My wife and I always enjoy cruising, especially as it’s probably the most economical and stress-free way to travel.
We’ve cruised quite extensively, including a 10-day cruise through the Baltic in late 2019 and then a 10-day relocation cruise from Vancouver to Hawaii. Then Covid hit Australia and the world! Apart from its massive health impacts, the pandemic stopped the cruise industry “dead in the water” and almost two million employees lost their job.
Tens of thousands of businesses that relied on cruise companies and tourists also collapsed.
Many of the 30 million people who cruised in 2019 felt they had lost their second home.
There was a two-year crisis in many industries, especially cruising, until late last year when the world finally reopened to travel. Like many other Baby Boomers we were extremely hesitant to put our toes back on a ship.
Uncertain about travel in the northern hemisphere, we finally took the plunge and cruised to the South Pacific Islands last November and again in January this year.
We can happily say cruising is back and, in many ways, it’s safer, cheaper and better than ever.
Currently you cannot cruise unless you are fully vaccinated and have a negative PCR test within 24 hours of boarding. Positive health changes include hand sanitisers spread extensively throughout the ship and, unlike many places on land, they all worked.
It’s compulsory to use a new hand-washing facility to enter the main dining area, with a costumed staffer reminding everyone to “washy washy”.
Rather than squashing around the lifeboats for a 20-minute safety briefing, this was completed online with a two-minute, one-on-one check-in.
Staff constantly cleaned public surfaces and all staff had the option of wearing masks.
And there’s a fully-staffed medical centre only a few minutes away for any emergency, which is much quicker than calling an ambulance at home.
One reason we like cruising is that there is minimal stress.
Once booked, your most challenging decision is what foods and activities you want to experience. Like most pensioners, our other key reason is that cruising is probably the best overall “value holiday” option anywhere in the world.
Where in Australia can you find a fully-serviced two-person holiday bed-sitter overlooking the water for $160 a night?
Our recent 10-day cruise from Brisbane to several tropical islands was less than $80 a day each for a balcony stateroom.
That included all transport; quality serviced accommodation; delicious all-we-could-eat high-quality food on tap all day; recent release movies and amazing live shows.
There were fabulous pools and spas; a casino; bargain shopping and dozens of different adult activities ranging from Zumba and other exercise sessions to trivia, games, puzzles, classes, and a library.
Then there’s the sports activities to suit all ages. The onboard entertainment is as good as you will find in most theatres around the world.
One live show we loved was Jason Singh’s Heaven’s Greatest Hits, which is playing at the Sydney Opera House on April 24. While all these activities and events might seem hectic, cruising is where you can do everything at your own pace, joining in when you choose, or just relaxing.
Some days we watched the sun rise while sitting in a hot spa, then had breakfast and dozed for a while on one of the many lounges.
Other days we were spoilt with breakfast in our stateroom, or caught up with friends in one of the dining rooms.
Therein lies another bonus.
You can choose to dine with “singles” groups if you are unattached; as a couple if you’re seeking romantic time together; at a set table with friends or strangers, forging new relationships; or randomly with different people each night.
In addition to all this, we spent three wonderful days in Vanuatu and Noumea
If you’ve never cruised before, it’s worth taking a look at a cruise option that might suit you.
Australia’s great weather means cruises operate year-round, with a peak from early Spring until late Autumn.
While half a dozen major cruise companies operate from Brisbane’s international cruise terminal, we prefer Royal Caribbean. It has the world’s biggest ships, above average food and more entertainment and activities.
Finally, unless you’re travelling with kids or grandkids, we suggest you book outside school holidays and perhaps not on the Disney cruises that start this December.
Paul and Vi Hughes launched a website in 2008 to help others experience better travel. Visit holidaydestinations.au