For my honeymoon, I went on a Baltic cruise. Now, if you’re under 40, you’re probably pulling a face and asking why on earth would I want to go on a floating SAGA holiday. Essentially a floating bingo hall, right? Well no, not quite.
Cruises have come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years. There are now cruises aimed at families with young children (check out the Caribbean and Alaskan ones), gay cruises and cruises for singletons. Admittedly, on our cruise we reduced the average age by 20 years (I suspect because we left from Southampton, making it very accessible to the retiree market). But there was plenty to do for all ages. For example, our boat had an ice rink, a swimming pool, a mini cinema, a huge theatre (with evening acts ranging from musicals to BMX trick shows), a 24 hour buffet, spa, smoothie bar, high street with pub, sports bar and cafe, and crazy golf. All things that a twenty-something can enjoy. On top of that, you get to visit a handful of new places.
Not sure if a cruise is for you? Reading on for the pros and cons of this kind of holiday.
Easy check in
It took us less than 30 mins to go from parking the car to jumping on board. They take your luggage from you when you park up, then deliver it to your room that evening. Oh – and unless you’re catching a flight to the harbour, there’s no luggage limit (although it’s worth remembering that cabins aren’t particularly spacious).
Free room service. Unless you want something between 12am-5am, room service and the food you order is free. We took full advantage. Thankfully there was enough walking during the stops to offset this.
Continuing on the food theme, let’s talk about the 24 hour buffet. I tried to stick to low carb…but failed when they bought out delicious pastas, make your own pizzas and many, many desserts. You can pretty much go to the buffet whenever. We tended to eat in the casual buffet more than the fancy restaurants, as the atmosphere was more relaxed.
Unlimited options for what to do
On any given day, you can learn to cook Indian food, take part in a quiz, go to the spa or gym, relax by the pool, hit up the casino, read in the library, go ice skating, do mini golf or shop. Or you can just relax in your room and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Lots of mini holidays
One of the best bits about a cruise, is that you get to have lots of mini holidays in one go. We visited Oslo, Copenhagen, Tallinn, St Petersburg and Bruges. How many times do you get to visit that many places in one year? For someone with a limited attention span, like me, it’s perfect.
No free wifi
Having no wifi (or at least, not using it because it was $35 an hour on the boat and a ridiculous price for data on my phone) was bliss. Being without the Internet was absolutely wonderful for my stress levels – I felt like my brain was working normally for the first time in years. If you’re a digital addict, get your butt on a cruise.
There’s a really friendly atmosphere on board. All the staff are utterly lovely (extending to creating animals from towels in our rooms) to guests. Sadly, I did see a small amount of casual racism, usually from guests from a certain country.
Every day, $12 of tips for the staff automatically goes on your bill. So basically, one of the biggest costs on our honeymoon was tipping. Additionally, drinks (including soft drinks), eating in certain restaurants on board, most classes/seminars, any excursions and ice cream are all extra. It gets expensive fast. Some cruises are very much all-inclusive though, so it’s worth checking around.
Everything taking longer
The trouble with holidaying with the elderly, is that everything takes longer. Lots of confused people at the customer service desk and slow walkers. I know I’m supposed to be relaxing but HURRY UP WE’RE WASTING PRECIOUS BUFFET CONSUMING TIME.
Customer service desk
On our cruise, the customer service desk rarely had more than a couple of people serving – with at least 5 people queuing at most times. At such a busy desk, a few more staff would have made life easier.
Top tips for cruising
- Bit of an explorer? Skip the expensive organised excursions, and find your own way around. Most of the ports we visited were within walking distance of the nearest towns. The only exception was St Petersburg in Russia, as you need to either book an excursion through the cruise, or get a VISA.
- Take toiletries and towels. We had a fairly nice room, but the only toiletries you’ll get are a bar of soap and a body wash dispenser in the little shower. The towels are very small too, so it’s worth packing a dressing gown.
- Check what you can bring on board before you pack. Royal Caribbean, who we went with, don’t allow you to bring food or drink (especially alcohol) on board. You also can’t buy alcohol when you stop at a port. This is probably to do with customs etc (although I suspect it’s more to do with them wanting you to buy expensive drinks on board).
- Take carry on luggage with you. When you get on the boat, your luggage will have been taken off you. You’re unlikely to be reunited with it until later that evening – so it’s worth taking a change of clothes and a few pieces you might need in an overnight bag.
- Take a couple of fancy outfits. Most cruises have a buffet, a nice dining room with smart casual and formal evenings, and a fancy restaurant which usually costs extra. Our cruise liner also had an American diner on the top deck. You’ll need an assortment of outfits if you want to try all the places.
- Get a room with a balcony if you can. It’s lovely being able to watch the sunset from your room, then take snaps as you sail in and out of port.
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