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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
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

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

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

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home