An increasing number of people are broadening their horizons. They want to see more of the world, they want new experiences and they are also demanding a better standard of hotels and service. Today’s cruise ships can meet these needs with resort facilities, entertainment, cuisine and service that are second to none. At the same time cruising is providing the opportunity to visit almost any area of the world in complete comfort. Most of the world’s great cities are sea ports, and with the add-on land packages now offered a substantial proportion of the most attractive sightseeing areas of the world can be visited on a cruise.

If you haven’t been on a cruise, you could be missing out on a great new holiday experience. Clearly cruising has a lot going for it or it wouldn’t be enjoying the rapid growth that it is.

So let’s dispel the myths…

‘But I would be BORED…’

FOR SOME the image of a cruise is two weeks sitting in a deck chair with nothing to do but watch the endless sea go by. For others the image is quite the opposite, a kind of glorified holiday camp with non-stop tannoy announcements coercing you into all sorts of undignified and embarrassing games and pastimes!

The reality is quite different. Firstly there is no way you could be bored on a cruise. There is just so much to do and see. Your ship is really a floating resort hotel with all the facilities you would expect ashore and more besides. If you are energetic, there are fitness programmes, swimming pools, golf driving ranges, clay pigeon shooting, and all the traditional deck games such as shuffleboard, deck quoits, deck tennis etc.

If you are intellectually inclined, there are many lecture programmes covering your ports of call, their history, wildlife etc, as well as a whole variety of talks by acknowledged experts on quite unrelated subjects. There are craft classes, bridge and dancing lessons, cooking demonstrations; the list is a long one.Copy of crystal pool

As for entertainment, there are highly professional Broadway and Las Vegas type shows in the evenings. There is a cinema showing the very latest releases, a casino, a night club and disco, bingo, concerts and usually several bars if you just want a quiet drink and a chat.

So far we’ve only talked about what goes on while you are on board your floating resort hotel. Don’t forget you are also travelling from place to place at the same time. Almost every other day you will be ashore exploring some new city or country, either under your own steam or on one of the many tours which can be booked on board. Just think, on a Baltic cruise you could be visiting six or seven different countries in the course of a fortnight and seeing some of the most fascinating cities in northern Europe. With all this going on, who could possibly be bored?

But don’t think you have to enter into every activity on board; the choice is yours. If you want to sit in a deck chair gazing at the sea for two weeks, no one will disturb you!

‘But it’s too EXPENSIVE…’

IF YOU SPEND approaching ‘100,000 on a luxury suite for a three-month world cruise then yes, it’s an expensive holiday! On the other hand, you could spend as little as a few hundred pounds for a week’s Mediterranean cruise or a little over a thousand for two weeks in the Caribbean–including transatlantic flights. In other words, there is something for everybody’s pocket depending on the degree of luxury and destination you choose. And with the major expansion of the cruising market now under way the choice is getting wider all the time.

With the cruise companies anxious to fill their new ships, pricing is currently very competitive, making cruising very good value for money. The “value for money” argument is in fact a very powerful one. Remember that when you compare the cost of a cruise with a land-based package holiday, you are not comparing like with like. Have you ever really totted up the total cost of your holiday, including all your food, entertainment, all those cups of tea and coffee, taxis etc etc? You would be surprised how much all these extras add to the apparently low price of the package holiday which first attracted you. With a cruise, however, this price includes all transfers to and from your ship, your accommodation, as much as you can eat, as many cups of tea and coffee as you can drink, nightly entertainment including Broadway type shows, films, concerts, dancing, a casino, and a great variety of daytime sports and recreational activities. And not only this, you also have a standard of service and cuisine at least equal to, and very often better than many five-star hotels.

On top of all this of course your luxury resort is transporting you from one delightful place to another. There is little doubt that cruising provides the finest value for money of any type of holiday.

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‘But cruising is just for the ELDERLY and RETIRED…’

ELDERLY COUPLES sitting in deck chairs wrapped in blankets along the promenade deck still seems to be the image many people have of typical cruise passengers. Today’s cruise holidays attract people of all ages–both the young and not so young, including honeymooners, couples and families. Did you know for example that the average age of a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line passenger is only 37? The average age on Carnival Line’s four-day cruises is only 28! Not for nothing are Carnival’s fleet of ships called the “Fun Ships”! Usually the longer voyages have a rather older age profile, simply because only the retired can afford the time. For the great majority of cruises the age groups are very mixed, but getting younger all the time. Even the older passengers seem to take on a new lease of life once they set foot on board a ship. There’s something about a cruise holiday!

‘But I might feel out of place with all those POSH, RICH PEOPLE…’ 

THE OLD two-class ships have long gone. Today everyone is a first class passenger. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you have paid for your cabin, everyone enjoys the same food, the same service and all the facilities of the ship. Cruising attracts people from all walks of life and if there were any social barriers ashore, they certainly seem to disappear on board ship. In fact a cruise provides a great opportunity to meet all types of people in a relaxed atmosphere. Many lasting friendships start on a cruise, while romantic liaisons and marriages are also not unknown!

And don’t worry about having to dress up all the time. A cruise is a holiday and you wear what you like. People wander around in jeans, T-shirts, shorts or whatever they feel like. They might draw the line at bikinis in the restaurant, but you can always stick with the bikini and enjoy a buffet luncheon on deck. There may be two or three nights during a cruise when formal evening attire is appropriate, but for most of the time a more informal style prevails, and you would wear what you would if you went to a good class restaurant at home.

Most cruise ships try hard to promote a friendly, relaxed and unpretentious environment. They want you to enjoy your holiday and to come back again next year. They don’t want you to feel out of place, and believe me you won’t!

‘But I’m not a GOOD SAILOR…’ 

THE WORD “seasick” cannot usually be found in any cruise brochure. The cynics would say that any mention of the word might tarnish the carefully nurtured image of the perfect holiday being projected by marketing specialists. In fact, that’s not the reason that you don’t hear much about seasickness. It’s simply because it’s not a problem!

If you were wallowing down the English Channel on a 7,000-ton cargo ship in a force eight mid-winter gale, then this could well prove a problem seasickwise! But you’re not; you are going to be on a large ship of up to 70,000 tons or more, fitted with stabilisers which reduce movement considerably. More importantly, you are going to be cruising in fine weather areas at the best time of the year. You don’t have to go through the Bay of Biscay to get to the Mediterranean any more. You can fly directly to the sun and start your cruise from Malaga, Venice or wherever. Likewise your Caribbean cruise can start in Miami or San Juan. No longer do you have to sail across the Atlantic in mid-winter to start your cruise.

Moreover, almost every other day you will be ashore, sightseeing at some new exciting port of call, so your time at sea is often quite limited.

On those rare occasions when there is some slight movement, there are a variety of pills and potions which can help those who are super-sensitive. At the very worst you can retire to your bunk or the bar for the day! You’re sure to find your “sea legs” there!

Feeling a bit happier about cruising?

Having read this far, maybe you’re getting a little more interested in the idea of a cruise for your next holiday? What you should not now do is rush out, find the cheapest offer and book it, because you will almost certainly regret it.

At Hallmark Travel we have considerable hands-on personal experience of cruise destinations and cruise ships, extending over many years. We can advise you on what to expect on particular cruises, which ship will most suit your taste and pocket, and your choice of cabin. Just telephone us, or pop in for a chat. We can give you any number of ideas. Do you want a fun-packed short Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines at the end of your Florida holiday, or an expedition type cruise to Antarctica? How about a cultural and educational experience with Swan Hellenic or unbridled luxury with Silversea Cruises? And don’t forget the river cruises on the Nile, the Rhine and the Danube, or even a steamboat cruise up the Mississippi through the very heart of America. Or if you like real working ships, how about a Norwegian Coastal Voyage, a banana boat to the Caribbean or round the world on a container ship? There’s something for everyone out there so come and talk to us.

If you’d like to know more email me: charmaine@hallmarktravel.com

Meet me in the gallery!