There is very little in life that can compare to the feeling of cruising - standing on the top deck of the ship whilst watching the sunset, listening to the calming sounds of the waters in the evening under a sky full of stars, disembarking in beautiful far flung locales and eating some of the worlds finest cuisine - cruising combines all the best parts of travel and creates the most unforgettable of experiences.
If you want something a little different - you could look into the possibility of tailor made cruises which essentially are bespoke itineraries which can include add on stays and touring options, and even multiple cruises - taking you on distinctly personal trip which can be whatever you want it to be.
Whether you want to go to sea with your entire family, luxuriate on one of the worlds largest ships or simply lay back with your partner floating on the calm waters of Europe’s rivers - you’ll find that there is a ship and a cruise for everyone. We’ve listed the most common varieties of cruises below - so you can decide which one (why stick to one?) is right for you.
Ocean cruises come in all shapes and sizes and are the most popular - with budget and luxury options available as well as family cruising and cruises for singles. You can tailor make your cruise to suit your preferences - embarking on a journey that takes you to an entire continent, around the world or along the coast of Italy for instance - you can even sail directly from the UK to join a second ship in Africa, Europe or the Americas - meaning that you never have to step foot in an airport - if you prefer not to - for the entire trip.
If you’d like to experience some of the most up-to-date and incredible ocean sailing - then we suggest a cruise aboard one of the worlds largest ships - either the Allure of the Seas or the Oasis of the Seas - both operated by Royal Caribbean International.
Family cruising is a great way to take a family holiday without the worries and stresses of a regular holiday. On family friendly cruises - each cruise ship comes with its own itinerary of children’s activities - as well as a veritable legion of minders and babysitters to help keep your mind at ease. Some ships of course are better equipped than others - the larger the better if you’re looking for all the thrills - some with dedicated children’s areas and pools, as well as children’s entertainment and activities.
If you’re a family on a budget, then consider P&O Cruises, who offer affordable friendly family cruising out of the UK. If you’re looking for something a little extra special for the kids - then try out the fabulous Disney Cruise Line - who provide some of the best child-focused on board entertainment alongside a huge collection of great destinations for you - from Alaska to the coast of Mexico.
If you’re looking for a way to escape the crowds on your cruise, whilst basking in the upmost of luxury - then this option may be for you. Many of the ships have unique entertainment programmes including orchestras and educational segments and of course, some of the best staterooms available on sea or land. Seabourn’s yachts are some of the most luxurious, with large cabins and a small number of passengers, while Regent Seven Seas offers exceptionally curated inclusive cruises.
There’s a misconception that cruises are just for the retired - but that couldn’t, in this day and age especially, be further from the truth. Cruises are for everyone. Singles cruises highlight this especially well as there are all kinds available - whether you want to be a part of a true single and looking community of travellers - or simply want to jump aboard a traditional cruise ship alone to enjoy a calming few weeks at sea.
The ships geared at young singles will generally always be more of a party boat stopping at party islands and throwing all kinds of soirees onboard. However, those who simply want to cruise alone will find that many cruise lines cater for them in many different ways.
Fred Olsen and Cunard for example provides dance partners and pairs single guests at dinners - of all ages, while P&O have recently launched several ships with dedicated single cabins (helping to avoid the solo traveller and single occupancy fees). Cruise and Maritime Voyages are one of our favourite lines - they operate exceptionally traditional British ships and have a nice selection of both indoor and outdoor single cabins.
It’s perhaps thanks to the likes of Viking Cruises, who recently expanded their repertoire to include river cruises in America, that river cruising has become so popular. River cruising is a whole different experience to ocean cruising - instead of sailing through vast expanses of water with views of only the horizon and the ocean all around - you’ll find yourself sailing through some of the prettiest scenery in Europe, China and the Americas.
Imagine stark mountain ranges, grand gothic cathedrals, fairytale like castles, forests and idyllic hill top villages as you effortlessly glide down the waterways that criss-cross the land. There’s a nice selection of operators to choose from - though fewer than with traditional cruise lines - our favourites are the luxurious Uniworld and the stylish Avalon Waterways - whose modern ships come with larger than normal staterooms and the latest technologies.
For an ultimate tailor made cruise itinerary consider mixing both a European river cruise with an ocean cruise departing from either Eastern Europe or mainland Europe.
One of the greatest elements of any cruise itinerary is where it chooses to dock. You can tailor your itinerary as little or as much as you’d like - and choose to either take part in the pre-defined on-shore itineraries as a part of a tour group - or simply embrace the land by yourself and make your own way.
Most cruise lines organise active excursions such as bike riding and hiking as well as more generic or cultural activities such as touring by bus and guided tours of sites and attractions - such as a guided tour of Venice’s canals, or a sightseeing tour of the Grand Canyon.
You can also work with independent tour companies to tailor make private excursions to your liking - whether you want to take a cookery class or a day of art discovery. You’ll note that the cruise lines push their excursions quite a lot - but you don’t have to take part if you don’t want - instead you could assign a day to take a stroll around the corridors of an almost empty ship or a day in one of the ship’s pools whilst enjoying a cocktail or two.
However, when you decide which excursions you’d like to take part in - be sure to sign up as far in advance as possible as many of them have limited numbers. You have several options for booking - you can book in advance of your cruise through the cruise line or on board at the excursions desk.
Tip - If you do decide to book private excursions - always make sure that you are left with plenty of time to return to the ship - as it’s at the Captain’s discretion whether to wait for displaced passengers - and it’s not always even possible!
If your cruise’s point of departure is not in your home country - then it’s most likely that you’ll need to fly to your point of departure. Just choose which regional airport you’d like to fly from, and when you arrive you are met and transferred to the departure port of your cruise ship - or to a hotel if you decide to extend your trip with a pre-cruise package (see hotels).
If time is of the essence then this is of course better than taking an initial sea voyage to reach your departure point, as it gives you more time to visit the different ports of call and cuts down on overall travel hours - especially useful if you have limited holiday time available. However, if you have plenty of time to play with - can you think of a better way to reach your cruise destination than to cruise there as well?
The latter option is perfect for those wanting to fully tailor their entire cruise experience as there are just so many options open to you. For example, you could choose to begin your trip by sailing from Southampton to New York and later joining a ship to the Caribbean or sailing across the channel to France and joining a voyage to the Mediterranean.
On the other hand, if flexibility is of the essence then it’s also possible to book only your cruise through the cruise operator - so for example you could book a cruise from Miami to the Caribbean without flights and take advantage of low cost flights direct from the UK - or incorporate a cruise from America as part of a larger holiday plan. Anything is possible.
Many cruise lines offer pre or post-cruise packages - meaning you can easily extend your trip to include a few days in one of your favourite cities or ports. For example, many cruise lines can arrange all the details on your behalf - including, not just hotel bookings, but also transfer arrangements and local tours - utilising their vast network of contacts to secure the best rates and experiences.
There are also a variety of cruise and stay packages available which are ideal for those that want to drive to their port of departure, but also want to avoid the stresses of getting to and from the terminal - travelling instead by transfer from the hotel and enjoying your cruise safe in the knowledge that your car is waiting for you when you return.
One thing to think about whilst considering whether to spend more time aboard the cruise ships or in hotels is what a cruise ship can offer - remember - the most incredible element of any cruise is the ship. A cruise ship combines home comforts such as a room with everything you need and sometimes incredible sea views, with urban entertainment and social options, world-class restaurants, the relaxation of a house at the beach, and the pure unadulterated exoticism of world travel - where as a hotel is just that - a hotel.
One thing remains true regardless of the holiday type: one package doesn't always fit all! So if you want a holiday designed around your tastes and desires then a tailor made cruise is the perfect option.
One of the most popular types of tailor made cruises are the ones that are stitched together using multiple cruises - booking a variety of cruises back-to-back - disembarking one cruise line and joining another in the same city - or by taking a cross country train ride to a different port. You can be as creative, as adventurous or as straightforward as you like - picking and choosing the best bits of every cruise to tailor-make your own personal ocean bound adventure.
You can choose to begin your cruise by heading to the port city and spending a week there exploring every inch, or you can disembark in a new locale at the end of the cruise and take time to get to know the city before heading out on a second cruise in a different direction.
Simply put - your tailor made cruise holiday can be as exciting and as unique as you are.
You may also be interested in this post: Booking your Shore Excursions