If you’ve never taken a cruise before it is easy to be put off by outdated notions of float and bloat. But there’s so much more to do on board than eat and sit by the pool. Nowadays there’s a great choice of cruise styles that will suit almost everyone, whether you like sightseeing in vibrant cities, exploring remote corners of the earth, brushing up your history, splashing in water parks, dancing the night away or just reading in a deckchair, to the sound of the waves.
Dip a toe in the water
Taking a type of holiday you haven’t tried before is a big investment of time as well as budget. Before you book a long voyage, you could test out your sea legs on a mini-cruise, such as a P&O’s (0843 373 0111; pocruises.co.uk) no-fly, three-nighter from Southampton. Sailing away on 4 April, family-friendly Azura will dock in Zeebrugge to visit Bruges and have a day at sea to try the ship’s spa, gym, pools, kids’ clubs and lounges, from £299 per person.
The new “Enjoyment Promise” from Fred Olsen (0800 035 5242; fredolsencruises.com) is also an attractive prospect. New customers who book a cruise of seven nights or longer by 28 February and more than 14 weeks before departure, will be flown home if they decide the holiday is not for them within 48 hours of sailing. Destinations include Scandinavia, the Adriatic and the Canary Islands. Fares start at £629.
Go off the beaten track
Explore the ancient rock art of the Kimberley on Australia’s rugged, tropical north east coast, land on pristine beaches and look out for crocodiles and sea eagles on a 10-day voyage aboard new luxury expedition ship Silver Discoverer (0844 251 0837; silversea.com) from Darwin to Broome. The cruise departs 13 April and costs from £6,650 excluding flights.
Greenland, the world’s largest island, has only 90 miles of roads – so the best way to explore is by boat. Follow the route of the Vikings sailing from Iceland to Southern Greenland aboard Norwegian ship the Fram (020 3582 6642; hurtigruten.co.uk). Sail among the towering icebergs of Illulissat, see the glaciers spitting them out, visit Old Norse remains and gasp at the beauty of the fjords. The trip departs Reykjavik on 4 June for 11 nights and costs from £4,565pp with flights.
Bring on the bling
Prepare to be be dazzled by mega-ship MSC Preziosa (0844 561 1955; msccruises.co.uk), with sweeping, glass staircases inlaid with Swarovski crystals and Murano glass chandeliers. More OTT features are Vertigo, the fast, twisty waterslide swinging out over the side of the ship; and a 4D cinema. Seven-night Eastern Mediterranean cruises from Venice, sailing April to November cost from £529 without flights.
Go chic and boutique
Sleek new ship Le Soleal (0800 980 4027; en.ponant.com), which accommodates a maximum of 264 passengers, is neat enough to get into smaller, less visited ports. There is a private yacht-club feel, with an open-sided bar, alfresco dining; teak decks and smart sun beds around the pool. Shipmates will be mostly French-speaking couples. A seven-night round trip from Venice to Croatia, departing 28 August, costs from €2,786, excluding flights.
Broaden your horizons
A two-week cruise from Istanbul to Venice focuses on Byzantine art and architecture with Voyages to Antiquity (0845 437 9737; voyagestoantiquity.com). Byzantine expert Robin Cormack will be giving lectures and joining tours ashore. It departs 28 July and costs from £2,345 with flights.
Former ambassador to Norway, Sir Richard Dales, will be giving insights into modern Norwegian culture and politics on the “Scandinavian Spring” itinerary with Swan Hellenic (0844 417 1939; swanhellenic.com). The 12-night round trip from Portsmouth departs 28 April and costs from £1,980.