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Cruise control

Why we're falling in love with the most popular way to vacay.

Written by Melissa Hoyer
Photography by Holland America Line

09 November 2023

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Many of our social media platforms are still awash with exotic European locations; shiny sunscreen being slapped on glowing, bronzed skin; bone-crushingly irritating internazionale parties full of first class-looking people, coupled with groaning bowls of pasta and fresh calamari, all set against 50 shades of blue sea and sky and all served with ample glasses of vibrant orange Aperol Spritz’s and Whispering Angel chilled French rose. Get the picture?

A written piece like this could sound like a total indulgence, but having the chance to actually make a big part of the trip my work as a travel writer, it was an Aegean cruise that piqued my interest. And what an adventure it was.

I was invited to cruise on the 1,900-people ship Oosterdam from the Holland America Line, which took us from Athens to Istanbul, Mykonos, Crete, Olympia, and finishing in Trieste, a couple of hours out of Venice.

It was all truly, visually spectacular – seven nights of blue skies and total sun perfection.

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I think all of us understand now that cruising is something that some people absolutely adore;  others can’t quite cope with it or, like a vast majority of Australians in particular, it has become one of the biggest and most in-demand and simply easy ways to travel.

And, having experienced covering a few different levels of cruises in my travel media role I totally get it. There are so many positives, but I think one of the most important ever is that you only unpack one time. Yes!

There is no schlepping from train to airport to plane to new city before you land in another hotel. Instead, you unpack and everything – just like home – is there at your disposal without having to claw everything out of your suitcase when you reach a new location.

But most importantly, you can see a handful of countries and historically important locations without having to get there yourself. I get it. Of course, for many travellers, the adventure is in the exploration, but if time is of the essence, cruising nails it.

And when those two words all-inclusive are involved, I totally see the attraction of being ship-shaped.

There are excursions you can choose to do, or you may just choose to stay on the ship and hang about, perhaps have a spa treatment; a bridge game; get into a trivia competition; swim; gym; have a PRIDE meet-up; a teen or young adult meet; eat at endless restaurants, bar-hop and indulge in buffets of food – and good food at that.

The list really does go on. And when you take all this into account, your cost-per-day ratio is extraordinary.

There’s no question, the extras – drink packages, excursions, wifi connection and dining at special shipboard restaurants have to all be taken into the outlay equation, but I think the one thing that most people have discovered – who have been on a cruise or two – is the ease with which everything happens.

Considering the number of passengers, there is always enough staff, enough food, enough buses taking groups to excursions – and if you choose the right degree, size  or class of ship, I reckon you will love it.

The Pros

This is my favourite – you only unpack once! So there is no unpacking/repacking/trying to stuff everything back in the way it was originally packed befor schlepping to the next airport, train station, bus, or whatever mode of transport you choose

You basically can have every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner in the package you have already bought.

Every single staff member is seriously lovely. There wasn’t one moment where I had a moment with anyone: they are friendly, helpful and give you the best information and service possible.

There is never, ever a shortage of food. There is always room service – which is free! and the food court/cafe is always getting refreshed, and I must say sanitisation is at the forefront.

There is always something on – whether it’s a trivia session, stage shows, interesting port excursions, lounge performers singing all the hits; poker tournaments (fortunately, there is a maximum amount of money you can only spend), play mah-jong or take bridge sessions, do an origami-making class; PRIDE & LGBTQ+ meetups, singles/teens/teens/young adult meets. And in saying that, there is no obligation to do any of it!

 

The Cons

You obviously have to buy a wifi package, but don’t always trust how reliable it will be – it may just be an idea to take lots of happy snaps and think about uploading them after or when you get to a port.

Each stateroom (they don’t call them cabins anymore) has a good TV with lots of news services, movies, TV series and kids stuff, so maybe that will be your screen time!

Drink packages are the way to go, unless you want to pay for every drink individually … so you you really have to think about how much you are going to drink? A smart cruise isn’t the time to get totally maggoted every day and night!

Minimal amounts of people are currently allowed in the pools (which I think is a good thing) as I’m not a huge fan of petrie-cruise pools, particularly when some people sit in them for hours

Every on-shore excursion is an extra cost so be very clever and really look at your program before you leave and research the ones you really want to go on

The same goes for any kind of spa treatment – from having your nails done, a massage, a facial, teeth whitening (yup!), hair wash, and blow dry – whatever takes your fancy! But don’t forget to look at the cost.

Melissa Hoyer got the cruise buzz again as a guest of the ship Oosterdam of the Holland America Line for their seven-dayay Aegean Sunsets cruise and Princess Cruises Majestic Princess earlier this year, travelling through New Zealand.

 

hollandamerica.com
firstclassmagazine.co

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