Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Crave the waves

Crave the waves

The who, what, where, when, how and wow of cruising!


Cruising is becoming increasingly popular with Irish holidaymakers with over 80,000 people expected to hit the high seas by the end of 2014. One in every eight foreign package holidays is now a cruise, making it the fastest-growing sector of the holiday trade. Whether it is the perfect honeymoon solution or a family holiday, there are prices to suit most budgets and with all-inclusive cruises starting from just €349 per person sharing, cruising is still one of the best value holiday options on the market today considering the all-inclusive pricing structure. Imagine the spectacular glaciers and silent fjords of Alaska, paradise on the Caribbean coasts, the cultural splendour of European cities on a Mediterranean Cruise, the beautiful Hawaiian Islands with dramatic lava flows and tropical rainforests or broaden your horizons even further to destinations such as Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand with exiting itineraries departing from the Middle East and Far East. The largest ship in the world Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas will be based in the Mediterranean for the first time in 2015 so this week we have top tips from e-travel to help you get Nautical


1.        Who’s who in cruising? There are lots of different cruise lines that offer different itineraries and have different characteristics.  The main cruise lines are Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, MSC Cruises, Silversea Cruiseline, NCL, Hurtigruten and AMA Wayerways 5 star River Cruiseline. It is always advisable to book the best ship you can afford as the facilities and dining on-board really make the holiday special.  The most popular cruise line for Irish holiday makers is still Royal Carribbean but NCL and MSC are starting to really compete on price and offer a top class cruise experience.  For those that want something really different, Hurtigruten are working ships calling to small ports in Norway where large Ships cannot enter.  Food is taken fresh on board every day from small villages and the ships search for the Northern Lights.  All of the various cruise lines are detailed on www.e-travel.ie and they also highlight the best deals available at sea.


2.        What’s what on board?  Cruise lines are constantly competing to be the biggest and best at sea and the range of onboard facilities range from the sublime to the ridiculous! The most important on board facilities to consider when booking a cruise are your accommodation, dining options and entertainment.  Balcony Cabins are more expensive than inside cabins but when booking a balcony it is advisable to request an unobstructed view and as high up as possible.  Dining and Gastronomic pursuits are central to cruising with some of the best chefs in the world battling to provide the very best culinary delights.  Most ships have a very grand main dining room with traditional dining and freestyle dining. There's a large buffet on most ships open most of the time, then there are alternative restaurants with everything from Creperies to Sushi Bars and Tex Mex to Tepinyaki all the way up to Michelin acclaimed formal dining par excellence!  Be careful when choosing where to dine on board as some of the speciality restaurants carry hefty supplements.  Most ships have a fairly similar layout with pools on the top deck whilst mid ship tends to be the heart of most activities. 


3.        Where are the best cruise destinations and ports?

Irish cruisers generally choose to cruise either in the Mediterranean or Caribbean with Eastern or Western routes. Carribean Cruises generally depart from Miami and Fort Lauderdale and most of the Mediterranean cruises go from either Barcelona or Rome but the actual cruise port can be quite a distance from the airport in most cases so if you are not a seasoned traveller it is advisable to book a fly cruise package which includes transfers to and from the ship.  Even though cruise prices have increased this year across all liners, E-travel have some of the very best fly cruise packages available at the moment including a 9 night Western Caribbean Cruise from €989 pps. For those looking for something different, check out their Panama Canal cruise, California and Pacific Coastal Cruise, Australia and Tasmania cruise, South America and their amazing European and Russia River Cruises.


4.        When is the best time to Travel?

Caribbean sailings are all year round but the best time is November to May and the best time to cruise in the Mediterranean is May to September to get the best weather but the best deals are in April and October. The best time to cruise in Alaska is May to September and for Dubai, it is November to March.  Sometime ships will actually sail into the sunshine and try to avoid patches of clouds if possible without going off route.


5.        How will I be entertained during my cruise?

Most ships sail by night and are in port during the day so every morning you wake up to a whole new adventure.  On land excursions can be expensive but most of the main cruise lines offer complimentary courtesy coaches into town and when the ship is docked at sea, complimentary tenders are available all day so it is not essential to book guided tours.  Entertainment is a hugely competitive business in cruising and the powers that be are constantly searching for the next best thing to tickle the cruisers fancy.  Most ships have large Broadway theatres with incredible shows every night from top Musicals through to world acclaimed acts from Cirque du Soleil and The Blue Man Company.  Casinos are also a hot bed of activity and there are so many bars, it is hard to fit them all in.  NCL boasts the only authentic Ice Bar at sea whilst Celebrity are known for their great martinis and speciality whiskey and wine bars whilst Royal Caribbean offer everything from pints in the Schooner Bar to bubbles in the Champagne bar.  By day, the ships are also alive with activities like crazy golf, lawn games, climbing walls, pool parties and even ice skating.  Royal Carribean boast the only surf Flowriders at sea whilst NCL have amazing water slides.  For health and fitness, most ships have large state of the art gyms and sumptuous spas for the utmost in pampering. Teen and Kids clubs are top of their game also so little ones are also sure to have a whale of the time.


6.        Wow

Wow factors in cruising really are endless but in 2014/2015, the biggest wow factors at sea belong to NCL who roll out a $250 million fleetwide cruise ship upgrade programme.  The new Norweigen Epic Ship is making waves with entertainment by the Las Vegas resident Blue Man Group and for thrill seekers, it has one of the 3 most exciting waterslides at sea. Royal Caribbean are back in Dubai for Winter 2015, the Quantum of the seas will sail a whopper 52 night journey from New York to Shanghai and The Amentun of the Seas will feature menus from Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver. MSC are building 2 more new cruise ships and the Disney cruise line returns to Hawaii and the west coast.  2015, promises to be an exciting year for the cruise industry with more ships, itineraries, new ports, more onboard facilities and restaurants and lots more!


Established in 1997, e-travel is now one of Ireland’s leading independent Travel Agents, specialising in cruising as well as flights, long-haul and online bookings and are the only 100% Irish owned and managed online agency in Ireland.  e-travel’s award winning team offer expertise and advice, early booking discounts, onboard credit, champagne in your cabin and lots more!  The e-travel Cruise department can be contacted on 01 4081999 or www.e-travel.ie.


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