Sail away on the cruise that’s right for you

So you want to take a cruise but don’t know where to start? Some first-time passengers test the waters, so to speak, with a short ‘taster’ cruise to see how they like it before committing to a longer, more expensive cruise in far-flung waters. P&O offers a wide range of short-break cruises, with Sea Breaks itineraries around regional Australia and New Zealand that can be as short as two nights. If you’re worried about the motion of the ocean, try a river cruise.

Cruising can be as affordable or as extravagant as you like. Generally speaking, fares are cheaper on the biggest ships. If you’re on a tight budget, opt for an interior cabin with no outside view (although some Royal Caribbean ships feature interior cabins with a “virtual” view). If an outlook is important, select a cabin with windows or a balcony. Want to splash out? Inspect the ship’s range of top-tier suites. If mobility is an issue, you’ll want a cabin near the ship’s elevators. Travelling solo? A growing number of ships include dedicated single cabins.

If you’re cruising outside Australia, remember to factor the cost of visas into your travel budget. Double-check visa requirements by visiting the Commonwealth Government’s Smart Traveller website.

Big and bold or small and sweet?

Royal Caribbean’s fleet includes seven of the world’s top 10 biggest cruise ships. The world’s two largest ships, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, can each carry more than 6000 passengers. This size won’t suit everyone but others love how these mega-ships offer activities ranging from musicals and rock-climbing walls to surf simulators, ice-skating rinks and 3D movie theatres.

For a more serene scene, look at more intimate vessels. Silversea’s Silver Spirit, for instance, carries a maximum of 540 passengers. Similarly, Azamara Club Cruises’ two vessels, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, carry no more than 686 passengers each. These smaller ships can access ports and waters off-limits to larger vessels.

If you’re planning a family cruise, try cruise lines such as P&O Australia and Carnival Cruise Line. P&O offers kids’ clubs as well as the largest adventure park at sea. Carnival’s attractions include the Green Thunder waterslide, dive-in movies and make-your-own pizza classes.

For a taste of old-world elegance, consider one of Cunard’s graceful ocean liners such as the Queen Elizabeth or Queen Mary 2. These ships, which host several formal nights during a voyage, provide a rare chance to dress up at sea.

Cruise charters are also becoming popular, especially with companies that want to host a conference with a difference, or for special-interest groups such as genealogy associations as well as for large-scale family or school reunions.

Look at the inclusions

Many people find their cruise holiday ends up costing more than they expected because of the extras. Bill shock can really take the shine off a holiday. Some cruise lines may include alcoholic drinks in the fare. Other lines offer alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage packages that can represent good value. Make sure you investigate and understand what is and isn’t included up front.

Of course, as with any holiday, things can go wrong. While a cruise line may reimburse passengers for certain problems such as mechanical issues cutting short a cruise, savvy travellers will take out travel insurance to protect themselves against wider potential problems.

Inspect the itinerary

If your cruise is all about the destination, check how much time your ship will spend in port. Itineraries vary widely between lines – you could find you’re at your dream destination for just a few hours when you were hoping for a multi-day stay. If you’re doing a one-way cruise rather than a round trip, consider adding a few hotel nights at your embarkation port and/or destination to explore these places before flying home.

Push the boundaries

Cruise lines are constantly adding new destinations. Cruising to or within emerging destinations such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Cuba is a relaxing way to see these exotic countries. Cruiseco runs river cruises in Myanmar, Silversea has plans to offer Bangladesh as a destination for the first time in 2017 and MSC Cruises has a ship based in Havana.