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Crafting a Memorable Holiday Part 3A : Cruise Holidays: Why, Who, What, Where and How

by | Nov 22, 2023 | Community, Lifestyle & Wellness, Lifestyle habits, Resources

As the year draws towards Christmas, it is also coming to the favourite time for most Singaporeans, Year End Holiday Season! Many of my friends and I over the years, have tried doing all sorts of tours: fully conducted tours, self-plan private tours, 100% free & easy (meaning: own time own target, no fix itinerary at all!), somewhat free & easy (planned destination but unplanned time), and my absolute favourite choice for some of the destinations: Cruise Holidays!

My first cruise (not those 3 days 2 nights gambling cruise), was when I was barely mid 20s, an age that most will not consider such type of holidays, because of the stigma attached: “Cruise is for the elderly who can no longer walk much to explore!”; “Cruise is so boring!”, “There is nothing to do on board the ship!”, “food is horrible!”, “it’s a gambling place!”.

I have to say, all these stereotypes had done true premium cruising much injustice… When I embarked on my first cruise, at the end of 7 days, I had enjoyed so much that I was telling my friends I felt like tying myself to the pillar so they will not chase me off the ship! 

Now that age has caught up, all the more cruise is becoming more favourable than the others, as I really want to spend most of my travelling time on what is more important: the destination, the time spend on it, the freedom to explore.

Let me share the 4 W and 1 H theory (yes I always use this method to analyse everything and anything): Why; Where; When; What and How.

 

Why Cruise:

Lets start with the “WHY” I choose cruising:

  1. Itineraries are fix and yet flexible.
  2. Time spent, both the total duration and hours on each place of interest/port of calls
  3. Time spent on “non activities”, aka moving from one place to another are minimized and incorporated into our R&R time
  4. You don’t have to keep changing hotels while “touring/cruising”
  5. Your meals and entertainment are provided but again, flexible
  6. Some destinations are best visited with cruising
  7. Most important: cruise ships are 100% wheelchair/walking aid friendly!

 

Allow me to do a simple illustration on the difference between various common types of tours. Bear in mind, there is no right or wrong type of holidays, only one that fits your budget, and meet your idea of what a holiday is. These are only some of the main considerations for most of us when it comes to choosing a holiday type:

1.   Itinerary 

Cruise holidays are what I call: choice of “best practice”, it has the benefit of a conducted tour where the places of visit are fixed (you can choose between 5, 7, 9 11/12 days cruise to over 100 days for a world cruise!), and they always visit to the most famous if not, iconic places of interest in any itinerary.

Credit: www.princess.com

 

Example 1: Princess Cruises 10 Day Grand Mediterranean Cruise

You can see that it visits a total of 6 ports in 10 days. Draw nearer to the detail itinerary:

The arrival and departure times in every port are from 8am to 6pm (give it 1 hour each for passengers to start alight and board so it is about 9am – 5pm out of the ship).

Next, lets move on to Royal Caribbean Cruise. They have a similar 9 Nights Mediterranean Cruise:

Credit: www.royalcaribbean.com

 

Example 2: Royal Caribbean (RCL) 9 Night Mediterranean Highlights Cruise. Take a look at the itinerary:

This cruise itinerary has 8 ports of calls, 2 more, for the same number of days. The arrival and departure times are about the same as Princess’. 

After looking at the itineraries, you should be able to notice 2 HIGHLIGHTS, which will take me to the 2 other points why I prefer cruise:

 

2.   (A) Total Duration 

Next, when a cruise indicates 7 days cruise, it literately means 7 FULL days (7 nights). If it states 7 nights, then it means 7 full nights, 8 days (which the disembarkation day is in the morning). Since most cruise-only itineraries do not include the land portion before and after, they only count the time you are on board. Almost all cruise start boarding around 11am – 1pm (they tend to sail off after 6pm), and they disembark from 9am to 1pm.You do get almost the full duration.

 

2.   (B) Time Spend at places of visit 

Did I tell you that, in almost all the ports of call, you get to disembark from the ship starting 9am (ship will arrive around 8am but give it some time to anchor and do the necessary arrangement), and you don’t need to be back to the ship until 5pm? This means, you have a full 8 hours out to explore. Whether you prefer to book a sightseeing tour from the cruise liner or do your own external tour, 8 hours is more than sufficient. In case you prefer to explore nearby, by all means! When age catches up, it is important for me to have more flexi time exploring, rather than rushing from one attraction to another. This is especially important if one is on walking aid, giving sufficient time to move around, take a rest as and when, is so crucial.

Your ports of calls are fixed, but you get to spend your day the way you want, tour the museum? Do a whale watching trip? Take a massage/spa? Or simply laze at a café on the streets of Rome. I have the opportunity to explore around some of the ancient cities where civilization starts from the port (where else? With water there will be settlements!), roam around the islands of Caribbean (with a mug of beer or a glass of Sangeria. Joking, more like grabbing a few bottles of freshly grinded Tabasco) and that fits me well.

 

3.   Travelling time from point to point 

This is one very important point to note, where most who shy away from cruise did not recognize: the ship sails off in the evening, when you have already explored the place, ready to go for your dinner, your show or your test of luck in the casino (yes some still prefer to hit the jackpot), to party or to rest. The journey goes on, towards your next destination, when all those are going on. You do not have to spend your time on the road in the day. You can get to view the night scene of the great ocean, instead of staring at the long and winding road otherwise.

This means, you waste no time on resting and travelling!! Moving from point to point is done in the night, when you are dining, partying, sleeping. Other than Alaska, where your attraction is on the waters, the only other time you will be “wasting” travelling time is when the ship crosses the sea/ocean. Then again, as the hotel moves with you, you are not confined to your seat, you have a whole 70,000 to 250,000 tonnes of space to move around

Compare it to a normal conducted tour where you had to travel on the coach in the daylight, more than 50% of your waking hours are spent travelling on the road. Your actual time at any of the places of interest is likely to be less than 2 hours. While if you have chosen self-drive, you may still spend a long time on the road, and you had to find your own way around.

 

4.   Your HOTEL moves with you 

Linking back to point (3), you journey on in the night, because your “Hotel” aka the ship, moves with you, instead of you travelling on a bus and resting in different hotel every night. This, is very attractive for those (me!) who do not like to pack and unpack. You get to stay in the same room for the whole duration, this, is a BIG PLUS to me. Who likes to jet set and move on to different hotel every night? I don’t… 

While many are worried about being confined to this “hotel” for 7 days or more, you actually don’t… Breaking up the 24 hours, you can spend about 7- 8 hours off the boat for excursions, another 5-7 hours sleeping (seriously, who sleeps when holidaying? But bear in mind, we are ONLY young at heart now, we do need some sleep….), 30 mins for breakfast (before alighting for your excursions), 1 hour for dinner (or longer? I was told by my Caucasian friends that Asians “eat very fast”… most of them spend 2 hours minimum on dinners LOL), we are only left with a few hours a day to explore the ship… Let me put the size in perspective: a typical 100,000 tonnes cruise ship is the length of 3 football fields, can park about 5 A380 planes, end to end. There are usually 7-11 decks of space.

Marina Bay Sands has 1,300,000 sq ft, out of which, 800,000 sq ft are the exhibition Centre, this works out to be about 500,000 sq ft of hotel room space and public space. Based on MBS’ fact sheet, the Sands SkyPark (which is the “ship” at the top) measure about the length of 3 football fields. Public space wise, this is rather similar.

Plus, both MBS and a 100,000 cruise ships have restaurants, casino, theatre, public walking space. The cruise ships tend to have more entertainment space including sports area, 3-5 swimming pools etc. 

So imagine having a MBS moving with you. This ain’t that bad… 

 

5.   Meals and entertainment are provided on board 

Yes, normal meals and entertainment are included in your cruise price, unless you have chosen specialty restaurants and decided to try your luck in the casino (gaming money is not part of the package…) If you decide to take your 5 course dinner in the grand ballroom, you can eat as much as you want. But if you want to try out at the specialty Fine dining Steak house, or the burger joint (if you have younger companions, you know what I mean…), the additional charge will always be spelt out clearly to you.

Let me share some of the cruise planners (activity pamphlet) I had from one of my previous cruises.

Credit: Royal Caribbean Cruise to Penang and Phuket

This is just one day of the cruise planner, and it was already filled with lots of activities. 

Credit: Princess Cruise Daily Planner

This is another example of the daily planner, for Princess Cruise’ Alaska itinerary. Bear in mind, this is a port calling day, aka most passengers will be out of the boat and on to the port, either to roam around or to take excursions. Yet, there are multiple activities available on board still. So, there is really very little reason why one will feel bored, if you like to explore… You have a choice, and you have a choice…

 

6.   Some places can only be reached by cruise 

No joke, there are places that the plane can’t take you. One of the most famous one, will be Alaska. Alaska is the 49th state of USA, with 3 major international Airports and limited flights goes there. Their most famous landmark: Glacier Bay National Park, can only be reached and viewed via ships…

 

7.   Cruise Ships are 100% wheelchair/walking aid friendly 

Remember I shared earlier about paying extra attention to fine prints when choosing your hotel, rooms etc if they are wheelchair friendly. If you are taking a cruise, worry no further. As far as I remember, almost every single cruise ship in the industry is wheelchair friendly, and they always have a few wheelchair enabled rooms on every floor/deck to cater to those who needed the extra space, without the extra cost. 

Credit: princess cruise website – wheelchair accessible ocean view rooms 
https://www.princess.com/deckPlans.do?shipCode=KP

 

Credit: Princess Cruise website – wheelchair accessible inside cabin 
https://www.princess.com/deckPlans.do?shipCode=KP

 

Sneaked in one photo of my lucky trial on Royal Caribbean Cruise, doing a run-of-room on one of my cruise bookings and got a wheelchair accessible room. Not small at all!

Public spaces are also very friendly to walking aid required passengers, unless you are trying out wall climbing, wave surfing and such, you probably do not need much help to roam around.

 

Grand Atrium at the Voyager of Seas under Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

One of the theatres on board Voyager of The Seas

 

Growing Needs would like to thank Ms Jeslyn Ho, who spent more than 50% of her time shuttling between cities over the past 25 years, for contributing to the article and sharing tips on travel for seniors.

About Growing Needs

About Growing Needs

Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.

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