Monday 23 October 2017

Pól Ó Conghaile: It's time to throw cruise stereotypes overboard

Cruise control

Carnival Freedom Cruise
Carnival Freedom Cruise
Bird view on Tibidabo church on mountain in Barcelona with Christ statue overlooking the city.
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Cruises have outgrown the old myths, says Pól Ó Conghaile, offering more choice on holiday than ever before.

What is it with cruises and stereotypes?

Even today, when holidaymakers can choose between river cruises and rock concerts at sea, between sailing to the Antarctic or the Northern Lights, cruise ships still conjure up the same, hoary old images.

You know the ones - blue rinses, zombie buffets, passengers soaking up passing landscapes as if they were screensavers.

All clichés contain a grain of truth, of course. But cruising has taken a quantum leap in recent years - as more and more Irish holidaymakers are discovering.

The main thing to realise is that not all cruises are alike. Just as ski and beach resorts vary hugely, so do cruise ships (and their itineraries).

You can take to the sea on a Royal Caribbean behemoth complete with robotic bartenders, or you can join a working Hurtigruten ship for a cruise along Norway's coast. You can bag a bargain in the Med with MSC, or spend thousands on an ultra-luxury cruise with Azamara, Seabourn or Regent Seven Seas. You can play Strictly Come Dancing with P&O, or take a Christmas Market cruise on the Rhine.

My advice? Book an ocean view as opposed to an interior cabin, check out your ship before you book on the excellent cruisecritic.co.uk, make sure you know exactly what's included (excursions, drinks and Wi-Fi are typically extra) and kick back to enjoy several ports of call without having to pack and unpack.

There are surprises beyond the stereotypes.

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Bird view on Tibidabo church on mountain in Barcelona with Christ statue overlooking the city.

Cruising offers a surprising variety of trips...

Bargain

There are lots of options for booking cruise holidays in Ireland, allowing you to compare costs in euro and ensure your package is licensed and bonded. Royal Caribbean (royalcaribbean.ie) and MSC (msccruises.ie) have dedicated Irish websites, John Galligan (jgt.ie) has a wide range of cruises including departures direct from Ireland (ie, with no need for connecting flights), and Sunway (sunway.ie) has a three-day taster cruise around the Western Med departing Barcelona (above) on April 30. It includes flights and full board (in an inside cabin) from €569pp.

Splash

Yes, €1,499pp is a lot of money. But when that money buys you flights from Dublin to Miami (above), an overnight stay in Florida and a 24-night cruise on the MSC Divina with all meals on board, it starts to sound like a steal. ClickandGo.com has this mega cruise itinerary, with stops in Mexico, New York, Bermuda, Lisbon, Barcelona and Rome, available for travel on April 21. Meanwhile, John Galligan (jgt.ie) has two nights in Istanbul with a seven-day cruise on Cunard's Queen Victoria from €1,799pp, departing October 1.

NB: All prices subject to availability.

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Irish Independent

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