Welcome to Fine Travel’s Cruise Holiday Guide. In preparing this guide we’ve anticipated that you may be asking yourself one of these questions:
- I’ve worked with Fine Travel before; can you help me find and book my next cruise?
- Is a cruise the right kind of holiday for me?
- A cruise holiday is right for me, but how do I choose the right one?
- I already know I like cruises, but why should I work with Fine Travel for my next one?
Through this guide, and the connected articles we hope to answer your specific question (you can scroll down to the relevant section). If you have a question we haven’t answered, please contact us as we are only too happy to help.
Once you’ve thought about the style of cruise you prefer (be it contemporary on a large ship where you pay as you go, or luxury on a medium ship where everything is included), the next consideration is where to go. Your destination may dictate your options (for example a smaller ship may be more suitable for Antarctica where only a set number of guests are allowed on the ice) but generally your preferences around standard of cruise line, ship size and inclusions can be accommodated.
Australia's Kimberley Region
Australia's Kimberley region is one of the few close to home cruise options that has not been forced into a pause by Covid-19. Covered by the Australian Travel Bubble, New Zealanders who comply with the Western Australian and Northern Territory arrival requirements can join a voyage between Darwin and Broome (or the reverse). Unlike international cruise lines that are still waiting for approval to operate in Australian waters, Australian expedition cruise line Coral Expeditions is already operating in the region.
South Pacific and New Zealand Cruise Holidays
South Pacific cruises are extremely popular with increasing numbers of ships domiciled in or visiting our part of the world each year. Currently New Zealand's waters are closed to international cruise ships and therefore only New Zealand flagged ships operating in New Zealand waters can offer itineraries.
Once cruise ships return, voyages incorporating Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific can take in a quite remarkable variety of ports. Many of these itineraries allow you to see as much of the South Pacific as you like in one cruise or back to back voyages. An Australia/South Pacific Cruise can take you to many ports, depending upon your ship and sailing date. Some of the Australian and South Pacific cruises are now part of world cruise itineraries and can include fly/cruise options. (Image courtesy of Ponant)
Planning an Antarctica Cruise
Antarctica Cruises are an area of travel where experience and expertise are really important. It is a significant investment of time and money and therefore it is important to consider:
* The time of year to travel.
* The style of cruise that best suits you (more traditional expedition or “soft expedition”).
* Not all cruises go below the Antarctic Circle (so it’s important to choose the right itinerary).
* Smaller ships, carrying fewer guests, are more likely to spend more time in zodiacs and onshore.
* Pre-existing medical conditions (and how that may affect your ability to travel and your travel insurance).
At Fine Travel we work closely with the specialist cruise lines and local representatives to provide our clients with an Antarctica cruise itinerary to best meet their needs.
World Cruises and Sectors
Whether it is to mark a significant birthday, the sale of a business or the end of your working career, whatever the reason a World Cruise is a special way to celebrate. Settle in to your stateroom or suite and enjoy the experience of waking up to explore a new city almost every day ticking off your bucket list.
Join a World Cruise for its full duration (some over six months) or join a shorter (although still significant) World Cruise Sector. Fine Travel can assist with researching and booking World Cruise itineraries that suit your needs.
European River Cruises
Europe has so many navigable rivers that offer wonderful river cruise experiences that travellers are spoilt for choice.
The Danube is the key to river cruising in Europe as the great river crosses from Germany through Serbia, Austria and Hungary into Romania before emptying into the Black Sea. It offers the greatest range of river cruise itineraries.
The Volga river in Russia allows you to discover the stunning architecture and unique cultural heritage of Russia’s most interesting cities. Moscow and St. Petersburg, can be visited on a cruise that combines the Volga River, the Moscow Canal and other waterways... and many many more!
Mediterranean Cruise Holidays
For New Zealand travellers heading to the UK / Europe, a Mediterranean Cruise is one of the most popular inclusions in their itineraries. Each destination is a journey in and of itself. From small luxury cruise lines through to the impressive mega cruise ships, the number of cruise lines offer a variety of cruises. Select from the Greek Islands, Ancient Turkey, the Holy Lands or cruise the Western section and include Spain, France and Italy.
An extended Mediterranean cruise is simply a cruise vacation that combines ports from both the Western Mediterranean and the Eastern Mediterranean, typically beginning in Barcelona and ending in Greece or Turkey or of course in reverse.
Asia is a land of contrasts – the largest continent, the tallest mountains, the longest coastline and three-fifths the world’s population.
A cruise is a wonderful way to see the region which extends from Burma and Thailand in the west through Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore through to Vietnam and Cambodia, China and Japan. With this range of countries and cultures there is something for everyone to enjoy and learn from. Ancient temples, great statues, bustling cities, forests and wildlife are just some of the experiences to be enjoyed.
There are now cruise ships based in the region, predominantly in Singapore, that offer year round cruises. The Singapore cruises sail the Straights of Malacca up to Thailand or across the South China Sea to Vietnam and China. River cruises are increasingly popular too.
Scandinavia & Baltic Cruises
The Baltic Sea allows travelers to visit a range of Scandinavian and Baltic countries.
From the fairytale castles of Copenhagen to the gilded palaces of St. Petersburg, Scandinavia and Baltic Russia cruise ports reflect over two millennia of history. The memories of Teutonic knights and Hanseatic merchant kings and czars come alive through a montage of architectural and cultural achievements. Baltic cruises really do encompass a huge variety of cultures and history.
While many cruises just operate within the Baltic some also include a visit to the Norwegian Fjords.
South America Cruises
South America offers travellers a range of cruise destinations. From the glitter of Rio and Buenos Aires to the penguins and whales of the Straits of Magellan, to the Amazon, to the intriguing colonial history and South America is a destination of opposites, and one of the most exciting destinations in the world. With Air New Zealand’s direct flights from Auckland to Buenos Aires, a South American Cruise is more appealing than ever.
Major cruise lines visit this continent between September and March. For cruises that sail round Cape Horn this is the southern summer and in general cruise ships that do South American itineraries return to Europe or Alaska for the northern summer cruise season. Specialty cruises operate year round.
Cruises to the Amazon and the north of the continent depart from Ft Lauderdale, San Juan, Bridgetown, Rio or Buenos Aires. Additionally the longer cruises can start from as far away as Southampton or Los Angeles. Cruises around Cape Horn and on the east coast start from Valparaiso, Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro.
Prior to the global pause of the cruise industry brought on by Covid 19, cruise holidays were the fastest growing holiday segment. With a wide variety of cruise lines offering almost any itinerary you can think of, pretty much every holiday could be achieved by sea or on a river.
Deciding whether a cruise is the type of holiday for you will still require consideration of the pros and cons of this style of travel, but with the added requirement that when you find a cruise line that works for you, that you are comfortable with its health and safety response to Covid-19. Many require pre-departure testing and full vaccination, but some do not.
Waking Up in a New Port Each Day
If you want (or need) a holiday, but you are short on time to plan it (or don’t like getting into all the detail to ensure it will be memorable), a cruise itinerary is a carefully curated guided tour of a region or regions by sea or river. Many ships, especially expedition cruises, will have onboard experts giving talks before arriving in a new port and the cruise line will generally have pre-organised shore excursions so you can properly explore.
If you have a preconception that cruises involve a lot of overeating at buffets and lying by an overcrowded pool area, then choosing a cruise itinerary with a lot of shore days will be important for you.
Image courtesy of PONANT and photographer Olivier Blaud.
Running Out of Things to Do
A carefully chosen cruise itinerary that has lots of days in ports will generally address concerns that potential guests have about boredom.
If you are generally active and don’t like just sitting around on beach holidays, then a careful decision can be made between the much larger ships that have endless facilities and entertainment, mid-sized ships (generally in the premium and luxury space) and small ships (generally in the luxury and expedition space, where there is generally more time spent off the ship exploring than on.
Image courtesy of Silversea and photographer Luca Locatelli
With some limited exceptions, the starting point for deciding on whether a cruise is the right style of holiday for you is accepting that you will be at sea or travelling on a river and this brings with it the question of seasickness and motion sickness.
If you’ve been on a boat or ferry before, and haven’t been able to manage sea sickness, it is likely you will have the same experience on a cruise ship. The limited exceptions may be the very large Royal Caribbean ships where you have very little sense you are at sea. River cruises experience very little movement and may still appeal for a European holiday.
Meeting or avoiding new people
There is no escaping the reality that when on holiday different people want different levels of interaction with fellow guests. Some of us are eager to get to know where people are from and what brings them on holiday; others prefer their own company. Cruises can cater for both, however if you prefer your privacy a medium to large ship may afford the appropriate solitude.
Image courtesy of Regent Seven Seas
Like staying at a resort, once you are on a cruise ship you are a captive audience. If you prefer to stay in self-catering villas and “do your own thing”, then many cruises will not sit well, and you may find yourself resenting the experience. Interestingly some luxury cruise lines are mindful of this and operate on an all-inclusive basis – once you pay your cruise fare, there is nothing more to pay onboard, so you achieve the same freedom to do as you please.
Image courtesy of Ponant and photographer Francoise Lefebvre
Generally, cruises are priced on a per person twin share basis, but not everyone travels as a couple, and this is where Single Supplements come into play. A single supplement is effectively the payment made by a single traveller that is less than paying for two people to be in the cabin or suite.
Many cruise lines will offer single supplement specials shortly after a sailing is released, and therefore it is best to get in early. Once a ship fills the cruise line is more likely to require payment on a twin share basis.
Image courtesy of Viking Cruises
Finding the cruise line that aligns with your preferred style of travel can be the start of a lasting travel relationship. Considerations such as the size of the ships in the fleet, the service level (formal / luxury / casual), the onboard atmosphere, the selection of restaurants, the decor and even the mix of fellow passengers. We address three of the main main considerations below. (Image courtesy of Regent Seven Seas).
Choosing the right cruise for your holiday requires consideration of several factors, including: the cruise line (luxury or premium), cruise ship (small, medium, or large), type of stateroom (inside, outside or suite), length of itinerary, ports of call and, of course, budget.
Making the right decision will help you make the most of your time on and off the water.
Where to and for How Long
The first two considerations are where to go, and how long you want to go for. The common recommendation if you’re going on your first cruise is to take a shorter voyage – generally no more than 7 days. If it turns out that you don’t enjoy the experience (or if you get seasick), you aren’t stuck onboard for an extended period.
If you have a particular destination in mind (i.e. the destination is driving your holiday plans rather than the cruise), there will often be a range of shorter itineraries to choose from (and we can supply you with examples).
If trying your first cruise is your primary concern, then a close to home itinerary (around New Zealand / Australia / The Pacific) may appeal. If you’re heading to Europe, then a shorter Mediterranean cruise or European river cruise will be ideal starting points.
If you’ve been on a cruise before you may be ready to try a longer itinerary to a new destination or return to a destination to explore it more thoroughly. This is one of the areas we can help with research and recommendations.
Which cruise line suits you
The leading cruise lines generally have very high repeat cruise rates and like settling on your preferred airline for long-haul travel, once a guest finds the style of cruise that suits them, there is generally no need to change. Making that first decision can require a little trial and error. Thumbing through brochures to get a sense of the onboard styling and in some cases the specific statements the cruise line makes about what genuinely makes them different are good starting points.
At Fine Travel we primarily work with the luxury and premium cruise lines. We find they maintain a standard that resonates best with our clients while still providing sufficient variety.
Image courtesy of Viking River Cruises
Luxury & Premium vs. Mainstream
Everyone’s perception of luxury is different and unfortunately, it’s one of the most overused words in the travel industry. In many ways deciding whether you'd prefer a luxury / premium cruise line or a mainstream contemporary cruise line is similar to choosing between a hotel chain. If you stay in or prefer 5 star accommodation when on land, then you are likely to enjoy the same at sea.
The next question is what style of luxury do you prefer: more formal, white glove service, black tie dinners and a butler to unpack your suitcase, or a more casual environment, where quality is maintained to an exceptional standard, but delivered in a country club casual style.
In the mainstream cruise line space, the ships are often larger and more focussed on the on-board entertainment. These cruise lines tend to make headlines with passenger numbers equivalent to many New Zealand towns, and that often cannot berth in Auckland harbour. Think more of a busy resort with waterslides, rock climbing walls and endless restaurants and bars.
(Image courtesy of cruise line Regent Seven Seas)
Small, Medium or Large Ship
The decision between small, medium and large ships usually goes hand-in-hand with your preference between Luxury & Premium or Contemporary. Luxury and Premium cruise lines tend to operate small to medium ships (with some notable exceptions such as Cunard's fleet) and Contemporary cruise lines tend to have larger ships (such as Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises) focussed on entertainment options.
Small and medium ships are still significant vessels (think boutique hotel vs expansive resort) and generally offer itineraries that are more port focussed. Guests can spend time off the ship on shore excursions, exploring cities, towns and villages and soaking in the local culture (rather than perfecting the flying fox).
Larger ships will often have more sea days where time can be spent enjoying the entertainment onboard the ship. Guests can still spend time off the ship on shore excursions, however, the big draws include the many activities (everything from zip-lines to shuffleboard), dining experience, and live theatre and music.
(Image courtesy of cruise line Ponant).
All-inclusive or Pay-As-You-Go
Once you’re onboard your cruise there can be little avoiding the fact that you are a captive audience. Recognising that this can cause friction, some luxury and premium cruise lines endeavour to help guests relax into their holiday by pricing on an “all inclusive” basis.
All inclusive will mean different things between different cruise lines. For some, it includes everything, like tips and shore excursions. For others, shore excursions and tips may be an additional charge.
A final piece of advice is that sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised to find that a Luxury or Premium cruise line's itinerary will be more affordable than an equivalent Contemporary cruise line's itinerary once the additional onboard costs are factored in.
(Image courtesy of cruise line Silversea)
Cruise lines will generally take direct bookings through their websites and other travel agents also sell cruises. You may therefore be wondering whether Fine Travel is a good fit for you. This is a good question and is as important as finding the right cruise line. Working with a travel agent like Fine Travel should if in with how you like to manage your holidays.
Starting on the same page
Delegating your travel planning to someone is an important decision. Holidays are precious and often too short, so you want to make sure it is done correctly.
If you are looking to save yourself time by delegating the research, planning, and booking of your cruise holiday, our commitment is to start on the same page as you. Through our years of booking premium and luxury holidays, our aim is to add value to the process, and not for you to be bringing us up to speed.
Fine Travel is a member of Cruise Line International Association – Australasia (“CLIA”) and Fine Travel consultants invest their time in studying for accreditation levels as well as industry specific accreditations offered by prominent cruise lines like Silversea, Seabourn and Viking Cruises.
An independent voice
In an age of almost infinite information, a large degree of comfort can be obtained online before making a booking. What you will very rarely find is a cruise line, airline, or hotel that says: “Actually, we probably aren’t the best fit for you, you should consider one of our competitors”. This is the independent voice that we contribute to your planning. Our goal is to plan the right itinerary for you, not to push the agenda of a particular supplier.
A cruise itinerary will generally include other elements, such as open jaw airfares and pre and post accommodation. Even before the disruption of the pandemic, these are moving parts that need to be carefully managed. When planning your own holiday, compiling the printout with your airfares on it, matching them to the documents sent by the cruise line with your cruise dates and the printout from Expedia of your accommodation can be a frustrating exercise.
Fine Travel clients receive a single consolidated itinerary setting out all the required information. We will send this to you electronically, and we can also arrange for the documentation to be printed and collated in a traditional ticket wallet with luggage labels. Click here for an example itinerary.
One of the most frustrating things that our clients find about travel is having to make changes to their holiday. Whether they are forced by work, illness or Covid-19 border closures, making changes to a carefully curated holiday usually involves engaging with airline, cruise line and hotel chain call centres with varying degrees of knowledge and communication skills.
When you need to change an itinerary prepared by Fine Travel we take on the responsibility for making the changes. We can work directly within the airline reservations system and with trusted wholesale partners to smooth the process.