Cruising may be the fastest growing segment of the travel market, but its reputation hasn't quite caught up to its new reality. The latest cruise holidays are leaving outdated notions of cruising in their wake with a fresh approach, new ideas and a much broader appeal. Read on to have the top 12 myths about cruising blown out of the water and discover why modern day cruising really is a holiday option for all:
Myth 1: Cruising is boring
Reality: On most cruise holidays you are never more than a day or two from a port, and there need never be a dull day onboard. Bigger ships have everything from ice-skating rinks to basketball courts and on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas, and sister Anthem of the Seas, bumper cars, an indoor sky-diving tunnel, simulated surfing and a pod which takes you 300 feet above the ship. Most ships have first-class fitness and spa facilities, West End-style entertainment, casinos, cookery courses and classes in everything from astronomy to Zumba. Not all activities are adrenaline pumping either. Hit the biggest library at sea on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 (its 8,000 books should keep you going for a while!), learn to cook at James Martin's Cookery Club on P&O's new ship Britannia or try art classes at an Odyssey Art at Sea class on Crystal Cruises.
Myth 2: Cruises are for old people
Reality: The idea that cruises are all shuffleboard and ballroom dancing is definitely outdated. There's now a cruise holiday to suit all age groups, from the very young to the young at heart. As the cruise market has boomed so has its target demographic, with family-friendly cruise giants such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line offering affordable holidays that mum, dad, kids and grandparents will love. Royal Caribbean's megaship, Anthem of the Seas, is the perfect example of a ship that's all things to all people -- with bionic bar tenders around one corner and bumper cars around the next. Anthem also offers truly multigenerational accommodation, allowing families to cruise together in flexible, interconnecting cabins, without compromising on space or privacy. However, it is worth noting that outside of the school holidays, many family friendly ships will attract an older passenger.
Myth 3: There's not enough time in port
Reality: It is true that on the larger ships, especially those on classic Med or Caribbean itineraries, your port time will be limited to the day (the usual times are from 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m.). However, many lines -- particularly ones with smaller ships -- are staying longer and in some cases overnight. So, for example, if you find yourself on a Canary Islands cruise, you are likely to spend all evening in port, allowing for dinner in town and, on some islands, stargazing, as the islands are so near to each other. Certainly in the case of St Petersburg, most cruise lines spend a night or two as it's impossible to see the city in a day.
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Myth 4: Cruises are expensive
Reality: There was a time when cruising was so expensive that only the most well-to-do could afford the privilege, but a fast-growing market means more ships and more competition, which drives prices down. The emergence of casual cruising and family cruising also means that cruise companies are lowering prices to attract a new type of holidaymaker, and amazing cruises can be picked up for the price of a package holiday. When you consider all that's included -- endless activities, free kids' clubs, world-class shows and entertainment, the multiple destinations and all you can eat food -- the value is clear to see. A number of UK-based lines including P&O Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and Cruise & Maritime Voyages, offer short break cruises of two- or three-nights for as little as £200.
Myth 5: Cruising isn't for children
Reality: Families are often put off cruise holidays because of the misconception that they're formal affairs or the onboard facilities are aimed at adults. Disney Cruise Line pioneered family cruising, mixing Disney magic for kids with luxury cruising for adults. Other lines soon followed suit -- children can meet Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and co. with Royal Caribbean's DreamWorks Experience; or SpongeBob SquarePants on Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway, Getaway and Epic. Mr Bump and Little Miss Sunshine are in residence on some P&O ships and Carnival has Dr Seuss at Sea. Add onboard waterparks, high ropes courses, circus schools and even funfair rides -- and brilliant kids' clubs from tots to teens as standard -- and you've got family friendly cruising that's hard to beat. Of course, if you're reading this thinking that you don't want to share your cruise with kids you'll find plenty of adult-centric lines such as Holland America Line and Fred. Olsen; adult-only lines Saga Cruises and Cruise and Maritime Voyages, and adult-only ships in the P&O Cruises fleet.
Myth 6: The food is below par
Reality: The fact that you're a captive audience could lead some to assume that cruise ship dining is going to be a lacking experience, but nothing could be further from the truth. Food is a big part of the cruising experience and cruise lines work hard to get it just right, whether serving hot dogs at the Royal Caribbean Dog House or sushi by Michelin-starred chef Nobu Matsuhisa on Crystal Serenity and Symphony. Choice is staggering on larger ships (there are 18 eateries onboard Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas) and there's a food fight between celebrity chefs to lend their skills and ideas to the most popular ships -- P&O has a team of Food Heroes including Marco Pierre White and James Martin, while Jamie Oliver has taken Jamie's Italian to the seas on Anthem of the Seas. You'll also find a surprising amount of freedom as to how you dine, with shared tables and fixed meal times in the main dining room becoming a thing of the past.
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Myth 7: You need to pack formalwear
Reality: Cruising has long been associated with gala balls, glamorous casinos and formal Captain's dinners, so you'd expect to need a suitcase full of elegant evening attire to fit in. Not so. While formality still exists on Cunard and some of the smaller luxury ships, most of the larger lines -- Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line -- have replaced formal nights with 'Dress Up or Not Nights'. And even if your cruise ship does have a dress code in place, a casual suit or cocktail dress will usually suffice -- even Cunard has loosened its position on ties recently!
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Myth 8: Cruising makes you seasick
Reality: Cruise ship stabilizers reduce the rocking motion and the bigger ship the less it rocks, but if you are particularly susceptible to motion sickness there are ways to minimise the suffering, including: Pick a large cruise ship (the larger the better), and choose a cabin close to the ship's balancing point (low and centre). Having a window or balcony to look out of can also help reduce sickness while in your stateroom. Before booking ask your cruise agent's advice on the best itineraries to avoid choppy waters and, once onboard, don't overdo it at the buffet or bar. You can take patches, bands or pills for seasickness with you (or a giant bag of boiled barley sweets) but rest assured that if you do get caught unawares, you'll usually find a remedy in the onboard shop or medical centre. If all else fails, take a river cruise!
Myth 9: Cruising makes you fat
Reality: Cruises are notorious for the abundance of food, which makes would-be cruisers fearful for their waistlines. While it is perfectly possible to nibble morning noon and night -- many ships offer dining options that are literally 24/7 -- there are also lots of opportunities to negate some of that calorie intake with activity. Hit the Carnival SportsDeck, surf onboard Royal Caribbean Oasis and Quantum-class ships, Dance with the Stars on a Holland America cruise, scale a Norwegian rock-climbing wall, swim against the current in a Princess pool, strap on a Crystal WOW vest for a power-walk. The list of activities on larger ships is endless, and that's before we mention the state of the art fitness centres and active excursions available. Some of the bigger ships have spa restaurants which serve only low calorie food; and many will also offer low-carb and low-calories options in the Main Dining Room.
Myth 10: You can't cruise solo
Reality: Solos have long had cause to complain about a lack of affordable cruise holiday options. The dreaded single supplement has meant that lone cruisers have had to pay through the nose for their single status -- however if you choose your cruise line wisely you shouldn't have to pay a single penny more than passengers in pairs. Fred. Olsen specialises in attracting solo guests, with more than 200 single cabins fleetwide, regular solo supplement promotions and solo hosts and events onboard. Saga also offers a high proportion of solo cabins (25 percent) for over 50s. Norwegian launched the Studio complex, complete with single cabins, lounge and bar, on Norwegian Epic, and also on Breakaway and Getaway. P&O Cruises' Britannia, launched in March, 2015, offers the first purpose-built single cabins with balconies.
Myth 11: You'll feel trapped on a cruise ship
Reality: The thought of being in the middle of the sea, surrounded by hoards of other holidaymakers and with only a small cabin space to call your own, can instantly put those with claustrophobic tendencies off the idea of cruising. What they might not realise is that a megaship can be the length of three football pitches, wider than the wingspan of a Boeing 747 and stand 20 storeys high! Even at full capacity (over 6,000 passengers for the megaships, Royal Caribbean's Harmony, Oasis and Allure of the Seas, the latter of which will be in Barcelona this summer for a short season) the vast public spaces, which can include shopping centres, waterparks, sports decks, fitness centres, promenades and even parkland, ensure that no-one feels penned in.
Myth 12: All cruises itineraries are the same
Reality: It's not just about the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. The fact is, if there is a body of water there's likely to be a ship sailing on it. We have a wealth of wonderful shorelines much closer to home, including these fair isles. Many lines offer round-UK cruises, taking in the Channel Islands, stops in Ireland and the west of Scotland, as well as the Orkney Isles and the Shetland Islands. Mediterranean cruises are an easy choice for those not wanting to venture too far from home; you can cruise from Southampton or fly direct to the sun. The latter will always add a couple of days either side to your journey so factor that in. The Norwegian fjords are just a day away from many U.K. ports and offer breathtaking vistas; in the summer a number of lines including P&O Cruises and Fred. Olsen offer Baltic cruises. Or you could head to Vancouver or Seattle and take in the glaciers of Alaska (and add on a week on the Rocky Mountaineer train at the beginning or the end). Galapagos, the Amazon, South America... And we haven't started on river cruising.
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The bottom line:
Cruises are as diverse as holidaymakers, so don't let the outdated reputation of cruising put you off. With the top 12 cruise myths now dispelled, you can discover what cruising is all about for yourself.