Quite a few of our friends seem to be booking themselves on cruises rather than going on Intrepid Journeys these days.

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Quite a few of our friends seem to be booking themselves on cruises rather than going on Intrepid Journeys these days. Maybe it’s because we’re all getting a little older, are past roughing it and feel we deserve to be pampered.

We haven’t ourselves succumbed to a cruise yet as we’d rather spend less time travelling and longer at each destination. And we like to be independent and flexible. But right now, as the Christmas rush is upon us the thought of lying on a deckchair away from it all on a cruise ship is very appealing.

Our friends have really enjoyed the experience. There was only one exception.

“Our grumpy old father in law shouted us a cruise and having paid all our expenses expected to be entertained. He managed to make our lives a misery throughout the journey.”

Most loved the fact that once they had unpacked their suitcases all the food and entertainment was laid on for them and they cruised to often exotic locations

However people who went on the same cruise could have very different experiences. One of our friends was accompanied by her grown-up daughter on an 11 day Pacific Cruise.

“It was a smaller cruise ship than others I had previously cruised on and there was no need to dress up. I really enjoyed joining in the activities and shopping on board. There were some great bargains. I had a lovely holiday.”

But another friend who went on a similar Pacific cruise with her extended family was less impressed.

“The cabins were not as spacious as they appeared to be on the brochure. I thought that they may have been Photo shopped. The liner looked a bit tired and in need of a spruce up. And it was disappointing to find there were no stimulating lectures (except for a few talks by the ship’s doctor on topics like Botox which don’t interest me). I am not one for the hi de hi activities. It surprised me that I had to pay extra for a good cup of coffee. ”

On the positive side the food was good and she enjoyed the days onshore visiting some remote Pacific islands and learning something about their culture. Best of all the staff were friendly and helpful.

Cruising can be a great option for solo travellers. One of our friends went on her own for a two month cruise to London on a small Discovery Ship (The sister to the Love Boat).

“There were only 600 passengers and I thinks this was better than the huge number of passengers that travel on some cruise ships I made a lot of new friends and still keep in regular touch with them.”

“We set sail to places I would never have tried to travel to on my own with stops at places like Easter Island. When they reached Pitcairn the seas were too rough to make a landing but a group of Pitcairn islanders came on board to entertain us. I also loved the Panama Canal and old Panama City and visiting ports in South America. Each time the ship landed I could just put a handbag over my shoulder and go and explore.”

One of my sisters went (on what by cruising standards was as an extreme adventure) on a small cruise ship to Antarctica. It was an amazing experience.

“Our first landing was on Cape Lookout where I was overwhelmed to be surrounded by penguins in their thousands and huge elephant seals. The most amazing thing was that I was able to be within touching distance of all the wildlife-the penguins just marched past us on their way to the sea or were sitting upright feeding and taking care of their chicks.”

“At one point of our journey we had a rare sighting of a pod of Orca Whales as well as humpbacks and Minke whales. One afternoon we had a wonderful cruise through an Ice Berg Alley where we were in amongst large numbers of towering icebergs, so close we could almost have touched them. There were leopard seals diving around the boats or lazing on some of the flatter bergs.”

“As there were only 100 passengers on board we were all able to get off at every proposed landing while on the larger boats people are allocated time off the boat on set days. The rules governing Antarctica state that only 100 people are allowed on a site at any one time.”

Perhaps the most important thing I have discovered about cruising from others’ experiences is that it pays to think carefully before booking and to find out what exactly is on offer on a particular cruise ship and decide where you would like to go. Because once you’re on board there is no escape! Choosing wisely should ensure a memorable journey.