Travel expert Katrina Cole tells Stephanie Holmes there is a cruise to suit every taste
We're mid-way through Cruise Month and if you haven't already been inspired to book yourself on a cruise holiday, our guest on the new episode of Travel podcast Trip Notes is set to change your mind.
Katrina Cole, director of House of Travel's Botany Junction store, has worked in the travel industry for 38 years and been on 13 cruises around the world.
In our new episode, available from today on iHeartRadio or wherever you get your podcasts, Cole gives her best tips and tricks for cruising, and some of her favourite cruise memories over the years.
Here are just some of her top tips to get started . . .
Advice for first-time cruisers
If you think you won't like cruising, think again. "There's a cruise for everybody and every budget," Cole says.
Her trick is to think about the last land-based holiday you had that you loved, and why you enjoyed it. Then "just transpose that on to the sea". So, if you love a big resort holiday full of different entertainment, dining and bar options, you'll probably enjoy a big-ship ocean cruise. If you went to an adults-only resort, you'll want to find a ship where kids aren't allowed. If you enjoy meandering through European villages, a river cruise might be for you.
"There are different ships and different lines that cater for different needs," she says. "The key is making sure that your first cruise is a good cruise."
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Think about your budget
Cruising is actually a very cost-effective way to travel, especially if you can cruise close to home and rule out the cost of an airfare. Although you might feel like you're spending a lot when you book your cruise, once you're on board you'll find you don't spend much at all.
Cole says when you break down the cost of a cruise, it can work out anywhere between $200 to $1000 a day, depending on what kind of ship you're booking, and how far you're travelling. "But that includes your accommodation, your meals, in some cases all your alcohol, your entertainment, shows . . . it is a really effective way to travel," Cole says. She advises that when you're booking, "rather than just looking at the bulk price, look at what the inclusions are. It really makes a difference".
Don't believe the myths
Think you're going to be stuck on a cruise, surrounded by people you don't like? Cole says that's unlikely to happen. "What we find with cruises, is that the people are really well travelled," she says. "The reality is, there are so many personal spaces, different spaces, that you don't really feel like you're on a ship with thousands of people. There's lots to do, lots of things to see.
Some places are now off limits . . .
Cruising used to be a great way to get to Cuba, a country that was hard to get to by air because of restrictions on flying through America. But unfortunately it seems this option is now temporarily out, too - in June, President Trump's administration announced a ban on cruise travel to Cuba from the United States, effective immediately. The new restrictions affected nearly 800,000 passenger bookings, according to a statement from industry group Cruise Lines International Association. Cruise lines are now having to find alternative ports to visit on itineraries that planned to call in Cuba.
But there are many other destinations to see . . .
Cruising is a huge growth market for the travel industry, and while old favourites like Barcelona, Budapest and Bora Bora are still popular, there are other destinations seeing increasing popularity.
"Japan is huge at the moment for cruises," says Cole. "There are a lot of cruise lines doing Scandinavia, up the Norwegian coast. Iceland is really big, as is Greenland, and all round that area. The Arctic Circle is huge, as well as the Antarctic, and going into places like Churchill and seeing the polar bears."
But it pays to book early
"You can get a good last-minute deal if you're prepared to wait and take a chance," says Cole. "But we've got cruises now booked up for 2021. If you want a specific cabin type, or specific cruise, you have to book [in advance]." This advice is particularly true for niche destinations, or places with limited availability, like expedition cruises to Antarctica. "If you want to ensure that you get on a particular cruise, you need to book as soon as you can."
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For more travel inspiration, go to houseoftravel.co.nz.