It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be planning their summer holiday, panicking that they haven’t booked yet or suffering from holiday blues if like me you had your summer holiday a bit earlier than everyone else. My boyfriend, Jon and I hadn’t had a proper holiday for a little while until we went on our cruise. This was mainly due to my health (for full details read my post here). So after an eventful few years we decided to book a holiday together as we knew we needed it & deserved it. We wanted a holiday that would be interesting enough to keep us entertained and I really liked the idea of seeing lots of different places so a cruise sounded perfect for us. Going on a cruise was a fantastic experience for us both but there were certain things we wish we’d known before we went, so that’s why I decided to write a post about cruises for anyone who hasn’t been on one before.
Once we decided we definitely wanted to go on a cruise we started searching online for the best deals & once we found some that we were happy with we decided to go to a travel agent to get some advice. If you haven’t cruised before then I thoroughly recommend doing this. Our travel agent was really helpful as she’d been on several different cruises before & could not only tell us a lot about what to expect but could also price match the cruise we wanted. Flicking through travel brochures can often be a lot easier & more pleasant than trawling through loads of different websites too. To begin our search we used the Planet Cruise website as we could compare lots of different cruises all in one place. Planet cruise is a great place to start so that you can get an idea of what to expect for your money.
We decided to go on a P&O cruise around the Mediterranean for 14 days and our ship was called Ventura. Our destinations were: Alicante, Barcelona, Marsaille (was supposed to be Cannes), Florence, Rome, Cartagena and Gibraltar. We choose P&O because we’d heard good things about them plus we didn’t need to get on any flights. Instead we could just board the ship in Southampton & set sail from there. Some of you may prefer to fly in order to miss out on some of the sea days. Sea days are when the ship is traveling to your next port & you are out at sea so you can’t get off the ship. Sea days are good for relaxing & exploring the ship but personally I wouldn’t want too many of them. On sea days the ship is obviously much busier than when you’re in a port so meal times can get quite busy, as can pools & other public areas.
Before you set sail you’ll be given details for your cruise personaliser, which is a website all about your cruise. It will give you information about packing, maximum weights for your luggage, your itinerary, how to book excursions and more. It’s worth knowing that if you choose to set sail from Southampton you’ll be allowed a much more generous luggage allowance than if you choose to fly. With P&O you can also take drink on board with you, including alcohol & soft drinks.
Getting to Southampton was pretty easy for us as we’re only a couple of hours away but if you live further afield then you can choose to take a coach rather than driving. We had parking included in the price of our cruise but this is something to consider if you do decide to drive.
You will be given a time to arrive at the terminal by your cruise operator and generally you do have to stick to this time but we arrived just over an hour early & they did let us through. So it’s worth trying if you are a little early.
Once you’re on board the ship will seem overwhelming at first but you will get used to it after a few days. There are maps located all over the ship to help you if you do get lost & you can also ask a member of the crew for help.
Every day on our cruise we received a newspaper called horizon & this publication tells you about all the events & entertainment happening on board that day. For example it will tell you what shows are on in the theatre that evening as well as handy information such as restaurant opening times. This newspaper is delivered to your cabin each evening ready for the next day.
When our ship arrived in a new port it docked quite early & people were generally allowed to disembark from around 8am so it’s worth being up early to make the most of your day. Our ship left the ports between 4-6pm each day with the exception of the last port (Gibralter) when the ship left at 1pm. Before you set sail you will have the option to book excursions around each of your destinations. As we hadn’t cruised before we booked excursions for most places but found that we didn’t really need to unless the port was a long distance away from the place we wanted to visit. For example we needed to book an excursion to Florence because the ship docked in Livorno and it was an hour & a half coach journey from the port to Florence. That journey would have been far too expensive by taxi. So if the port is close to the town/city then you don’t need an excursion as you can do the same activities that the excursions offer yourself.
P&O like guests to be quite smartly dressed and have dress codes in most of the restaurants. The dress code each night was either evening casual or black tie but you could avoid dressing smartly if you wanted to by just eating in the buffet restaurants. For evening casual my boyfriend wore a polo top & chinos with smart shoes & I either wore a dress, skirt and a smart top or trousers and a smart top. For black tie my boyfriend wore a tux and I wore a cocktail dress or smart evening dress. There were 4 black tie nights over the course of our 14 night cruise. Personally I really enjoyed getting dressed up for dinner & hogging the mirror for an hour to do my hair & makeup (Haha, sorry Jon!) If you can’t look & feel your best on holiday then when can you?
It’s also worth knowing that the large majority of passengers on board a cruise ship are (how do I put this?) over a certain age. The vast majority are in their 50s/60s/70s and beyond. I’m only pointing this out because I know that this would seriously bother some people. It didn’t bother us too much but it would’ve been nice to talk to some other couples our own age. However we did talk to some really lovely older couples. If you’re after a young party atmosphere then this might not be your cup of tea!
All meals are included in the price of your cruise with P&O but you have to pay for all drinks (excluding water & fruit juice at breakfast) on board. This can get quite pricey over two weeks so I recommend stocking up on your tipple of choice from a shop in one of the ports or bringing some with you. The prices of drinks on board are about the same as most bars. For example cocktails are roughly £5 each, mocktails are £2.65 each and soft fizzy drinks are about £2.50 each.
Our cruise had a great variety of entertainment on board in the evenings including singers, comedians, dancers and west end theatre style shows. I would advise that you arrive within plenty of time for these shows as the venues do fill up very quickly! I highly recommend that you do see the theatre shows on board as they are amazing & will really add something special to your holiday. One of the shows we watched was all about musicals & featured music and dance routines from many different productions.
I think that’s about it for now but if I think of anything else I’ll add it in later. If you have any questions then please feel free to leave a comment or tweet me @KateIsCoveting. Thanks for reading!