Cruising is big business, adding £2.5 billion to the economy in 2013 and providing around 70,000 jobs in the UK.
Adding to the fleet of ships, MSC Cruises’ World Class ships is planning two 200,000 tonne ships with a maximum occupancy of 6,850 guests (an increase of 70 on the current record-holder, Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas)
And even though more than 1.7 million Brits boarded a cruise ship in 2013, there are still plenty of misconceptions around holidays on board ship.
From sky-high prices to on-board boredom, we debunk nine of the most common cruising myths.
I’ll be stuck at sea for days on end and will feel claustrophobic
Wrong. There’s a big difference between ocean and river cruises, so if you want to avoid full days at sea, choose a trip along the Rhine or Danube, or further afield along the Mekong or Zambezi. You won’t find yourself travelling for really long periods of time and will have the option to go ashore on a daily basis.
I’ll only visit tourist traps and big ports
Wrong. Cruising can be one of the most adventurous methods of travel, visiting destinations otherwise inaccessible. The only way to explore parts of the Arctic and Antarctica, for example, is by ship. A number of companies also retrace the routes of bygone seafaring explorers; travel through the Northwest Passage, sought for centuries as a possible trade route and now open due to melting pack ice, or drift through the misty mountains of Dusky Sound in New Zealand, first sighted by Captain Cook.
I’ll get bored on board
Wrong. Even during sea days, there’s plenty to do, with some of the bigger ocean liners offering West End theatre shows, planetariums and water parks. Many companies also run themed cruises where guest speakers are invited to give talks and workshops. Voyages To Antiquity, for example, specialise in historical tours, while P&O run dance classes on their Strictly Come Dancing itineraries.
I’ll get fed up with the food
Wrong. Eating is a big part of the cruise culture and most ships offer a variety of restaurants with flexible time slots and dining options – ranging from a glamorous four-course meal, to simple snacks. On the majority of cruises, food and drink is included, so you can eat as much or as little as you like. And several liners also invite celebrity chefs on board to serve special dinners, which might appeal to gourmets.
I’m bound to put on weight
Maybe. It’s hard to resist the lure of easily available food and booze, but you can redress the balance by ordering low fat meal options and doing some exercise. Most ships have well-equipped gyms, with fitness classes ranging from Zumba to Pilates, and some even have a running track.
The ships are large and anonymous
Wrong. Ships vary dramatically in size, from the 6,000-capacity Oasis Of The Seas, right down to boutique sailing ships carrying as few as 12 passengers. Smaller ships also have the advantage of docking at less busy ports, giving guests an opportunity to explore more off-the-beaten-track places.
Cruising is only for old people
Wrong. While holidays at sea definitely appeal to an older, retired demographic, a growing number of younger couples and families are now choosing to cruise. Disney and Royal Caribbean sell trips themed around popular characters such as Mickey Mouse and Barbie, which are specifically aimed at children, while many big ships also provide kids clubs and babysitting. The ease, security and value of cruising should also appeal to families.
I’ll get seasick
Maybe. Big ships are now fitted with stabilisers to counteract roll caused by wave or wind, minimising the impact on passengers. But if you’re prone to seasickness, avoid ocean-crossing trips or itineraries that venture into notoriously rough patches, such as the Drake Passage. Or better still, book a calm and gentle river cruise.
Cruising is expensive and only for rich people
Wrong. In the past, cruising was seen as a glamorous way to travel and only available to those with a very healthy bank balance. While there are still many luxury liners on the market, more budget friendly companies such as Thomas Cook and P&O can offer great deals. Most packages include all food, drink, activities and even flights – meaning cruises are often far cheaper than land-based alternatives.
Have you been on a cruise that was better than you expected? Let us know on the Comments section below.