Whether you’re into high-end food and wine or looking to entertain your young family, there’s a cruise out there for you. The trick is knowing where to look, writes Dilvin Yasa.
Fancy an ’80s cruise complete with distressed denim workshops and Let’s Get Physical workouts, or how about a luxury experience in the South of France teeming with Michelin moments?
When it comes to cruising, there isn’t a single market that isn’t catered for (hello, The Walking Dead and Star Trek cruises), which is great if you know what you want, but problematic if you’re still a little unsure.
Cruise length means a lot
Carl Frier, managing director Australasia, Cruise 1st, says long before you try to work out what kind of experience you’re after, it’s a good idea to take into account how long you’re willing to travel for and whether you’ve travelled internationally before.
“If you love the idea of staying on a ship and you don’t suffer sea sickness, then that’s when you can start looking at longer itineraries which are heavy with days at sea,” he explains. “But those who’ve never travelled internationally before might find trips with plenty of port visits stressful and could be better suited to keeping things close to the Australian coastline.”
While it’s never easy – or advisable – to fit yourself within one specific category, this is a good time to think about who you’re travelling with, what everyone’s interests include and what your expectations are of the trip itself. Once you’ve got a firm list of random words such as ‘tropical’, ‘food’, ‘penguins’ and ‘personal butler’, you’re good to move on to the following itinerary matches.
First-time family cruisers
Whether you’ve got little rug rats, energetic tweens or tricky teens, you’re going to need two things: a larger style cruise ship that’s loaded with amenities such as sky diving simulators, kids’ clubs and family-friendly shows, but also, good-old fashioned tropical sunshine.
“Any large ship that sails to Hawai‘i is a great – and tellingly popular – choice for this group, but you can’t go past itineraries around the South Pacific,” says Deb Long, owner and manager of Weston Cruise & Travel.
“This is a trip that offers plenty of sunshine so that everyone can actually enjoy the outdoor amenities of the ship, but [also] have plenty of time and space to frolic once they get to that tropical island.” Think New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Tahiti.
First-time cruisers on a budget
If you’re still unsure whether cruising will be for you but don’t want to spend a decent chunk of coin finding out, opt for a closed-loop cruise (departing and returning to the same port) from a major Australian city, or take a two- to three-day sail along the Australian coastline, such as one from Melbourne to Adelaide.
Best of all, you can either go with a luxury ship, or get even more bang for your buck with a ship that is considered more suited to families. Itineraries around the South Pacific also tend to be geared towards the more affordable end of the cruising market.
First-time cruising for foodies
Blame it on the popularity of cooking shows or the rise of celebrity chefs, but culinary travel is one of the biggest travel trends of 2019 and happily, it’s a trend that transcends oceans.
Close to home, cross the Tasman Sea and experience the joys of wine tasting in New Zealand’s Marlborough region.
Further afield in Europe, there are plenty of food cruises with exclusive access to wineries across France, Germany and Austria onboard either a river or ocean cruise. If you have ever wanted to indulge in the best of Bordeaux or the Dordogne and Garonne without the hassle of planning, contacting the wineries and booking the restaurants yourself, then this is your ticket to hassle-free foodie heaven.
First-time cruising for the mobility impaired
Cruising is an outright winner for those with disabilities. The cruise lines, and Royal Caribbean in particular, are well versed in making memorable travel highly inclusive of the mobility impaired.
The bigger and newer ships will be able to accommodate the mobility impaired better with more up-to-date fit outs and technology, and dedicated accessible rooms and services.
As for itineraries, the city-based New Zealand itineraries are probably best, with great access to land without tenders. Having said that, the crew are adept at getting the mobility impaired in and out of tenders.
The Mediterranean is also a winner: you’ll find many ports here, such as Naples and Monaco, are located right in the middle of town, thus reducing the need to travel too far once onshore.
First-time cruising for adventurers
If you want to treat your cruise like an energy drink commercial, combining a pleasant onboard experience with action-packed port adventures such as hiking, kayaking with wildlife or rock-climbing, it’s hard to go past the Kimberley or Canada, says Long. “[Cruises here] tend to be [on] smaller ships as they need to navigate tiny waterways, but itineraries around these areas are often filled with adventure sports, wildlife and plenty of action.”
First-time cruising for niche markets
Food and wildlife are great, but what if your interests are a little less… pedestrian?
In Australia alone, we have plenty of options. Have a passion for the performing arts? There’s a cruise for that (Bravo). Or country music? Yep, there’s a cruise for that too (Cruisin’ Country).
Head stateside and it gets a lot more wacky. If you are obsessively into hair metal bands, science fiction television shows or conspiracy theories, then head directly to Florida, do not pass go and do not collect $200.
First-time cruising for luxury lovers
Dreaming of a high-end onboard experience complete with personal butler service, heated marble bathrooms and Michelin dining?
As the luxury end of the market continues its upward trajectory, so too does the desire to visit polar caps and other obscenely cold places. It is, say our experts, a perfect match.
Those looking to enjoy the finer things in life should look at locking in a place on a luxury expedition voyage taking in Iceland, Greenland, the Russian Arctic and Antarctic itineraries. Or if you’d like something a little less adventurous, opt for either the Canada-Alaska or Norwegian Fjords routes. As Long recommends, “Another great itinerary for the luxury market is sailing along the coastline of Norway where you can take in the fjords or sail around the archipelago of polar bear-heavy Svalbard.”