With cruising becoming ever more popular with all age groups, what is it’s growing appeal? (it is currently the fastest growing travel sector). We have taken one sea cruise and one river cruise, so have not got much experience of cruising, but we hope to have a reasonable debate from both sides of the ‘argument’, despite our limited cruising experiences. Both vessels on the cruises taken by us, were small compared to the mega-ships of today.
MS Lady Sofia – Nile Cruise 2002
We are going to present our likes and dislikes and then we will discuss if we would cruise again or not.
M = Mark
Y = Yvette
Y: Cruising is simple. No baggage check in queues, then your bags go and next time you see them is in your cabin.
M: Agreed, check in is simple and compared to an airport, relatively quick and painless.
Fruit sculpture on ‘Marco Polo’
Y: A range of entertainment options available, all without having to use transport. And if one wishes to do the quiz and the other wants to sleep in then both activities can be enjoyed without any arguments.
M: The entertainment was pretty good on the ‘Marco Polo’, and a detailed “newsletter” of the day’s activities/excursion arrangements/information is delivered to your cabin every day.
Y: No hawkers, traders or others trying to sell you knock off tat for too much money. Once you are on the ship the security is very rigid so you feel safe and not worrying about whether to carry your passport and cash with you all the time or not.
M: No hassle from day to day was a big plus for me too.
Waldorf ‘formal dining’ restaurant – Marco Polo
Y: Food options are good with fresh fish/meat where possible, and a range of restaurant options. I can be a fussy eater but found something I enjoyed both at the lunchtime buffets and in the restaurant for the evenings.
M: Food was very fresh and nicely cooked. I was surprised at the wide choice available. Local dishes were always on offer on both ships.
M: A different destination nearly every day, travelling overnight, so covering more ground.
Y: Not worrying about whether there would be enough time to make bus/train connections for sightseeing when self-planned. Being able to enjoy the entertainment and facilities on board whilst you travel to the next destination. And being able to enjoy some fabulous (and well priced on the Marco Polo) cocktails and no concerns about driving.
M: Full board on the Marco Polo, so only had to budget for drinks and excursions. The Nile cruise we were all inclusive, with excursions included in the price too, so no money worries.
Y: Easier to budget as you can find out and book any excursions prior to leaving home. Whilst you settle into the ship on your first day, you go to the reception and can either leave a cash amount for your cabin credit (you can add more) or you can leave a debit/credit card details. Then everything on board is charged to your cabin as the ships use a cashless payment system. This was very easy to use as you just sign for everything as you go.
M: The staff on both vessels were superb, nothing was too much trouble, even for the officers.
Y: I agree nothing, to add.
Samir – Nile cruise
M: The main problem anyone will have is if they don’t like the food, entertainment or their fellow passengers then you are stuck with them for the duration of the cruise.
Y: During our cruise on the Marco Polo, one of the best couples we met for conversation was at the end of the cruise over breakfast. We were one of the first to arrive, and the four of us were the last to leave. We heard several passengers complain about the food, so I guess it is down to your expectations.
M: The attitude of regular cruisers who seemed to be always on the lookout for mistakes by the newbies, and it made their day for some reason. I got rather fed up with the regulars looking down their noses at us, then these bores went on about how many cruises they had been on and how expensive the cruises were too, yawn.
Y: Yep – totally agree here. There were also a few who just HAD to be first in the queue for the restaurant in the evenings which got rather tiresome as everyone had allocated tables and the same menu so being first or last didn’t really matter. We were at times “looked down” on because most of the evenings were smart casual for the restaurant, but some only felt comfortable wearing penguin suits and designer dresses. Why??
Gala night – Marco Polo
M: On the Marco Polo, shirt and optional tie for dinner. Add a jacket for the Captains Dinner and Gala night. I am in a restaurant because I am hungry, not because I want to be seen all dressed up. The food is important, everything else is mere details. There was a buffet restaurant option, but I preferred the Waldorf Restaurant, as I thought the food was excellent and worth the effort of a shirt and tie.
Y: As above really, however it was nice to dress up for 2 of the 10 nights and no pressure to feel the need to do so for the others. And there was an added benefit for us as one particular bore decided to eat in the buffet restaurant other than the first and last nights. Our table of 8 was empty other than us in the evenings and yes we felt a little conspicuous at first, but in the end it was great as we got to know our waitress and she got to know us.
M: Being restricted to the ports of call, if no expensive excursion booked in advance. Obvious I know, but irritating that you are at the mercy of whatever the cruise-line wants to charge, knowing there will be little or no competition. And excursions get priority off loading/loading over everyone else.
Y: I was worried about the tender service prior to the cruise (I can’t swim!!) and yes the excursions were given priority but when we were in Edinburgh and docked, we walked off and straight to HMS Britannia, which was nearby. Those that had booked the trip for the Edinburgh tattoo that evening not only got soaked due to a downpour but also nearly missed the sailing out of port due to the lateness of the tattoo finishing. Despite what many people suggest, if the ship is on a strict timetable for departure, they wait for no-one – regardless of on a booked excursion or on your own.
So – would we do another cruise after all the above?
Y: Not too sure, I think I like the general idea but I would not only hate the new “mega ships” of several thousand passengers but spending 10 days at sea out of a 28 day Transatlantic cruise for instance also fills me with dread. So all in all, it would have to be somewhere that I really, really want to go where it would be difficult/expensive to do independently and it would have to be at the right price.
M: Agreed again. I think the only way I will take another cruise is if I win one for free in a competition, or a fantastic cheap deal. Cruising is a cost effective way of visiting very expensive countries, like Norway for example. But I found it rather restricting where we could go and what we could see. I like being able to change plans if I want to. I did really enjoy both Nile and Fjord cruises and the main reason for that was visiting places on my personal bucket list. Both ships were very good and highlight the need to research the ship, cabin grade and itinerary to match your expectations. Choose the ‘wrong’ vessel and you are stuck with it, with no escape.
Pictorial tips for a change
Make sure your ship of choice has enough seats to relax in, especially on deck if the weather is nice.
Some excursions are very expensive, but we thought it was worth the expense for wonderful and unique sights.
‘And a another thing….’ will return on a future post, as will ‘thanks for the memories’
Thanks for reading.
Mark & Yvette