Last week I traveled with my friends D&P on a European cruise as they treated one of their mothers to a holiday break. I’ve not cruised before as it typically has a reputation for oldies and this trip was no different as you can see in the photo’s. My friends and I were often mistaken for crew due to the couple of decades between us and the other passengers! I met a lovely couple, Jean and Tom, who had been on over 40 cruises taking one every three to four months. They had the system worked out buying cruises only on discount, often at buy one get one half price and making the most of their retirement spending less on the cruise then to live and eat at home!
I spent seven days cruising on the Marco Polo from London – Amsterdam – Antwerp – Honfleur – Rouen – Le Harve – London. On a limited budget this year I chose an inner cabin that no windows and paid a single supplement to have it to myself. This worked well as the only time I spent in the cabin was an hour before dinner getting ready and to go to sleep, however if the cruise was longer I would opt for an ocean view. This cruise traveled each night to a new destination enabling you to be rocked to sleep by the ocean, waking ready to step ashore for a day of discovery. We did have one day where we cruised without stopping which meant I could enjoy lots of free entertainment including fruit carving, towel folding and shuffleboard!
Here are my top tips if you are cruising…
1/ Go for the early dinner service. On our cruise we had an option of a 6pm or 8pm sitting. Booking the early dinner service meant we could adjourn to the bar areas and have our pick of the seating. Fellow passengers who arrived post the second dinner service found they had to leave the bar area or at the least stand often missing the quiz or entertainment for the night.
2/ Book you spa treatments as soon as you are on board. Preboarding work out the treatments you are interested in and the preferred time and day. On our cruise everyone wanted treatments on the day we were all at sea so these spots went quickly. Also the beauty staff will try and spread the appointments across the days so your treatment time might not be available but after a discussion it becomes free!
3/ Unpack your bags asap. As soon as you have booked your spa treatments and have done a quick lap of the ship, getting lost(!), make your way to your cabin to unpack. At some stage once the ship leaves the shore you will be part of a safety announcement and learn to put on your life jackets only to have half an hour back in your cabins to prepare for dinner. Then there is entertainment and dancing, early morning starts to explore new places, lunch, walking, reboarding, getting ready for dinner, repeat! Don’t forget your tux or fancy dress for the gala dinner night.
4/ Each evening as part of your cabin turn down service the next days itinerary is left so you can plan you day. Not only will this tell you the important information of disembarking times, it also shares the details of the entertainment which can include celebrities. Given the age of the typical cruiser (60+) the celebs on our cruise included Sue Hodge who played Mimi from Allo Allo!, John Challis (Boycie) and Sue Holderness (Marlene) from Only Fools and Horses. They were great fun and even though I wasn’t really familiar with their shows it was interesting listening to stories and hear about their work coming up.
The Marco Polo is considered a medium sized vessel hosting up to 800 passengers on children free cruises. It is operated by Cruise and Maritime having spent a number of years as an ice breaker before being turned into the cruise ship. This calmed my nerves on the safety of the ship but I refused to walk around on deck at night when we were cruising as I have a deep respect for the ocean! Whilst the ship is a little tired and is about to receive a must needed makeover the staff were highly attentive, everywhere was very clean, the entertainment was fun and the destinations varied and walkable. I’ve been sold on the cruising experience and look forward to the next one, I’m thinking 2017 with my grandmother!
Have you been cruising? What is your favourite holiday with friends?