Introduce Yourself to Cruising with a Short Cruise
By Cruising Specialists, Kate Hamilton, Cruiseabout Bowral
So you've heard a lot of hype about cruising and you think you might like to give it a try. Maybe. Or maybe not. What if you get seasick? What if it’s boring? What if you spend your savings on a cruising holiday and then you find out it’s not your thing?
Fear not traveller, for there’s a solution to your quandary and it’s called the “Short Cruise” – aka. “Cruise to Nowhere,” “Weekend Sampler” or “Sea Break.” P&O Australia, Carnival Cruise Lines Australia, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises all offer two to four night sailings out of Sydney (and other major ports such as Brisbane and Melbourne) that are perfect for first-time cruisers to (excuse the pun) test the waters.
My short cruise experience involved a two night sample cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, the smallest ship in their lineup, starting at about midday on a recent Friday. My allocated embarkation time isn’t until 2pm but I take my suitcase to the bag drop early and then spend a couple of hours perusing the shops in The Rocks, grab a coffee and indulge in some people watching.
When it’s my time to check in, I join the queue of excited cruisers and spend the next 30 minutes or so being processed – health questionnaire completed (don’t forget to take a pen), ID checked, credit card swiped and I am finally presented with my room key. (I’ll admit the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay was still undergoing major renovations at the time and I hear the process is now much improved.)
Once onboard my first personal port of call is the adults-only Solarium pool area. I purposefully packed swimmers in my carry-on bag so I could take advantage of perhaps the only opportunity to have the pool all to myself, since everyone else would still be busy checking out the ship and her offerings. After a few lazy laps and a soak in the hot tub, my next stop is the Windjammer Buffet for a late lunch. (Oh the food on a cruise is what it’s all about. As a general rule, it’s good and it’s plentiful.)
Then it’s time to check out my cabin: twin beds, sitting area, large wardrobe, bathroom with shower, balcony. Small but comfortable and clean, what more does one need? Especially since I am unlikely to spend much time there anyway during this short cruise. A quick shower and change and I’m out and about again.
Some of my friends have checked in by then so it’s time to hit the pool bar for some sailaway bevvies before heading to the main dining room for dinner. The menu is divided into entrées, mains and desserts but our server tells us we can have as many courses as we want! There’s an extra charge for wine but the prices aren’t exorbitant (on longer Royal Caribbean cruises you can purchase beverage packages that can save you some money, depending on how much you plan to imbibe).
After dinner, there’s an acrobatic aerial show in the main atrium, which is fairly impressive. Some of us then proceed to kick on at the nightclub... others go for a stroll on the deck or retire to bed while the night is still young. But that’s one of the best things about going on a cruise: even if you’re travelling with a group, everyone does what they want to do when they want to do it, then stories get shared over breakfast.
On day two, our first and only full day at sea, the itinerary is jam packed with activities, and everyone on board seems to quickly relax into a routine of eat, drink, play, repeat. The pools and deck chairs are at capacity, the line up at the buffet is flowing for breakfast and lunch, and the 3-metre swell allows all to test their tolerance for the motion of the ocean.
To mix things up a bit, our pre-dinner cocktails on the second night are in the Viking Crown Lounge, located at the very front of the ship with 180 degree, floor-to-ceiling views that stretch toward the horizon. Amazing! Then we’re back to the dining room for another multi-course meal, complete with garlic-buttery escargot this time around.
The show tonight is a “Piano Man” tribute featuring Royal Caribbean singers and dancers covering songs by Billy Joel and other keyboard aficionados. It’s no Broadway production but it’s entertaining. Other evening activities include live music, casino games and, of course, the nightclub is open until late.
By the time I wake the next morning, the view from our balcony has changed from vast ocean to city skyline. We’re back at Circular Quay early and all passengers are expected to be off the ship after breakfast.
My verdict? The short cruise experience is a great introduction to cruising. We left Sydney Harbour on Friday afternoon and returned on Sunday morning, which means it’s possible to take just one day off work, and get an amazing holiday experience in return. The service was great, the beds were comfy, the food was amazing, the Pacific swells didn’t make me sick, and although I had cruised before (or perhaps because I had), I appreciated the efforts of all the crew members to give passengers a true cruise preview, all in less than 72 hours.
Short but sweet and it left me wanting more!
If you would like to talk to Kate about her short cruise experience, or perhaps find out more about cruising with Royal Caribbean, give her a call on 1300 133 637 today!