Thu, 9 Nov, 2017
What every cruise hater needs to know
To some it is the only way of holidaying; to others, it looks like hell on the high seas - to cruise or not to cruise, that is the question.
I have met my fair share of "Cruise-A-Holics" over the years. They plan each trip around the Mediterranean, Pacific, Alaska, meticulously, barely off one giant gleaming ship, only to book the next cruising adventure.
But for every pro, there's the neg.
The "Cruisephobics" - the people who can't imagine anything worse than spending 14 days stuck onboard a floating hotel with thousands of strangers shuffling from deck to deck.
1. Food is terrible
To "Cruisephobics" food on board falls into two categories - cheap and not so cheerful, or fine dining pomposity.
But times are changing and the bigger ships are upping their game. The Celebrity Reflection may be the newest ship in the Celebrity fleet, but the impressive free, and for-a-fee dining options helped win it the top spot on Cruisers' Choice "Best Cruise Ships for Dining for Larger Ships".
You have the choice of more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars on the Reflection. "Opus", the main dining area, has all the regular cuisine you'd expect, chicken, fish, steaks - mixed with more unusual finds like frog legs.
For those with a bit more coin, you can try "Luminae" on deck three. It's only available to those with suite accommodation but each night the menu changes and you can tuck into the likes of creamy truffle risotto, buttered poached lobster, ricotta cavatelli with duck Bolognese and venison ragout.
Cruisers' Choice says while the food is "exceptional", it is the service which truly lifts the experience. "With a team of highly-trained and attentive waiting staff attuned to passengers' likes and dislikes, it is almost precognitive at times.
"Whether you prefer relaxed, friendly service or a style more in keeping with the elegance of the venue, the wait staff quickly work it out after a day or two."
2. Day trips are terrible
One area that river cruises can trump those big oceanliners is the variety and frequency of day trips. You don't have endless days at sea followed by a few hours scrambling about at a stop-off. On the river cruise, you get a more intimate feeling of how rivers were once the primary way to travel - the lifeblood of cities and countries.
Cruising down the Danube, you can venture right into the centre of magical European cities like Vienna, Prague, Passau, Melk, Bratislava or Budapest. These are full days sampling a host of different countries - from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in Romania.
You literally get your feet dirty while exploring these culture hotbeds. One tip: bring some good shoes as those cobblestones are unforgiving.
3. Rooms are too small
To "Cruisephobics" the fear of being trapped in a room, being able to touch with walls with your outstretched arms, is one of the biggest deal breakers.
Room to swing a cat is at a premium on some vessels. But not all provide claustrophobic window-free "jail cells".
For those with a bit of cash, the Holland America Line's large interior staterooms give you nearly 19 square metres to move about in. The spacious L-shaped layouts optimise the available space.
For anyone on a tighter budget, Carnival Cruise Lines won "Best Standard Inside Cabin" by Cruise Critic. The site raves that "just like their suite-living shipmates, passengers in Carnival's standard insides get bathrobes for on-ship use, flat-screen TVs, and very comfy beds and bedding.
"Carnival Breeze, adds some nifty storage options, such as bureau shelves that fold down or up for custom space."
For those who enjoy river cruising, well the Balcony Suites on Scenic's Space Ships are hard to beat.
The cabins have queen-sized beds that can be split into twins, plush Egyptian cotton linens, and individual climate control. Over 80 per cent of the cabins (all but the Standard Staterooms) have a private outdoor balcony that "at the gentle press of a button, glass smoothly glides and your balcony seamlessly converts into our exclusive Scenic Sun Lounge allowing you to enjoy the luxury of extra space as well as the unfolding landscape".
4. Too expensive
Gone are the days when you probably had to sell a kidney to be able to afford a 14-day cruise.
Of course, there are premium options for those who have the cash to splash, but for the rest of us, there is pricing to suit all needs. Go all-inclusive, get added drink options, or just go pay-as-you-go, there is a range of price brackets to suit.
You could gamble on the last-minute deals to bring the cost down even more. Just don't forget that you need some dollars to get to, and from, the departing port.
Written by Alan Granville. Republished with permission of Stuff.co.nz.