Getting the Most Out of Cruise Stopovers
Considering it’s meant to be relaxing, a cruise can be strangely hectic. For anywhere from a week to a month, you’re hopping your way round more countries than most people see in a lifetime; and there’s a lot to see. Say you wash ashore in Istanbul; do you hit the famous blue mosque, take time to stroll the bazar district, or simply relax alongside the Bosphorus? With only 8 hours shoreside, making these decisions can be tough. Below we’ve compiled an easy guide to making the most of your cruise stopovers:
Do Your Research
Guidebooks are wonderful ways of dipping into an alien culture; what they lack in depth they make up for with a whirlwind introduction to the highlights. While there’s much to be said for taking it slow and getting to know a place through local knowledge, your frantic cruise schedule simply won’t allow time for such languid immersion. With that in mind, it’s best to grab an armload of guidebooks in the weeks before you leave, snuggle down in your favourite chair and start making notes. Find the areas that really tickle your fancy; the monuments you have to see and get a clear idea of what you want to do. Not only will you be well informed, but – as a bonus – reading about all the wonderful things you’ll see will only heighten your anticipation.
Choose Your Tours
All cruise lines offer optional guided shore excursions of your destinations. You may prefer going under your own steam, and there’s plenty to recommend to that option; but tours do have distinct advantages. Most important from a time-perspective is probably that your ship will never leave you stranded, no matter how late back your group is. From a cultural point of view, you’ll gain in-depth knowledge of your destination, thanks to well-chosen guides; and transportation will be sorted for you. The disadvantage is that you’ll only see a couple of destinations tops; the speed freaks among you may prefer to go your own way. If a gentle guided tour sounds more up your alley, make sure you choose your package well in advance. Space is limited and, besides, you won’t want the rush of leaving it till the last minute. Your operator will send out a brochure for you to choose from; get looking as soon as it arrives to make the most of your trip.
If you prefer to go it alone; the most important skill you can have is time management. The ship can only wait so long for you to return from whatever corner of Bangkok you’re lunching in; if you’re not back you’ll be left stranded. The likelihood of this actually happening is fairly slim, so long as you plan in advance. If you have a list of, say, three key destinations to visit; make sure you have time to do them all. Giving yourself two hours per site, with two hours travel time is a good start; any less and you’ll be pushing it. Pick your itinerary carefully: a good idea is to start at the farthest point from the ship and make your way back, so you’ll be within walking/running difference if time becomes tight. Ideally, your last activity should be in the port area, just to make sure. Finally, don’t forget your watch! Trust us: unless you were a scout (and an excellent one at that), ‘guesstimating’ the time by the position of the sun rarely works.
The most important one of all. Take it slow, see the sights you really want to see and don’t try to cram too much in. You’re here for a relaxing holiday, not to stress yourself out. Kick back, soak up the city and enjoy.
Thanks to guest blogger, George, for sending us his stopover tips. What advice would you give to first timers wanting to make the most out of their day trips?