How to choose the right cruise

Cruising not for you? With so many choices, you may not realise what you are missing out on, writes Sally Macmillan.

It's a booming segment in global travel, almost a million Australians taking an ocean or river cruise each year. But, for many of us, it's a phenomenon that seems to have passed us by, like the proverbial ships in the night.

If you somehow haven't noticed, cruising has evolved from a rather stuffy sort of sea voyage to a holiday that offers everything from genuinely fine dining from celebrity chefs, five-star accommodation to rival the great hotels, and expeditions in far-flung corners of the globe - and a whole lot of amazing and surprising options in between.

Sailing the world's oceans today are cruise ships that vary in size from 50 passengers to 6000; that cater for young families, extended families, couples and singles from age 20 to 80, the budget-conscious, adventure-minded and well-heeled travellers.

Then there are river cruises that ply the waterways of Europe and, increasingly, south-east Asia, India and America, yet another way to travel to fascinating destinations comfortably, easily and safely.

"In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in ships visiting our shores," says Brett Jardine, general manager of CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) Australasia, "which has meant that holidaymakers are seeing a constant parade of local and international ships."

This piques interest, and when people discover "the great value of a cruise holiday - wrapping transport, accommodation, meals and entertainment into one fare", they tend to come back again and again.

Yet scepticism persists. It's with that thought in mind that we've prepared a special guide, based on typical traveller personalities, to prove the point that these days there really is a cruise for everyone.

So check out our guide and see what sort of cruiser you could be - and find out what the whole world is talking about.



"Nothing but the best for me."

The Cruise Director says Five-star, ocean-going ships were made for you. They are "small" (251-750 passengers) or "mid-size" (751-1750 passengers), offer suite-style accommodation (plenty with private balconies), stylishly decorated public spaces and fascinating itineraries.

Cuisine is world-class; expect dining experiences from ultra-formal to quality casual. Attention to detail throughout is paramount, from the quality of the dining-room tableware to the thread-count of the bed linen, and service is immaculate - professional but friendly. Nothing is too much trouble.

River cruise lines offer some wonderful voyages for the discerning traveller. Uniworld's newest vessel, the SS Catherine (launched in March), is probably the most luxurious on Europe's waterways; APT, Scenic and Tauck also run superb river cruises on super-modern ships. Fares for top-drawer ocean and river cruises almost always include drinks, tips and more.

Cruise lines to consider

Ocean lines: Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea.

River lines: APT, Avalon Waterways, Scenic, Tauck, Uniworld.

Try these

Cruise Line Crystal Cruises.

Ship Crystal Symphony.

Itinerary 11 days, London to Stockholm, July 26-August 6, 2015.

Fare From $5045.

Cruise Line Uniworld.

Ship SS Catherine.

Itinerary Eight days, Avignon to Lyon, from March to November 2015.

Fare From $3799.



"How many clubs are there?"

The Cruise Director says

Modern resort-style ships that have lots of bars, non-stop entertainment and clubs are perfect for people who are looking for fun, in groups, solo or couples.

The ship often becomes as much the destination as the ports; on board there's a terrific choice of restaurants and cafes, state-of-the-art fitness centres, and spas for pampering after a hard night's partying. Carnival Cruise Line's Sydney-based Carnival Spirit has 16 bars and lounges, live entertainment, a karaoke bar, a comedy club, casino and nightclub.

Norwegian Cruise Line's US-based ships are also chock-a-block with bars. Its newest ship, Norwegian Getaway, even features an ice bar that specialises in cocktails made with Svedka vodka.

Very refreshing on a hot, steamy Caribbean cruise ...

Cruise lines to consider

Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean International.

Try these

Cruise Line Carnival Cruise Lines.

Ship Carnival Spirit.

Itinerary Seven nights, Melbourne Cup cruise, round-trip from Sydney, November 2, 2014.

Fare From $1523.50.

Cruise Line Norwegian Cruise Line.

Ship Norwegian Getaway.

Itinerary Seven nights, Miami to Western Caribbean (Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Mexico), November 15, 2015.

Fare From $805.



"I can't stand the idea of being bored."

The Cruise Director says

If you're looking at an ocean cruise, choose one that has a short itinerary or plenty of port stops, physically challenging shore excursions and a ship that offers lots of onboard activities. Royal Caribbean International's ships boast the most innovative onboard playgrounds - think ice rinks, rock-climbing walls, flow-riders and huge sports courts.

Its newest megaship, Quantum of the Seas (launches in November), even features a simulated skydiving experience.

Cruises in Alaska, the Arctic, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand take in destinations that offer extreme activities such as canyoning, jet-boating and glacier-trekking - the choice is almost limitless. Some ships, such as SeaDream Yacht Club's two "yachts", have onboard marinas so you can go waterskiing, jetboating, catamaran sailing and kayaking straight off the ship.

River cruises stop in different ports every day, sometimes twice a day, so boredom shouldn't be a problem in Europe, Asia or the US. However, super-active people might find the tours a bit tame.

Cruise lines to consider

Ocean lines: Carnival Cruise Lines, Hurtigruten, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, SeaDream Yacht Club.

River lines: APT, Evergreen Tours, Scenic, Tauck, Travelmarvel, Uniworld, Viking.

Try these

Cruise Line Royal Caribbean International.

Ship Quantum of the Seas.

Itinerary 3 nights, round-trip to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore, June 12-15, 2015.

Fare From $949.

Cruise Line SeaDream Yacht Club.

Ship Sea Dream 1.

Itinerary Seven days, San Juan to St Thomas (Caribbean), January 10-17, 2015.

Fare From $US3299 ($3517).



"What's the point of an ice-skating rink on a ship?"

The Cruise Director says

You can't get much more traditional than a trans-Atlantic cruise with Cunard - the line's flagship, Queen Mary 2, operates seven and eight-night crossings between Southampton and New York (and vice versa) from May to January.

QM2 boasts the largest library and ballroom at sea, offers afternoon tea with white-glove service, and dressing for dinner is still de rigueur.

The Cunard Insights program attracts high-profile people who present entertaining sessions on everything from filmmaking to politics.

Long-established British line Swan Hellenic, which operates the 350-passenger Minerva, has legions of fans - mainly 60-plus, well-educated and enjoying voyages to destinations that megaships often can't reach.

River cruises in Europe and Asia are also ideal for tradition-lovers; vessels hold a maximum of 190 passengers, excursions take you to villages, towns and cities of historic and cultural importance, and the range of itineraries gets bigger by the year.

Cruise lines to consider

Ocean lines: Azamara Club Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, Fred Olsen, Princess Cruises, Swan Hellenic, Voyages of Discovery.

River lines: APT, Botanica, Evergreen Tours, Scenic, Tauck, Travelmarvel, Uniworld, Viking.

Try these

Cruise Line Swan Hellenic.

Ship Minerva.

Itinerary 16 days, Muscat to Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt), March 29, 2015.

Fare From $2155.

Cruise Line APT.

Ship AmaReina.

Itinerary 15 days, Amsterdam to Budapest, departures March-December 2015.

Fare From $7795.



"When I travel I like to learn something."

The Cruise Director says

Choose a cruise with destinations you want to learn about and a ship that offers quality "enrichment" activities.

There are hundreds of courses and classes across an array of lines; you can make jewellery, paint, sculpt, master computer basics or advanced photography, polish your singing and dancing skills, create gourmet meals - the choice is vast.

Princess ships are renowned for their scholarship@sea programs; other options include Celebrity Cruises' CelebrityLife; Crystal Cruises' Creative Learning Institute; Holland America Line's Explorations program; and Oceania's Bon Appetit Culinary Centre and the Artist Loft.

Some lines also offer detailed "behind the scenes" tours of the ship bridge, galley, theatre and (occasionally) the engine room.

Themed cruises are another way to go; if you want to immerse yourself in gardening, say, there are cruises that visit famous gardens and host expert lecturers in horticulture - and your fellow passengers will be just as keen on gardening as you are.

Cruise lines to consider

Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea.

Try these

Cruise Line Princess Cruises.

Ship Diamond Princess.

Itinerary Nine days, round-trip from Tokyo, July 8-16, 2015.

Fare From $1869.

Cruise Line Oceania Cruises.

Ship Riviera.

Itinerary 11 days, "Artistic Discoveries" Venice to Barcelona, May 11-22 2015.

Fare From $3060.



"I love luxury, seclusion, individual style."

The Cruise Director says

A few days relaxing in balmy, tropical French Polynesia on a small ship that caters for sophisticated grown-ups would fulfil your cravings - we're talking about the 332-passenger Paul Gauguin. Or you could embark on a traditional tall ship. Sea Cloud Cruises and Star Clippers operate ships that combine contemporary creature comforts with old-fashioned wind-power.

Sea Cloud has two beautiful windjammers that accommodate 64 and 94 passengers. The original ship was built in 1931 and its owners' suites are the most ornate at sea.

Star Clippers has three tall ships, the 227-passenger Royal Clipper, and the nearly identical, 170-passenger Star Clipper and Star Flyer. All sail in the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

Windstar Cruises has three vessels that have sails, although the sails are computer-controlled; and Compagnie du Ponant's Le Ponant is similar but smaller and imbued with French chic.

Cruise lines to consider

Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Princess Cruises, SeaCloud Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club, Seabourn, Silversea, Windstar Cruises.

Try these

Cruise Line Sea Cloud Cruises.

Ship Sea Cloud.

Itinerary Seven days, Valetta (Malta) to Piraeus, May 18-25, 2015.

Fare From €2795 ($3995).

Cruise Line Paul Gauguin Cruises.

Ship Paul Gauguin.

Itinerary Seven nights, Tahiti and Society Islands, May 9-15, 2015.

Fare From $3995.



"Keeping everyone from grandpa to the toddlers happy is a big call."

The Cruise Director says

Modern resort-style ships are ideal for a multi-generational holiday - family groups whose members range in age from two to 72 are taking to the ocean in droves. Ships that carry from 1751-6500 passengers fall into this category. They offer interconnecting and quad-share cabins, kids' clubs that cater for children in different age groups, a huge range of entertainment and activities - and spas, fitness centres, adults-only pools and sun decks.

The family-owned European cruise line MSC Cruises operates family-friendly cruises on its 12 ships - children under the age of 18 travel free when sharing a cabin with their parents.

A more unusual multi-generational cruise popular with American travellers is an educational expedition with Lindblad, whose six ships aren't bristling with cartoon characters and high-tech toys, but offer interaction with wildlife and soft-adventure experiences in fascinating destinations that suit all ages .

Cruise lines to consider

Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Lindblad Expeditions, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, Norwegian, Un-Cruise, P&O Cruises.

Try these

Cruise Line Royal Caribbean International.

Ship Explorer of the Seas.

Itinerary Eight nights, South Pacific, Sydney round-trip, December 16, 2015.

Fare From $US1290 ($1380).

Cruise Line Celebrity Cruises.

Ship Celebrity Solstice.

Itinerary 14 nights, Sydney-Auckland, January 5, 2015.

Fare From $1704.



"Take me far from the madding crowd."

The Cruise Director says

Boutique, soft-adventure and expedition ships can take you to places of peace and solitude that are often accessible only by sea.

Destinations that appeal include the Kimberley, the Russian Far East, Africa, Micronesia and the polar extremes, Antarctica and the Arctic.

Travelling to the world's wildernesses is usually an expensive exercise, but our thirst for adventure cruising is growing, particularly for the luxury variety.

Cruise lines such as Silversea Expeditions, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Compagnie du Ponant and Seabourn operate four or five-star ships that travel to remote places where you can experience encounters with ancient cultures and native wildlife, while enjoying butler service back on board.

More traditional, "hardcore" expedition companies such as Aurora, Heritage, Adventure Associates and One Ocean operate smaller, more spartan ships, often as part of scientific research programs; again, demand is high, particularly for the polar regions.

Cruise lines to consider

Adventure Associates, Aurora, Compagnie du Ponant, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions, One Ocean Expeditions, Seabourn, Silversea Expeditions.

Try these

Cruise Line Lindblad Expeditions.

Ship National Geographic Orion.

Itinerary 12 days Antarctic, departing Ushaia, December 7, 2015.

Fare From $12,350.

Cruise Line Silversea Expeditions.

Ship Silver Discoverer.

Itinerary 10 days, Norway to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, July 2-12, 2015.

Fare From $9050.




As a wise person said to me when I was a child, only boring people get bored. You can do as much or as little as you like on a cruise. Apart from stops in different ports, which you will have a day or more to explore, there are plenty of activities on board. Whether you enjoy a rigorous gym workout, relaxing in the sun with a cocktail and a good book or learning a new skill, there's bound to be something to suit. Check out what activities different cruise lines offer, before you book.


Going on a cruise doesn't mean you are confined to a cabin. Whatever size ship you're on, it will have open deck space, lounges, restaurants, cafes, a pool or two, a spa, a theatre, a library and an internet cafe. Even when you're on a megaship with 3000 passengers, the ship is designed to ensure there's plenty of space for everyone. If you think you'll feel claustrophobic, book a cabin with a balcony. It costs a bit more, but is worth every extra cent.


Cruises of eight to 10 days are increasingly popular with young families, couples and singles, and recent statistics from CLIA Australasia show that nearly half of all cruisers are under the age of 50. Multi-generational cruising is a fast-growing trend, but on the whole it's only well-heeled retirees who can afford longer and more expensive trips such as a world or grand cruise of 30 to 90 days.


If you're like most people, who can resist anything but temptation, be prepared to work off a few extra cruise kilojoules. Cruises offer opportunities to indulge in delicious meals and snacks all day (and half the night), so if you're likely to put on weight, make a deal with yourself to go to the gym, walk the decks, avoid the lifts or do whatever works for you. Meanwhile, try to avoid the buffet, remember that cocktails, wine and beer are loaded with sugar and don't bring any "big" clothes.


Modern ships have stabilisers and often you barely feel that you're sailing, but if you're prone to motion sickness, be prepared. The cabins in the middle of the ship are the most stable and spending time in the fresh air helps banish queasiness. Try drug-free remedies, such as ginger pills, green apples or acupressure wrist bands, or check with your doctor or pharmacist about medication or patches.