Here are your top 7 absolute essentials for cruising. A Cruising 101, if you like, for Newbies and Experienced Cruisers Alike.
A non-cruising friend asked “What’s so great about cruising? Won’t you get bored onboard” he quipped, smirking because he thought he was funny – Not!
“Are you kidding,” said I, “Cruising is one of the most relaxing or adrenalin filled, interesting ways to see the world that I know of.”
Having sailed on many a cruise ship to many a port, and to satisfy my particular requirements for a holiday, let me share a few of my favourite experiences, including…
1. An Umbrella Cocktail
Nothing says holiday to me like a cocktail/mocktail with a tiny umbrella and a piece of pineapple. Until that appears in my hand, it’s all “Which floor are we on? Is the cabin down this aisle? Should we sit here and wait til the suitcase comes or take a stroll? What’s the weather like? Too soon to get the swimmies on? Do you think the spa will be free? Is the buffet ready to go? Can we book our shore excursion yet?” (And that’s just the first 5 minutes!!)
2. Fun & Games with Complete Strangers
Now meeting, chatting and bonding over Bingo or Trivia with a complete stranger may seem insane, however when you have a focus for conversation a friendship forms easily, even when you don’t get to shout Bingo! or if you don’t know the answers. In fact if you can laugh about the wrong ones, and revel together in the surprise of getting one right, you create lifelong buddies – at least for the duration of the cruise (if not longer!). Suddenly you are a popular people-person, with friends to chat to, dine with, drink with, sing karaoke with and go on shore excursions with. Beware winning a Trivia trophy – after all who will get to take it home after your cruise?!!!
3. Exceptional Cuisine
While you may have to wait up to 6 months or more to book into a celebrity chef’s land-based signature restaurant, you can dine on superb cuisine every night while onboard. Many cruise lines have seen the wisdom to tantalize our taste buds by partnering with a celebrity chef to offer an extra-special dining experience. Often this impressive array of chefs and food is available for a few dollars over and above your cruise fare (in my opinion, well worth the extra!) This is, however not the case onboard Carnival, Crystal, Oceania and Seabourn Cruiselines. Savour Carnival’s mouthwatering burgers at Guy’s Burgers (Chef & BBQ Master Guy Fieri’s signature restaurant) or get onboard the luxury and inclusive Oceania Cruises’ Marina and Riviera, where you can experience modern French cuisine at Jacques or onboard Sirena at Jacques Bistro (the creation of Jacques Pepin). Seabourn’s all-inclusive and complimentary steakhouse The Grill (Michelin-starred restauranteur American Thomas Keller) is well received by diners, and you can step up for one free dinner at Nobu, (famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa) while onboard Crystal Cruises.* If you are into Michelin-stars, celebrity chefs and fine dining, you can’t go past these and more onboard restaurants – plus you have the addition of a holiday!!
4. Main Dining Room Formal Night
While many people wouldn’t dream of donning a floor length gown or tux & bow tie, some take this chance to dress to the nines! The real joy of Formal Night in the main dining room, and later on out on the dance floor, is people watching. Who does and who doesn’t dress up. You won’t recognise that guy who has never been seen without his flip flops and shorts in a suit and tie. Or the woman who insists on a bikini when she really shouldn’t, has her floor length diamanté-encrusted velvet gown and jewels on display. The previously loud and annoying kids who have hair slicked back, cute little dresses and shiny shoes look positively angelic. It’s a smorgasbord of humanity to delight in.
5. Work out or Chill Out
From all that food to thinking about our waistlines and staying healthy. Should you indulge while onboard? Or stick to salads, fruit and veges? It seems a shame not to try the rich and flavoursome Lobster Bisque or a delicately poached chicken breast smothered in cream, shallots and mushrooms. Or indeed the favourite in all the world… a Vanilla Crème Brûlée, which cannot be resisted under any circumstances. And so to the gym. A state-of-the-art, well equipped fitness centre sees its fair share of gym-junkies in the mornings, those who need to atone for that little indulgence the night before, and those who simply want to chill out and relax in the warm bubbles of the spa before they partake in the sparkling bubbles of champagne later on.
Yoga, aerobics, rock climbing, ball games, stretch and spin classes are all available as you enjoy the gorgeous sea view. Perfect.
6. Your Own Balcony View
Having your own balcony seat to enjoy the sea breeze, destinations, sea views and watch the world go by is usually on top of the list for those who cruise. That little space of personal privacy where you have the choice whether to interact with other passengers, or not. And while some will tell you an inside or oceanview cabin is simply a place to sleep, or recharge before setting the night on fire, others will tell you that recharging with a glass of wine on your own balcony is a MUST HAVE, and a much better way to cruise your day away.
7. Sunsets at Sea
Speaking of balconies, there is nothing more special than watching the sun set (or rise) on your own balcony. The magic of azure blue developing streaks of orange, pinks and gold before subsiding into deeper purple hues. As the velvet blues and blacks of night fall the diamond brilliance of the stars come out to play. You could reach up and touch them… it’s just magic.
These are a few of my onboard favourites (there are more reasons I love to travel, however, let me save those for later).
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*Specific information researched and sourced from supplier cruiselines and article: “The Best Cruises Ships for Food”, M Kay, ESCAPE, SMH Oct 2016