Cruising isn’t how it used to be. It’s not just for older folk who want the benefit of travelling the world without even having to touch a backpack. It’s not for the rich and famous who plump for a suite and nothing less. No. Every liner now offers something for everyone – from families to couples. My parents have been on many, many cruises in their time, travelling the world aboard some of the finest ships since the Titanic, and they’ve always been adamant that for us (admitted cruising novices) Royal Caribbean would be right up our street.
With this in mind, an early morning trip to Southampton to meet the Navigator of the Seas was something I just couldn’t resist. Well, who would pass up a day aboard a gorgeous ship, sipping sumptuous cocktails and getting the low down on the food (and of course, trying it out). With a backstage tour of the kitchens (where the bakers create beautiful loaves by the hundreds of thousands) planned and some of the crew areas to boot, we got a full look at how such a huge ship runs. The Navigator was everything we loved about a good first class hotel, but of course on a grander scale. And over the ocean.
So, in true sixoutoften style, read about what we lovely, and our seven reasons to consider a cruise, even if you’re a die-hard landlubber (like Laura).
1. They’re a great way of seeing lots of places
Most cruises call at four or five ports, even if you’re only on board for a week. Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain and Croatia can all be done on the same itinerary. No backpacks needed, no need to stressful connections. The ship will deliver you right to the port in question, and even if there isn’t space to dock, tendering means a short trip by tug boat onto land. It’s lovely to be able to leave the confines of a cabin a get a taste for local life – from the culture to the food. For those who are a little bit shy and don’t like asking for local cuisine, on board there are usually foodie evenings to match the destination. Sangria for Spain and Port for Portugal sounds just divine, right?
2. The food is amazing
Us Brits have a tendency to pine for chicken nuggets when we’re on holiday. And lager. If you wanted to do that on a cruise, well, we’d suggest sticking to a fortnight in Benidorm, to be frank. Because onboard the food is something else. The Navigator of the Seas has a sushi restaurant, and considering my affinity for fish only developed two months ago, it didn’t last long on the plate. Imagine five star quality food every night of the week. Speciality restaurants often require payment, but they’re a cut above the canteen. If you’re not that fussed about eating the best of the best, some ships have 24-hour dining options. That means you’re treated to a meal whenever you get the munchies. Just don’t expect the scales to like you when you get back home…
3. It’s all shiny and pretty
Ok, so some ships are showing their age, so this really only is for liners that have been treated to a touch up – such as the Navigator. But seriously guys. The interior of a cruise ship worth its price tag is unbelievable. It’s a floating five star hotel that carries thousands of passengers day in day out. Be sure to check out the ship’s reviews before booking. For me, the Navigator well matched it’s five star reputation.
4. You can do as much or as little as you like
Because the service, the food and everything on the ship is that good, when you dock it doesn’t mean you have to clamour back to dry land. Far from it. Some of the best days can be spent on board an empty ship while everyone else is distracted by excursions. After all, who doesn’t love a quiet day lazing by the pool, getting cocktails walked over to you by the oh-so-friendly crew? Royal Caribbean’s ships have loads on board too, including an adult only solarium and a surfing machine for those looking to get all Point Break.
5. It’s just so convenient
Considering passengers visit so many beautiful places, you’d be hard pushed to find a more convenient style of holiday. Fly/cruises with ocean view staterooms can cost as much as 10 days in the Caribbean in a moderately nice hotel with some sort of private beach and no sort of guarantee the weather will be good. Trust me. I know. If you don’t like a port, no worries, you’ll be moving on soon.
6. The service is sublime
Ships pride themselves in their service. Royal Caribbean, being an American company y’all, is no different. Which isn’t a surprise when you have 700/800 staff on board. Executive Chef on the Navigator Russell Henderson – who oversees 10,000 meals a day on the ship – explained how the kitchen staff wear different colour scarves to show their level of experience. You get the impression if they look after their own like that, they’ll definitely look after you.
7. For the sensitively stomached, they’re more stable than a bath boat
Unless you see one up close, you’ll never understand how big cruise ships are. I could see the Navigator from miles away; it dwarfed another ship in the dock. Some ships are small – mini cruises ae usually old ferry boats repurposed for a journey no longer than a day or three. But Royal Caribbean’s ships can take over 4,000 passengers per journey, and you’ll barely realise you’re at sea once you get going. They’re so large they’re like a hotel complex, gliding over the waves.
Laura isn’t sold on cruising. She’s not a fan of heading into ports (because who would really love the thought of a day in Thurrock to show off the sights of England) but the key is to find a ship that would mean you’re totally comfortable and 100% set if you didn’t decide to leave at all. For me, I loved the Navigator’s food and drink offerings, as well as the stuff to do on board. For coffee lovers who want to relax with a good book, there’s a Starbucks. For health geeks, the gym is well stocked. The staff are 100% happy to make you happy, and that’s good enough for me!