Cruising is rising in popularity. I never considered cruising as I thought it would be too strict and formal for me and my husband. Cruising is however changing and many of the cruiselines have realised that enforced dining times, enforced table companions and enforced dress codes are becoming a thing of the past. Some cruiselines do still stick to these things but many do not.
For our first cruise we chose alaska. A wild and inaccessible place most of the year but between May and September the liners arrive and we saw this as our chance to take a trip of a lifetime. We boarded our ship in Seattle and were amazed by the size of the ship, the facilities offered and the cabin we had booked.
We loved the whole experience. Food was excellent and seemed to be alawys available. The choice of activities was very lengthy, something going on all of the time. The entertainment in the evenings was as good as many shows I have paid to see on land. Our cabin was comfortable and had quite a lot of space and well thought out storage. We had a balcony which was worth every penny with the Alaska scenery to view as we passed by. The ports were interesting and the excursions were expensive but when will I get the chance to dog sled on a glacier ever again?
Before booking a cruise do your research into what each line offers you and choose the line most suited to your own particular style. Some lines have fixed dining at set times with fixed table mates. Some also have formal evenings with strict dress codes. Other lines allow you to dine when you wish, with who you wish and have a more relaxed view of what is appropriate clothing for dinner. A lot of ships now have an additional restaurant or ten where you pay extra to dine there. Usually the main dining rooms and buffet plus room service are free of an extra charge. It is also important to budget extra for drinks, photos, speciality dining and excursions to avoid a nasty surprise when you get your bill at the end. Cruises are not pay as you go they are cashless, they have an account set up in your name and everything is charged to your credit card at the end.
Have only been on a couple of cruises holidays in Europe to date (can't wait till number 3 in May this year), am already well and truly hooked, and in my opinion with all-inclusive food and on-board entertainments, and so many cheap deals to find on the web it really is brilliant value for money.
Just love the feeling of waking up in a new port / city / country virtually every day (and not having to unpack and repack!!) Cruising is definitely becoming less the preserve of the older generations, with much less emphasis these days on the formal nights, and much more on family entertainment and activities.
My most recent trip was a year or two back, so before our little boy came along, myself and wife went on an 11-night midnight sun cruise to Norway.
Perfect combination for me - an Italian cruise line (i.e. unbelievable food - pastas, pizzas, ice-cream desserts the works) and scenery to get the few remaining hairs standing up on an end - the fjords and glaciers have to be seen to be believed - truly breathtaking!!
The boat -aptly called 'Costa Europa' had 6 main nationalities on board -Italian naturally, French, Spanish, German, Dutch and the minority group the English speakers - including us only 10 English and 9 American passengers on board, but was really good to reawaken the desire to learn languages again as the entertainment staff and hosts doggedly reeled everything off in 5 languages!
We were truly relaxed, we'd seen wild reindeer, ice-blue mountain lakes, and even saw a whale pop up in the glistening midnight sun lit seas as we supped pints of the bubbly ice-cold Paulaner Weizen and marvelled at the majestic mountain Fjord lands rolling into the distance - absolute perfection and then she picked up the new schedule for the next day's activities on the cruise line -and there it was in stark print
5.30pm Super Karaoke - why not come and join our ents team for a singalong!
Now naturally as a sociable British chap brought up in the best of pub traditions I'm always up for making my own 'entertainment', and on top of all that crazy fun running around all day doing the sightseeing tours and onboard activities I thought what better way to unwind than with a spot of bad Karaoke. Admittedly the wife wasn't quite so enthusiastic, but hey, where's there's a mike and a cheesy track I was always going to wade in...
Her day of dread passed quietly, a whole day at sea, just relaxing, reading, some gentle exercise -perhaps he wouldn't go through with it, surely he won't mind if I give it a miss. So cometh the 5.30pm, her plan is in place, with her mum bravely stepping in to support me and Al promising to join us after it was all over at 6ish.
Our first singers take the stage - a strange old man in a wooly jumper making a half croaky attempt to sing a spanish lullaby - the small crowd shuffles in their seats. Then a frizzy haired Italian housewife makes a brave play with a tuneful if a little quiet version of an old Italian favourite. As the only english singer in the room looking out over a confused crowd, registering the fear in their eyes an overwhelming sense of comic karaoke duty filled my senses. "Put me down for a bit of Celine Dion son - here we go". Up to the stage I go, microphone in hand , a soft gaze out to the ocean ,a delicate pause as the music plays me in. Almost tuneful to start with, still confusion in the ranks - is this really a genuine effort...
Then its chorus time
NEEEEAEAARRR FAARR WHERRRREAAAHAHAHEVVER YOU ARE- smashing through the sound barrier, waking even those unfortunates in cabins below sea level with a blood curdling sense of melodic desparation and there you had it - 5 languages , 5000 years of separate european culture united in one thought - this guy is utter sh*t but he just doesn't care and by golly they started cheering!!!
And as I stood for the enchantingly melancholy interval music - arms outstretched like Kate Winslet once at the front of the boat,our ents staff -big pieces of paper stuffed in ears duly obliged and did the Leo Dicaprio hold - and I pronounced - "I'M FLYING , I'M REALLY FLYING!"-
and the final twist in my good lady's tail, that things on the boat never did run on time, that we'd only started shortly before 6pm and therefore as she arrived there I stood all 6ft 2 of buffet filled to bursting stage mania, encouraged by a now postively bewildered crowd, primed and ready to leap up on to the top platform and give it the big finale...truly the sun never sets in paradise!!
having wanted for over twenty years to go on a cruise I was lucky enough to be treated last year to a seven night cruise around the Med for one week in July.
It was truly SUPERB - I can honestly say I enjoyed every single minute. It was a late booking so the price was great ( a present so I don't know exactly what the cost was - I'm guessing just over £1000 for the two of us) and was with Ocean Village.
We had a 2 berth outside cabin and were told we could be upgraded if another cabin was free - lovely and clean,fridge, great cleaning service, comfy twin beds ......
The staff were from all over the world - male & female and all really pleasant and helpful.
The food was fantastic - loads of fresh food and a great deal of choice.
The entertainment was very varied and I think suited everyone - tightrope walkers to solo singers - or if you wanted a night in the casino or a quiet read they seemed to accommodate all the passengers.
The ports of call were so good - Tunis, South of France, Barcelona,Rome, Palma - all superb.
We flew from Manchester to Palma then home from Palma - it was,for me, the best holiday ever and I would recommend it to everyone from 17 to 107!
Having just returned from the Island Escape cruise (21st March) we had a really good time, it is true the crew are friendly and will help in any way they can. Allowing for lumpy seas especially during the nights, an especially good cruise. We do believe that the Island Star is our favourite of the two ships, but it is difficult to actually say why this is so. First cruise of the season and the entertainment staff were overly nervous, at the end of the week they came out of their individual shells, superb end of cruise show, utterly brilliant. We also feel that the quality of the paying customers at the start of the season is poor, very erm.... common, women turning up for breakfast in their pajamas?? Oh well back to being a holiday snob!! Commedian Matt Plumm and Singer Eve Sherratt, were brilliant, cant wait for next year.
The thing of dreams, a cruise in the Meditteranean...the dream came true - A beautiful sunset, sailaway music playing, I have a cocktail- of- the day in my hand as the ship slowly moves away from Palma wharf - I am on my first ever cruise.
For months I've been perusing the Island Escape brochure and popping into the internet to familiarise myself.... it has been the focus of my holiday thoughts as I worked away, saving for the dream.
Age has dimmed thoughts of romantic Di Caprio nights, perching precariously over the front of the ship with a handsome movie star crooning to me; my expectations were of the best of food, presented well, fresh and exciting. Add a few fine wines, cocktails or a cold beer as would take our fancy, relaxing on the deck, matched with a clean, tidy cabin, friendly, interesting staff, with tours of some exciting countries and thats about what I visualized for our week on the warm Mediterranean sea.
RELAXED, FRIENDLY AND INFORMAL... the motto for Island Cruises
For 99percent of our week-long voyage I can say the huge number of staff worked hard to make sure the motto was successfully experienced by the 1600 passengers onboard Island Escape, one of the two cruise ships operated by Island Cruises.
We did a stay and cruise - one week in Majorca before our cruise week and we are glad we did. Neither of us had visited this part of the world before so staying at Magalluf proved a good base to explore all over the island and of course to anticipate the leisurely, relaxed cruise ahead.
We were picked up by First Choice and on the bus tour to the ship we were given a pack which included the coloured tag for our bags, a credit card form to fill in if we intended to use it to pay for on-board expenses, our cabin number and information about tummy troubles: we had to declare if wed had any gastric problems in the past three days.
The welcome and paper work for embarkation was pleasant, quick and efficient: as we are not UK passport holders our New Zealand passports were taken from us and were to be held at the Guest Relations office and I have to say as a seasoned traveler, who is never without her passport, I was a bit tetchy about this but rules are rules and we had to conform.
Now, we moved forward to what we thought was a neat idea as we arrived - our photo taken as we boarded the ship, BUT, it later evolved to be a bit of a bore actually as every time to left the ship there was a photographer leaping up in front of you wanting you to pose for yet another way to make a profit on the side. The photos cost 9.95GBP so if you succumbed to the posing every day it would soon add up.
After our personal escort to our cabin on the lowest deck, Aqua 3, our luggage soon arrived and we did a quick unpacking in our tidy and well presented cabin. We could have gone into the town but we decided not to go into Palma but to explore the ship. I am glad we did. It was a relaxing way to slip into cruising mode and to see some fantastic views of Palma from a new angle.
LETS GET TO KNOW THE SHIP: This really is an entire community on the waves. Island Escape has restaurants, bars, shops, a gym, beauty and personal services like nail art, hair-dressing etc etc with sport, entertainment, outdoor recreation, theatres, casino, photo gallery/shop, library, internet room, kids play area, as well as a doctors surgery. Theres even a daily issue of island chat to keep you informed of what is going on that day and any information you need to know for tomorrow.
You would be hard to please if there was not something to hold your interest in the vast and varied on-board entertainments and activities, day and night. If you dont want to stay on board all day there are tour days out on all but the first day when you spend the time at sea en route to Sicily.
There is an introductory on-shore tour presentation, As well as a special desk dedicated to tours which you find listed on a special information sheet to clearly outline what the tour involves and the price, In some cases I thought them a little on the dear side but if you dont want to do them you can do your own thing when in port, on or off the ship. Prices ranged from 18GBP for a 4-hour tour to 48GBP for an 8 hour day trip, with a special Barcelona helicopter ride for 85GBP.
So here I am on my cruise of a life-time and its time to consider is this what I expected and is it meeting my expectations? There are many positives to talk about and a couple of negatives ranging from a little niggle to an incident which put me off my fettle a bit. More on that later.
The itinerary attracted me in the first place and as we progressed around the Mediterranean I can say I was not disappointed: Palma to embark, then a night and day sailing to Messina in Sicily where we chose to go on a half day Taormina tour which was truly beautiful. Good guide, great scenery and an idyllic town perching high on the side of a mountain with views of Mt Etna. Here we did a town walking tour and visited the Greek Theatre ruins - fantastic.
That night the captain announced he was doing a detour on our way to Naples to show us an active volcano in the middle of the sea, Stromboli, he expected to arrive beside it at around 10pm. He did. What a stunning nocturnal experience. He turned off all outside lights, stopped the motors and the red glow on top of the mountain grew brighter and brighter until a mighty blow of red-hot embers burst up into the air, then rolled over the crest and down the mountain. We all wowed and yelled and he blew the ships horn. Not once but five times in the 30-40 minutes we were treated to such a spectacle. Sadly my camera is a little one and not able to pick up the action but it will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. Stunning! Exhilarating!
From Naples we took the Pompeii half day tour which was a return visit for me but the first time for my partner. Both of us loved every minute of the two and a half hour visit. It is dreadful that so many had to die so treacherously - it is humbling to walk around this history that has so dramatically provided an opportunity for us to appreciate and learn how they experienced life 2000 years ago. The bakery with its buns, a pregnant womans agony, a contorting dog, caught in time, evidence depicting a horrific historic day when Mount Vesuvius blew tragically into the local community.
On our return to Naples we experienced the world renown dreadful traffic on the roads near the port. We decided to go on a walk into the shopping area and had to cross about three pedestrian crossings and I can tell you my travel insurance was so close to being activated. What a madness it is to invoke your right to cross on the zebra lines! Along with other intrepid pedestrians we took our chances and finally traversed the danger zone - you need a gold medal to actually go into town and get back to the ship.
On to Livorno, Italy, where many passengers went on the all-day Florence-Pisa trip but we opted for a five-hour tour into medieval Lucca and then a vineyard in Tuscany, with a long-distance peek at the Leaning Tower of Pisa from afar as we motored by. Our little town visit was enhanced as it was the third Sunday of the month and many of the narrow streets and piazzas were taken up with the Antiquity Fair. Great, wonderful, marvellous and any other adjectives you can think up. Then we also visited the cathedral which was the main focus of the visit to see famous paintings of Tintoretto and Ghirlandaio as well as some historic, religious artefacts.
On to the vineyard and the extremely cold, freezing afternoon prevented us from strolling amid the vines but lengthened the wine tasting and local delicacy nibbling - you cant complain about that.
Next port of call was Toulon in South France where we chose the half-day Marseilles tour and what a treat that was. The drive there was a beautiful introduction to a Provence.experience The size of Marseilles really surprised us. It has 14 ports and we went to the old one where there was a fishing market alongside the pier where the fishing boats tie up.
We went to the magnificent Cathedral which dominates high on the hill and has the most awe-inspriring gold work wherever you look in the creative, stylish interior. Truly magnificent and a must if in Marseilles.
In Barcelona we decided to do our own thing and visited Las Ramblas and of course the world-famous market...... once again it proved to be a huge buzz for me and my partner was suitably impressed on his first visit. As he was also with the marina after a stroll along there on our way back to the ship.
ALL IMPORTANT FOOD AND HOSPITALITY: Now when you think of cruising food and hospitality come to mind. Island Escape does food well, in the presentation, variety, creativity and freshness there was not much to fault in any of the three non-smoking restaurants: Beachcomber (24-hour) buffet/casual, Island Restaurant (open three times a day) with a more formal/buffet and Oasis where you are served at the table but you had to pay for the meal and it was definitely more formal with a much higher quality of food. In here you could buy the four-course meal for two at a cost of 24.95 - some nights they did a special and added a bottle of wine in that price. All restaurants had a hand-washing unit which every diner had to use before entering the restaurants.
You paid for all drinks and refreshments in the English Pub/Sundowner, Mirage, Sailaway, Ocean Theatre, Lookout Lounge, Café Brasil, the Bounty Lounge and the casino, all opened varying hours of the day and night. Smoking was allowed in at least one bar which we decided was out of bounds for us non-smokers. (Drinks prices were quite reasonable with the chance to buy a beer and two cocktails (2.40GBP) each day, a reduced price; this is what we did and found it to be an interesting way to go through the cocktail menu - sorry I cannot give other prices as I cannot remember them.)
PAYING ON BOARD: When you arrive you are given a plastic (credit-card sized) card with your name, cruise date and a code on it. It matches with a photo you had taken by the person who does your registration and this little personal card is your currency on board. You use it to buy all drinks, shop purchases and meals in the Oasis Restaurant as well as day tours etc. It is also your passport to getting on and off the ship. As you leave, staff put it through a machine and your photo comes up on a television screen so it really is important and must not be lost. If you do mislay it they can issue another one for around three pounds, I think. GBP is the currency rate used and you will pay for all your plastic card entries in cash or by your credit card at the end of the cruise. This can be a surprise if you dont keep a bit of a check on spending as you go. Some passengers were commenting that it seemed like staff were hovering to take what money they could out of you with a bit of pressure on taking your photo for sales of these and a constant offer of drinks etc. I personally did not feel this and thought the spending is really up to the passengers own choice and when we left the ship we just looked down at the ground and didnt let the photo people capture us.
TIP: if paying by credit card you are given a bill on the last night and if it is correct they just use the card and you do not have to queue up to pay like those paying cash. Guest Relations was as busy as Piccadilly Station on the last morning.
A LOOK AT THE SHIP IN GENERAL: As we walked along the corridor of our lowest deck accommodation I thought the walls were a bit tatty and wondered what our cabin would be like. I need not have worried, it was really well presented: clean, tidy, a good first reaction. We were on the outside so we had two portholes and I liked the idea of seeing outside. There were two single beds, a wardrobe each, a huge mirror with side lights, a set of drawers, desk, chair and a television which didnt get much really but did give you the chance to view three movies a day, the safety dvd, constantly, and a webcam of outside of the ship with some other information too. We had a tidy, little ensuite which even had a washing line for drying smalls.
Our housemaid was really lovely, she was friendly and efficient. Some passengers reported their towels were crafted into a monkey, elephant and swan sculptures: I had my black negligee folded into a fan - cute. Cabins cleaned and tidied twice a day which was excellent and when you come back in the evening the lights are turned on ... a personal touch, nice. As with other hospitality places there is a move to be green so you put your towel on the floor if you want it changed but if not you hang it up so theres not too much unnecessary laundry done.
There were heaps of things to do, I chose a chefs demonstration of some of the meals and his assistants did absolutely fantastic fruit, vegetable and marzipan sculptures. The head chef told us he has 72 cooks on board and that they take on 800lbs of potatoes and 600lbs of chicken for a week-long cruise.
I also went to the cocktail-making demonstration and this proved to be a winner for those who could remember what he put into them as they ended up drinking them. Not me, my memory is not as good as it used to be. Pity!
Staff/passenger relations, except for the case I will share later, were exceptionally good. One night a diner next to me told the waiter she was impressed with her towel sculpture she found in her room. He offered to show us how to make a cloth serviette peacock. What a hoot. It was almost impossible to show us two amateurs but believe it or not, after half an hour and many laughs I actually managed to make one. My peacock adorned a wine glass and was quite a proud creation on our table. Another night a waiter made me a delightful paper serviette rose on a stem! Super.
Ive picked out at random one days programme just to illustrate the diverse activities and entertainments you could choose from on the cruise. Saturday 20 October, 2007.
JOIN US ASHORE TODAY: trips to Florence and Pisa, Florence at your own pace, The Power of Pisa, Taste of Tuscany, Pisa and Puccinis lake.
RELAX AND ENJOY: Giant Games Open, Daily Brainteaser and crossword, deck games, Hole in one Golf, Circuit class, deck shuffleboard, radio time, table tennis knockout tournament, Killer Darts, deck quoites, Quiet hour and adult swim time, Free arcade games, pilates class, poolside trivia quiz, Sailaway music, towel folding demonstration, Teens programme.
Evening programme - Andy Wilkins (comedian) show, Bingo Flyer, Team trivia, race night, pre-recorded ballroom dancing, themed music quiz, jackpot bingo, late night cabaret with Kerri Ankrah Lucas and on the Sundowner Deck there was live entertainment by Frankie De Soto, Steven Elliott and Starliters with midnight partying in the Lookout Deck 12. In the Beachcomber restaurant, an Italian Night theme and on Deck 10 a Tropical Deck Party with Captain David Bathgate and the Island Escape Senior Officers!
This gives you an idea of what is on offer and of course you can spend time eating, anytime of day or night at the Beachcomber indoor/outdoor restaurant, high up on the boat, where youll be able to get a cup of tea or coffee, fruit juices and something to eat at your leisure.
NIGGLES AND NEGATIVES:
I wish there was nothing to inform about here but there was.
A niggle to me but a Nostradamus Negative for many of the mainly English passengers was the fact that the England v South Africa Rugby World Cup final which played on the Saturday was not available to view onboard. Apparently, according to word-of-mouth, the captain had said he did not have a licence to show it - this did not sit well with the huge percentage of rugby fans so that was a bit of a sour note. My Kiwi (New-Zealand) rugby mad partner asked a young staff member on Sunday morning if he knew the score and he answered: It is good to leave England behind when you go on a cruise. Oops! Not a good answer to give a rugby committed Kiwi!!)
A niggle - my feeling that there was a lack of communication. (I guess they dont want Hi De Hi announcements interupting passengers peace and quiet all day but some things need addressing) Having decided not to show the game I felt the captain could have included the result in his morning call over the loud speaker. Also, we were held up for over three hours at Naples and apparently he did say something but I did not hear it, so once again rumour advised that a crew member had witnessed an accident on shore and was being interviewed by police. After we sailed I thought he could have informed us of what had happened as it did have a roll-on effect for late arrival next day and booked tours etc.
And that brings me to my major negative, also under communication heading. Firstly I was at the ON-SHORE desk changing a full-day tour to a half-day one for the next day and I heard a young woman speak abysmally to a couple who she told in no uncertain terms they could not change a tour because there was not 24-hour notice. It was not their fault the ship was late leaving and she was so rude.
And now my biggest complaint ---- On day three we returned from a super day out in Taormina, Sicily to find a formal letter on the bed advising my credit card was not operating and to contact my credit card company to sort it out. It offered me the chance to hand in another credit card or to pay cash for the on-board spend. I did not have bulk English pounds onboard! I phoned New Zealand but it was night time and credit card staff were not on duty so I had to phone again later. When I got through the person said there was absolutely NO reason why my credit card would not work, it was NOT stopped, so it had to be a merchant error. I went downstairs and told the lady and she said she would activate it again but I would have to wait 24hours to see if it worked properly so I should return and check next day. This I did and it all turned to custard.
The man said it must be okay as there was nothing written in the book. I in a very pleasant manner told him that Id expended 15GBP toll calls to New Zealand to be told there was nothing wrong with my credit card so would the company consider letting me use the internet for half an hour - 4.50GBP. He rudely refused and said it was not his companys fault my credit card was not working and the credit card provider had stopped the card. I pointed out that a Maria had said it was not stopped. His reply, they always say it is not stopped and while they are talking to you the activate it again. Well I asked to speak to his manager but he retorted I am the supervisor madam. Getting no-where with my reasonable request I told him I was not happy and would take it further. He cared not a jot! This soured the cruise for me but I decided that I had saved, budgeted and looked forward to it for many months so why let an officious, young man ruin it for me.... I put it behind me as I recognized that everyone else on staff, apart from two from the front-line people department, were just fantastic and most efficient. (I have now composed a letter of complaint and will post it off to the Customer Relations department.)
Procedures for embarking and disembarking at the beginning and end of the cruise were extremely well organised. The departure procedures are clearly outlined on an information sheet which you get the day before you leave. You have to put a coloured tag on your luggage which denotes which flight you will leave on and the bags have to be in the corridor before 2am on the departure morning. You have to vacate your cabin by 8.30 so they open breakfast facilities earlier that day. Then you wait in public areas and when your flight number is called you pass over your plastic passport for the last time, go on to the wharf and collect your luggage which is in the colour area you have on your tag and then go to the awaiting coach for a 25-minute ride to Palmas huge and efficient airport. For me, an extremely sad journey as I did not want to leave the ship.
THE COST: well it obviously depends if you book through a travel agent, on the phone or as I did on the internet. I booked early in 2007 so got a discount for doing so and the two-week stay-n-cruise cost me 1600GBP for two of us and that was half-board at the resort for one week and full board on the ship. Some I spoke to got late deals and they seemed to be half what I paid so do your homework and book and pay when best suits you and the price you want to pay.
SHIP STATISTICS: (not sure if you need to know this, but here goes)
Gross registered tonnage - 40132, Overall length, 189.89metres, Beam 27.01metres, draft 6.9metres, Power 19,800kw, diesel engine, maximum 1862 passengers and 612 crew.
It was built for a Scandanavian company and underwent a refit for 3-4 day cruises before being transferred to the Island fleet in March 2002.
So, that out of the way, it is now time to conclude with overall comments about our week-long Island Escape cruise in the Mediterannean and I have pleasure in saying I left the ship wanting to come back.
Did my week achieve the Island Escape motto: relaxed, friendly and informal cruises. For 99 percent of the time - YES.
I was really quite sad to leave after the seven days of my MEDITERRANEAN SPIRIT cruise and feel a ten day cruise may well be much better as you are just getting used to the size and outlay of the ship, (especially as we were onshore each day). I truly wanted to stay onboard a little longer.
The league of nations staff presented as a fun, friendly team, and this projected into exciting, interesting activities and entertainments day and night...... we visited a new country every day and our hotel went with us. Organization is the answer and most of the Island Escape team seemed to appreciate this and worked extremely hard to make sure every aspect of our cruise of a lifetime was a huge success.
As the sun sets on this review, I am already planning another Island cruise, this time on the second week itinerary - or was that dreaming of it? Ill get out the pencil and start the travel budget planner because I intend to be cruising into the future, now Ive got the bug.
This is a long review, but I do trust it has held your interest as there was a lot to say and I guess after I send it Ill think of some other interesting facts and information. It is not a posh cruise, but it does not claim to be ..... dress was as formal or as informal as you like - just like the rest of the cruise. Bon Voyage ......
(PS.. i trust this is in the right section as I saw another Island Escape story in here...if not, I do apologise to have made a mistake again!)
Nile Presidential Cruise Line. We started in Luxor and cruised to Aswan. It was a wonderful holiday. We booked the five star cruise and it really was a five star cruise. The Presidential cruise ship, The Ritz, was a very well run ship, and kept spotlessly clean. Everything on the ship was in very good condition. There was a ping pong table and swimming pool on top deck. Plenty of seating on the top deck inside and outside. The staff were professional, efficient and friendly everywhere. The staff at the reception desk on the ship were very helpful and friendly. The food was very good and plentiful and there were many choices to fit all tastes. The three meals are served in the dining room, and afternoon tea is served on the top deck. Get plenty of sleep the days before you start the cruise because if you happen to be travelling at one of their peak holiday periods when they have a lot of tourists arriving, you may find yourself being woken up VERY early the first morning to get you to the Valley of the Kings and the other sites over that way, so they can get you back on board and start cruising. That is because during peak periods there are lots of ships cruising the Nile, and at Esna they have to queue up to get through two locks. You don't want to be so sleepy during the day that you miss the village life along the Nile. We went in December and lots of people came unprepared for the very cold desert mornings and were shivering. A long wool scarf to wrap around the neck is necessary but you will need a jacket that keeps you warm. Won't go into the main temple sites because you must have read up on what you are going there to see. The scenery along the Nile and life along the Nile is really very interesting so try not to miss it. You will pass many villages with all the village life going on, children calling out to you and waving. Despite the unexpected early morning wake up calls the first few days during the peak December period we enjoyed it so much we want to do it again in a couple of years. You can't drink the water from the taps even though it is filtered and treated very well because it comes from the Nile. The litre bottles on board are US1. Take a package of diarhea pills in case you feel something starting because you won't find a chemist shop easily. I heard that a few people did get sick. Although one English speaking group on our boat had a great guide we had one who didn't know much at all and spoke English hesitantly. However I had looked up the temple plans on the internet and printed them out and had read up a lot. So when our guide ran out of things to say she said walk around for 30 mins. and meet me here, so with the temple plan we knew what other ground to cover. These guides sleep on board and travel the distance with you. Some tourists had their guide books with them. One couple somehow bought a tour without the temples in Luxor included - there are two - the Temple of Karnak and the Temple of Luxor. Both are just marvelous and the best of all so don't miss them. Take memory cards with large capacity and an extra camera battery. If you visit a temple at night when it is lit you might get a better result if you turn off your flash. One temple had raised work and the flash made it appear flat.
The idea that cruising is for snotty rich toffs who play bridge and eat with the captain has long gone.
Cruises are back with a bang; around 940,000 Brits took a cruise in 2002 - compared with fewer than 300,000 ten years ago, making cruises the fastest growing sector of the holiday industry. And why not? Cruises are my favourite type of holiday. You wake up in a different location every morning, without actually going anywhere! Plus a cruise makes a great family holiday - somewhere the whole family can spend time together while having the freedom to pursue their individual on-board interests.
But with the increase in the number of cruises on offer, how do you decide which is right for you?
***Choosing your destination ***
To make the most of your cruise, you need to do your homework. Put plenty of thought into where you want to go, and what you can do there. For example, if you are interested in snorkeling activities, the Eastern Caribbean (Bahamas, St Thomas) offers more than the Western Caribbean. And if you want to avoid hurricanes, August and September are the months to miss when going to the Caribbean.
The Mediterranean and the Caribbean are still the destinations of choice for many British cruisers. I have been to both and loved them both. Most ships in Europe depart from Palma Mallorca and head to Barcelona, Cadiz, Seville, Villefranche (Rome), Venice, Naples and Monaco. Plan what you want to do in advance to ensure you make the most of your time onshore.
The Caribbean is the busiest place for cruise ships in the world, with most itineraries being divided into Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean. Cruises normally start at Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral or Tampa and head to Nassau in the Bahamas, St Thomas, St Martin, and San Juan for the Eastern Caribbean (the idyllic beach-stop cruise). For the Western Caribbean youll head to Grand Cayman, and Ocho Rios in Jamaica, for those who fancy climbing the Dunns River Falls and tax-free shopping.
But you can also cruise to Alaska which is becoming increasingly popular for whale watching (my aunt is going next June, Im so jealous!) or even Antarctica! The wonderful seascapes, extraordinary glaciers and fabulous wildlife (penguins, elephant seals, killer whales etc) are only accessible on a cruise ship, making this southern extremity a popular route.
If you don't fancy the open sea, there are always river cruises - trips down the Nile, the Danube, the Rhine, the Elbe, the Seine, the Rhône, the Elbe and the Po. These days you can even cruise the Yangtse in China.
With so many cruise ships around, its worth doing your research to ensure youre making the right choice. Firstly, think about price. What company is in your range? Do you want informal or luxury?
-Expensive- (£800+ per person)
-Moderate- (£500-800 per person)
Secondly, do you want you to partake in lots of activities? What do you want to do onboard? Ship standards vary. But even a cruise at the bottom end of the market is likely to have better facilities and more entertainment on offer than a three-star hotel in the Med.
Today's cruise ships, especially the big super-ships, have a huge variety of facilities for sport and entertainment: skating rinks, rock-climbing walls, all manner of fun pools and spa rooms, theatres, cinemas and gyms. You certainly wont be bored! (For on board activities on Royal Caribbean and Ocean Village see my other reviews) There is certainly plenty of fun on offer - but you are under no compulsion to join in. It's your choice. Of course you can always sit by the pool, a margarita in tow, watching the world sail by (excuse the pun!).
***Selecting your cabin***
Study the ships deck plan. If the room is located above, below or next to "white spaces" that are not identified, query your travel agent, who can talk to the cruise line if necessary. Finally, the on-line cruise forums found on the Internet can be excellent sources of unbiased information on specific ships and cabins.
The first obvious decision is "inside or outside." This is largely a matter of personal preference. Arguments for an inside cabin are about economy. If you do opt for an outside cabin, make sure the view is not obstructed by lifeboats, outside decks or other shipboard eyesores. Most ship deck plans will indicate obviously obstructed views, and the rates should reflect this. Or if you really want to splash out, go for a balcony. On Royal Caribbean look for the Balconys located near the back of the ship as they are double the space for the same price!
OK, you've decided inside, outside or balcony. Now, you have to decide on which deck the room should be.
Lower decks are usually less desirable because of their distance to the upper decks where most of the action is. This means waits for elevators and extra time required to carry about your daily routines. Then again its great exercise for all those pounds youve probably piled on! Another disadvantage of lower decks is noise. Noise is one of the biggest complaints veteran cruisers have about their rooms, and it can come from a variety of sources. On the lower decks, engine noise, motor vibration, bow thrusters and crew traffic are common problems. On higher decks, noise can be a problem in cabins located beneath galleys, under jogging tracks or gymnasiums and above casinos or discos.
Fortunately, newer ships have greatly improved their room soundproofing. Royal Caribbean's new Vision-class ships have much improved soundproofing between rooms, passageways and decks. It may be that noise doesn't bother you, (or you are a party animal who generates noise) but seasickness is a problem. Conventional wisdom says that rooms on the lowest deck closest to the center of the ship are subject to the least motion. Most ships have effective stabilizers that limit a ship's rolling but have little effect on the ship's pitching. Therefore, a central location on the ship is probably more significant than a lower deck in minimizing the effects of motion.
***Booking your cruise***
There are a number of travel agencies who now deal solely in cruises. Deals are everywhere, so the best piece of advice is to look around. Teletext is great for picking up phone numbers of cruise angencies. What I do is ensure I know what ship I want, and the date and get a quote from one agency, then phone another to see if they can price match. Not only did I get the price lowered for one cruise, but I got upgraded as well!
Here are some companies to get you going
* Cruise Direct www.cruisedirect.co.uk
* Fast Track Cruises wwww.fastrackholidays.co.uk
* Cruise 1st www.cruise1st.co.uk
* D Cruise Shop www.dcruiseshop.co.uk
If however you know exactly which cruise line you wish to travel with, on which ship - perhaps you even know the cabin number you want - it could make sense to deal with the cruise company direct (Royal Caribbean for example offer substantial discounts to repeat passengers who book direct).
***What to pack***
A fantastic packing list for cruises is avaliable at http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/entropym/pages/packing_list.htm
But heres a general list of things you might forget;
*Sea sickness pills (you never know how rough the water will be)
*Film for your camera (expensive on board)
*Even when going to hot places, take a jumper because the air-conditioning can leave you feeling cold
*Smart eveningwear is required for formal dining on most ships. But only if you want to eat in the Dinning room, you can eat elsewhere if you dont want to dress up.
*In the event your clothes require TLC, some ships have complementary self-service laundries for passengers wishing to wash and iron on your own. If you're sailing on one that does (such as the Universe, Sagafjord, and Royal Princess), pack fewer items. Self-service laundries are a handy feature, especially when you consider that travel irons are verboten on most ships (they're electrical fire hazards) and shipboard laundry services customarily charge upwards of three bucks just to wash a pair of socks.
* Bring a pair of rubber-soled walking shoes for slippery decks and dusty shore excursions.
If you depart and arrive from a UK port then in theory you can take as much luggage as you like.
While cabins are much more spacious than you might imagine, with lots of drawers and cupboards, you won't have room for more than a couple of suitcases' worth of clothes and other possessions.
*On larger ships, parents worry about keeping track of their kids. Keep up with family members by using two way radios, Ive seen lots of families using them!
*Book excursions before you go in particular the popular ones as these sell out fast.
*First Seating or second seating dinner? The formal cruises have two sittings for dinner (some apply this policy for other meals too). At dinnertime you either eat first and then see the evening show - or see the show and then eat. Most people seem to prefer to go for the second sitting (it probably seems more grown up). But ultimately it doesn't make a huge amount of difference. If you don't get the sitting you want, see the restaurant manager when you board. A good tip will get you a nice place!
* When budgeting for your cruise dont forget to include on board drinks (given that these will normally be duty-free, they should be cheaper than normal); shore excursions and items bought ashore; health and beauty treatments on board; sending or receiving email; gambling at the casino; photographs; laundry and tips. These can often boost the cost of your cruise up considerably. You can settle your bill with your credit card, but you will need local currency if you plan to spend money on port visits.
And finally, enjoy your cruise, after all that planning you deserve it!
During one of our holidays to Crocodile Island at Luxor in Egypt we signed up to go on a Nile Cruise with our tour operator, Thomson's. It was for four days and three nights and cost £330 all inclusive this included an outside cabin, (a window cabin), all meals some buffet some a la Carte, our own guide, (English speaking Egyptologist), all the trips and entrance charges to the temples and museums. We were as excited as we had not planned to do a cruise before we came to Egypt, but we were shown a short film and given all the details at our welcome rep meeting when we first arrived. They made the cruise sound so exotic and beautiful and yes they were right it was everything and more. We were advised on what we should wear and that we would need plenty of water as all the trips to the temples and museums would be at the hottest time of the day. Plenty of sun block for my wife and daughter and hats or caps for us all. I'm just thinking now how much has happened over the centuries up and down The Nile the mind wonders at the romance and history of it all, and we were a part of that history, nothing spectacular I know, but still a part. We were told to be up for five o'clock Tuesday morning ready to go on our journey, we had arranged with the hotel, The Movenpick Jolie Ville, to have three packed breakfasts to go and sure enough they were there at reception waiting for us.
There were only six of us altogether from our hotel so a mini bus was waiting outside for the start of our exciting adventure. The first step of our journey only took ten minutes when we arrived at the quayside where the Nile boat was tied up. It was called Nile Symphony and it looked very big for a river boat but very majestic and stylish. We only had one suitcase between the three of us and this was off loaded from the mini bus and taken straight away onboard by one on the boat hands. We quickly followed him up a very rickety and narrow gangplank to reception, exactly the same as a hotel reception but smaller, we signed in and we were given the key to our cabin. We were lead along the centre of the boat towards the aft end and halfway along the corridor we let in to the cabin. First impressions were that it looked a bit cramped, but then they had to put an extra single bed in for my daughter. It was clean, neat, tidy and well decorated and had a shower room with toilet which was immaculate and surprisingly spacious, and fitted wardrobes as well. A television in one corner, on top of a very small fridge, that we filled straight away with our bottles of water. The window was quite large with curtains and gave us a very good view at this time of the West bank. We unpacked quickly and ate our breakfasts while putting our cloths away so we could go and explore the boat, we went up the wide steps to the upper deck and made our way aft to where the main area of the deck was and where there were fifty or so seats and sun loungers set out in a very uniform manner.
Not many people about at this time as they were probably still unpacking, we did notice a swimming pool though, only small but a very welcome sight. We decided to sit for a while and take it all in and within thirty seconds a waiter came over and asked us if we wanted anything. This was the life I thought and we ordered one tea, one coffee and a fanta. Tips, ( baksheesh ),make up and add to a waiters wages, which are about £3 a week so we always work on a 10% of the bill this gives us peace of mind and the waiter normally gives you a better looking after if that's at all possible. The whole of the area that was the upper deck was under shade and that made it more comforting as there was no breeze at all. It was not long before the bell rang out telling us that lunch was served so we made our way to the dining area where there were at least twenty tables laid out beautifully with shining cutlery and sparkling glasses. We were shown to our table, which seated six of us, this being where we had to sit for the duration of the journey, the other three on the table were from Mansfield and we made good friends with them over the next few days. The food was brilliant and there was plenty of it and it was laid out buffet style this is what we preferred as we like bits and pieces of everything rather than a lot of one thing.
The waiters were always on the ball, maybe due to the fact that the head waiter kept whispering in each of their ears now and then, and were always asking if we wanted any more to drink. After our scrumptious lunch we headed back up top to lounge about for the afternoon and it was not long before we were casting off and moving to our first destination. This turned out to be about ten miles north of Luxor, and this is where we ended up staying overnight, our pace at this time was just so slow you could of swam faster. We were not the only boat that was heading in that direction there must have been another six or seven. The upper deck at this time was slowly getting more busy with some even trying out the pool and others snoring away their over indulgence of lunch. It seemed that the boat was only half full which meant better and quicker service if that's at all possible. Anyway we went back to the cabin and after forty winks, a shower and a change of clothes we were in time for dinner. Not as formal as we thought everyone was dressed smart with some looking a bit red in the face obviously not expecting to have caught as much of the sun as they did. This meal was more the la Carte type than the buffet and it again was superb. Drinks had to be signed for and were assigned to your cabin number and the bill had to be paid at the end of the trip, you could pay this bill buy credit card, Pounds Sterling, Euro's, Dollars or Egyptian Pounds.
We ended the evening in the bar where you could get all the usual drinks including bottled or draught lager, all the main spirits and all the usual soft drinks, tea and coffee could be had at anytime. Getting to sleep was easy after the hard day we had eating and drinking and sunning ourselves, oh and the gentle sway of the boat from the slow current of the Nile tied up alongside the jetty. The next morning we awoke early and were first to the buffet breakfast, this is when we were given the itinerary for the rest of the journey, and after that we had to meet in reception and we were put into our groups this is when we met our guide. He was an Egyptologist from Cairo and could speak better English than me, it took him no time at all to introduce himself and to tell us that he would not have too much time for stragglers so please stay together at all times and try to keep an eye on him up front waving his Indiana Jones style of hat aloft. He told we were off to the Valley of the Kings and Queens and promptly led us down to the awaiting coach that whisked us off to the valley. On entering the start of the Valley of the Kings there is not a lot to see as this was one reason why the Pharaohs picked this valley as security against robbers. We had to go from the coach on to a tractor road train with four open air carriages that took us the final half a mile to where the entire tourist would congregate a short walk away from the tomb entrances.
There are about sixty tombs uncovered not all of them are open at any one time as excavation work carries on all the time, some tombs are not very impressive and look the same as any other you can't just look in any or all of them because your ticket which was bought for us was for only five tombs, one of them being that of the boy king himself Tutankhamun. This was the only tomb found that was intact in 1922 by Egyptologist Howard Carter, another tomb that was recently discovered was the Tomb of the sons of Ramses ll this is still being excavated and has had 110 chambers found up to now and is the largest in the valley of the Kings. Please remember your water as the tombs don't have very good air supplies and are very stuffy with hundreds of hot sweaty people walking in and out daily. After here we were taken to the valley of the Queens, about fifteen minutes from the Kings, only a few tombs open here but still worth visiting. Over seventy Queens and Princesses are buried there, one famous queen was buried there and that is Queen Nefertari favourite wife of Ramses ll. Only one hundred and fifty visitors a day are allowed in this tomb as the humidity is damaging the wall paintings and murals.
On the way back we stopped at an Alabaster factory, in the town called Qurna, where there were dozens of children scattered around the place covered in fine white dust from head to toe all with hammers and chisels in their hands trying to form various statues and Pharaoh type busts from various sized lumps of marble like stone. In the shop it was stacked from floor to ceiling with all kinds of historical figures and animals, no prices though you are expected to haggle. After about an hour here it was back on the coach and back to the boat, in the shower, get changed and then back to the upper deck for a lounge and drink. A camera is a must because there was a photo opportunity every five minutes, like the train of donkey's with extremely large quantities of sugar cain on their backs, or the small mountains of the West bank with all the caves cut out deep in to the rock and the other boats that kept passing us and then us passing them and everyone waving back at each other in a very friendly manner. We were on the way to Esna that was situated on the west bank of the Nile and about forty miles south of Luxor. Here the temple is for the ram headed god called Khnum, the so called god of cataracts. Then it was off to Edfu approximately seventy miles south of Luxor on the west bank of the Nile.
The temple of Horus at Edfu is the most impressive of all that we seen especially the colossal stone Falcons that are sacred to Horus. The temple was only completed in 237 BC in the time of Cleopatra's father. Both the inner and outer gateways are lined with giant columns covered with inscriptions of the god in communion with the Pharaoh, this then leads into the inner sanctum of the falcon-headed god Horus. Back on the boat just in time for afternoon tea and biscuits and then a pint. It was not long before we were away again and we soon came to a giant lock which coupled up as a road bridge connecting the West and East banks. This did slow us down somewhat as we were bottled necked with about another ten or twelve boats, this was to the advantage of the locals who took to their boats and were whistling at us all to make a purchase of their towels, cuddly camels and Galabaya's. If you held out your hands they would, very trustingly, throw you their wares for you to examine and then the haggling would start. Once you agreed on a price you then had to screw up the right amount of money, no change given, in to a ball and drop it back to them. We then made our way south to our next town of interest called Kom Ombo, this is twenty five miles north from the end of our adventure at Aswan. Kom Ombo hosts the Temple of Sobek and Haroeris this was built in the 2nd century BC.
This was now our last night on board the boat, it was Thursday and we were all to dress up for our final dinner but this time it was on the Upper deck. While we were at the temple they had cleared the whole of the upper deck and put the table and chairs from the dining room in place of the loungers it was a great sight to be seen. Down the centre of the tables was a very long table where all the food was to be laid out. We knew about all this when we first got our itinerary which gave us ample time to plan and buy whatever we fancied dressing up like. They wanted us to dress traditionally Egyptian style and luckily there was a small shop onboard that catered for this, how handy was that then. All three of us picked Galabaya's as our attire for the evening one because they were cheap second because they were light cool and third because you could wear them over anything. Everyone that we could see were all very much enjoying themselves, they were all getting their photos taken by some of the waiters and the shop owner was going around taking pictures of everyone to sell the next day. There was plenty to eat and drink and it was of the highest quality. We all then ended up in the bar where we played games for hours, I got wrapped in toilet paper and looked like a mummy but we did not complete the game quick enough and got beat by a French couple who must have had better quality toilet paper than us, damn cheek.
Next morning we were off to see the great Aswan Dam, this dam stops all river traffic from going any further and holds back the largest of fresh water lakes in Egypt the 300 mile Lake Nasser. The high Dam is 3600 metres long and 111 metres high and contains enough concrete and stone that would be able to build twenty great Pyramids. It was built with help from Soviet Engineers and is about ten miles south of Aswan, there are at least forty towns and villages vanished beneath the waters of Nasser. With its banks very baron and virtually uninhabited it is in sharp contrast of the lush greenery and hundreds of miles of irrigation channels cut in the banks of the Nile like arteries flowing into veins and feeding the many fields of differing types of local produce of what we had seen along the very populated and industrious banks of the River Nile. The dam was awesome but not touristy it has some splendid views but with lots of industry around it. Security was tight for what reason I don't know why but you were allowed to take pictures but no videos. We were hurried back on to our air conditioned coach for our last stop off which was at a perfume and oil manufacturer. We were all ushered in and seated beneath a room full of fans and then given tea or coffee before being lectured about all the different oils and scents that was put together at this small factory.
They bragged that they could mimic all the great perfumes of the world and all the great names of the world were mentioned. They came round everyone painting a small sample on different parts of our arms and then asking us who they thought made this scent. It did go on for a while and it was good that they had all the fans as it would have been very hot. At the end of the lecture, by the so called Doctor of Perfume we were asked which perfume we wanted to buy at a fraction of the cost of high street prices, all major credit cards accepted, oh and cash. Back to the boat for the last time this is when we all said goodbye to our wonderful guide who looked after us all extremely well and guided us with distinction, he was well tipped by all and gave a short speech on how we were the best group he had led, yeah ok. Then we had our last lunch before joining our coach for the long four and a half hour journey back to Luxor. When we got on the coach we had to join a very long convoy of over fifty coaches, mini buses and cars that were travelling north to Luxor that had to be escorted by the army for security reasons, thing is we have always felt very secure and welcome in this country.
The whole experience has left us nearly speechless as we did not plan this excursion, sorry adventure, so that we would recommend this cruise to you all. For the price and what you got for your money as well as the experiences, entrance fees and friends that we made along the journey then this must have been a bargain. I would go again tomorrow because there were loads of things that we did not do, only because of time restrictions, the heat and that most of what we did was already mapped out for us as a group. Got back to Crocodile Island safe and sound, all in good time for the odd pint or two.
Some tour operators do weekly cruises:-
My other half and I returned from our first cruise a fe wmonth back. I personally would never of dreamed of going on a cruise because I had the opinion that Cruises were for older people and people with money. But I was wrong, and I thoroughly enjoyed this holiday. We booked it last minute, about 2 weeks before, so managed to get a good deal, around £620 pp with an outside luxury cabin. The Cruise company was Island Cruises, renowned for being 'Informal'. The Cruise title was Med Essence. Now for the full details.
Day 1: Flew from UK to Palma
Day 2: Day at Sea
Day 3: Corsica - France
Day 4: Citavecchia - Italy
Day 5: Santa Margherita - Italy
Day 6: Nice - France
Day 7: Menorca - Spain
Day 8: Return to Palma for flight back to UK.
Day 1: Pleasant flight to Palma, upon arriving at the Airport there are Cruise Reps waitng to point you in the right direction. The Cruise Reps have a meeting point where you collect your personal envelope before getting on the transfer coach. The envelope contains your cabin key, check in and ship details and a swipe card for each member of your cabin. These swipe cards replace cash, so anything that is purchased on the ship is paid for with the swipe card, like a credit card, and the bill is settled at the end of the cruise either by cash or credit card. It is important to know this as we were not told this before we arrived, and luckily I had my card with me, otherwise we may have been a bit stuck. This is also a very lethal system in that you are unaware of what you are spending, unless you check your balance each day on the ship. Once our coach had dropped us off at the ship, only 15 mins from the Airport, we had to go through registration. This is where you give all your details, passports and credit card details, if paying with credit card at the end. You also have a picture taken by a web cam for security reasons. This process took about 15 mins, but staff were on hand to provide squash, and a childrens entertainer was there to keep bored children happy, along with balloons. After registration we had a picture taken, which you can purchase later on. We embarked the ship, by a very scary rickety staircase!!!! Cabin crew are assigned to each person to take you to your cabin. Your bags are waiting for you outside the cabin, which really impressed us. Tipping the cabin crew is at your discretion. Our cabin, as explained earlier, was an outside deluxe. This consisted of 2 beds put together as one, a bed settee, wardrobe, cupboard, desk with drawers, mirror, TV, table with complimentary mineral water and fruit basket and an en suite shower room. First impression of the room was impressive. Ok so the decor is a little dated throughout, but comfort is the main thing when it comes to your room. The shower room was compact, but enough room to move about and plenty or storage for shower gel etc. The bedroom had plenty of storage for the 2 of us, but may be a bit tight if a family of four were in this room. We were on Deck 9, so our views were restricted by lifeboats, but somehow this was more reasurring for me!!! Too much Titanic watching! The TV has 3 films a day showing, and amazingly they were recent films, including 1 film a day for the children. The other channels however were not really worth watching, one was a ships view, another sky news and the others a repeat film of the destinations and ships entertainment etc, quite annoying after 7 days on board! Overall we liked our cabin, and it was perfect for the two of us, but I believe it would be a bit of a squeeze for anymore than 2 people. After unpacking we explored the ship, then stopped for a 'cocktail of the day' ready for the Bon Voyage celebrations. Departing was not as glamourous as expected, but the views stunning as leaving Palma. After visiting the restaurant and a few more drinks ( which i'll explain in more detail later) we hit the Casino, then went to bed about 10.30pm. This is when we realised the first downside of being on deck 9 under the pool deck, people dancing the night away on the deck above was heard easily from our cabin, however this did not bother us, but may bother others, or people with children. We were Cabin 9038, so the furthest from that one, the better if noise bothers you. Although the partying stops by midnight.
The day at sea, so not much to look at apart from plenty of saltwater. However do keep an eye out for Dolphins. We spent the day trying out each venue on the ship, and even participated in Bingo! Which we actually thouroughly enjoyed, but I think the high money prizes was the temptation. The novelty of being able to eat as much as you like for nothing took over today, and we ate like no tomorrow. There is so much choice that everyone is spoilt, and for someone that loves all food, like me, I didn't know where to start. A few cocktails were drunk and the Casino was paid another visit before bedtime.
Corsica, a lovely little place. upon arriving it doesn't look like there is much to do, however grab a map from the arrival point and head into the village. Lots of shops, and plenty of girls clothing shops. Some cheap and some at designer prices. We went on the tour train here which took us to Napoleons birth place and other places of historical interest.
Citavecchia, the views upon arriving at the port were quite bad, a huge industrial area, but the port itself very pleasant. Today we decided to go on one of the excursions that the ship does. We paid about £22 each for ' Rome at your own pace' This consists of a hour and half coach ride to Rome, dropped off, and collected again later in the day. We found out afterwards that a train system runs from the end of the dock to Rome at the cost of £4. So I would recommend that instead as it's a lot cheaper. However the coach journey was pleasant, with Air conditioning and a toilet on board. The tour operator was 'Trumpy Tours' Much humour to my day this added! Upon arriving at Rome, the coach station is in central Rome, right outside of St Peters Basillica and the Vatican. Tour buses operate from here, or if you are a keen walker, then walk all of the sights. A map is provided by the tour operator. One thing nobody tells you is the extortionate prices in Rome. We decided to have a coffee and a can of coke in a nearby bistro. Coffee cost £3.00 and the coke was almost £4.00!!! We also had lunch nearby, but this was reasonable at around £25 for the 2 of us with a drink each and 2 courses. I had the spaghetti and clams, which was lovely if you are a shellfish and pasta lover. My other half had Pizza, which was delicious if you like ' proper' pizza, not the sort you get from supermarkets! We had a lovely day here, and arrived back at our Ship around 6.30pm.
Day 5: Santa Margherita
The views were stunning upon arriving here. This lovely Island is a favourite for the rich and famous. A great place for posh car spotting. Being a small port, the ship has to dock at sea, and smaller tender boats are operated from the ship to harbour. These were great, but perhaps if the weather had been bad, it may be a little scary. The waters a crystal clear, with plenty of fish. Once in harbour you can hire a boat for the day if required, or board another tender boat which takes you to the Rich Island of Portifino, we didn't do this, but heard that Portifino was gorgeous. We explored the qaint town with lovely alleys and buildings. Stopped for lunch in a waterfront restaurant, which was delicious and reasonable. Very few souvenir shops, but plenty of boutiques and jewellery shops, however expect to pay designer prices. We spent the day here and boarded our ship and hopur before disembarking. The tenders run regularly. Geat place, but probably not ideal for the Disabled as boarding the tenders means a bit of a large step with help from the crew too.
Nice, yet another great harbour to dock into with lovely views. Here we visited the great street market, full of everything you can think of, in the main centre is a gorgeous Ice Cream Parlour which consists of 96 flavoured ice creams!!! The beach here was sandy, and again crystal clear, but also busy. Water sports available. The harbour here is a great place for boat and yacht lovers, everything from a rowing boat up to millions of pounds worth of yacht. We didn't have a full day here, but what we did have was enough.
Mahon, Menorca. I was doubtful that I would enjoy Menorca, However upon arriving into the Island, the views were amazing. Where the ships docks there is alovely little market selling jewellery and lace and leather. A great place for gift shopping. To get to the toen, you need to go up quite a lot of stairs, so not great for the less agile. There is a Tabac shop to the left as you disembark, with good prices, and nice little restaurant next door with so much choice for everyone, including kids. However to save money you may as well get back on board for the free food.
Palma, Mejorca. Unfortunately pretty much as soon as we arrived we had to disembark for our flight back home. For those that don't, then Palma looks like a lovely place to explore, with the most gorgeous ancient cathedral in the background. Disembarking was easy, with transfers organised, we on the other hand took at taxi as we wanted to get to the airport a bit earlier for a better choice of seats on the flight home because of my fear of flying. But had we taken the transfer, it was well organised and easy to follow with your luggage waiting for you on the harbour.
Now for the nitty gritty of the ship itself.
As explained before, the Decor was dated, but otherwise satisfactory. The cabin maid Liliya, was amazing, the cabins were cleaned once a day with freash bath towels, ice bucket refil and even clothes folded if left lying around. Int eh evening she returned to top up the ice, turn your sheet over on the corner of the bed and deliver your copy of 'Island Chat' This was a great little leaflet printed daily about your next days port of call and what there is to do, also the days entertainment listed in detail along with opening times of the shops, restaurants etc. The ensuite was cosy, but always clean, the shower was great, power shower with constant hot water, so no worries if you are a family of four, no one will be left in the cold. On our last day Liliya made a lovely swan out of towels.
The ship offers a variety of excursions for each port of call. Ranging from walking ones, down to more suitable ones for people with mobile difficulties. They can be quite expensive, and can usually be done cheaper by getting a taxi or bus by yourself. They range from £15 up to £100 per excursion, but average is about £25 pp, less for children. There are a couple of excursions for families with children, like water park and a marine park.
For those wanting to take children on a cruise, then there are a few bits for them to do, Howeverr I personally would not have taken children with me as I think they would of been bored, but eacvh family is different. They do have kids club on board, operating for about an hour each time, which is great for the adults to have some time to themselves. There is a small pool which would be good for the children, I am unsure of the depth of this though. There is a good range of food for the kids, and all sorts of drinks, including non alcoholic cocktails. Kids are not allowed in the Casino, which is a shame as I think they should have a few slot machines for the children to have fun with. There is a games room which has a dance machine and a few other arcade games. In Cafe Brazil there is a small library which also has many board games for the children to play with. There is one film a day for children also, and they are usually recent ones. Entertainment wise, there is probably plenty the kids would enjoy, and they can take part in a talent contest or stage show if they fancy it. There is also a Internet room if the kids fancy a surf. Outside on deck there is a table tennis area, a little putting range and a few other outdoor games. On this particular cruise there weren't loads of children, but they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.
All the restaurants are non smoking, but you can use deck 10 outside of the Beachcomber to sit and smoke whilst eating.
Beachcomber: 24 hour
A great range of self service buffet food. This restaurant resembled a canteen, but it was very pleasant, with excellent helpful and prompt staff. Great place for those midnight munchies.
Breakfast 7.30 -10.00 Lunch 12.30 -15.00 / Dinner 19.00 22.00.
A well presented restaurant with plenty of seating. Most tables consist of 8 people, so expect to share, great for meeting new people, not great for the unsociable. Drinks on a waiter service, the food is self service. A great range of food, and we had breakfast here most days as we found it the best place to enjoy.
Oasis Restaurant - 19.00 - 22.00
This is the more formal restaurant of the 3. It is full waiter service, and we found it exceptional. . The food is served in a five star fashion. Although the menu has several a la carte options that carry a supplement there are always several non supplement dishes which are excellent. There is a great wine list with many to chose from at great price ranges. You have to pre book this restaurant, and this can be done on the day with the Head Waiter. Deatils of booking change daily and are listed outside the restaurant or in Island Chat. They do have few tables of 2 for a more romantic dining experience, but we had a shared table each night. Here people tend to dress up a bit more, but a gown and tux would be overdressed. I wore a plain dress on one night, and trouser and a nice top on the others. My other half wore trousers and a shirt, no tie. But anything goes, including jeans, the choice is yours. I'd recommend this to anyone who loves fine food and fine wine. The menu changes daily also, as does it in all the eateries.
There is plenty of entertainment to keep you occupied. However if you want to attend, then arrive early for good seats as most shows get packed out. The evening shows in the Ocean Theatre were the best, but get fully packed. Some entertainment is on the cheesy side, but it's all good fun all the same. There are plenty of quizzes each day also. Bingo is good fun and has a good turn out. The last night prize of our cruise was 1k for the House, which was very good. The cost is £5 for a book of 3 games, and £2 for an extra game to play with the 3rd game. Both Gary and Opal were amusing along with cheesy. Good thing is wherever you go, you don't have to sit down long before you are asked if you want a drink.
All the Bars offer almost the same drinks. A great range of cocktails, beer and spirits, and for some reason a huge range of Whiskies! The outside bar was our favourite as you can sip your drink whilst watching the world go by. There is a typical english pub next to the Casino which is great too, with Piano music and sometimes singing. The drinks run on your swipe card, which could be lethal as you are unaware of what you are paying, but you can check daily, if not you get a detailed statement at the end of your holiday. Drink prices are reasonable, about £2.20 for a cocktail and about £1.80 for a glass of house wine.
Great if you fancy a flutter. There are plenty of Las Vegas one armed bandits as well as the tables. Card Games and roulette proved to be popular, so expect to wait sometimes to be able to play. If you don't know how to play, a free lesson is offered on one of the days itinery. Here you can buy chips with cash or swipe card, the slot machines also run on chips. No under 18's allowed. Open from around 9pm until late.
Some lovely little shops. Perfume shop with reasonable prices. A gift shop including clothes and essentials. Jewellery shop, tad on the expensive side. Daily bargains are on sale in all shops, again this is listed in your Island Chat.
We did not go into the pool, but it was a tad on the small side, however great for a quick splash, and plenty of loungers around for the sun worshippers. Bar nearby also.
Here you can have your pics developed or put on disc if you have a digital camera. You can also hire cameras from here. Every evening all the pictures taken by the photographers are displayed and you can purchase them if required, we bought a couple of ourselves that were taken throughout the cruise, but it is quite expensive, around £10 per picture!
Swipe cards, both good and bad, good in that it's better than carrying cash, bad in that you could get carried away, and also the children have their own, which could turn out to be a bad thing if you let them off on their own!
Took too long and was boring, essential no doubt, but if you have already done one before, then it's of no use, however you HAVE to go, this is compulsory and not made very clear to the cruisers.
All in all we really enjoyed ourselves. I am 25 and my partner is 39, so it suited our younger lifestyles. If you are after a posh cruise, then this is not for you as the atmosphere is much more relaxed with informal dressing and evenings. But formal wear is excepted of course. The staff were so friendly and helpful. Ther eis a great infirmary on board, as I was feeling a bit off one day asnd was seen straight away and given some pills, But expect to pay for this, I paid around £40 for a handful of pills and 10 mins of the Doctors time. Be prepared and take all medication with you that you need or may need. The choice and quality of food was exceptional, the prices of drinks resonable, but not cheap. Entertainment was great if you like that sort of thing. The cabins comfortable and always clean. The other passengers were all friendly. Toilets all clean as are all areas. The itinery was good and we enjoyed each port of call. I'd recommend this to all first time cruisers, cruisers on a budget, and med lovers. Obviousley it's not a speck on the Caribbean cruises, but it was overall satisfactory and a 9 out of 10. Enjoy it.
I will never go on a cruise and I am here to tell you why. Enough people saw that movie "Titanic" to make it the biggest movie ever and they saw that cruiselines don't give a damn about their passengers, which they call "Guests" to theie faces but "Dupes, marks, suckers, or patsies" behind their backs. They seem to think that they will always be full and have plenty of fares regardless of their treatment of people since the ocean is so marvelous and no new competitors can just run out to Costco and buy a boat to be the next Cunard. So now everybody is thinking, "Oh, Jim MacBride is on a rant, wonder what got him going, did he get thrown off the boat in Nevis for making a pass at a sweet lithe Panamanian waiter or did he get violent when the buffet ran out of lobster?" Neither. I have never been on a damn cruise, nor do I need to in order to write a very useful op. But I can tell you they suck. Here's the gist, you ride around on a boat and stop in all these places for a couple hours and all these poor people come up to you and try to shake you down for money. Then you have theme nights and stuff and lay on deck in cedar chairs and play shuffleboard and hang out by the swimming pool after the casino on board takes all of your money. Something aboard a swimming pool onboard iritates me. I mean you are in water, a gazillion gallons of water are under you but you still have a swimming pool? Like there ain't enough water around? Its like having a bike to ride on a bus. If somebody wants to be in the water get out a rope and keel haul the bastard. Another thing is so few of the cruises are gay oriented and most have these old fashioned notions about promiscuity and relationships with the antiquated assumption that a room should be shared by just two people. Now they got Diseny cruises and celebrity cruises with young stars like Aaron Carter and the Olsen twins. I will sell my digital TV an
d JVC stereo if they get Heath Ledger to go on one as he will be my personal cabin boy. So whay am I angry at the cruiselines in general? I am out of work again, some minor misuse of the locomotive independent brake while making a shove move over the hump. Damn railway is all pissed about a few goods wagons ending up sideways on their master retarders. No big deal. So now I am on the street again. I am not poor, see if you work for the railroad you carry what is called "job insurance" or "derail insurance" from either LECMPA or BRCF. Like I pay $56.50 per month then when I get suspended I get $143.50 per day plus like $38 for railroad unemployment. So I ain't gonna lose my flat or car or nothing but I still need supplemental work so I can buy dirty magazines and food and stuff. So I was working at a pet store but they did not respect me, they only had me there to stop kids from stealing after some kid stuck a snake down his pants and it bit him there and gave him salmonella poisoning down there. I was going to make some money by being a protester of a new grocery store they are building, and I got all these High School kids to picket with me and we got in the paper but then the company offered to build a park and donate an aquarium to the school instead of bribing me to go away. So I won't get to work for the CSX again until October so I always look in the paper for jobs and I see that a famous cruisline was auditioning performers for their boats. The one ad went on about singers singing an upbeat showtune for 16 bars and the other was about dancers and a choreographer would teach them a challenging dance that day. I noticed all the fruity benefits like travel, meals, salary and stuff and it sounded good. So then this little ad on top said they wanted people who could juggle, walk on stilts, and had circus skills. It said if you couldn't do that shit that they would teach you. Eyez gotsda S
killz to make millz. See I like ciruses and shit. I read that Hitler loved circuses and watching death defying acts. So I went to the auditions with a big sack of bowling pins and last nights empties and was acting like I could juggle and stuff. I signed up and I noticed that they only other people that showed up were sissies. Look, I admit that I have messed around with guys before and I like to roger a sweet fellow as much as the next bloke, so you can't say I am a homophobe, but these guys were faggots. All of them. Now what kind of cruise patrons want to watch a sissie wearing eyeshadow be a mime? Especially as a lot of couples on a cruise are looking for an extra man around their stateroom. So these sissies are juggling and stuff and my fourth form math teacher came in as a one man band. One of the sissies was a contortionist, which was cool, I bet he didn't need a boyfriend, the stuff he could theoretically do. Now I was drunk and I had to ride the bus there and Popeye was with me too. So i tell them I am going to juggle but instead I juggle one pin and had Popeye fire a bowling pin at me with all his power, and I kicked it from the sky. I did this a few times and then a black guy whose talent was that he could tie his enormous penis in a knot asked if he could throw a beer bottle at me and I let him and I kicked it out of the sky. Now there were 5 judges and three of them were congruent with the other guys in that they were sissies and they were all aloof saying, "This is so stupid" but two of them were old school vaudeville pre-Peta men and respected danger and liked it. Then one of the judges asked "what if I got hit with a bottle". So I was ready for this since I brought a big thick logging chain and I told him to take a whack at me. He wouldn't so I promised him I wasn't a pussy, and see I chose a chain since it gives and distributes the force around your whole body. But he hit me like 8 times real hard since he sw
ung it like a rodeo cowboy and it hurt so much that I wanted to cry. He smacked my ass with it, and by the way I was wearing my yellow leotard and the chain whipped around and hit my nuts. I was hurt, but I was lucky because it proved I could really take this treatment.Then another guy took a crack at me and I explained that this could be my act, letting people make me suffer and all but they said that they are not a family oriented cruiseline and didn't need children's entertainment, like this. So I picked up some of my shit and Popeye mooned them full ass and we left. A few days later I got my official declination letter saying in part that they were lucky to have so many talented people audition hence I was not selected and all that sappy lies. But like 4 hours later the janitor at the university where it was held called me up and said he saw my show and just won the PA state lottery, he said he won millions and was only still working "long enough to figger out how to work over them snobby book smart &%^*&%#@s" He said he was throwing his nephew a 15th birthday party and offered me $1500 to do my act with kicking beer bottles and letting people hit me with a ball bat and an extra $800 if I would let them use me for a game of pin the tail on the donkey, with me being the donkey. Money talks and bullshit walks I figger. He also said I could have all the beer I could drink, which is a lot. I know I should not judge all cruiselines for the actions of one, but this is an indication of how they treat people. They are so far behind the times and don't give people what they want for entertainment. People like wrestling, death metal bands and monster trucks, catfights, monkey melees (where you give two chimps straight razors). Instead the cruiselines want tap dancing and show tunes. It is probaly the same with their food and ports of call (people want to sleep with a local for a pack of cigarettes not buy wicker fans). Why woul
d anyone want to go on a cruise knowing how little they think of their "guests"
After stressful exams my friends and me decided we needed and deserved a nice inexpensive holiday. We wondered what to do until seeing an advert in the paper for a boozy party mini cruise to Spain. It was quite cheap and the brochure that was sent to us persuaded us to book the holiday. It was around £80 for 3 of us to share although was later told that all the cheaper cabins had been booked and we would have to pay around £110 for a small window in our room. As soon as we boarded the boat and reached the accommodation we were in shock to see how small our cabin actually was with not enough room to stand and stretch really although at least it was en suite with a shower even if it was tiny. We attempted to get food from the three restaurants on board an hour after setting sail and to our dismay they were closing and so had to starve. We visited the bar for a few drinks and saw the majority of people there were over 40, and the prices of drinks were very expensive. This is when all the fun started and I started to feel really sick and had an asthma attack. My friends tried to get the doctor and the receptionists told them not to worry and it wasn't worth it. None of the staff were helpful or even courteous. Anyway, I spent the other 4 days not being able to get of my bed except for the 2 hours on dry land in Spain at 8am where nothing really was open. In the meantime my friends attempted to make the most of the ships activities but found that the casino was way too expensive and posh to attempt to play there, the food in the restraints was extortionate and the cinema prices were also very expensive. Most people that they came across were also suffering because of the rough seas. I kissed the land when I got off that boat. What was supposed to be a party turned out to be a nightmare. I would be extremely wary on travelling on a cruiser again as before I'd been on boats but had no problem, the Bay of B
iscay was a huge problem and finished me off. It is a fun idea but believe you me, alcohol and rough seas do not mix!
I think cruises are meant for people who don't get sea-sickness. I, though, didn't even know I had sea-sickness until I went on a cruise. Before then I could merrily sit on the P&O while going for a one day alcohol fest in Calais and sit even more merrily on the way back, but ever since my horrific experience with cruises, I am damaged for life. It's the Euro tunnel or nothing! <sob> <sob> I have no idea which cruise line it is that I was on, because I let my mum do all the organising, but basically, last year, we decided that both of us had had enough of family at Christmas. So we left my kid sister with my dad and his family and went, just the two of us, for a mother-daughter bonding session on a lovely cruise round the Canary Islands and stopping overnight in Morocco. It was a week long cruise, that covered the whole of the Christmas week, so that we could escape from all the hectic turkey bashing, discarded wrapping paper and whiney kids and instead be sunbathing next to a pool, with free drinks and an all-you-can-eat bar. Sound good? Yeah we thought so to. Well we packed our bags and off we went to the airport. The airport? Well, the cruise didn't go from Britain to the Canary Islands, we had to get a flight there first. So after a quick flight, there we were, standing in front of our home for a week, a glimmering shining boat... ahhhh. We clambered aboard the gangplank, me trying not to look down because I am very afraid of anything more than a foot above the ground, and went to the main reception desk to get our room numbers. The room was no. 6048. How many people are they trying to squish onto this boat?? 6000 rooms??? But no, I discovered that was part of the system, the first number was the deck, the others were your room. Phew. So, we found deck 6, room 48, somewhere deep in a maze on tiny, dingy lit corridors, I'm so glad I'm not claustrophobic because it would have made it even worse! The
only difference between the floors was that the further down you went, the nastier the colour scheme got. Ours was a vile shrimp pink colour. Yuck! We finally found our door, set our bags down, got out our key and flung it wide...! Until it stopped 2 seconds later, jammed against the bed which was practically in front of the door. I shoved my head through the gap and looked around, 'Mum... They've made a mistake, we've been given a broom cupboard.' But we checked the number, and the key fit. So we pulled our luggage in and looked around. There was a small double bed, built into the wall directly beside the door, a 1 foot gap ran between the bed and a tiny dresser with a mirror, just beyond that was a wash basin, and a single tall cupboard. There was about a foot of space between my head and the ceiling, and I'm not a tall person. Then, at the other end of the room was another door. Ah, my bedroom I presumed. Nope, there was a toilet and a 2 foot square shower. Oh. 'So where am I sleeping then?' I ask, tremulously, it's been a long time since I've needed to sleep in the same bed as my mum. But no, she points to something that is stuck against the wall over the double bed. I pulled it carefully, worried the thin wall might collapse, and discover a bunk bed. Great, just great. And I grew out of bunk beds when I was what, five? So the room is a bit of a disappointment, well, there isn't much of it to BE a disappointment really, that's how small it was, but I thought, I came here for the sun, the sea and the islands, I won't be spending my time in here! So we decide to investigate. We found the all-you-can-eat buffet bar first. My stomach rumbled, that plane food doesn't last very long, then lurched slightly when I looked closer at the food. Cold, congealing, or extremely overcooked was putting it mildly. In the end, all I ate that week was chips and bread, which were about the o
nly things that were at all edible and there was nothing, NOTHING made specifically for vegetarians (which I am). So, stomach still rumbling we set off to find everything else. The leaflet said there was a gym (2 bikes 1 treadmill and a rower), a pool (4 foot square and constantly filled with children) activities (walk a mile on the top deck with Floyd and napkin folding classes) excursions (sightseeing for 6 hours on a bus with no air-conditioning) and a proper restaurant where you can eat your evening meals. So, the restaurant. We went there on the first night. All dolled up (it said evening wear only) and queued with the gathering crowd outside the restaurant we waited for it to open at 6 o'clock sharp. Gradually we were let in, then met by a waiter who asked how many of us there were. My mum specified, 'Table for two, please.' The waiter led us away... to a 10 seater table with 8 already on it, and pulled out the two remaining chairs. Mum and I looked at it, horrified. I would say that's the first time I've ever really considered that I might be a snob, but there is no way I would ever sit at a table with other people who I don't know. Mum shook her head at him, 'No, a table for two. We don't want to sit with anyone.' The waiter looked at us bemused, then led us to a six-seater at the back of the restaurant which was empty. The food was good, we decided to go back again the next night. So we returned the next day, and were seated on another six-seater. We had just begun the main course, when the waiter led a couple over to our table and they sat down. What could we do? It would be incredibly rude to get up and walk away when our main course was sitting in front of us. But on the other hand we REALLY didn't want to have to make meaningless small talk with people who we didn't know. Shortly afterwards another couple were led towards the table, they were older than the first two. I s
at quietly, eating as fast as I could, while my mum tried to make conversation. It was hard, the older couple rambled and the younger pair (still in their late forties) looked like they had just arrived straight from Essex with bright blue eye shadow and reams of thick gold chains and rings and talked in grunts. We didn't even bother to eat pudding, but made our excuses and left. We were now beginning to realise that on board this cruise there was perhaps a handful of people the same age as me and my mum (20-38) and that it was mostly older, retired couples. After that, we didn't eat in the main restaurant again. On about the fifth day, there was an entire day spent at sea as the ship travelled from the Canary Islands to Casablanca in Morocco. It was on this day that I developed my sea sickness. With nothing to do for the whole day, I decided I would try and watch one of the in-cabin movies (yes, we did have a colour TV in our room, my only saviour on the whole trip). I looked down the daily list of (3) choices and thought I would watch The Jackal with Bruce Willis. I happily waited for the next showing to start and settled myself into my bunk bed to watch it. About half way through, the sound stopped, then the picture went blue, I waited for a few moments, wondering what was happening, then to my intense dismay, the film started over again. But I was not to be deterred, after all, it was this, or walking with Floyd 6 times round the deck to make a mile, which were we told every morning at 8:30 when the days announcements came over the built-in speaker in our room. So I continued watching. It got past the point where it had stopped before and I heaved a sigh of relief... until the sound stopped again. Then five minutes later the picture stopped, and then the whole film restarted. ARGH!! By this point I had been sitting in the room for over 2 hours, and the swaying of the ship was making my stomach lurch. Eventually the film
just stopped altogether, and it became clear they were waiting until the next showing time before they started it again. I could take no more. I rang the reception desk from the room, complained and demanded they played the whole thing all the way through. Two minutes later, the film started again, and it played, it played the whole way through as well. It could be done! Now I had sat in the tiny room for about 5 hours in the dark. My bottom was numb and my stomach was churning from the pitching sway of the boat. I could take no more, I dived to the toilet and was violently ill. I continued to be ill for the rest of the journey. My mum looked in the onboard travel shop for a pressure point bracelet to stop the sea-sickness, but apparently they had sold out on the second day. Seems I wasn't the only one that suffered then. Basically, it was bad, it seems that cruises are solely for senior, retired couples who are comfortably well-off to meet like-minded couples. I wish someone had told me before hand. The day-trips were bad because you could only choose from a select group of options and couldn't venture out alone, about the only good day-trip I went on was riding camels, and that lasted half and hour. The food was either atrocious, or you had to eat it with other people, that may not sound so bad, but you try making small talk with people you have nothing in common with and have never laid eyes on before. The accommodation was, as mentioned, too small to even comment on. I will never, ever go again, not even if I won a luxury cruise round the world. And now I can't even make the trips to France on P&O without seeing Bruce Willis' face going blue over and over again...
Never been on a cruise? This will help you make the most of it!! Not pointing to any particular cruise company the following opinion is a general outline of what to expect on a cruise. Now… this has taken me a good 2 days to write out and find out all the information and I’ve included all the important information, as I feel fit. I hope you like it. More than 7 million people have taken cruises and that number is growing fast. Cruising is one of the most popular holidays going now, and over 80 per cent of cruise goer’s return to cruise again. Don’t worry if you’re single…. cruising is not just for the rich people anymore or married and old, cruising is getting popular with singles, families, honeymooners and even college buddies nowadays. Days of different classes aboard are now long gone. The only “difference” you find nowadays is in the types of cabins and the location of the cabin. Trying to find a cruise should be easy. There are thousands of different types of cruises, over 20,000 worldwide infact. “Won’t I get bored?” That is the biggest question that is asked before a cruise is taken, and it’s usually men that ask that question. Reality is there won’t be enough time in the day to fit everything in, and by the time the cruise is up you will of wished you would of done even more! So… what can I do aboard that won’t make me bored? Well, with ships ranging from just 60m in length to well over 350m (that’s over 1000ft), there has to be something!! Before setting off on a cruise though, bear in mind that larger more recent ships will be very big indeed and will have to anchor out away from major tourist cities. This will mean a delay in getting to the mainland as people try to get there. Smaller ships, one with less than 900 people aboard will not have to deal with this as
much. Also remember to compare brochures and see how long you have in the cities. Many times differ and you want as long as possible. For many cruise goer’s going for a second time, a smaller ship is usually chosen than the first journey. This will improve you’re overall standards of service but of course there will be less to do. The larger ships will be packed with everything you expect in a first class hotel on the mainland. Aboard The Legend Of The Seas you will even find an 18-hole golf course. Of course it is miniature but it proves a point! Several other ships include a golf simulator machine. Aboard Celebrity cruises, that’s Galaxy, Century and Mercury I’ve also been told they now have interactive TV in their cabins. If you’re undecided on where to go, here is a list of places to decide on. Caribbean: These cruises tend to “jam” about 5-6 ports of call into one week, which can seem quick and tiring. This will involve little time at sea for relaxing as well. Also remember that June – November are hurricane months here, something that is usually “forgotten” in most brochures! Europe/Med: Using a cruise to see as much of Europe does make a lot of sense. Just think where the following cities are situated – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Genoa, Helsinki, Lisbon, London, Monte Carlo, Nice, Oslo, Stockholm and Venice. All extremely lovely places to visit, and all accessible by boat. Alaska: This is becoming a very popular place to visit now and is truly breathtaking! Around half a million passengers visited Alaska last year, and cruise companies, in particular Princess Cruises have shore side facilities such as hotels, buses and trains for you. The downside with Alaska is that ports are getting extremely busy and crowded now and wildlife is becoming harder to see with such busy ships a
round now. A real shame! Australia/Orient: Before setting out on a cruise here, beware that you will need to fly out first and this will be very long and take up a lot of you’re energy. Jet lag is a common feature when taking cruises here. The orient has such to offer that a long cruise should be taken here; a minimum of 15 days is about right to get in all the sights of the Orient. Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and South Pacific Islands – I’m sure you can now see why a long cruise is necessary. If you are setting out to book a first time cruise consider looking at the “big seven” cruise lines first as this will give you an idea of what to expect itinerary wise. Carnival Cruises: This is the biggest cruise operator in the world and carries many first timers. It is not an upmarket ship, and with Carnival you get what you pay for. Also to be taken note of is that any excursions on Carnival are booked through their interactive TV, so it can be difficult to track someone down if there are questions about it! Celebrity Cruises: This is a superb company. Best known for its food. All meals are made fresh and from scratch, no packaged stuff or boxed up food, all fresh! This cruise company also has the highest ratio of staff: passengers and so you can expect a far better service, especially in the cleaning of the ship and in the restaurant/bar. The artwork aboard is also out of this world for you art fans! Costa Cruises: Try these out for that “European” feel. The food on board is apparently not too good, the same with the service but does do a good candle lit dinner, with superb pasta! Cabins also tend to be quite small. Although it was purchased by Carnival back in 1997 the ships still have the same qualities about them. Holland America Line: These ships are quite famous for the teakwood decks outside, where as
most other ships use astro turf or similar. Free ice cream is available on all ships are various times as well as a Starbucks coffee. These ships claim to be 5 star and have a strong feel to being upmarket. Norwegian Cruise Line: This suits the active youth of today. It also suits sports fans due to a strong “sporty” feel aboard and many sports are available on board. Also available is an “eat n run” service for those not wanting to have a sit down meal. Princess Cruises: If you go on a honeymoon with Princess and want a table for 2 at dinner, make sure you go on Dawn Princess, Grand Princess or Sun Princess, as the others DON’T have tables for 2. Food is apparently not too brilliant but cabins are very good. Royal Caribbean International: The cabins on these ships are the smallest of all cruise liners. Passenger activity is pushed highly, so if you are one to not take part in activities this is not for you. Which ship you decide to go on is up to you and newer ships have advantages over smaller ships and so on. Themed cruises are also becoming popular with ones such as; Antiques, Astronomy, Art, Chess, Music, Fashion, Films, Gardening< Gay/Lesbian, Murder Mystery, Photography, Singles and Wine Tasting. When deciding on what cabin to have, you basically get what you pay for. An outside cabin is by far the best. An inside has no porthole or windows. Cabins in the centre of the ship are more stable, suffer less vibration and are noise free. Also, use common sense, if you like early night, pick a cabin away from the disco and so on. You could go on forever talking about cruise ships so I hope this has given you a taste of life aboard and helped you in making a choice.
I launched out on cruising adventures for the first time in 1994, on a P & O ship called the “Sea Princess” cruising for two weeks around the Western Mediterranean.. This followed a period when both my husband and myself had suffered serious illness, and we decided to treat ourselves. Up until then we had spent bucket & spade type family holidays in the UK, France & near Continent. We had a wonderful time, and discovered that cruising was not an outrageously expensive option that you could only do once or twice in a lifetime; but a surprisingly affordable all inclusive holiday for couples of any age, singles and older children. So in 1995 we flew to Venice to join the same ship, renamed Victoria, for a cruise visiting Sicily, Greek Islands & Turkey. Since then we have been on two Airtours holidays on the “Sunbird” – a one week cruise from Palma around the Western Mediterranean and a two week cruise in the Caribbean. And last year we flew to Palma for a First Choice cruise on the “Bolero”. The standard of accommodation, entertainment and food has been excellent on all these cruises; higher in nearly all respects on P & O but then these cruises were more expensive. We could find very little fault at all; the only mild criticism about the Airtours/First Choice cruises is that they were very crowded during days at sea with comfortable deck space a little difficult to find and longer queues for meals. Also their embark/disembark procedures were not quite so good as P & O. And on all cruises we found the feudal system of last day “tipping” caused a deal of angst for many passengers. Also we probably would not take a Mediterranean cruise from Southampton again, as we were two full days at sea getting there, and the same back in quite choppy sea conditions, with poor visibility. We have found fly cruises a better option. The best bit about cruising is being able to e
xplore so many different ports of call. We soon learnt not to take too many of the organised excursions, which can be expensive. Instead we often did our own thing by local transport & taxis. For example, we took the train from Cadiz to Jerez, the home of Sandeman Port and the Spanish Riding School; and a taxi from Barbados to visit the old sugar cane plantations and Gun Hill fort, where my husband found an tunic button from the 37th Regiment of Foot, 1796. The taxi driver took us on an unofficial tour of the Test cricket ground in Barbados. While in Turkey, we went ashore by tender to the small port of Kas. A few kilometres out of town, we came across the ancient Greek/Roman theatre, overlooking the sea in remarkable state of preservation and where we were the only visitors. After a day's touring, its great to get back to the air-conditioned comfort of the ship, to plan the next day's adventures and get ready for a first class meal, West end show, midnight buffet, and casino. And step out on deck next morning for breakfast on deck in a new port.
“Where shall we go for a holiday?” asked my girlfriend. “Let’s go somewhere to learn how to sail or let’s go skiing,” I said. Scouring the internet and visiting and revisiting tons of travel agents turned up nothing in a reasonable price range. Eventually, we turned to teletext and my better half came up with the idea of a cruise. Now, I always thought that cruises were a break for people in their twilight years of retirement (in other words a break from a break) and so I made my opinion known vociferously. Unfortunately, I was taken in by the line “well, it’s a kind of sailing,” and parted with the cash. And so we went … on the Thomson’s Fortunate Isles Cruise. THE JOURNEY Luckily, our outbound Britannia flight was from nearby Cardiff Airport and, therefore, very convenient. We’ve all been on enough short haul flights to know about lack of legroom and tasteless reheated food, so I won’t go on about that – in fact it wouldn’t be a holiday without it! We landed in good time at Tenerife Airport (estimated flight time 4 hours – actually about 3.5 hours) and were swiftly herded off the plane, through customs and into a chaotic bazaar of people. The usual problems awaited – couples hogging space at the luggage carousel, children screaming and smokers inconsiderately spewing their noxious vapours over you. It was then off to find the transfer coach. The Thomson’s reps were less than helpful. I do appreciate that they have a difficult job to do, but don’t we all, and remember, the customer is supposed to always be right. 15 minutes after finding the correct coach, we set off and within an hour we had reached the port of Santa Cruz, and our ship, The Topaz. So far so bad … ARRIVING AT THE BOAT The Topaz was commissioned in 1955 and is one of the oldest cruise ships still serving duty at sea. The ship looked r
esplendent in gleaming white in the rapidly dimming light. We collected our suitcases from the belly of the coach and boarded using the gangway to the 4th deck. Unfortunately, the boarding process was slowed considerably as obligatory photographs were taken; these would be displayed later in the week in the photo gallery and made available for purchase. We were led through a maze of corridors to the information centre on deck 6 where we would collect our welcome packs (which included a credit card sized pass card for each passenger in the group to enable ease of identification for disembarking and boarding at various stops) and be taken to our cabins. This process was quite painless as the ship was cool and welcome drinks were made available immediately. Within 10 minutes of arriving at our cabin, our luggage had been carried in and our maid had made herself known to us, saying, “If you need anything, please call me.” THE CABIN Our cabin was actually large enough for four people. There were fold-up bunk beds above the two fixed single beds. A TV, two built-in wardrobes, a chest of drawers, sink and medicine cabinet with mirror, 110V continental plug socket, en-suite toilet and shower. Unfortunately, our cabin was an internal one with no portholes and therefore no reference point to the outside world. This is disadvantageous, as in rough weather, any nausea and disorientation is exacerbated, and also it is impossible to tell what time of day it is. Other cabins at the sides of the ship had portholes, but tended to be more expensive. The cabins were cleaned 3 times a day and consequently were very tidy indeed! Generally speaking, the ship’s décor was quite tacky with colours from a bad painter’s palette; just imagine: a melange of black, cream, red striping, pink with gold flashing and blue carpeting. However, the place was always tidy with constant cleaning going on so no complaints there, except for the damage t
o my retinas! The service was impeccable from most members of staff, who work for nine months of the year, before going back home to their families in the Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Far East and India. Most were well dressed in tidy uniforms, very pleasant and always willing to help. I’ve given a run down of most of the services and facilities available on board below … EATING 1. YACHT CLUB – buffet service, 24 hours a day at the yacht club with 6 menus a day and a huge choice on each menu. A little bit cafeteria, but at least with such an informal place, you didn’t have to dress up. 2. THE TOPAZ DINING ROOM – three menus a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. A more formal eatery with silver service and waiters singing snatches of Nessun Dorma to cringing victims who just happened to be born that day! Plenty of variety and vegetarian and light options. DRINKING 1. HEMMINGWAY’S PIANO BAR – open from mid morning until around midnight or even a little later (the rules seemed quite relaxed!). With plenty of free alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, beer, wine and coffees available free (remember – this is all-inclusive)! In the evenings, a pianist played contemporary and classical tunes in a jazzy manner with flair and gusto – Richard Clayderman, eat your heart out! 2. SUNSHINE BAR – At the top of the ship, if the weather was fine, Derek and others served free drinks from 8 or 9 am until midnight. You could sit at the bar and watch the sunbathers or stare out at the sights of the day’s port or out to the ocean when at sea. Every day, there was a pub quiz with small prizes for the winning team – but the same guy went home with the T-shirt each day: makes you wonder! 3. SPORTS BAR – a disco and bar in the night and just drinks in the day, again all drinks and cocktails were free. Big TV screens showed videos all day. <
br><br> OTHER FACILITIES ON BOARD 1. SHIP DOCTOR – a visit to the doctor in the infirmary for whatever reason would cost £32 (or £37 for the doctor to visit your cabin), plus the costs of any medicines purchased. 2. INFORMATION CENTRE – this was open 24 hours a day but not always manned, with leaflets and magazines available to tell you about the next port of call. A daily ship news paper was passed under the door of each cabin every night to give more information about the next day’s events on board and ashore. 3. RECEPTION – this was open in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. The most useful function they served for me was giving out free sea-sickness tablets with a warning not to drink alcohol after taking them! 4. CASINO – while at sea, the casino was open. Minimum bets at the tables, £1, maximum: a tenner. Games available included blackjack & roulette. There were about 30 token-operated one-armed bandit machines off to one side and I made a bit of cash on these! The casino also had the facility to change money and took visa and switch on a 2.5% commission basis. 5. BROADWAY SHOW LOUNGE – the Captain’s cocktail party and various shows were held here. We didn’t see any of the shows but a number of people we spoke to said they the shows were very entertaining. 6. CINEMA – a few showings each day of quite recent movies, although not right bang up to the minute! 7. WINDJAMMER LOUNGE – this was more for the older people aboard. Serving teas and coffees and with 11 o’clock biscuit breaks, for the more gently minded, various crafts and other pastimes were demonstrated throughout the day. Example: food carving and line dancing (though not at the same time)! 8. CHILDRENS & TEEN CLUB – entertainment for kids. I don’t really know what they got up to, but it was all supervised and I suppose very useful for parents who wa
nt the kids safely out of the way for a couple of hours of peace every day! 9. JACUZZI & POOLS – the Jacuzzi and 2 pools (children and adult) were open whenever we were docked and at sea as long as the weather was calm. The pools were icy cold and very small (not big enough to do a few lengths), but very refreshing for a quick dip after a hard day’s sunbathing! The Jacuzzi was heated and constantly bubbling but always full of kids although the warnings to parents to not allow children under 16 years in were clearly nailed to the side of the pool and to the walls of the sundeck. This was rather annoying. The pools were unsupervised and clear warnings were present to say as much, however, when the pools were emptied each night, netting was used to cover them and prevent stray intoxicated guests diving into concrete! 10. GYM & FITNESS SUITE – small but fairly well equipped with running, cycling and weights machines as one could expect aboard a budget cruise ship. As the average age of cruisers is relatively high, the younger guests should find no problem using the suite as it is usually pretty deserted! 11. IRONING ROOM – don’t bother to bring an iron – there’s a small cabin available for passenger’s use. 12. HAIRDRESSER – we didn’t use this service so I can’t comment on the quality of the service, but it is available. STOPS 1. Funchal, Madeira – a very beautiful island. If it’s good enough for Madonna, it’s good enough for me. Highlights – dry (non-moving) land after a day at sea in roughish weather, cable car to the top of the overlooking mountains and a ride down the slope in a man-powered basket, beautiful marina with yachts of various sizes, fragrant gardens and dramatic views into the bay. 2. Agadir, Morocco – uncivilised, third world country, bizarre bazaars and poor quality guided tours (courtesy of Hasan, a sexist
, racist, misogynist monoglot with aspirations to be a guide!). Highlights – dry (solid) land after a day and a half at sea in roughish weather, discovering a brand new all-pervading smell in the port, hearing about local bathing rituals prior to praying, men in the souk hurling thinly veiled racist insults at us Brits while themselves spooning a foul stew into their mouths using their hands from a plate lying on the floor 12 inches from the nearest open sewer. I really wouldn’t bother getting off the boat to visit this filthy country – you’ll need a hot shower the minute you get back on board! Hey – that’s just my opinion, take it or leave it. 3. Lanzarote – at last back to reality and civilisation! 4. Las Palmas, Gran Canaria – the best place on the entire cruise! I thought I would get a real bargain in the superb shops here. Unfortunately, it was not to be! Arriving the day before Good Friday in a highly religious country means that you won’t find a single retail outlet open! The coffee shops and restaurants were, though and a nice day was punctuated by a visit to the marina. A flush traveller may want to line the coffers of Thomson’s Travel Group and take an overpriced tour of the island. I really wouldn’t bother to spend all the cash, as you can do it yourself a lot cheaper – buses cost pennies. I’ve been before and the places to visit are Playa las Anglaise (great shopping - sorry about the spelling!), Puerto Mogan (superb little marina and restaurants – full of rich people and with a local market a couple of days a week), Puerto Rico (a great resort to stay in with superb restaurants and marina – they’ve even got Sunseeker and Fairline sales offices). Apparently, the north of the island and the interior are superb, but I’ve never been. 5. Santa Cruz, Tenerife – we didn’t really get off to explore this port town, but I imagine it would
hold adventures for some people. DISADVANTAGES Weight gain, seasickness while you’re at sea, land sickness when you’re ashore, children using adult facilities on the sun bridge (Jacuzzi & adult pool), mixing with the hoi polloi (you do meet some nice people, too)! CONCLUSION I don’t think I’ll do it again until I’ve got my free bus pass. I would recommend it to my mum & dad, families, the elderly and groups of late teen and twenty-something girls who like foreign waiters (there’s plenty on board). Honeymooners would also enjoy it, although perhaps a bigger, newer glitzier ship would be more to their liking. For an all-inclusive package on a budget you can’t beat it – but if you’re active enough to breathe for yourself without the aid of a machine and you can generate a heartbeat by yourself without the aid of a pacemaker, try sailing or skiing.