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Cruises - where to book and do's and don'ts

Cruise holidays are one of the UK's fastest growing holiday choices. A cruise can last from 3 days to 3 months and you can find a cruise to suit every pocket, from economy to the most luxurious, there are even cruises for families, with kids clubs on board. So it doesn't have to be all black ties, five course meals and endless cocktails!

Cruises can be great value too. The price usually includes accommodation, meals and all onboard daytime and evening entertainment. Most ships are 'one class', with everyone able to use all of the facilities.

The average age of a cruise passenger in Europe is around 50, but on a world-wide basis it is closer to 45. On longer sailings, such as a world cruise, older or retired people tend to be in the majority, but the latest cruise ships designed to cater for people in their mid-20's to 40's as well as the over 60's.

What's included in the price?
A typical cruise with one of the world's major companies will include:

  1. Flights, transfers and air / sea programme
  2. The cruise itself, including all entertainment onboard
  3. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner & a midnight buffet (i.e. full board - and a bit more!)
  4. Room service is complimentary on most ships
  5. Use of the gym, sauna and spa, pools and recreational facilities.

What's extra?
Items of a personal nature (e.g. laundry etc.), shopping at sea and on land, beauty treatments, drinks, organised shore excursions and tips or gratuities.

Won't I get sea-sick?
All modern cruise ships have hydraulic stabilisers that help reduce the motion of the sea in bad weather. Cruise ships can be subject to a little motion in some areas, notably the Bay of Biscay and parts of the North Sea, but it is highly unusual for this to cause anything other than mild inconvenience. The vast majority soon get used to a ship's movement - it's called 'getting your sea-legs' - and enjoy the experience, while there are several ready remedies for anyone who feels uncomfortable (see holiday health).

Hints and tips - to make sure your cruise is all you hope it will be.....

  1. Cruise ships vary widely in size and shape - from smaller vessels with 100 or so passengers navigating the Norwegian fjords to huge ships cruising the Mediterranean or the Caribbean with over 2,500 passengers. Decide which end of the scale you want to be at.
  2. Some cruise companies will allow you to take a look around a ship whilst it is in a UK port before you book.
  3. Whether you choose an inside cabin with no natural light, or an outside cabin with a large picture window or even a verandah is a question of personal needs and your budget!
  4. The best time to take a cruise depends on where you'd like to go. The Caribbean is fantastic year round but some other destinations are seasonal. For example, you can only cruise in Alaska between May and September, in Europe between April and November, in the South Pacific between November and March and the Panama Canal between September and April.
  5. Cruise ships have made the transition to a "cashless society." Passengers are given an onboard charge card that typically doubles as their boarding pass. They use this card for all purchases including drinks, souvenirs, excursions, etc. Cash is accepted in the casino, for gratuities and at the purser's desk to settle you onboard account!
  6. Take an overnight bag for your last night at sea. Your bags are normally collected the night before you leave the ship. You will need an overnight bag to carry your night clothes and toiletries
  7. Even if you pick up the ship in the UK take your passport. You may be asked for it as a proof of ID.
  8. Cruises are casual by day, but in the evening there will be times when you will want to dress up.
  9. Although onboard activities are included, day trips and other shore activities cost extra.
  10. Don't forget your travel insurance. Cruise companies will not be responsible for the loss or damage of your possessions. You need medical and trip-cancellation insurance too. It doesn't have to cost the earth - find excellent cover at low prices on our travel insurance page.

Booking a cruise
As with most sections of this website, our advice is to shop around. Look via a couple of travel agents websites and investigate the websites of the cruise companies too. Also check what is included in the price - flights, transfers, the cruise and hotel accommodation?

Online Travel Agents Offering Cruises
1st4Cruising - this website was voted an 'outstanding site' in The Guardian's 'best of the net 2005' survey. Operated by one of the UK's leading Independent travel agents, Page & Moy, the website offers a wide range of cruise holidays at great prices. Definitely our first 'port of call' (!), make sure you browse their special offers section.

cruisedirect - a US website offering the promise of 'lowest prices guaranteed' (and they appear to mean it). European, US and worldwide cruises, online exclusives and the option to quote prices £'s.

ecruise - a quick search engine plus up to 600 late deals, this website is operated by Atlantis Travel.

If you want to cruise North America or the Caribbean you could also look at the American versions of expedia and Travelocity plus the excellent Online Cruise Agency. But factor in the cost of flights to your pick up port.

The Cruise Companies
Carnival Cruise Lines - US based and aimed at the American market. Cruise Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Celebrity Cruise Lines - Another US focused company, major destinations include the Caribbean, Alaska, Bermuda and the trans Panama Canal route.

Cunard - own the Queen Elizabeth 2, the worlds only ship to offer regular transatlantic crossings. In addition to North American and the Caribbean, Cunard offer more exotic destinations such as the Cook Islands, Bali,Turkey and West Africa.

Norwegian Cruise Lines - offer a comprehensive range of European cruises, together with a number of cruises starting in America. In total they call at over 150 ports in 40 countries. The site is very easy to navigate and the special deals section is well worth a look

P&O Cruises - cruise Europe, the Caribbean, North & South America and the Far East. Request a brochure or e-mail your reservation.

Royal Caribbean International - cruising North America, the Caribbean, Europe and Transatlantic crossings their fleet includes some of the largest cruise vessels afloat. The web site has lots of detailed information on all aspects of cruise life.

Swan Hellenic - a P&O company, voted the Telegraphs 'best cruise company' in 2001. Cruise throughout Europe and the Middle East. Order a brochure online.


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