Cruising: There's never been a better time to take to the high seas

A cruise offers the chance to enjoy a grand tour of exciting destinations without endless unpacking. Don't let recent events put you off these good-value holidays

What's the attraction?

The number of destinations you might visit in one trip, a high standard of accommodation and range of entertainment on board give a cruise pulling power. However, the cost of some might put you off – take a top suite with Cunard (0843 374 2224; cunard.com) on the Queen Mary 2 for the week-long crossing from Southampton to New York and you'll be looking at £12,139 a head. But there are more affordable options.

The sinking of the Costa Concordia marked a tragic start to the year and bookings have been hit: the rate of £100 per person per night has been typical, but some cruise firms are now selling at £80 or less.

Keep your eye out for deals. Costa Cruises (0845 351 0552; sww.costacruises.co.uk) is selling the 2 May 10-night Mediterranean departure on Costa Magica, taking in Palermo, Athens, Izmir, Rhodes, Malta and Marseille, for £699 – though you need to get yourself to Livorno, where it starts and ends (It's an easy hop to nearby Pisa). Or you can get a seven-night cruise of the Norwegian fjords on the Ryndam with Holland America Line (0845 351 0557; hollandamerica.co.uk) for £498 per person, departing Dover on 30 June and calling at Eidfjord, Alesund, Geirangerfjord and Bergen. And a seven-night cruise of Venice and the Greek isles with Norwegian Cruise Line (0845 201 8900; ncl.co.uk), is £541 per person, with flights from Gatwick.

 

In the mainstream

Britain's big, mainstream tour operators started selling their own cruises in 1994, but now only Thomson (0871 231 3243; thomson.co.uk) caters for the middle market, on a range of mostly smaller, older ships that are well regarded by their clientele. Prices also include all tips. The company has a seven-night Moorish Delights tour on Thomson Spirit, visiting ports including Casablanca, Gibraltar and Tangier, for £550 per person with flights from Gatwick to Palma de Mallorca on 12 May and full board.

 

Windows of opportunity

Make the most of limited-period special offers. Royal Caribbean International (0844 493 4005; royalcaribbean.co.uk) is running a "Don't Wait – Book Now" promotion until 30 April, including deals such as a seven-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Adventure of the Seas from £599 per person, including flights. Also until 30 April, MSC Cruises (0844 561 7412; msccruises.co.uk) has a special "second passenger for £1" promotion. Deals include a Mediterranean Pearls cruise for £759 for the first passenger – or £760 for two people – which equates to just £380 per person.

 

Join the club

Making repeat cruises with the same operator is the key to unlocking more benefits. Most run loyalty schemes, enrolling guests to encourage them to return and amass points for rewards such as priority access to upgrades. Princess Cruises (0843 373 0333; princess.com) includes reduced deposits and extra discounts on sailings among the benefits enjoyed by its Captain's Circle members. Current best deals to which these can be applied include a 12-night Grand Mediterranean cruise, departing Venice on 11 June, from £898 per person (flights extra).

 

Let me entertain you

Cruise lines are offering innovative ways to pass the time between ports, often for free or a small supplement. Some offer learning programmes featuring eminent speakers. Celebrity Cruises (0844 493 2043; celebritycruises.co.uk) offers language lessons. Passengers can also enjoy fine dining for as little as £5 to £30 at restaurants run by Michelin-starred chefs, for example Nobu Matsuhisa on Crystal. A four-night trip on P&O Ventura, departing Southampton for Zeebrugge, Le Havre and St Peter Port, costs from £449, with an extra £25 to dine in The White Room by Marco Pierre White.

 

Who said that?

"A life on the ocean wave." – Henry Russell.

"Cruising has two pleasures. One is to go out in wider waters from a sheltered place. The other is to go into a sheltered place from wider waters." – Howard Bloomfield, author.

"It isn't that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better." – Sir Francis Drake

 

Time is money

Cruise companies want their ships filled and early booking is often rewarded with the best deals. Crystal Cruises (020-7287 9040; crystalcruises.co.uk) has introduced "Book Now" fares, giving a two-month window to buy a 2012 cruise on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity at the lowest price available at that time. Booking your next cruise while you're still aboard is another way companies try to tempt travellers. It wins an extra 5 per cent discount with Oceania Cruises (0845 505 1920; oceaniacruises.com), knocking a further £44.95 off the £899 price of its 13 August 10-day cruise from Rome to Venice.

 

Look who's talking

Experts and celebrities frequently give talks on cruises. Florist Paula Pryke, who counts the actress Kate Winslet as a client, will be on Crystal Serenity in July (crystalcruies.com). Jean-Michel Cousteau, oceanographer and environmentalist, will speak and join guests on dives on four sailings in the South Pacific with Paul Gauguin Cruises (020-7434 0089; pgcruises.com). The ornithologist and wildlife expert Peter Holden will be with Saga Cruises (0800 096 0079; saga.co.uk). And award-winning TV director and producer Terry Hughes will sail with Silversea Cruises (0844 251 0837; silversea.co.uk) in December.

 

The generation game

Attempts to woo families are being met with value-added services that go beyond kids' clubs and discounts. P&O (0845 355 4444; pocruises.co.uk) admits children on board some of its sailings and has a free nursery from 6pm to 2am for under-fives. Disney Cruise Line (0800 028 3179; disneycruise.disney.go.com) has just launched its "World Moms Panel", where mothers from around the world offer advice about family cruises, with a specific section on budgeting. It offers seven nights cruising the Caribbean, departing Port Canaveral on 21 July for £4,463 per family of four sharing.

 

Insider information

"Consider what's going on in the rest of the world. Thanksgiving week is a really good time for Brits to travel to the Caribbean, because there's low-occupancy as Americans stay at home. And if you're trying to save money on a cruise and want to try a nicer ship than you might ordinarily afford, choose an unpopular route." Sue Bryant, UK contributing editor, Cruise Critic (cruisecritic.co.uk)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn