Planning your first cruise – Where to go and what to do

Planning your first cruise - Where to go and what to do

Planning your first cruise might seem like a daunting prospect but taking a systematic approach will pay dividends. Turning what might initially appear to be the less fun part of the process into an exciting and fun component of the holiday, proper planning allows you to remember that the world really is your oyster, when it comes to cruising.

If you’re lucky, you may already have a recommendation from a friend or family member as to which cruise company to use, or you might have a list of sights you absolutely want to see. These are great starting points for your planning, but the overall cost of the voyage may also play an important part in the decision-making process, as well as a myriad of other things. If you want to leave the kids with their grandparents or they have long flown the nest, for example, then an adult only cruise is an option you might not have thought about before.

Although the Caribbean might sound romantic and a cruise to Antarctica to join the penguins or watch for whales would be special, many UK holidaymakers choose somewhere closer to home, to test the cruising waters.

While there are a number of cruises which leave from Southampton, you may have to take a short flight to join your ship. Take Marella Cruises as an example, as some of their fleet have Naples as their home port.

What better place to climb onboard your ship than the Mediterranean Sea, the cradle of civilisation according to the United Nations. With towns and cities from Gibraltar to Palma and Lisbon to Athens all being known as buzzing cultural and culinary melting pots, there’s a lot to discover and enjoy.

Where to go

Gibraltar, a towering limestone edifice, with its familiar red post boxes, is a sunshine home from home for the thousands of British holidaymakers who visit each year.

  • The top attractions are:
  • The British War Memorial, erected to commemorate the Great War.
  • The Moorish Castle, part of the medieval fortifications.
    Gorham’s Cave Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Barcelona is a wonderful seaside city, with bags of culture and striking Gaudi architecture. Although steeped in history, the city is a vibrant and fun place to visit and boasts a reputation for serving some of the best food in the whole of Spain.

The top city attractions are

  • The Sagrada Familia, the hugely inspiring Unesco World Heritage site designed by Gaudi.
  • For football lovers, Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium is an iconic place to visit.
  • The Picasso Museum houses some of the modern master’s earlier works of art.
  • The Gothic Quarter, the beating heart of the city, is crammed with historic gems and wonderfully intimate bars and restaurants.

Dubrovnik, with its spectacular location overlooking the Adriatic, is Croatia’s most upmarket destination, so it should come as no surprise that it’s an immensely popular port of call for cruise ships.

It’s little wonder that George Bernard Shaw said, “Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik.” Sitting with a coffee at a Strada pavement café, it’s easy to understand where Shaw was coming from.

The top city attractions are

  • The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a truly magical place to explore.
  • For foodies, the city has some surprises in store, so don’t leave town without trying the green stew, dirty macaroni or black risotto.

Of course these are only a select few examples of the many places a cruise ship will drop anchor. With this in mind, it’s worth getting out your map and plotting your preferred course.

What to do

A commentator once noted, “You are surrounded by endless possibilities.” Well, cruising is a bit like that, at least the dilemma of what to do on a cruise is!

There is, of course, the aforementioned sightseeing to take on. The exploration of some of Europe’s most magnificent cities, their history, culture and cuisine makes for exciting port days.

Food is an important part of the holiday experience and cruise ships will have a number of restaurants and bars to tempt you. Don’t be surprised if you find 10 or more eateries on some larger ships.

Entertainment ranges from discos and ballrooms to extravagant theatre shows, with productions that look like they have just been plucked from the West End. Add lectures,cookery lessons, cinemas, gyms, spas, swimming pools, casinos and kid’s clubs and you begin to understand the concept of endless cruising possibilities.

Of course, cruise holidays are popular all year round but it’s not so easy to find elegant swimwear styles during the winter months. At UK Swimwear you can find designer swimwear all year round. They also have a beautiful selection of beach cover-ups to take you gracefully from deck side to poolside.

Planning your own itinerary, in line with what is offer on your chosen liner, is all part of the fun and something that every member of your travelling party can get involved with too.

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