REPOSITIONING CRUISES : around April/May & Sept/October ships are repositioned for seasonal purposes. These cruises represent excellent value for money & are generally much quieter. Additionally they may take in more unusual ports, for example the routing Mumbai to Singapore cruise ( as the ship navigates to South East Asia ) calls at Kerala, Sri Lanka, The Andaman Islands & crosses The Bay Of Bengal.
DINING OPTIONS : These days dining is much more flexible – open dining at a variety of venues, to dine when/with whom you wish. Specialty restaurants are frequently offered ( usually with an additional charge ) which offer a more intimate dining experience. Top chefs often have their own restaurants aboard the higher end vessels – P & O ships feature restaurants with menus created by Marco Pierre White ( he even sails aboard their themed ‘ Food & Drink ‘ cruises )
TIPPING : Who to tip? When to tip? How much to tip? Be guided by the individual cruise line’s tipping policy. Expect to pay around $10 per person per day for stateroom attendants/waiters, & 20% service in bars/lounges. Increasingly the higher end cruise lines are inclusive of all gratuities.
THEME CRUISES : Golf, fitness & wine appreciation are all popular themes for holidays afloat, with guest speakers connected with these subjects. Strictly Come Dancing cruises are scheduled on P & O with stars from the show. Frequently cruises can be based around sporting events such as the Monaco Grand Prix, or take in such famous pageants such as the Rio Carnival.
LARGE SHIP v SMALL SHIP : The issue of whether to cruise on a large ship versus a small ship is purely personal preference. The larger ships ( carrying in excess of 6000 passengers ) can offer a choice of 20+ restaurants, & along with ice skating rinks & water parks are super child friendly. They offer entertainment on a large scale, with West End style productions, & countless activities to fill your day. The downside of this is that there can be long lines for (dis)embarkation & buffets. By contrast the smaller ships ( 400-600 passengers ) are more understated, & tend not to encourage families with entertainment on a much smaller scale.The smaller vessels will also visit more out of the way places, which are inaccessible to the much larger ships.
WHAT’S INCLUDED? : All cruise lines include all meals, however there can be an additional charge for certain so called ‘ Specialty Restaurants ‘ that offer a more intimate dining experience. Generally the cheaper it is to get onboard, the more you will pay for extras, such as fitness classes, drinks ( service at 20% will also be added on ) & shuttle bus services into town ( if the port is situated a little way out ) Depending on your penchant for holiday cocktails, different cruise lines offer various options. Royal Caribbean offer beverage packages ($40-60 per person per day ) AMA Waterways offer a semi inclusive arrangement, to include wines with lunch & dinner, & finally the top end cruise lines such as Seabourn, offer a completely all inclusive drinks policy including champagne. This is obviously reflected in the overall cost of your cruise.
EXCURSIONS : The cruise line will charge dearly for shore excursions, however there is the peace of mind that if you are delayed returning, the ship will be aware & wait for you. If you are touring independently & delayed, the ship will sail without you. I tend to look which tours are being offered for each individual port, & then scour the internet for ways do do it cheaper on my own. You can hook up with cruisecritic.co.uk with their ‘ roll call ‘ for individual cruises to register your interest to tour with others. In this way I was able to tour Komodo Island, Indonesia with fellow cruisers at a much cheaper rate than the tour offered by the cruise line.