In the fourth installment of my A to Z of Cruising I bring to you everything beginning with the letter D! What I love about cruising is the fantastic array of destinations to visit on a cruise ship. I will discuss some of the activities on board as well as the age-old question “should I get the drinks package?”
The beauty of cruising is the many countries that you can visit in one cruise. There is no way I’ll ever get to see every place in the world but cruising definitely enables me to have a good go! In my last 14-day cruise to the Caribbean, I managed to see nine different destinations – wow! Before cruising, I had to pick one destination for a week or two’s holiday. I still do this in between cruises but going on a cruise has allowed me to see so much more of the world in one trip. The Telegraph recently published the top ten most visited cruise ports – which do you think made the list?
New destinations are being added to the list of destinations available to cruisers all the time, including more expedition cruises to remote areas of the world such as the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. This is partially due to the popularity of cruising and the fact that seasoned cruisers are looking for new and exciting destinations to explore.
Although more places are popping up on cruise itineraries, there are some that are now restricting the number of cruises visiting each day to try and minimise the chaos that ensues when 3000+ cruise passengers descend on one port. Santorini is one of those places that is doing just that to try and improve the traffic and visiting experience for tourists.
If you’re planning your next cruise, destinations are likely to play a big part in your decision. It’s good to take a look at the destinations and what you’d like to see or do in each port.
Top tip: When looking at cruise itineraries, check to see how long you will be in each port. Some cruise lines offer very similar cruises with varying lengths of time ashore. Some cruise ships now even stay in port overnight so you can experience a place by day and night to really make the most of your destination.
One destination I visited on my Caribbean cruise was the Dominican Republic and more specifically, Amber Cove in the north of the island. Amber Cove opened to cruise passengers in 2016 and was designed for cruise ships to visit. Here are my 8 things to do at Amber Cove.
Dining on a Cruise
If you’re new to cruising, the main dining room options can be a little bit tricky to decide on. Generally you will be offered three options for the main dining room:
- Early dining (at approx. 5.30pm)
- Late dining (at around 8.30pm)
- Anytime/freestyle/my dining (no scheduled time to eat, decide to eat when you like each day)
For the scheduled dining options you are likely to be on a shared table with other cruise passengers for the length of your cruise. This can be some people’s idea of a great opportunity to meet new people, whilst other people may be worried that they may not get on with those on their table. In most circumstances, you can choose to have a scheduled dining time with a table for yourselves but this can not always be guaranteed. It’s best to contact your travel agent or the cruise line directly to check that this can be arranged if you’d prefer this option.
Top tip: It’s bad table etiquette to arrive late to your dining table as the other cruise passengers cannot order until the whole table is seated so if you do decide on a scheduled dining time, don’t be late!
If you need to eat to avoid getting ‘hangry’ – go for the early dining but be aware that this may cut down your time ashore.
My preferred option is anytime dining as it allows you to eat whenever you want usually after a certain time:
- Princess Cruises is after 5.30pm
- P&O is after 6pm
- Carnival is after 5.45pm
- Royal Caribbean is after 6pm but reservations still need to be made in advance
- Celebrity Cruises is after 6pm with day-by-day reservations made
- Norwegian is anytime after 5pm
Be aware that on some cruise ships, certain dining rooms may be open to anytime diners and others may be reserved for those who have opted for the scheduled dining. Depending on the time that you choose to dine, you may be given a pager, which will buzz when a table is ready for you.
I have two contrasting experiences of Any Time Dining on Princess Cruises. When I cruised on the Grand Princess, the dining room was relatively quiet from 7.30pm onwards and we had the pick of tables with the same serving staff every night. On the Regal Princess it was very busy and we had to wait for a table, which was different each time we ate.
If you love to dance then there is plenty of opportunities on a cruise ship. I like to go to the daily Zumba class whilst others enjoy line dancing.
On some cruise lines there are daily dance classes and of course there is always the option to dance the night away in one of the many entertainment venues on board.
If you love Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing with the Stars there are even ‘Strictly’-themed cruises with P&O Cruises.
On a Hawaiian cruise, I had lots of sea days and so decided to learn Hula dancing. It was a brilliant way to learn more about the culture of the destinations and was really enjoyable. I even took part in a end of cruise showcase with a ukulele band made up of cruise passengers.
If dancing isn’t your thing then I always enjoy watching others, especially in the atrium of the ship looking down on to the dance floor. I love people watching! Or you can leave it to the professionals in the ship’s musicals and shows of course.
There is a question I see time and time again on cruise forums: “Should I buy the drinks package?” It is something that all cruisers have to decide when planning their cruise. For some people who don’t drink alcohol, this is very simple but for those who like to enjoy a cocktail by the pool or a glass of wine at dinner, the dilemma is “will it be worth the money?”
The answer to that question will all depend on a a few different factors: the length of time will you be on the ship, the number of drinks each day you are likely to have (including soft drinks and coffee) and ultimately… the cost.
Drinks packages can be expensive and so it might be worth looking at the cruises that are all-inclusive.
Personally, I have purchased the drinks package on my last two cruises but for my upcoming cruise I’m hesitant as the price has increased and the itinerary is port-intensive so I’m not sure if I would get full use of it. You can read my complete blog post about the Princess Cruises drinks package to help you decide if it’s right for you.
Watch this space, I plan to bring you a drinks package comparison by cruise line because during my research for this blog post I realised that I cannot find a comprehensive and up-to-date comparison of drinks packages anywhere!
So that’s my homework sorted! Until next time cruisers, happy sailing!
What do you think about my A to Z of Cruising so far? I would love to get some feedback about the parts you love (or hate!) and the things you think I should add. Please add your comments below.