Cruise holidays are one of the UK's fastest growing holiday choices. A cruise can last from 3 days to 3 months and you can find a cruise to suit every pocket, from economy to the most luxurious, there are even cruises for families, with kids clubs on board. So it doesn't have to be all black ties, five course meals and endless cocktails!
Cruises can be great value too. The price usually includes accommodation, meals and all onboard daytime and evening entertainment. Most ships are 'one class', with everyone able to use all of the facilities.
The average age of a cruise passenger in Europe is around 50, but on a world-wide basis it is closer to 45. On longer sailings, such as a world cruise, older or retired people tend to be in the majority, but the latest cruise ships designed to cater for people in their mid-20's to 40's as well as the over 60's.
What's included in the price?
A typical cruise with one of the world's major companies will include:
Items of a personal nature (e.g. laundry etc.), shopping at sea and on land, beauty treatments, drinks, organised shore excursions and tips or gratuities.
Won't I get sea-sick?
All modern cruise ships have hydraulic stabilisers that help reduce the motion of the sea in bad weather. Cruise ships can be subject to a little motion in some areas, notably the Bay of Biscay and parts of the North Sea, but it is highly unusual for this to cause anything other than mild inconvenience. The vast majority soon get used to a ship's movement - it's called 'getting your sea-legs' - and enjoy the experience, while there are several ready remedies for anyone who feels uncomfortable (see holiday health).
Hints and tips - to make sure your cruise is all you hope it will be.....
Booking a cruise
As with most sections of this website, our advice is to shop around. Look via a couple of travel agents websites and investigate the websites of the cruise companies too. Also check what is included in the price - flights, transfers, the cruise and hotel accommodation?
Online Travel Agents Offering Cruises
1st4Cruising - this website was voted an 'outstanding site' in The Guardian's 'best of the net 2005' survey. Operated by one of the UK's leading Independent travel agents, Page & Moy, the website offers a wide range of cruise holidays at great prices. Definitely our first 'port of call' (!), make sure you browse their special offers section.
cruisedirect - a US website offering the promise of 'lowest prices guaranteed' (and they appear to mean it). European, US and worldwide cruises, online exclusives and the option to quote prices £'s.
ecruise - a quick search engine plus up to 600 late deals, this website is operated by Atlantis Travel.
If you want to cruise North America or the Caribbean you could also look at the American versions of expedia and Travelocity plus the excellent Online Cruise Agency. But factor in the cost of flights to your pick up port.
The Cruise Companies
Carnival Cruise Lines - US based and aimed at the American market. Cruise Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Celebrity Cruise Lines - Another US focused company, major destinations include the Caribbean, Alaska, Bermuda and the trans Panama Canal route.
Cunard - own the Queen Elizabeth 2, the worlds only ship to offer regular transatlantic crossings. In addition to North American and the Caribbean, Cunard offer more exotic destinations such as the Cook Islands, Bali,Turkey and West Africa.
Norwegian Cruise Lines - offer a comprehensive range of European cruises, together with a number of cruises starting in America. In total they call at over 150 ports in 40 countries. The site is very easy to navigate and the special deals section is well worth a look
P&O Cruises - cruise Europe, the Caribbean, North & South America and the Far East. Request a brochure or e-mail your reservation.
Royal Caribbean International - cruising North America, the Caribbean, Europe and Transatlantic crossings their fleet includes some of the largest cruise vessels afloat. The web site has lots of detailed information on all aspects of cruise life.
Swan Hellenic - a P&O company, voted the Telegraphs 'best cruise company' in 2001. Cruise throughout Europe and the Middle East. Order a brochure online.