The five best parts of a cruise – Part 1
Being not only intensely claustrophobic but also immoderately afraid of water, I thought I would hate cruising. Before we took our first cruise, I kept envisioning the worst: I might have a panic attack and have to be airlifted off the boat (sorry, ‘ship’) in a dramatic mid-sea rescue operation. Either that or be sealed in the brig until I had calmed down or arrived at the next port of call from whence I could be flown home.
How wrong I was.
I love cruising. Almost to the point that I can sometimes come across as being dangerously overenthusiastic whenever anyone reveals (often nervously) they have planned their first cruise. I steamroller over the rest of the conversation, becoming almost evangelical as I wax lyrical over how AMAZING a time they are going to have. You have been warned.
We took our first cruise five years ago (Norwegian fjords with Holland America). Since then, we have been on three more (the Mediterranean and Eastern Caribbean, both with Celebrity and Southampton to New York with Cunard). As it’s soon to be our five cruise anniversary, I thought it would be the ideal time to pick my top five favourite things about a cruise holiday.
It’s all about the anticipation. When you board a plane the anticipation often tips over into mind-numbing tedium: queues, security checks, more queues and then the long wait of around two hours before boarding your international flight – and then another queue to actually get on the damn thing! But with a Cruise, you just turn up, leave your bag, quickly check in, and then – your holiday begins. That’s it.
In all of the cruises we have done, we have never spent more than thirty minutes getting from the port entrance to boarding the ship. The pleasure is heightened no end if you leave from your own country and don’t have to set foot anywhere near a plane. Our first cruise to Norway departed from Dover. Our third left from Southampton. All we had to do was drive or take a train, move our cases a few metres to the dockside porters and then, we were on holiday! Living in the middle of the UK means we have to travel further to ports than most but a 2-3 hour car/train journey is just the right amount of time to get the excitement building.
2. Getting to know the ship.
Resist the urge to start humming the music from Titanic. Or don’t!
You know the one. I’m actually listening to it as I type this. It’s the track with synth voices going ‘huuuh huuuh huuuh’ over driving strings and percussion, appropriately enough called ‘Southampton’.
I hear the same track every time I set foot on a cruise liner gangplank. This was particularly unavoidable when we boarded Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 to cross the Atlantic, which is as close as you will get to recreating the full Titanic experience (minus the obvious).
We have, thus far, always sailed on large vessels, which means it has taken days for us to find everything on board. With a poor sense of direction, I know I will spend most of my time onboard walking the wrong way. By a sojourn aft when I intended to go astern can be serendipitous: oh look, another pool! Another library! A specialist noodle restaurant! Another bar to add to the list of six I’ve already seen!
By the time I’ve seen and sampled everything I know it’s usually time to disembark. We always end up conversing with retirees who are onboard for longer than us – sometimes for whole months at a time. Personally, even if I did have the time, I would not be able to trust myself with the endless dining options. I’d be as big as the Titanic itself and in need of a whole new wardrobe. Or maybe I would develop a new routine and use the gym at least twice a day to burn off those three additional desserts from the previous night’s gustatory excesses. But probably not.
Joking aside, a cruise ship is much more than just a floating hotel. In her TV programmes, one of the first things Jane McDonald does is take a GoPro around with her to take in all the new sights. Jane has been on one or two cruises in her life but even she is often surprised by what she finds.
Establishing a new routine, your new life on board, is what getting to know the ship is all about.
In the next part: Sea days, formal nights and more!
Itineraries do change over time (and sometimes due to weather, although we have yet to experience this, aside from having some onboard events cancelled due to dangerous on deck conditions). Having said that, these are the current itineraries that most closely match what we experienced:
Norwegian Fjords with Holland America (this one departs from Amsterdam, not Dover as we did in 2014)
Mediterranean with Celebrity Cruises (so many different itineraries for the Mediterranean – In 2016 we did one that starts in Barcelona and ends in Venice, stopping at Cannes, Rom, the Amalfi Coast, Ravenna and others)
Westbound Transatlantic Crossing (Southampton to New York) with Cunard (this one doesn’t change as much – obviously – although some have a port before you reach New York. In our case, it was Halifax because of Canada’s 200 year anniversary in August 2017)
Eastern Caribbean with Celebrity Cruises (some different ports to ours in August 2018)