New to Choosing a Cruise?
That is what Doris Visits is here for. We try to help you SEE THE CRUISE BEFORE YOU CRUISE THE SEA.
Last night we sat and had dinner, on land, with friends who had just come back from the Orient Express, now wanting to cruise. The comment was that they liked small ships. It is not uncommon to hear such a comment. It is also not uncommon to hear it from someone who has never set foot on a ship, or, dare we say, never changed from their favourite small ship. Like fans of football clubs and religion, humans are creatures of habit and don’t like change, and defend what they know and like vehemently. Their rationale for a small ship was that they had just sat in Venice and watched a huge ship sail in. They didn’t like it. But then they were sitting on a bunch of logs rammed into the sea bed to make a man made island of sin!
We explained the differences between smaller ships that are easy, and larger ships that offer more choice, they were confused. We played Doris Visits the Arcadia, the Doris Visits Azura, then Doris Visits Britannia (on our 70″ TV straight from YouTube) to show three of the available sizes. They were further confused but realised they needed to plan. They did choose the Baltic; that was the easy bit for them, they want to explore and want history.
If you are cruising for the first time we suggest there are two main parameters to consider. They both are about you and what you want; the ship and its destinations. Both need some thought. I am going to throw in a third, your clothes. Because you may be flying and cruising, it is not unknown for airlines to lose some bags. If your bags are a day late your bags are now chasing a ship round. Whilst ships are great chasing the mistakes of airlines, you might like to pack change in your hand luggage and a TRACKER in your main luggage. Check our packing tips. We think the right ship is important, but they are at the bottom. First, destination.
Destination – Where you visit, what you want?
If you are looking to see great places of interest, exploring and walking, then the Baltic (Cruise overview). Sun and fun in and out of the UK in the winter, the Canary Islands (Cruise overview). Real Winter sun, and lazy days it is the Caribbean islands. For a European blast the Mediterranean has endless options from Rome to Greece. The peaceful scenery of the Norwegian Fjords. Finally, if you want the journey of a life time, look at a long or world cruise and go native!
So, if you don’t like a lot of walking, it is not the Baltics for you but that might be our favourite route. Let us assume you want the sun and the Caribbean, and why not? It is not just which islands, it is what to do at each island. Example, if you want a beach then add Antigua, if you want a great island trip Antigua might be way, way, way down the list as there is very little to see. If you want a complete summer mix then Key West is hard to beat, if you want theme parks Canaveral might be on the list though Canaveral also offers Jetty Park and Cocoa Beach (these feature in Book 3 of the romantic Solo Cruiser book series, American Portrait by Sally Katz. If you like romantic books and have not cruise then see Solo Cruiser books, each one is set on a cruise.). Cuba is fantastic with much to see, but is found easier on the Fred Olsen itinerary. Barbados we never tire of it, and the buses are easy – Lunch at Mullens and back is easy. Tortola and the Azores have fewer options so the films will help you.
You might also consider some places are a beach treat, some places that you will look around. What you don’t want to do is look around the ones with nothing to see, and sit on the beach when you should have perhaps been exploring. Planning and choosing makes for great fun. That is where Doris Visits can help. Doris Visits can save you looking round Antigua when you should be on a beach, and will encourage you to explore islands like Bequia (if only as far as Jacks bar!) and Sint Maarten for stops where there are choices you might like to make. Here is Doris Visits top ten Caribbean cruise stops from the 2015 / 2016 Caribbean season. Each of these has at least one long form film that can be found on this site.
You can also choose where you fly into, and with some negotiation you might be able to extend the stay at that transit stop for an additional week. Rome is a great place to end and extend! Well, why not. The most common transit from the UK is Barbados and we have two films for the bearded one because we often extend our stay there. You are about to spend a lot of money, so a little research is fun.
More cruises are using Key West to start and stop from, some use Miami, but that may be few of the British operators. They might however use Canaveral and we advise you to take a look at that place which has so much to offer and such extremes. Check out the tours, that often reveals a lot about the destination.
Which Cruise Ship do I choose?
The secret is to choose a ship that is suited to you, and given the variety there will be one. It is like choosing which town to live in and ships are small towns or villages. If you want to live in a small exclusive area then choose a ship like that, or a huge ship with a secret private area that you afford the premium to access. Big ships mean lots of entertainment and many fine dining restaurants with exclusive areas, small ships can have less choice.
If you are unhappy on a ship it is probably because you might have been able to choose a ship more suited to your needs and desires. It is important to get two things right.
- The ship has the areas you require.
- That the cost of everything you want has been calculated as the cost of your trip. Including fine dining nights and access to the exclusive areas.
- The ship has the entertainment you expect.
As an example, if you are of the opinion that once you have paid for your trip you do not wish to pay extra for fine dining, then we agree, the food in the free dining is fantastic and therefore you do not need a ship with fine dining options.
If you wish to have a quiet area and be waited on, never have to look for a sun bed but be shown to one, then you will require an exclusive adult area and private pool which comes at a premium. The bigger ships have these, and fine dining as well as all the free dining and free entertainment areas. Some ships like the Britannia has a wine and dining cabaret night club which has a premium as well as a cookery club and lessons. Add all these to the cost of your cruise.
So, if you like options, don’t choose the smallest ship. If you don’t need the options and are in bed early a small ship may be ideal. These are just extremes to help you focus on the incredible number of facilities a ship might have to offer.
So if you are new to cruising, there is a pub and karaoke downstairs and a self service upstairs and you never have to dress for dinner. Or, there are black tie and dress code nights for restaurants and bars and entertainment areas. And there are fine dining options and exclusive areas in the mid size and large ships. Take a look at the Arcadia, a smaller adult ship, the Azura a family friendly medium size ship, and the Britannia, a larger but far from the biggest ship in the seas. Let Jean and our other presenters like Elizabeth walk you round. Jean‘s films are edited faster, she finds detail and she runs a commentary, Elizabeth‘s are very leisurely and not much is said and no real detail. Everything is different and you have options. She shows you the Cunard ships. Cunard are perhaps quieter than the P&O ships, the Princess ships are more contemporary and the odd pop video may be played on the sea screen
We also have a cabin tour. Inside cabins are cheaper, if taken on a last minute deal there might be a chance of an upgrade. We also have a blog of Cruise Tips, some we bet you have never heard before. We show you the Laundry rooms (the centre of all the best gossip).
Celebrity Cruises is a mix of UK and US passengers so can be a little more contemporary than some traditional ships. Regent Seven Seas offer a different cruise, some cost more, some less. Azamara Club are sometimes an all-inclusive offer. Fred Olsen sometimes has a book two cruises get a third free. Hey – Click below to visit the main sites of the many cruise operators, and within that site look for your ship and your cruise, the deals and the last minute deals. Then come back and check the destinations with us and look at the tours.