Cruising means different things to different people. If you’re one for whom the ship is the most important aspect, stop reading now. If however, the destination and the culture of it is really what you’re interested in, read on.
For many, shore excursions are the cruise experience. The ship quite often arrives at the destination early in the morning and sails again in the late afternoon or early evening. During these times passengers in the main want to take in as much as possible as they may never visit the location again. The answer in most cases is to take an excursion either booked through the cruise line or one of the excellent tours that are offered by private companies and which in many cases are a lot cheaper. There is an excursion for everyone, from river rafting and dog sledding to scenic tours and cultural visits. If you are less mobile check if the tour involves a lot of walking, steps or hilly terrain. Also try and book tours where you disembark directly onto the quayside and not having to take a tender into the port, it can make a big difference especially with a wheel chair or walking frame. Enquire if it includes lunch or entry fees to the attractions you will visit. Don’t like heights? Avoid cable cars and panoramic views. Free time to explore on your own often means stopping near to a market and left to your own devices for several hours which you may not want so choose the tour carefully and make sure it includes what you want.
Times are gradually changing, in port at 7am and sail again at 5pm is with some cruise lines a thing of the past. Overnighting in port is becoming more popular and is something that river cruises have been doing for some years. It enables passengers to get a real taste of the culture and peoples rather than a quick coach tour of the area. Nothing better than savouring local dishes at a local restaurant to get a real feel flavour, excuse the pun, for the destination. Azamara Club Cruises with their ‘Azamazing’ evenings are one of the leaders in this field and others like Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Fred Olsen and Oceania are following suit. Smaller ships, the like of Noble Caledonia and Hurtigruten, use zodiacs (rigid inflatable boats) to access the very smallest ports of the world. Sometimes you can be landed on beautiful beaches in remote, exotic locations or icy wilds and wildernesses. Think Fiji, Borneo, Alaska or Antarctica.
The world is a beautiful place so try and see as much of it as you can. Cruising is one of the best ways to do this, travelling far and wide whilst only unpacking once. Now add fascinating land trips to make that holiday dream complete.
This is your vacation, enjoy it to the full. Just one word of warning, if you take a tour that is not arranged by the ship and you are late back, the ship won’t wait.