If you’re anything like me, you’re pretty much always dreaming of your next holiday destination! However, it can take some time to save up for big holidays, especially if you’re travelling from Australia, as with the distance comes soaring prices! Instead of becoming too discouraged, you should look into a very affordable holiday option: cruising!
If you’re yet to experience this kind of holiday, let me fill you in a little. First of all, what is great about cruising, is that it’s an all-inclusive fare! That means your accommodation, meals and entertainment are all paid for, which makes it terrific value. Sure, you will need to spend some extra money on things such as alcohol, premium drinks, shore excursions and various extra spending options, but your basic holiday package is covered.
The first thing you will need to do is decide on a destination for your cruise. You will not need a passport for domestic cruises and for Australian travellers there are some fabulous itineraries which travel to Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland, as well as shorter sea break options. You’ll need to choose a departure city, which is most commonly Sydney, Brisbane or Fremantle.
If you’re looking at international sailings, the most common itineraries will be to the South Pacific, such as New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji or alternatively to New Zealand.
New Zealand cruises will offer spectacular scenery, boasting some of the world’s most beautiful natural landscapes, whilst the South Pacific will offer more of a tropical holiday. Also consider the season that you’ll be travelling in. Summer is best for New Zealand, but not for the South Pacific (far too hot!). Anytime from May-October is considered ideal.
Which Cruise line do I choose?
Once you’ve got a rough idea of where you’d like to go, you can start to browse for options. To find itineraries try searching on a website such as http://www.cruisesalefinder.com.au , although once you’ve made your choice, I would recommend booking directly through your chosen company.
The most common cruise lines that sail from Australia are P&O, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. To be honest, most of the companies are much the same, so whatever you choose, you’ll be guaranteed a great time. However, Royal Caribbean tends to be a bit more expensive, as the ships are much larger and with more facilities.
I have only experienced P&O, which I would thoroughly recommend. Whilst one of the cheapest cruise lines, they offer fantastic value for money and with two new ships in circulation this year, they have multiple sailings departing each week. Most international itineraries will be of around 7 nights duration, but can be up to 14 nights. Choose an itinerary which suits your budget and desired sailing date.
When it comes to choosing a cabin type, you can choose between interior cabins, oceanview, balcony and various kinds of suites. Obviously, the cheapest type of room will be a windowless interior cabin, but unless you’re absolutely scraping your pennies together, I would recommend you upgrade to a balcony. It is so nice to be able to get some fresh air in your room, rather than having to traipse to an upper deck.
If the budget allows, I would also recommend booking a mini-suite. The extra space is fabulous, as most cabins can be quite cramped, You’ll also receive numerous extra perks such as priority boarding, champagne, fresh fruit, upgraded amenities etc. The cost of a mini-suite is not necessarily that expensive either, so look out for good deals.
Food and Drink
All of your meals are included in your cruise fare, which means that you only need to pay for drinks. There will be multiple dining options on your ship, usually in the form of a few casual dining areas and a main formal restaurant. It will not cost you an extra cent to eat at these places. However, should you wish to try some other options, there are also a variety of specialty restaurants that are not included in your cruise fare. The pricing for these restaurants is usually just a general cover charge and will be a fraction of the cost of what you would pay on land.
For example, on the Pacific Jewel, a 3 course meal at Luke Mangan’s ‘The Salt Grill’ will only set you back $50, whilst a degustation menu at the Asian inspired ‘La Luna’ is only $20. I would recommend eating out a specialty restaurant at least once during your cruise.
Drinks are generally not included in your fare, except for tap water and some non-alcoholic beverages available at the buffet. The price of drinks, however, is very reasonable and cheaper than would you pay at home. Some cruise lines also offer drink packages which can be a good value option.
There are literally so many things to do on a cruise! Each night you will receive a newsletter which details all of the scheduled activities for the following day. From dance classes, to cocktail making, to quizzes, to bingo, there are countless activities each day which you can choose to participate in.
There are also full scale productions staged each night, as well as comedy, circus shows and guest entertainers. If you’re travelling on Royal Caribbean, you may even get a ship with an ice rink! On sea days, you’re pretty much free to do as much or as little as you like. Get a massage, relax by the pool or read a book in the adults only relaxation area. The choice is yours!
Of course once you reach your destination ports, you’ll want to hop off the ship and explore!
Your ship will usually offer a variety of shore excursions to see and do different things at your destination. Whether this is a local tour, adventure sport or visiting an attraction, shore tours that are organised by your ship are usually the most convenient way to get the most out of your destinations, especially if you’ve not been there before.
The pricing for tours can vary and many people choose to make their own arrangements. However, if it is your first time cruising, I would recommend that you do a few organised excursions to get a feel for each destination. It also guarantees that your ship will not depart without you! If you make independent arrangements, you must arrive back at the ship by the specified time, or risk being left behind!
If you’re visiting a small tropical island, there may be limited tours or things to do, other than just relaxing on the beach or taking a walk! Larger ports or capital cities, will have more variety for activities. I’ve found that it’s nice to have a mixture of both relaxing tropical islands and big towns.
Budgeting for your cruise
Once you’ve picked a cruise itinerary, you are often able to lay-by the cruise fare. So if you don’t have the money available straight away, you can pay a deposit to secure your trip and pay the rest off at a later date. Aside from the fare itself, you will need to factor in extra costs such as:
- Flights to your departure port
- Travel Insurance
- Possible pre-cruise accommodation (for the night before)
- Spending money
When you board your ship, you’ll be given a cruise card which acts like a credit card to use whilst you’re onboard. It is either linked to a credit card or you can pay a cash bond.
Basically, you will need to spend extra money at some point on your cruise, but how much you’re willing to spend is up to you. If you want to have a couple of drinks, a massage and do some other paid activities, I would allow between $50-$100 per day, but you could spend more or less than this.
A 7 night cruise itinerary budget could look something like this:
- Cruise fare- $1000
- Flights- $200
- Travel Insurance- $80
- Transfers- $50
- Hotel room- $200
- Spending money- $350- $700
Total- $1880- $2230 per person
So there you have it! If you’re looking for a reasonably priced holiday option that takes you overseas, I say give cruising a try, you might be surprised at how much you love it!
Have you ever been on a cruise before? What are some of your cruising tips?
*The above advice is aimed at Australian based travellers, however the principles would be similar for other destinations