Cruise Queen - The Inside Story
Since their first cruise in 2013, Linda and her husband haven’t looked back, except at the shore behind them vanishing yet again! Having visited the South Pacific, Fiji and New Zealand several times now by ship, it’s clear that the couple are hooked on holidays that give them the right balance of independence and kicking back.
“From the minute you get on a ship, your holiday starts,” says Linda. “On board it is so relaxing. Once your room is available, you unpack once and then don’t worry about a thing.”
Like many first-timers, before her maiden voyage, Linda had concerns about seasickness and claustrophobia. Not a big fan of flying, she thought she’d bite the bullet and give an eleven-day cruise a go. “When we got back home we immediately wanted to head off for another eleven!” she says.
The global cruise industry is an expanding one, in both popularity and reach. As of early 2017, Royal Caribbean Cruises operated 25 cruise ships and stopped in at over 535 destinations worldwide. Loyal and long-term patrons of Royal Caribbean, Linda and her husband now enjoy the perks of their Diamond customer status, including membership to the Crown and Anchor Society and cocktail parties with the captain. It is this social side of cruising that Linda loves the most. “You’re all in the same boat,” she says. “Pardon the pun!”
Linda and her husband have met countless other cruising couples with whom they now coordinate future trips, and once even bumped into their neighbours while onboard. They normally tour as a group of friends or families, and love the fact that they can interact with their fellow travellers as little or as much as they want.
For this reason, cruising has become a popular multi-generational holiday option. The Virtuoso Luxe Report on luxury holiday experiences has listed multi-generational travel as the top trend for this year. Providing accommodation and entertainment that is comparatively cheap and suits large and mixed groups, liners like P&O, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruises have bought into the market selling holidays to extended families. You can pick adjoining cabins and shared activities, or opt for the chance to split up and have some adults-only alone-time and kid-friendly fun. On board, activities range from rock-climbing, surf simulation and water slides, to movies, comedy nights, fine dining and spa treatments. Most liners also offer an onboard-organised tour to get you acquainted with everything on offer. Linda recommends medium and large ships for more options when it comes to occupying yourself without setting foot off the boat.
“You can just relax and soak up the sun and read a book,” says Linda. “Or if you want to, wear yourself out like a headless chook with shore trips.”
Shore visits are perfect for families and eager sightseers who want to explore the local culture. Island cruises are bound to offer boat trips and snorkelling excursions, with the chance to stop for a full day in bigger ports like Noumea. On a trip to New Zealand, Linda visited the Mud Pools of Rotorua. While in Fiji, she joined a tour that took the group by bus to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, to see over 2000 orchid varieties in all their colourful glory. “When you go to Fiji, they sing you in and out of the port, to the sound of drums.”
Accommodation choices vary from ship to ship, but generally rooms have plenty of storage, are comfortable, accessible and are attended by a room steward, who, according to Linda, “can’t do enough for you.”
Linda and her husband tend to choose a junior suite or balcony room, from which they can sit and watch the sunrise before breakfast, or watch the sunset before dinner.
Linda’s top tip for cruising amateurs is to try out a ‘sea break’ or ‘sampler’, which is a short cruise operating for one or two nights, usually across a weekend. She also recommends avoiding peak season, particularly during the school holidays when the ships are more crowded and noisy. “Hunt for good deals,” says Linda. “Keep savvy and keep your eyes open.”
So the question is, what’s on the horizon for a cruise queen like Linda?
“We’re planning on doing Hawaii to Sydney!” she says. “Why not?”