Few things in life are as enjoyable, or as exhilarating as a cruise.
Whether you dream of the relaxed intimacy found on such small ship excursions like a European river cruise, or prefer the all-out extravagance and decked out style associated with today’s largest ocean going cruise ship, one thing is for certain – you’ll never be bored.
These days, the cruise holiday is as much about the ship, as it is about the alluring ports-of- call and on-shore excursions. After all, the ship is where you’ll likely spend most of your time, and cruise lines are going all out to impress. From the food and wine, to the activities, entertainment and onboard amenities, the ship itself becomes the ultimate holiday destination.
Just look at the many ways in which you can spend your time while sailing on board one of today’s luxury cruise ships.
Food, glorious food! It’s no surprise that for many, the food and fine cuisine are the star attractions on board. But these days, there’s even more to be thankful for. No longer are guests restricted to the carbon-copy buffet, or set dinner times. Cruise guests now have a diverse range of restaurant and meal options to choose from.
Cruise lines may be broadening their meal time offerings, but never fear, the traditional buffet, as so popularly etched into cruise line lore, is as bountiful and as satisfying as ever. Today however, some ships are modifying the buffet experience with individual themes based on different world cuisines.
P&O’s ‘The Pantry’ for instance, now offers a food court world of flavours to their guests. On most cruise ships, guests still have the complimentary dinner option, which is most often prearranged for the set ‘early’ or ‘late’ seating. But while this meal is set at a specific time, these thoughtfully prepared three or four-course meals highlight just how exceptional the on-board dining experience can be, and all at no extra cost to you.
If you find the constraints of a set meal time restrictive however, look for a ship that offers inclusive dinner options with the flexibility of any-time dining. This may occasionally require some wait-time for a table, but a stop at the bar for a cocktail or drink can be the perfect start to a night out. And what’s the hurry, you’re on cruise time now.
Why not branch out from the set meal time and try one of the specialty restaurants on board? You’ll pay a small surcharge for the experience, but the flexibility offered with these dining establishments can be well worth the expense, especially when it means you don’t have to rush between your daily on-board activities and dinner.
These specialty venues can range from the steakhouse or seafood restaurant, to an Italian eatery or French bistro. Reservations are required, and meals and drinks are charged to your account, but the delicious foods and change of scenery heighten the cruise experience and one we highly recommend. Pre-book prior to departure, or when you board, to avoid missing out, as these tables are limited and highly sought.
Nightlife and Entertainment
After dinner, the ship comes alive with night time entertainment; often to the early hours.
Depending of course on the size of the ship you’re sailing on, most ocean going vessels offer a wide array of evening entertainment choices.
Fun-filled diversions may include a high-rolling casino and a splashy stage extravaganza filled with music, magic, comedy and dancing. On the quieter side, duck into an intimate bar where you can enjoy the cool stylistics of a jazz band or lounge act, or cocoon yourself in the darkened confines of the onboard cinema where you can enjoy the screening of a Hollywood classic or recent blockbuster hit.
Relying on the cultural appeal of Europe and Asia, river cruise companies often inject a bit of local flair into their evening of entertainment. Local artists and musicians are often brought on board to highlight the port city’s unique culture through music, dance and traditional dress.
Operators like Scenic, Uniworld and APT excel at cultural immersion in the form of nightly entertainment.
Next to the itinerary and ports of call, cruise makers often select a ship for the activities found on board, and if it’s an outdoor adventure you’re after, then you’ll want to consider one of today’s mega ships.
Royal Caribbean offers nine of the world’s ten largest cruise ships, but in sheer size, Carnival, Cunard, Norwegian and Princess all have similar offerings; each operating a fleet of mega-ships with an endless list of activities to choose from.
More than a mere cruise ship, these floating behemoths offer everything from simulated surf rides to ice rinks, rock climbing walls, giant water slides and amusement rides. And if it’s shopping you’re after, then bring an extra bag, because there are stores galore to choose from.
Regardless of the ship’s size, guests should always expect to find an inviting swimming pool in which to cool off in. There’s usually a games room, and of course scheduled entertainment events like bingo, trivia sessions, ship tours and social events run throughout the day.
Whether you’re sailing on the biggest of ships, or one of more modest proportions, there remains one universally established characteristic that features on every cruise ship – an air of leisure, relaxation, and even tranquillity.
On all but the tiniest of ships, you’ll find a full day spa where an array of massage, beauty treatments and even saunas and steam rooms are available. Get a couple’s massage or go for the whole package as you enjoy a day of personal pampering.
For those who like to read, many ships offer a full library and reading room. With countless titles to choose from, you can find a different book to read each day. Find your place in the sun poolside or grab a lounge chair on the promenade deck as you lose yourself in the pages of whatever book you find.
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