Which cruise for you?

By Maria Harding, Daily Mail

Last updated at 11:56 24 May 2004


Cruising was once the pastime of the wealthy elderly. Now it's mainstream, representing one in 20 of all package holidays sold in Britain.

Figures released this week show the number of cruise holidays has quadrupled in a decade - and the British market is the fastest growing in the world.

But this has been no overnight success story.

Only 20 years ago, bookings were sinking faster than the Titanic and the industry - dependent on ageing liners and reeling from the Seventies oil crisis and the growth of jet travel - was heading nowhere fast.

Big-spending American companies Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises led the way to recovery, splashing out on giant, 2,000-passenger floating resorts custom-built for cruising.

Now there are ships to suit every taste and every pocket - from £499 for a week in the Mediterranean to £5,000 for ten days in the Caribbean.


Modern megaships provide all-day programmes for different age groups, with children-only pools, indoor/outdoor play centres and even mini-theatres.

Princess Cruises: 0845 3555 800; www.princesscruises.com Hydraulic simulators offer virtual reality rides around racetracks and beneath the waves.

Caribbean Princess holds a childrens' fair every cruise, with balloon craft and face-painting stalls.

Disney Cruise Line: 0870 24 24910; www.disneycruise.co.uk Children get almost an entire deck to themselves; teenagers flock to the New York-style coffee house; younger children play with Disney characters.

All ages love the Animator's Palate restaurant, which changes colour as you eat.

Holland America Line: 020 7940 4477; www.hollandamerica.com HAL's Alaska cruises have a shore excursion programme just for children; activities include mountain biking and sea kayaking.

Body beautiful

Health spas on cruises rival anything on land, with thermal suites, thalassotherapy pools, gyms and jet pools.

Crystal Cruises: 020 7287 9040; www.crystalcruises.co.uk This luxury big-ship operator offers classes on nutrition, skincare, alternative medicine, meditation and T'ai Chi.

Norwegian Cruise Line: 0800 181 560; www.uk.ncl.com The ships offer courses on healthy living, covering stress, aromatherapy, reflexology, massage and yoga.


Travel broadens the mind - and some ships stretch it even further with on board educational programmes led by experts.

Swan Hellenic Cruises: 0845 3 555 111; www.swanhellenic.com This is the best-known cultural cruise specialist, and academic-led shore excursions are included in the price.

Voyages of Discovery: 01444 462 150; www.voyagesofdiscovery.com Classes in art and photography as well as informal lectures. The line-up includes specialists from BBC History and Homes & Antiques magazines.

Party animals

Cruising is the hot ticket for romance, according to readers of U.S. magazine Porthole.

In its Love@Sea survey, 95 per cent of readers rated a cruise more romantic than a land-based holiday, while 73 per cent packed special underwear before climbing aboard - and that was just the men.

Carnival Cruise Line: 020 7940 4466; www.carnivalcruise.co.uk Famed as the king of the swingers, its ships cut to the chase with singles parties.

Royal Caribbean International: 0800 018 2020; www.royalcaribbean.com Its biggest ships, such as the 137,300-ton Voyager of the Seas - have ice rinks and themed discos.

Wildlife lovers

Would-be David Attenboroughs will find cruise ships a great window on the natural world.

You can go whale watching in Hawaii; spot sea-lions, puffins and sea otters in Chile; meet penguins in the Falklands and Antarctica, follow grizzly bear tracks in Alaska, encounter Madagascan lemurs and even join an African safari.

African Safari Club: 0845 345 0014; www.africansafariclub.com Combines Indian Ocean cruises with safaris in Kenya and Tanzania.

Discovery World Cruises: 020 7795 4900; www.discoveryworldcruises.com Offers expedition cruises to Antarctica.

Celebrity Xpeditions: 0800 018 2525; www.celebritycruises.co.uk Arranges cruises around the Galapagos Islands from June.


The proliferation of speciality restaurants has made cruise ships popular with food lovers.

As well as eating for free in the main dining rooms, passengers can pay a supplement to enjoy top-class Chinese, Italian, Japanese or Tex-Mex in reservation-only restaurants.

Star Cruises: 020 7917 6051; www.starcruises.com Norwegian Cruise Line: 0845 658 8010; www.uk.ncl.com Their ships are ideal for speciality dining, with up to ten different restaurants each, ranging from French and Italian to Chinese and Indian.

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises: 023 8068 2280; www.rssc.co.uk Its luxury sisterships, Mariner and Voyager, each have their own cordon bleu restaurant and offer cookery courses on some sailings.

Sports fans

Gone are the days when the only exercise you got on a cruise was raising a pink gin to your lips.

Ocean Village: 0845 358 5000; www.oceanvillageholidays.co.uk Shore excursions include biking and roller-skating tours, hikes and abseiling.

Windstar Cruises: 020 7940 4488; www.windstarcruises.com These ships have a retractable jetty at the stern for jetskiing, windsurfing and kayaking.

Six-star luxury Elegant suites, eat-when-you-please haute cuisine dining, uncrowded decks and heel-clicking service await those with the cash to splash.

Silversea Cruises: 0870 333 7030; www.silversea.com Rated with six stars by the Fieldings Cruise Guide, Silversea has won more awards than you can shake a caviar spoon at.

Seabourn Cruises: 0800 052 3841; www.seabourn.com Once the world's most exclusive cruise liner (priced at £500 a day), Seabourn is still luxurious but now more affordable.

SeaDream Yacht Club: 0800 783 1373; www.seadreamyachtclub.com Gorgeous little ships with room for only 100 passengers, it offers the ultimate in cruising.

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