The cruise destinations of the world are many, and the various types of cruises that one can undertake are staggering in their diversity.
This is one of the reasons that the cruise industry remains one of the fastest growing and strongest segments of the travel industry, not only is the average cruising extremely loyal to their favourite cruise lines and cruise ships, but even those cruise travelers who like to flit from one line to another will find that, after several decades of taking cruises, there are still yet new ways to discover the same region.
You could spend a lifetime cruising the Mediterranean, for example, and every cruise line would introduce it to you in a different way.
There are also an endless diversity in the length of cruises. You can undertake a short 7-night Arabian Gulf cruise with MSC or Costa Cruises out of Dubai, with minimal air travel required, if at all, or you could fly-and-cruise from Dubai to Singapore, board your ship in that fabled former British colony and cruise South East Asia and the Pacific for three weeks.
A personal favourite of Cruise Arabia was a 27-night cruise from England, across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal to the West Coast of the United States. In many cruise passengers’ opinion, a transit of the Panama Canal is one of the best experiences to be had for the photo opportunities, the fascinating history of this man-made wonder of engineering, and the show put on by the Captain and his crew as they navigate the massive cruise ship in and out of the locks, often with mere feet to spare.
On our travels we have met a range of cruise enthusiasts and reluctants. Reluctant cruisers are usually married to a cruise enthusiast who has dragged them to sea after years of begging and pleading for them to take a cruise.
Those to whom the idea of cruising is unappealing are usually afraid of a number of myths or exaggerated threats, from boredom and sickness, to the expense of onboard food and drink. The truth is that cruise ships nowadays, even the small ones, offer such a diverse range of activities and forms of entertainment, that the problem often becomes one of trying to fit everything in.
You really can do as little or as much as you like on a cruise. Some sea days are best spent on the Lido Deck with a good book in the sun, while others include interesting lectures, cabaret shows, cooking demonstrations and a number of other diversions.
A highlight of any cruise, for Cruise Arabia, is the nightly shows and set first and second sitting dining times – others prefer to be able to eat when they like, but we’re more traditional in that way.
On what other vacation could you watch a West End or Broadway-style musical, acrobats, dancers, singers and comedians on different nights, while still exploring a different city or island every day. It’s impossible, except on a cruise. Added to this is the unique opportunity to tour the ship’s bridge, galleys, engine room and dine with the captain.
Mostafa Mohamad was convinced to try cruising by his wife and told Cruise Arabia during a cruise with Celebrity Cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean that boredom was his biggest fear.
“I didn’t think there would be much to do on a cruise, just eating and sun bathing between visits to different ports, but actually I haven’t had any time to read more than a few pages of my book because there are so many events and activities taking place on the ship all the time.”
For Mostafa, what he most enjoyed about his cruise though, was the quality family time. “During the day, when we are at sea, both our kids are in the Teen’s Area onboard, so my wife and I get a break, but at dinner time, its nice to sit together and discuss the day, this is something that we do at home as well, but there is always the distraction of the TV or phone calls and BBMs.”
A family based in Dubai that we met on our Oceania Cruise around the Greek Isles, described cruising as an easy way to travel.
“Once you’re onboard, there’s no fuss or stress, you unpack and your floating hotel takes you from one destination to another in comfort and luxury, the cruise line will even organize your shore excursions for you.”
This comes at an extra cost of course, but the cost of alcoholic drinks and shore excursions, as well as shipboard luxuries such as a massage in the spa or hair cut in the salon, are the only ‘extra’ expenses on top of your cruise fare, and most cruise lines give passengers the option of paying for an all-inclusive holiday that includes all drinks and food (a big breakfast buffet and three course lunch and dinner are paid for in the cost of the cruise ticket).
Having undertaken a number of cruises, Cruise Arabia would recommend flying into your departure city with at least 24-hours to spare, a few days is preferable as its gives you time to explore before boarding the ship.
On more than one occasion, we’ve seen the ship depart late, having waited for passengers on flights that were delayed, who step onboard feeling stressed and exhausted. You don’t want a bad airline experience to cast a damper on your cruise vacation.
If you’re still uneasy about undertaking a cruise, consider this: you could treat your other half to a three course meal at a leading restaurant in the city, take in a show at one of the theatres or concert venues, spend a night at a hotel and go for a couples massage in the morning and would have enjoyed a thoroughly relaxing 24-hours.
But, for the same money, you could do all that (except the massage) every day for a week and it would probably work out to around the same price.