Try Before You Buy – P&O’s Sampler Cruises
Cruising as a form of travel is a growing trend for Australians, and continues to increase in popularity. In spite of this, cruise lines are aware that there are still many Aussies who are yet to cruise, and are promoting their shorter cruises as "sampler" cruises or short breaks to tempt cruising newbies.
Sampler cruises and short sea breaks are a great way to test the waters and allay the fears of non-cruisers who name seasickness and being trapped on a ship with thousands of others as the top reasons why they haven't considered a cruise holiday in the past.
P&O Cruises operates by far the lion's share of these sampler or taste test cruises and has been running these short cruises for many years – they have also upped the ante, with cruise breaks themed around topics like food, wine, comedy and lifestyle.
Typically they depart from and return to the same port and spend three days cruising up and down the coastline, far enough out to sea to legally operate the casino and duty-free shops. Others depart from one Australian port and cruise for one to two nights to another port for disembarkation, with no calls in between.
Most sample cruise itineraries operate on weekends with Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at sea. However, there's also a sprinkling of three-night Thursday-to-Sunday cruises.
P&O operates a range of themed cruises. Its Food & Wine SeaBreaks offer free cooking demonstrations and health and nutrition talks. Other paid (and ticketed) events on offer are cocktail-and martini-making classes, food-and-wine pairing classes, chocolate-and-wine pairings and whiskey-tasting classes.
For something quite different, try Comedy SeaBreaks that feature several well-known Australia comedians performing in the adults-only Sit Down Comedy Club as part of the cruise fare. Rub elbows with some of Australia’s best comedians, and crack a smile at the Comedy Gala, comedy workshops, family-friendly and adults-only shows.
Lifestyle SeaBreaks offer a variety of different workshops and classes for various interests. They cover arts and crafts, fitness, wellness/health, cocktail-making and even juggling. The lineup changes, and most of the workshops are ticketed.
There are also One-way cruises to give new-to-cruise a quick taste. P&O's one-way SeaBreaks (usually two nights) run between Sydney and Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and Brisbane and Sydney. Some of these itineraries offer "scenic cruising," where the ship sails close to a particularly prominent land feature with commentary from an onboard expert. A four-night one-way cruise (with a comedy theme) operates from Sydney to Auckland.
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Best Time to Go
P&O Cruises themed SeaBreaks and one-way SeaBreaks operate throughout the year. However, there are less in the long Australian school holiday season (from late December to end January). The other cruise lines operate their limited number of short cruises in the warmer months (from September to April).
Sampler Cruise Tips
· Board early to make the most of your two- to three-night break.
· Don't take too much luggage, as you might want to party into the wee hours of the morning on the last night and then carry (or wheel) your bags off the next day after breakfast. This saves packing at night and putting your bags outside the cabin door.
· Think about gathering a few friends together to make it a weekend event, and with the themed cruises, these provide great activities to enjoy in a group.
· Children are welcome on themed cruises, as the kids clubs still operate. However, passengers don't have to get involved in any of the themed activities if they don't want to. The ship operates normally, and cocktail-making classes and food-and-wine pairings, for example, do not hinder the normal flow of the ship.
· Make a long weekend of it, and take Friday and Monday off work. No one wants to return to the office on Monday morning still rocking.
· Get in and book quickly as these get booked out within short timeframes.
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