Choosing the right cruise for your holiday requires consideration of a number of factors, including: the choice of cruise line (luxury or premium), cruise ship (small, medium or large), type of stateroom (inside, outside or suite), length of itinerary and ports of call. Making the right decision will help you make the most of your time on and off the water.
Popular destinations like Antarctica, Alaska, the Australian Kimberley region and the Galapagos have specific seasons (and different experiences within seasons) so it's important to plan ahead. For our Fine Travel clients, we are independent of the cruise lines and therefore can impartially assist you in navigating these factors. By working with our specialist wholesale partners, or directly with the cruise line, we aim to help you find the most suitable cruise for your needs. As a full service travel agency we can also assist with airfares, pre and post cruise accommodation, travel insurance, and interpreting immigration requirements.
Luxury & Premium vs. Contemporary
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 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 Contemporary cruise line space, the ships are often larger and more focussed on the on-board entertainment. These contemporary 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 Silversea)
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)
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 Silversea)
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.