Struggling to pick a cruise? Let us help!
The array of choice in the cruise market can be frankly baffling to the newcomer. There are dozens of companies, hundreds of ships, thousands of destinations – and even the cabins come in every conceivable shape and size. The upside is this means that there’s pretty much a cruise for everyone. But how do you even start to choose the right one for you?
First of all, narrow down your choices with the following questions, and it will start to feel a bit more manageable.
What kind of ship can you see yourself on?
Sunning yourself in a deckchair by a pool on an enormous floating city? Helping hoist the sails on a tall ship? Grasping binoculars in mitten-clad fists on the deck of an icebreaker? Sipping a glass of local wine on the back of a riverboat?
Not all cruise ships fall into the ‘floating city’ category (although the ones that do are mind-blowing). There’s a huge array of ships to choose from. So picture yourself on all of the above, and decide which one you like the most. Here are a few cruise lines to investigate (this list is by no means comprehensive, but is a good place to start):
Traditional, big cruise ships:
Norwegian Cruise Line
Viking River Cruises
Where in the world do you want to go?
The answer to this question goes hand-in-hand with the one above. For example, large ships are too big to enter certain ports. River cruises will take you closer to city centres and to inland destinations that ocean liners cannot reach, but you won’t get those lazy days at sea. However, you won’t be too restricted: within each category of ship, there are lots of destinations to explore.
What kind of holiday do you want?
If you’re after an action-packed family-friendly cruise, try Disney Cruise Line. If wine tasting is more your thing, look at the wine river cruises on offer, such as these from Avalon Waterways. And if you’re a nature-watcher or stargazer, you could do worse than take a trip up the Norwegian coast with Hurtigruten to see the Northern Lights.
How long do you want to be away for?
Fancy spending a winter in warmer climes? There are plenty of options for making a ship your home for a good few months. Equally, if the idea of long weeks at sea sounds too much like incarceration (albeit with sunshine, pools and restaurants), there are deals out there for cruises lasting as little as one night. The choice is yours.
One last point…
Even in this age of do-it-yourself online holiday booking, in the world of cruising, an agent can really help. Which? Travel found that you could save more than £200 per couple on your next cruise if you buy via an agent, so it’s definitely worth considering. Plus, they really know the various cruise lines, so you’re more likely to find the right holiday for you.
The Cruise Lines International Association is the industry’s main trade association, and its UK & Ireland division has a useful list of agents accredited and recommended by them, which you can search by postcode.
So before you rush off to board the first ship you see, do your research, plan ahead, consider all your options and make sure you’re sailing off into the right sunset. And above all else, Bon Voyage!