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Guide to Cruise holidays 2

  • Intro
  • Why go on a cruise holiday?
  • Places to go

· The Mediterranean

· The Caribbean

· The South Pacific

· Norway

· Antarctica

· The Baltic Sea

· The Hawaiian Islands

· Other options to consider

  • Pros and cons of different cruises
  • Insurance

· Overview of cruise insurance

· Why is it important?

· How to choose your policy

  • Summary

Intro

Have you ever thought about going on a cruise ship holiday, perhaps around the Mediterranean or even around the world?

Cruises are an incredibly popular way to go on holiday. In fact, the cruise industry contributes billions to the UK economy each year.

But if you have never been on a cruise before, you may have a lot of questions. Where should you go? Which type of ship should you choose? How should you choose your cabin? Do you need insurance?

You will find answers to these questions and more in this second of our guides to cruise holidays. You can read our first guide to cruise holidays here.


Why go on a cruise holiday?

Cruising is one of the most popular ways to holiday. In fact, some people get addicted to it after their very first cruise and there is no stopping them.

You may want to try it yourself, and there are many excellent reasons why it can be the perfect holiday.

Everything is taken care of

For a start, you won't have to worry about making too many arrangements once your cruise is booked. On normal holidays, you have to arrange travel, days out, food, accommodation and other things. But with a cruise, you book one holiday and the cruise line takes care of everything else for you.

Once you have your cabin booked, you will not have to change rooms, all your food will be arranged, and even when you go on land you can arrange your activities through the cruise line.

With fewer things to arrange, you get more time to enjoy yourself, and it can really help to take the stress out of your holiday.

See many destinations

Sometimes it is great to choose one destination for your holiday and spend a week or two there. But other times you may want to see more on your holiday. And on a cruise, that is exactly what you will do.

Even short cruises often take in multiple destinations, and on longer cruises you may see a large number of countries. For example, on a Caribbean cruise you may stop off in five, 10 or more countries.

But the great thing is you won't have to make any arrangements to travel to the destinations – you simply hop onto your cruise ship and relax.

A great value holiday

Cruises sometimes have a reputation for being expensive, but this is not necessarily true. In fact, they can work out as remarkably good value.

On a cruise, you pay for your accommodation, food and travel all in one go. You may want to pay more for excursions, but you will normally arrange this in advance.

So by the time you go on your cruise, you will just need some spending money and a bit more for extras like tips (read a great guide to tipping here).

On a budget holiday, you may think you are getting a great deal, but when you pay for all the meals out and other factors, you could end up actually spending more.

Activities for everyone

Cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes, from fairly small to absolutely huge. No matter what the size, most of them will have plenty of things to do to keep you and everyone else entertained. These could include:

  • swimming pools;
  • Jacuzzis;
  • gyms;
  • cinemas;
  • shows;
  • casinos.

In addition, some cruises have even more exciting things like F1 simulators, art classes, skydiving simulators, surfing machines, rollercoasters and more.

Meet your fellow passengers

If you like to meet people on holiday, a cruise is ideal. You will see the same people around each day, and it can be a great place to strike up friendships. You may even see them again on future cruises.

Many reasons to choose a cruise

There are so many good reasons to choose a cruise for your next holiday, and these are just a few. But before you book your holiday, you need to take a few more factors into account – and the most important of these is your destination.


Places to go

One of the great things about cruising is that there are so many wonderful destinations to choose from. Because there are so many, deciding on where to go can often be the hardest part of your trip.

Here are some of the main destinations that are popular with cruise companies, and your choice will depend upon how much time you have available, what time of year you want to go, and your budget.

The Mediterranean

The Mediterranean is the perfect cruising destination. It does not require much travelling to get to your start point, and the weather is perfect during the summer months. There are also many options for both short and long cruises in areas like the Greek Islands, the French Riviera, the Costa del Sol and more.

The Caribbean

The Caribbean is a classic cruise destination. It is more popular with longer cruises because you can get to see a wide range of tropical destinations as you hop between island nations. The short distances between them make it very easy to see lots of places, and the perfect tropical weather in January and February makes it the ideal winter escape.

The South Pacific

The South Pacific is a vast area that is ideal for long cruises. There are three main areas to explore including Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia, and often you will choose to cruise in one of these areas. You can then enjoy perfect weather and fascinating cultures as you explore this part of the southern hemisphere.

Norway

Not all cruises involve travelling in the sun. One of the most majestic cruise areas is the Fjords of Norway, and as well as the majestic fjords you will also see other incredible geographic features. The best time for a cruise here is from June to August.

Antarctica

You can go on an even colder cruise by heading down to the bottom of the world. Antarctica is a spectacular area to explore, and you will see penguin colonies, dramatic icebergs and more. It may be more expensive than other options, but it is worth it. Cruises here are best from December to February.

The Baltic Sea

Head around the Baltic Sea and see a number of fascinating cities including Helsinki, Copenhagen and St Petersburg. This is a fantastic option for a cultural cruise, and the best time to visit is in the summer from June to August.

The Hawaiian Islands

Explore the beautiful islands of Hawaii with their stunning volcanic cliffs and fascinating culture. Enjoy the tropical sun on a holiday to remember.

Other options to consider

The above list is by no means comprehensive, and other popular destinations include:

  • The Galapagos Islands;
  • Alaska;
  • Barbados;
  • The Panama Canal;
  • The Mexican Riviera;
  • Hong Kong;
  • The Cayman Islands;
  • The Virgin Islands;
  • Australia and New Zealand;
  • The Bahamas.

In addition, you could choose to go on a repositioning cruise. This is a special type of cruise where a cruise ship moves from one cruising area to another to take advantage of a different cruise season.

So rather than providing circular trip, you get on in one cruise region and end in another. These are often cheaper than standard cruises, making them a popular option.


Pros and cons of different cruises

There are a number of factors that you should keep in mind when you are choosing a cruise. These factors will help you to decide which is the most suitable for you, and they will also help to make your cruise a more enjoyable experience.

Distance to the boarding location

The first thing you may want to consider is how far you want to travel to board your cruise.

If you live in the UK, you could join a cruise that starts in the UK and which travels somewhere nearby like the Mediterranean.

Or you could travel to the other side of the world to enjoy your cruise, but this will usually affect the price you pay. It also depends on the amount of time that you have available for your holiday, so this is something to consider early on when you start planning.

Choosing the right type of cruise

There are many types of cruises to choose from, and they all cater for different crowds. For example, some cruises are aimed at families with children, whereas others are aimed at smaller groups and couples.

Some cruises are aimed squarely at the budget crowd, while others target the luxury market.

Make sure you are choosing one that is suitable for you and your party to enjoy the best experience.

What is included in the price?

Cruises are available in a range of prices, from budget to very expensive. But on some budget cruises you may have to pay for more things once you are on board, so take this into account when working out the overall price of your holiday.

For example, do you have to pay extra for restaurants, activities, and on-shore excursions? What do you actually get for the price? How large are the cabins? Do they come with a balcony?

Don't assume that a cheaper cruise will always end up costing a lot less overall because the extras may add up.

How to choose your cabin

There are many factors to consider when you choose a cabin, and it is important to get this right to increase the enjoyment of your trip.

Firstly, you should decide upon the type of cabin that you want to stay in. This could be a basic interior cabin, which is often the cheapest, or you could opt for one that has a window, a balcony or even a suite. The prices will vary from company to company, so it may be worth looking around.

The position of your cabin is also important. You may want to choose one next to a lift or near to the deck, which will make it easier to reach all of the activities and restaurants.

However, if you do opt for one of these cabins, beware that they can be a bit more noisy than others further away from the action.

How much time will you spend in your cabin? Have a good think about this because it could affect your decision. If you are only planning to sleep in your cabin and you will spend most of the time doing other things, you may want to simply find the cheapest option. But if you plan to spend more time in your cabin during the cruise, you may prefer to spend a bit more on a larger one.

One final thing to consider is the position of the cabin if you suffer from seasickness. The best place is somewhere low down and in the middle of the ship where the movement is usually less, so keep this in mind.

Itinerary changes

One thing to be aware of is that sometimes cruise ships have to change their itineraries during the cruise. This could be due to political unrest in a port or because of a storm.

This is more common in some cruise destinations than in others, so it may be worth keeping this in mind when you choose your destination.

Potential risk factors to consider

Another thing to consider is that there are a few risk factors when you go on your cruise. You will be on a ship that may be a long way from land. So what if you become ill or have an accident?

This can happen, so you will want to ensure you have any medications that you need with you. If you are really concerned and you think there is a risk you may get ill, you may want to choose a cruise that will never be too far from land.

In addition, you may want to think carefully about taking out an insurance policy.


Insurance

Insurance may be a wise investment when you go on a cruise ship. However, it is not compulsory. Just like when you go on a normal holiday overseas, whether you take out an insurance policy or not is completely up to you.

If you are thinking about purchasing a policy, however, here is some information that may be helpful to you.

Overview of cruise insurance

Cruise insurance is a special type of policy that is similar to a standard travel insurance policy, but which includes other features that make it unique for those travellers going on cruises.

One of the key inclusions is your medical expenses. On a cruise, you may find yourself a long way from the nearest land-based hospital if you have an accident or fall ill on the ship.

Sometimes the ship's doctor may not be able to treat you in an emergency. In this case, you may need to be airlifted to hospital. As you can imagine, this costs a lot of money (money you will need to find yourself if you don’t have cruise insurance).

So a cruise policy like the one we provide at BengoTravel may typically cover the costs of the medical evacuation to a hospital, and this can provide you with peace of mind.

A cruise policy may also cover you for your plane journey if you are flying to the departure point. This could include cover for flight delay, missed departure and airline bankruptcy, and such like.

Personal items may also be covered. Although you may think that the risk of losing your items or having them stolen on your cruise is low, remember that you will be going onto land in various ports. You may also have to travel to your departure point by plane, so your belongings could become lost during this part of your journey.

A policy may also cover you for cancellation should you have to cancel your holiday due to illness or a death in the family. The cost of your cruise could be expensive, so having this cover in place may help.

Why is it important?

Cruise insurance is something that you have to decide for yourself whether you want or not. However, many people decide it is a good idea. One reason is because of the peace of mind you have in knowing that you are financially covered in certain circumstances such as if you have to cancel your holiday or you miss your cruise because your flight is cancelled.

It is especially important for medical situations. You may have read in the news about people who failed to take out insurance or who took out a policy without declaring a medical condition and ended up in financial difficulties, and you may not want this to happen to you.

You may not think that it is likely to happen to you, but it does happen – like this passenger who was airlifted from his cruise after becoming ill with Legionnaires' disease.

How to choose your policy

If you do decide to buy insurance for your cruise, take some time over choosing a provider. There are many available, and typically they may offer slightly different products. Things to consider include:

  • look for a reputable company first of all, and then look at the different policies available to see what is covered;
  • are there certain things that you want covered that you cannot find? Also look at the limits of the cover. If you are going on a luxury round-the-world cruise, you will probably want more cover in place;
  • decide on whether you want cover for yourself, or for a couple, a family or a single-parent family;
  • look at any activities that are covered. Are you planning to go bungee jumping? Then make sure this is included ;
  • don't just look at the premium. A cheaper policy may not provide everything you need;
  • most of all, don't simply assume that standard travel insurance is sufficient for your trip because specialist cruise cover is often the more sensible option.

Summary

Planning your first cruise is an exciting time, but there are many factors to consider to ensure you enjoy the best experience.

Take the information in this guide and use it to plan your first trip, from choosing you destination to deciding which type of cruise ship you want to go on.

Make sure you think carefully about factors such as choosing your cabin and cruise insurance, and then have a fantastic time on your first cruise.

You never know, you may become addicted to it like so many other cruise enthusiasts, so this could be the first cruise of many!