Book a berth to suit your style and personality, writes Tiana Templeman.
River or ocean, large or small ship, around New Zealand or overseas: it's not surprising that choosing a cruise has some travellers feeling all at sea.
Every cruise offers delicious food from dusk until dawn and seemingly endless onshore and on-board entertainment options. However, they tend to differ when it comes to style and personality, as well as the kind of passengers they attract. It all comes down to choosing the cruise that's right for you.
While international destinations such as the Mediterranean often come to mind when New Zealanders think of cruising, it can be hard to beat a sailing closer to home. You don't have to learn a new language and there is no need to get your head around unfamiliar foreign currencies. Local itineraries tend to be cheaper too. Ocean cruises are available year-round in New Zealand, but you will find the biggest and best choice of ships during peak cruise season, which runs from October to April.
Whether you're planning an ocean cruise in New Zealand or overseas, an industry-wide increase in ship sizes means you will probably find yourself on board an activity-packed mega-ship such as Ovation of the Seas sooner rather than later. These are great fun but choosing the right cabin is essential.
Guarantee staterooms (where the cruise line allocates your cabin) might save money but you don't want to leave your on-board accommodation choice to chance on these ships. If you end up at the far end of a mega-ship, you could find yourself literally walking for miles.
River cruises are popular with those heading overseas, and they're not limited to Europe. The Mekong in Vietnam, the Nile in Egypt and the mighty Amazon are ideal for adventurous cruisers who enjoy more active shore excursions and getting off the beaten track. Don't rule out taking the family either.
Many Asian and European river cruise lines offer family sailings for those travelling with kids.
Keep an eye out for the Early Booking Deals, which are regularly available on river cruise lines. These offer excellent savings and often include free return flights from Australia. While a river cruise can initially seem more expensive than an ocean cruise, sometimes the cheapest deal is not necessarily the best value. With complimentary excursions included at every port and everything from wine to laundry included in the many fares, a river cruise can be a surprisingly cost-effective holiday.
Booking early can be a good idea but significant savings are also available for people, such as retirees, who can travel at short notice. With thousands of cruise ship cabins to fill around the world, there is sure to be one to suit you at some point during the season. Keep a close eye on trips with good availability, particularly as the departure dates gets closer, as these are prime candidates for deep discounting.
If you have always wanted to try a luxury line such as Cunard, but your holiday budget is smaller than your love of the finer things in life, you can always take a mini-cruise. These can be as short as two nights or extend to four nights. While a long cruise is always a pleasure, there is also something to be said for boarding a cruise for a good time, not a long time.
Do you have a cruising question for Tiana? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with "Cruise" in the subject line.