The new generation of ships have features unlike anything you have seen before. We tell you 10 reasons to book a cruise right now.
Cruise lines have raised the bar when it comes to cuisine. The buffet is still there, but most ships now have multiple restaurants for an extra charge. Celebrity chefs have lent their name and signature cuisine to a number of restaurants at sea such as Nobu on Crystal Cruises, Marco Pierre White and Luke Mangan on P&O, Jamie Oliver on Royal Caribbean, Luke Nguyen is APT’s ambassador designing menus and food-themed cruises. Dining policies have also been updated so passengers don’t have to sit at assigned tables with other diners if they don’t want to.
2. Going Hi-Tech
Cruise ships are getting smarter to make things safer, more efficient and more fun. On Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Lines ships, traditional swipe cards have been replaced with RFID (radio frequency identification) wristbands that can be used to enter your room, make purchases and even track your family members via an iPad app. Cruise lines are investing millions of dollars to improve connectivity and make prices more competitive. And if you fancy having a martini made by a robot bartender they are served up every day in the Bionic Bar on Quantum of the Seas.
3. There’s room for everyone
With up to 6000 people onboard a megaliner, you might expect to be constantly surrounded by people. But cruise lines are working hard to give passengers more personal space. Royal Caribbean, Princess, Disney, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line, all have adults only areas with pools, deck chairs, bars where passengers can relax in peace. At the other end of the spectrum, kids’ clubs, offer something for children of all ages with cool lounges for teens, nurseries for the little ones and an endless schedule of activities.
Fancy seeing Cats, Mamma Mia, Legally Blonde or Rock of Ages? Then grab a seat in the ship’s theatre right after dinner. Full-scale broadway productions can be found on Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean ships while Disney Cruise Line has family oriented musicals. Carnival Vista will have the first IMAX cinema at sea when it launches in early 2016 and Princess Cruises screens movies complete with comfy lounges, blankets, popcorn, warm cookies and milk.
5. New Destinations
Every year more ports are opened up to cruise ships, passengers can travel anywhere from Alaska to Antarctica. Small ships are able to reach out of the way destinations, while many cities are upgrading port facilities to accommodate larger ships. In Australia, regional towns are beginning to appear on cruise itineraries with ships visiting places such as Eden on the NSW’s south coast and Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
You will never be bored on a modern cruise ship. The facilities are truly mind boggling, from huge water parks onboard Carnival ships to skydiving and surfing simulators on Royal Caribbean. Like something more sedate? Royal Princess and Regal Princess have a glass floored seawalk that juts out over the side of the ship, 40 metres above the ocean. Onboard classes can teach you to speak Spanish, paint with watercolours or manage your personal finances. Shore excursions have also evolved beyond the standard city tour or beach visit.
7. So many to choose from
When the Ovation of the Seas arrives in Australia in December 2016 it will be the largest ship ever based here with capacity for 4905 passengers. Silversea’s Silver Discoverer carries just 120 passengers and still has a good range of onboard facilities such as a swimming pool, four restaurants and a spa. River cruising is a great option for travellers looking for a boutique ship experience. The ships rarely have more than 100 cabins and some of the luxurious vessels cruising in Asia carry just 20 or so passengers.
8. Spa experience
Cruise ship spas have come a long way from the days when they were just a few massage tables stuck in a converted laundry. Most ships now have a thermal suite that includes things such as aromatherapy steam rooms, hydrotherapy pools, saunas and a relaxation lounge.
The treatment menu has evolved beyond massages ad facials with many ships now offering basic cosmetic surgery procedures such as motors and collagen. Choose to stay in a luxe spa cabin and you’ll generally have unlimited access to the spa facilities, complimentary treatments and even a special spa dining menu.
9. The great cruising package
No other holiday includes your transport, accommodation, meals and entertainment for one reasonable price. Mary affordable lines have cruises starting from as little as $50 per person per day. The cruise industry also loves a deal, so you can take advantage of cabin upgrades or onboard spending money. Even luxury lines, which have a much higher base-cost, are great value because the fare includes just about everything, such as alcohol, gratuities and shore excursions.
10. Australians love cruising
Australian passengers are spoilt for choice when it comes to cruising. A decade ago, there was only a handful of ships sailing in our waters, but there are now close to 50 different vessels calling at Australian ports all over the country. There are ships of every size and standard, from small luxury mega-yachts to huge family friendly liners. Many lines have also begun sending their newest ships to Australian ports, such as Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas that will spend its first season sailing from Sydney in 2016.