Ahoy matey! Having just come back from a lovely cruise around Croatia, Greece and Montenegro I’m still in an upbeat holiday mood. I know the the post-holiday blues are coming, but rather than moaning about it, I wanted to share my cruise experiences as it seems many of you want to try one!

Cruises are just for old people: Not true! The age range can depend on which cruise line you go on and from which European city you leave from, but I’ve always found there is a good mix. Granted the average age on our last ship was around 50, but this shouldn’t put your off. There is plenty to do whatever age you are, from a late night disco, climbing wall & outdoor activities, a range of bands in pubs, daily quizzes, dancing, water activities and even a cinema. 

You will get claustrophobic onboard all week: Not true! I would happily stay on board and relax all week, but my last cruise was my boyfriend’s first so I wanted to make sure we made the most of the stops. We spent three days on-board and four days off, so it broke up the week well. One stop was Corinth (for Athens) and it was a bit of an operation to get there thanks to the Greek infrastructure and the heat, so to be honest, we were delighted to stay on the next day and relax. Some ports can be a bit scruffy so you mightn’t want to spend all day there, but there are usually a few shops, tourist spots and a place to get a coffee so you can at least get on land for a while – even just to say you’ve been there!

You could gain half a stone in a week: This could be true! Many people actually go on cruises for the food! I can well believe it as scheduling in chances to eat actually becomes part of your daily routine! Unlike other holidays you might have brekkie, lunch and dinner, on a cruise you can have these, plus tea break, afternoon tea, and evening supper before bed.  Thank heavens for the gym or we would have to be rolled off the ship! There really is a menu for everyone and I like the fact that there are formal restaurants and more casual dining. Some cruises I’ve been on don’t give you the option to change from the same table all week which can be annoying, but in the main they offer casual dining, which means you can sit wherever.  There is always a ‘paid’ restaurant or two which charge you extra for your meal. I booked this a few times in the early days, but to be honest I don’t think it’s worth it. It can be pretty pricey and as the food is so good in the other restaurants I think it’s a waste. Maybe if you have a special occasion you could try it if you want a night with extra pizzazz!

The Drinks Package is Great Value: In my experience I didn’t really think it was good value so I don’t book it anymore. I found that I was drinking just for the sake of it rather than because I wanted to. It’s not great value if you’re planning to head off the ship during the day either. Even on a drinks package you might need to pay a bit extra for premiere brands or if you’re fussy about nice wine like me. We bought a litre bottle of spirits from the shop onboard for £12 and drank it on the ship, which was a cheap alternative than buying the same drink directly from the bar.

Booking Further in Advance is Cheaper: Unlike airline seats, booking a cruise months in advance does not necessarily mean it will be cheaper. Based on the last three cruises I’ve been on, booking about two months before travelling has worked out the most cost effective. But don’t quote me on it! It’s a gamble, just keep checking the price and be ready to pounce when the price comes in within your budget. I’ve also found that booking from cities outside Northern Ireland is cheaper than leaving from Belfast – for example from Gatwick or Manchester.

You should always book shore excursions with the ship: Not true! We made our way around Montenegro, Greece & Croatia independently and enjoyed brilliant excursions, which were a lot cheaper than if we booked with the cruise company. I’m not going to lie it can be a bit scary if you’re running late and are worried about making the departure time, but if you’re away early and have your research, you should have plenty of time before the ship sets sail-usually around 6pm.

You Always Have to Tip Onboard: I’ve been on a few cruise lines and the tipping policy is different for them all. Some will be included in the price of your holiday and some will be an added extra. My advice is check before you travel to settle your mind. It can be a bit awkward sorting out tips, but don’t let it ruin your trip.

A cruise holiday is a great way to visit interesting cities and spend just enough time there to give you a flavour as to whether you want to go back again. The staff are always amazing, the food choice is great and the entertainment (although it can be a bit cringy) is good enough to get you in the holiday spirit! And if you need a tour guide to help you get your sea legs, I’ll keep my passport on standby! 

Spotting local hidden gems from the world of beauty, health, fashion, tourism and hospitality. I have my ear to the ground (quite literally) to keep you up to date about the new or interesting products and services from our neck of the woods. If you know one – get in touch @GSpotsBlog or grainne@gspots.biz