these cruises, as landings are made by Zodiac (the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators requires everyone cruising to Antarctica to produce a doctor’s certificate confirming good health).
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Round The World
A world cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, yet many (both seasoned cruisers and some first-timers) having done it once, go year after year. Ships set sail from the UK in early January, invariably following a westerly course, and return up to four months later, in early April. It’s a long time away and while many people do the long journey, segments of two weeks to two months are also available if you don’t have the time or money for the full circumnavigation.
Aspiring Phileas Foggs should bear in mind that not all voyages sold as world cruises actually circumnavigate the globe; if that’s important, check the itinerary carefully before booking. Bear in mind also that on a world cruise you often see as much sea as land, with often six or more sea days between ports.
Up And Down The River
Like ocean-going ships, river cruise vessels have cabins rather than rooms and rely on water to get from A to B, but that’s where the similarities end. On rivers, vessels are small (they need to fit through locks and under bridges), holding an average 150 passengers, and they mostly moor in or near towns and cities. When sailing, you can enjoy 360-degree views of the countryside, vineyards or villages and no rough seas (a blessing for folk prone to mal de mer).
River cruising has gone decidedly upmarket over the past five years, with newer vessels offering cabins and suites with balconies and butlers and alternative dining venues alongside the main dining room. Some have indoor or heated pools.
River cruising has also become more inclusive at the top end of the market, with flights, transfers, shore excursions (and a choice of free tours at selected ports), drinks with dinner and Wi-Fi mostly incorporated in the price. Some lines also include gratuities; Scenic Tours and APT, on its Platinum Series cruises only, are including all alcoholic and soft drinks in the price.
Favourite rivers are the Rhine and the Danube, but the Rhone and Seine in France are also popular, likewise the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia. The Nile, historically the top seller, has been out of favour since the Arab Spring; go now to see the sights without the crowds and to experience the Cairo to Luxor section, reintroduced last year.
By Cabin And Carriage
Thinking of taking a cruise to Alaska? Treat yourself to a couple of nights travelling through the Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer train at the start of the holiday. Rail-sail holidays are an increasingly popular way of adding an extra dimension to an ocean cruise.
You could have an overnight on the iconic Venice Simplon-Orient Express from London, followed by a cruise from Venice; or a longer 14-night train journey across the US at the end of a seven-night transatlantic crossing on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.
There are even more rail-sail options for river cruising as it’s so easy to take the train to departure ports such as Amsterdam, Paris, Lyon and Cologne.
Learn Something New
Fancy yourself as Miss Marple? Want to learn to dance or live the Hollywood dream? Special-interest cruises, where you pursue your favourite pastime or learn a new skill on holiday, are increasingly popular.
You can learn to cook with Oceania Cruises – Marina and Riviera have fully equipped classrooms where 24 people at a time can take lessons in everything from cooking Moroccan to French cuisine – improve your golf swings with Fred Olsen, and indulge your passion for dance on P&O’s Strictly cruises.
Crystal Cruises has everything from a Hollywood immersion cruise (and a private dinner with Marilyn Monroe lookalike Susan Griffiths) to themed jazz and dance sessions, and floral design cruises; Silversea has had a foodie-themed cruise with British chef Jason Atherton, who cooked up a four-course taster menu and gave a guided tour around a Vietnamese market.
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This article was written by Jane Archer from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.