Travel insurance at affordable premiums

Guide to Cruise holidays

  1. Why are cruise holidays so popular?
  1. What cruise?

   2.1 Which cruise is right for you?

   2.2 Destination ideas

  1. Cruise insurance

   3.1 What is it?

   3.2 Why do you need travel insurance?

   3.3 Where to buy it

  1. Choosing accommodation
  1. On board

   5.1 What not to pack

   5.2 To tip or not to tip?


Why are cruise holidays so popular?

Imagine a touring holiday where you do not have to change hotels, let alone unpack your suitcase, from one destination to the next. Imagine a vacation where any decisions about getting from A to B have already been taken care of. Imagine being comfortably tucked up in bed as you sleep through the necessary but often boring miles you need to cover on your journey.

If you have imagined all of that, you might well be thinking of a cruise holiday. Cruises are certainly popular – the Passenger Shipping Association estimated that some 1.76 million passengers would venture on a cruise during 2013 (compared to the 900,000 or so who planned to take a winter sports holiday), as reported by the Daily Telegraph. So, what makes cruises so popular?

The complete package

There is nothing quite like a cruise in terms of offering the complete holiday package. Without having to change hotels or rooms you are ferried from one port of call to another. Not only that, but a choice of dining experiences and entertainment is also typically just a few steps away.

Evening entertainment typically caters to all tastes, from live bands, to dancing to cabaret.

During the day, there are also likely to be numerous activities outdoors – swimming, sunbathing or deck quoits, for example – and ready-made excursions once the ship docks and you get the chance to sample the different cultures, sounds and sights of ports along the way.

Be spoilt

A characteristic of many a cruise is the degree to which you may allow yourself to be well and truly spoilt and pampered. Massages, hot tubs, beauty treatments and therapies of one sort or another are likely to be on offer.

If you are travelling with children, you are almost certain to find that more than enough – tiring! – activity is on hand to satisfy even the most frazzled or anxious of parents.

Dining

Cruise lines tend to make a big deal of the dining experiences on board – a captive complement of passengers may be expected to demand quality food and service during the days or weeks at sea.

Those demands are typically met not only by the high calibre of chefs employed in the ships kitchens but also in the wide choice of restaurants available to passengers. This is likely to run the whole gamut from the finest of dining to family meals that include the simpler fare appreciated by your children.

Value for money

Many cruise packages take care of your every possible need from the moment you board until your final disembarkation. This is reflected, of course, in the price that you pay. This may prove to be very good value for money when you consider set against the countless additional expenses you are likely to face on practically any other type of holiday.

Myth busting

The popularity of cruising may have something to do with the way in which a number of time-honoured myths continue to be dispelled on the modern cruise ship:

  • modern technology and the use of efficient stabilisers considerably reduce the incidence of seasickness;
  • according to the same article in The Telegraph, the average age of cruise passengers is 55.6 years. Many lines, however, are successfully directing their marketing towards a younger clientele – so there should be a good age range of people on board;
  • these days, there is unlikely to be any danger of going stir crazy by being at sea for days on end between each land fall – some lines manage to ensure a new port of call every day. This means that your days on a modern cruise ship are likely to be anything but monotonous and boring.

Which cruise is right for you?

It might be tempting to think that a cruise is a cruise is a cruise – that there is really very little to distinguish between one and another, in a one size fits all kind of way.

In reality, nothing is likely to be further from the truth. Consider, for example, just a very few of the possible variables:

  • ship size – your number of fellow passengers might be as few as a couple of hundred or as many as 6,000;
  • the emphasis might be on partying until you drop, or a sedate and educational cultural tour;
  • you might need to be looking for an affordable cruise that offers particularly good value for money, or money might be no object; and
  • all that is before you even begin to consider the many and varied different itineraries and destinations on offer.

Size matters

The size of your ship is important not only because of the range of on-board activities that might be offered but also because of the overall atmosphere. High standards of luxury, however, may be enjoyed on both small and large vessels.

Perhaps the most important consideration is that smaller ships are more likely to be able to dock at smaller, more out of the way ports.

Atmosphere

There is certainly no hard and fast rule, but larger ships may concentrate on a more hedonistic lifestyle of entertainment, live music and parties.

Smaller vessels, on the other hand, may have a more educational or cultural emphasis.


Destination ideas

With cruise destinations today, you may be spoilt for choice. With the burgeoning growth in popularity of cruising, there are relatively few parts of the world very far away from a plotted course. If you are worried about security in any of the ports or countries you might be visiting, it may repay you to visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for official travel advice on parts of the world where caution is needed or those that are best avoided completely.

The Galapagos Islands off the coast of South America, for instance remain a particularly popular destination – so much so that you may need to book a long time in advance to be certain of buying such a passage. For environmental protection reasons, the largest cruise ships are not permitted access to this ecological reserve.

Both the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas remain high on the list of most popular cruising waters, with now very well established facilities for tourists of all kinds.

Further afield and for those seeking more of an adventure, Alaska or even the polar regions of the Arctic may be worthy of closer consideration.

A sample

If you have never been on a cruise before, it might be prudent to treat yourself to a short sea cruise, perhaps relatively close to home, before committing yourself to a longer voyage of a week or so, or maybe even a round the world cruise.


Cruise insurance: what is it?

Whilst enjoying the prospect of the high-life at sea, the luxury of being pampered or partying the night away, it might be easy to overlook the fact that – even on the best of cruises – accidents may happen.

If something does go wrong and you are many miles away from home – perhaps even in the middle of the ocean – it may be a very expensive business attempting to put things right. This is especially likely to be the case in the event of your needing urgent medical care and attention.

The government’s official website, for example, estimates that an air ambulance from the East Coast of the United States currently costs between £35,000 and £45,000, an air ambulance from the relatively near at hand Canary Islands may cost up to £16,000, whilst even a scheduled flight, accompanied by a doctor and the use of a stretcher may cost up to £20,000.

In the event of a medical emergency, if you need to be evacuated by air from your cruise liner whilst it is at sea, those costs may need to be multiplied several times over.

Why you need travel insurance (more reasons)

Although top of the list for appropriate travel insurance is likely to be protection in the event of your being injured or falling sick, there are a number of other areas where it may offer valuable cover:

  • baggage and personal possessions – items may be lost, stolen or damaged. In order to ensure that you receive the replacement value for any such loss, it is important to remember that the sums insured are adequate for this purpose;
  • cancellations – if connecting flights are cancelled you may miss the embarkation time for your cruise or cut short the voyage by joining it at a later stage. Travel insurance is designed to compensate you for such disruptions;
  • personal liability – potentially very expensive claims may be made by anyone suffering loss or damage to their property or being injured as a result of your actions or inactions. Personal liability cover is designed to indemnify you against such claims.

Where to buy it

Arranging the most appropriate insurance is important. In order to benefit from the experience and expertise in this area of insurance, why not contact us at Bengo Travel for our advice and suggestions?

Even if you have pre-existing medical conditions, we may still be able to offer cover.

Unlike many policies, your Bengo Travel Insurance policy will provide cover for cancellation and curtailment due to a pre-existing medical condition of a non-travelling close relative (terms and conditions apply).

With the appropriate advice, travel insurance for your cruise need not be overly complicated – or indeed expensive. It is important to arrange cover for each day away from home and to ensure that an adequate level of insurance is obtained. Forearmed with the protection travel insurance may offer if things go wrong, however, the cover may allow you to enjoy your cruise with that extra peace of mind.


Choosing accommodation

To a certain degree, you may think that choosing your accommodation on board a cruise ship is fairly similar to selecting, for example, your holiday hotel accommodation – the greater the luxury, the more you may expect to pay.

This may be true to a certain extent, but there are significant differences:

  • terms – perhaps the very first distinction lies in the terms your shipping line is likely to use. Hotels may have rooms, but cruise ships maintain the nautical touch by describing your room as a cabin or stateroom;
  • room with a view – as with a hotel room, you are almost certain to pay more for a cabin or statement with a view to the outside of the ship than one on the inside without any windows at all;
  • if your outside cabin also has a balcony again you may expect to pay more for the privilege;
  • most standard cabins are approximately the same size – though smaller and more compact than a standard hotel room. In addition to the bed, the cabin is likely to have an en suite shower room, a desk, television, air conditioning, telephone and reading lamps;
  • if you are prepared to pay top dollar, there may also be a range of much larger suites to choose from – variously appointed and equipped, according to the price you pay.

On a ship, it is not only the type and size of your cabin that is likely to be critical, but also its location.

Although modern cruise liners are built for stability at sea and employ all the latest technology to ensure as smooth a passage as possible, it may be worth remembering that a smaller ship is typically more prone to pitch and roll than larger vessels.

Another general rule is that if you have cabin located on an upper deck at either the front or the back of the ship (the bow or stern in nautical terms) you may experience greater motion – and the risk of sea sickness – if the going gets rough.

If you think sea sickness might be a problem for you, therefore, you might want to think about choosing a cabin positioned mid-ship, on a lower deck. If that is your choice, though, remember that cabins on the lower decks are unlikely to have balconies.

The location of your cabin may also affect how noisy it is. If you are accustomed to fairly silent nights in order to get your sleep, for instance, you might want to avoid a cabin that is too close to the anchor chains, to tender boats or to the engine room. You might also want to avoid being too close to the galley, staircases, the theatre or discotheques.

When it comes to choosing your cabin, stateroom or suite on a cruise ship therefore, it may soon become a delicate balancing act of one need or desire against another.


On board

Most social situations call for a certain standard of behaviour and an acceptable dress code. A cruise ship represents a particular social situation and one that might not be particularly familiar to many people – especially “first-timers”.

A certain degree of uncertainty may also be down to the fact that different cruises cater for different types of passenger – with dress codes and on board etiquette to match. Younger passengers, for example, might expect to spend all of their time in casual wear, whilst older passengers might feel more comfortable with a slightly more formal style.

Although those who are relatively new to life and fashions at sea, the importance of getting things right might pose a worry. The fact is, though, that most of it is a question of general common sense – with the golden rule being that you are all, quite literally, in the same boat, so spare a thought to others’ enjoyment of the cruise.

This extends to dress codes in much the same way. If you are planning to dine in the dining room, for example, expect to do as other diners are doing and dress more formally than you might in the buffets, cafes, or bars on the ship. During the day time, of course, casual wear on deck is likely to be perfectly acceptable.

Appropriate dress might also be dictated by the weather you are likely to encounter. This is something you may be able to plan in advance simply by visiting a website such as the official Met Office site, where you may find forecasts for some 5,000 locations around the globe.

Dress codes are also likely to be addressed in the brochure or pamphlet sent to you by your shipping line before you embark on the cruise. This is likely to have a number of helpful tips and the rules particular to the cruise you are taking – and these rules, of course, are likely to vary not only from one cruise line to another but even among different ships of the same line.

You can also find further useful tips on cruise ship etiquette here.

What not to pack

You might want to pay particular attention to the ship’s rules about what not to pack.

In relation to packing, some of the “don’ts” might be obvious – firearms, explosives and hazardous chemicals are certainly out. And many of the rules are probably a matter of common sense.

Nevertheless, the list of prohibited items on your particular cruise might be surprisingly extensive but – once again – is likely to have been formulated with the comfort and peace of mind of other passengers in mind.

Depending on the particular shipping line and vessel, you might find that musical instruments are banned – living in such close proximity to other passengers who might not appreciate your particular talent as a player, the ban may well be understandable. Bans might also extend to such items as roller skates or skateboards – apart from any areas that might be specifically set aside for such activities, the confines of a cruise liner are probably quite unsuitable for the use of such equipment.

Full information will be available from your cruise operator.

To tip or not to tip?

Tipping of your cabin stewards and waiters in your customary restaurant is expected. Indeed, it is so much the norm that some lines – especially the more up-market cruises – include tips for the entire voyage in the overall cost of the holiday.

Where this is not the case, tips may be left to your discretion but nevertheless included in the cabin account you settle at the end of the voyage – with the option for you to increase or decrease the amount at your specific request.