Think cruising is just for the "over fed and nearly dead" crowd? Think again. Joanna Hall explains why cruising is a top way to travel.
Cruising the high seas has long been regarded by travellers as a romantic throwback to a bygone era of travel, where the salt air, the open ocean, and the anticipation of an exotic new port of call merge to create a unique experience.
While the romance of cruising still exists, today it has evolved from a mode of long distance travel to an experience in itself many. It's also a multibillion dollar industry, with a wide variety of ships and itineraries on offer designed to lure all types of travellers, and fit most budgets.
Yet there are people who haven't yet crossed the gangway for a high seas holiday for a variety of reasons, their concerns ranging from the potential for seasickness to the idea of being stuck on a ship for a long time with people they may not like.
While these concerns are valid, the positives of cruising by far outweigh the negative, so if you are considering a cruise for your next holiday, here are the top five reasons why you should go.
1. Travel far, unpack once
Cruising is an excellent alternative to the “airports-taxis-hotels” holiday experience, which can have you arriving home exhausted and needing a vacation to recover from your vacation. Your floating resort takes you from city to city, or from island to island, with the greatest of ease; all you have to do each morning is get up, then step ashore and go exploring.
Another major drawcard is that you unpack only once, yet have the opportunity to spend each day of your trip in a different port of call or country. And thanks to a booming Australian market, with more ships to choose from and places to cruise to, cruising offers the alluring possibility of eliminating air travel from your holiday altogether.
Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle have become major cruising hubs, making it possible to explore New Zealand, the South Pacific islands, Indonesia, and even South-East Asia easily from our own back yard.
2. Value for money
Dollar for dollar, cruising is exceptional value for money, with ships ranging from basic to six-star, and many fares including everything you could possibly need for a great trip. They include accommodations, food, daily activities, nightly entertainment, transportation between destinations, and some even include flights where needed.
For many cruisers, all they will need to factor into their budgets are extras including alcohol, laundry, and internet access (if you can't bear to be away from it). Many cruise lines, however, are making all of this more affordable by way of offering drinks and even sightseeing packages on board.
And at the luxury end of the scale, some cruise lines go as far as to offer “all inclusive” fares, where everything else for the perfect holiday is covered from your morning latté and pre-dinner cocktail, to mineral water and gratuities.
3. The destinations
A major drawcard for many cruise fans are the ports of call. Few land-based holiday options offer the opportunity of going snorkeling on a reef one day, shopping for local handicrafts in a rural village the next, exploring ancient ruins in a great city the day after, and rounding every day off back on board with a cocktail by the pool watching the sun go down.
Cruising offers travellers the opportunity of visiting a number of diverse places in a single trip. If you can't choose between Thailand and Vietnam, for example, on many South-East Asia cruises you don't have to, as itineraries will often offer both.
Another bonus of cruising, particularly in foreign countries, is that you won't have to worry about language barriers, or the need for buying local currency. Shore excursions are also big business, so you can take the strain out of exploring through buying a sightseeing trip on board; all you have to do is turn up for the bus at the appointed time, and let the cruise line worry about everything else.
4. Floating resorts for all
People used to believe that cruising was just for the “over fed and nearly dead”. Thankfully those days are gone, with cruise lines now targeting different types of cruisers from singles and couples, to families with kids of all ages. Today's cruise ships are also different and come in many shapes and sizes, from exclusive 16-guest expedition vessels to über-liners carrying over 5000 holiday makers looking for a good time.
Like land-based resorts, the larger cruise ships in particular have a wide variety of accommodation types on offer to suit all tastes and budgets, from affordable inside staterooms sleeping two-to-four people, to lavish suites complete with a private jacuzzi, four poster bed and a private butler.
Larger ships also have everything essential you need on board and more, from cyber cafés and satellite television, to babysitting services and shops selling duty free and any key toiletries you forgot to pack. Many even have medical centres, making it easier for anyone travelling with a health issue.
5. Do as much or as little as you please
One concern that many non-cruisers have about taking a high seas holiday is that they will get bored, but this also a misconception. For one, cruising is very social; if you and your kids enjoy making new friends and meeting people from around the world, taking a cruise is a great way to do it.
Cruising can also be romantic, however, offering couples some much needed downtime together and away from it all, or a honeymoon with a difference. If you like being busy, however, today's ships can have you on the go 24/7 - and that's not just eating food.
Where kids are concerned, there are programs to keep toddlers, tweens and teens occupied all day, with facilities including rock climbing walls, kiddies pools, Playstation competitions, and 3-D cinemas. Adults haven't been forgotten either; there are fitness centres to work off all that cruise food, spas for a spot of pampering, enrichment programs, and Broadway style entertainment. Think of a pastime, and a ship out there somewhere will have it available.