So, why are we considering getting on a cruise ship and, indeed, why might anyone else who views the prospect with dread?
For us, there are some key attractions...
One of us isn’t particularly comfortable flying, another does it so often that, come holiday time, isn’t especially keen to do more. And nobody can love airports these days; kerb to gate can take anywhere from minutes to hours, depending on what’s going on at security that day – you have to remove most of your clothing and reduce your hand luggage to its constituent atoms. Then, of course, there’s always somebody in front of you who, it seems, has been living in a cave for a decade and doesn’t understand the basic rules, so will hold up the line for fifteen minutes, denying there’s anything amiss, then exclaiming “since when was moisturiser a liquid?
Worse, there’s the indignity of the flight itself: People trampling nuns and children to death in an effort to be aboard first and grab enough space in an overhead bin for the wheeled shipping container that they’re using as hand luggage; “slimline” seats that render you immobile after two hours; waiting a hour to pay £7 for a, desperately needed, gin and tonic, because, mystifyingly, no airline seems to have mastered quick on-board card payments. No, frankly, it’s all too much and is to be avoided whenever possible.
Both the number and variety of destinations made possible by cruising are big draws. Previously, we have done a lot of trips where we move from city to city every few days, by plane, train or car – cruising allows us to do that without all the fuss of re-packing and trudging to and from stations and airports. Additionally, smaller ships in particular open up a number of destinations that, otherwise, would be impractical to do without taking a month of work and spending days in a car. Places like the more remote Scottish Isles or Arctic Scandinavia which, if you’re not driving, require flights in tiny planes – something that isn’t an option for the nervous flyer.
However, this focus on the itinerary does, for us, lessen the attraction of the cruise industry’s biggest market – the Caribbean. Now, I’m sure there are some nice Caribbean islands, it’s just that we haven’t found them yet. They seem to be great places for parties and nice weather – all things which are also available on the ship, so why bother disembarking?
For people who spend most of their lives busy at work then feeding and entertaining families, cruising does represent an attractive option. More than any other holiday choice, almost everything is taken care of. The cabin is cleaned, the food is cooked, the dishes are done and, if you want, your kids can be imprisoned in an age-appropriate club. Literally, the most taxing choice you have to make is what to have for dinner and whether or not to explore the port.
We love spending time with groups of friends, either at each other’s homes or, quite often, renting a large house for a long weekend. It’s great fun. It’s also not entirely relaxing – somebody still has to worry about shopping, cooking, cleaning and all the rest of it. This is where we think cruises, particularly short ones, come into their own. You can eat together, drink together and hang out in any number of venues together, but there’s also space for occasional quiet time – even if it’s in the spa, having the knots pummeled out of your hungover shoulders.