In Part 1, I shared two of my five favourite things about a cruise. Here are my final three.
So you’ve boarded the ship and started to explore. What next?
3. Whole days at sea
These are what I was most concerned about when we booked our first cruise. How would I feel being cooped up for prolonged period on a bo… ship?
It turns out, it’s the best feeling in the world.
I’ve written elsewhere about the allure of the open ocean. It really has a mindful effect on me, putting everything else in perspective. As the land recedes, so do my cares.
Part of this is because you are genuinely cut off from the rest of the world. Even if Antony has purchased the Wi-Fi package, I do not partake. I see it as an opportunity for a digital detox (or whatever nauseating neologism you want to use).
Give me a stack of books and liquid refreshment and I’m happy.
There are so many expansive spaces on a cruise ship I have never felt enclosed. And even on cruises with thousands of people, a quiet corner or coffee shop is not far away.
And when you’re at sea (literally) you won’t be at sea (figuratively). You can stay hidden with your books if you want, or you can partake of the onboard entertainment, which really ramps up on sea days. Cruise lines often save their best shows for these days. Personally, we love a silent disco (where you choose the music track you want through special headphones). And you can learn new things, including cooking and making cocktails. On our QM2 Transatlantic voyage we had eight sea days, but we were never bored. We even took up free fencing lessons!
4. Waking up in a new place most days
With the exception of our Transatlantic voyage, we have never gone more than a couple of days without waking up in a different place each morning. Sometimes we even set our alarms early so do not miss the ‘sail in’. Can you really beat taking your morning coffee while sailing down a Norwegian fjord? Or while passing the Statue of Liberty? Or weighing anchor in Cannes?
Some cruises pack in a lot of destinations. In the Mediterranean and Caribbean we had multiple consecutive days of visiting places. This can actually start making you pine for sea days where you don’t have to be so active.
An eating analogy is useful here (and apt – it is a cruise holiday after all!). Just because it says ‘all you can eat’ buffet over a buffet does not mean you have to try to eat everything.
It’s a motto we adopted quite quickly. We pick and choose.
We tend to alternate: busy day/less busy day. Yes, this means we might ‘miss things’ at each destination but we’re OK with that. We would rather enjoy fully the experiences we do manage to fit into each destination than be run ragged. Sometimes we disembark for only a couple of hours and then go back onboard to savour a less crowded ship. Look – no children in the pool! The Martini bar is empty: we can have the undivided attention of our favourite mixologist!
5. Formal nights
“The name’s Lowbridge-Ellis. David Lowbridge-Ellis.”
On of the big reasons we love cruising is dressing up for dinner, preferably in a dinner jacket and bow tie.
How many other opportunities do you get to live your best 007 life?
Well, on a cruise, you get several.
You can dress up for dinner every night if you like. Or you can stay casual the whole time. It really is up to you. The casual approach limits your dining options to the buffet and bar food, but these are hardly limited in their choice, and we make sure we sample what the less formal dining venues have to offer at least one night of any cruise. But most of the time, we dress to impress. Who cares WHO we’re aiming to impress. Ourselves? Each other? That attractive Russian-speaking passenger who claims to work in ‘international exports’ but we all know who he’s really working for…
It just feels good to go through the whole ritual. Dressing up is the first course of the meal. A pre-appetiser.
Formal nights (where the dining rooms demand a higher standard of dress) often come at the start and end of cruises, but not the very first and last (people may not have fully unpacked/packed). Sometimes there will be a formal night set for the middle of a cruise, on a day when the anchor is weighed by mid-late afternoon and people have time to get ready.
We have found that all of the cruise companies we have used have enforced the dress code, although Cunard, with its reputation, was the most formal.
Formal doesn’t have to mean frumpy and old fashioned though. We usually pack a selection of bow ties and jackets. Wear whatever makes you feel good and make you looks good in the reflection of that perfectly clear Martini.
I have barely even scratched the surface with my top five. For a start: what about sailaways? What about all the people you meet? We have made lasting friendships with many of the people we first met on cruise ships. We will be exploring these facets and others in our future blogs about cruising. All aboard!
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)