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Lifes a Cruise

Cruises aren’t just for the retired or the super-wealthy. There are a wide range of trips to choose from nowadays to suit different people and different budgets

Ask most people what images the idea of a cruise conjures up and you’ll probably get answers along the lines of ‘silver-haired couples spending a few weeks around the Caribbean to celebrate a wedding anniversary.’

It’s a shame that the perception of a cruise holiday has not changed in accordance with the fact that cruises today cater for almost every type of traveller in every age group.

In fact, cruising is one of the fastest-growing travel markets and now commands over 5% of the outbound package holiday market in the UK, rising by 4% in 2005 to include 1.07 million passengers. Also, contrary to public opinion, the Caribbean is not the top destination. Statistics from the European Cruise Council show that only 24% of European cruises taken in 2005 were around the Caribbean while a whopping 60% of people soaked up the sun around the Mediterranean. Northern Europe is also gaining in popularity year-on-year, and in 2005, accounted for 16% of the cruise market.

If these stats have got you thinking about taking to the ocean, we reveal some of the different types of cruise holidays on offer….

Budget/first timer cruises
You don’t have to take a three month sabbatical from work to start cruising. You can travel for as little as three days by taking a mini-cruise just to find out what it’s like. And a holiday on water needn’t cost the earth. You can actually get very good value for money. As most trips tend to be all-inclusive, once you’re aboard your chosen ship, you won’t have to keep dipping into your wallet or running to the nearest exchange bureau. Meals and on-board entertainment are invariably included and many tour operators actively discourage tipping. So no need to pack that money belt!

The short trips can be a good way for single people to travel too and some operators do cater especially for the unattached.

One to try A short ‘fly cruise’ with Ocean Village which operates the cruise ‘for people who don’t do cruises’. A six-night trip for two people around the Med will set you back around £475 per person. Cost includes direct flights from the UK to the destination country, transfers to and from the ship, accommodation, buffet dining and a whole variety of on-board entertainment.

For more information Visit www.oceanvillageholidays.co.uk/ or www.europeancruisecouncil.com/

Family cruises
Although the average age of the UK cruiser is 55, it has been steadily falling, partly due to the increase in families with young children taking up the idea.

A growing number of operators are catering for young families, and although a lot more work needs to be done to really haul this group away from land-based breaks, family cruises can be relaxing and fun-packed.

Many ships have three and four berth cabins, as well as interconnecting cabins, and most family cruise providers include a host of shore-based activities designed for children up to the age of 17.

One to try A Costa Cruise. The ships provide daily and evening entertainment from treasure hunts to Latin dance classes for children aged three to 17, supervised by qualified staff. Most also include specific areas for children – such as swimming pools and slides – to ensure your kids don’t get bored as soon as you board. Costa also offers a complimentary babysitting service until 1:30am for young children and teens so parents can really let their hair down.

For more information Visit www.discover-cruises.co.uk or email info@discover-cruises.co.uk or call 020 7436 2449.

Personal luxury cruises
If luxury is what you’d like, the top end of the cruise market is hard to beat. Luxury is, in fact, everywhere from the moment you are welcomed on board and shown to your suite. There was a 12% rise in the numbers of UK travellers booking luxury cruises in 2005. With such a trip likely to set you back by at least £200 per night, it’s the kind of break to be considered for a special occasion.

One to try A Hebridean International Cruise. There is a choice of two (small) five-star luxury cruise ships – Hebridean Spirit, which ventures to the Arctic Circle, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean, the unexplored Baltic and Mediterranean islands ­– and Hebridean Princess, which sails the coast of Scotland and Ireland. Venturing from your spacious, well-appointed Hebridean Spirit cabin, you’ll discover beautiful public rooms and open decks, each one tempting you to stay a while, relax and anticipate the voyage ahead. Each cruise is all-inclusive and near to a one-to-one ratio of guest to staff member ensuring unrivalled personal service. Prices range from £1,300 per person for a seven-night Hebridean tour to just over £4,000 per person for a 10-night Arabian Nights tour.

For more information Visit www.hebridean.co.uk

Join the club
Right, so now you’ve decided you definitely want to go on a cruise, how do you go about it? You can spend hours trawling through brochures or internet sites, but it may be easier to pick up the phone and speak to Richmond Travel’s Cruise Club.

It offers a huge selection of cruises to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Atlantic Isle, Fjords, Baltic Capitals and New York, to name but a few. Choose from a four-night cruise to a fabulous round-the-world trip.

The friendly staff will help to find the right cruise for your needs whatever your age – you can even have a trip tailor-made for you. As the Cruise Club regularly receives special offers and discounts from major cruise liners, savings of up to 50% can be passed on to customers. For more information, call 01624 621770 or email sales@richmondtravel.co.uk or visit www.richmondtravel.co.uk

WE TRIED IT!

‘We were amazed to find people of all ages on our cruise’

Mr and Mrs Rowlands, live in Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire and have enjoyed three different cruises in the last ten years

‘We first got bitten by the cruise bug back in 2003 when we booked a trip to Alaska on a Celebrity Cruise liner to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had a fabulous time, and since then, my husband and I have been cruising every year. Initially we thought cruising was for retired people over the age of 70 but we were amazed to find people of all ages enjoying the experience. We met really nice people on our Alaskan Cruise from Vancouver and have kept in touch with our friends.

‘We also had a great time on a short cruise on board the Queen Mary 2 around France and the Channel Islands. Cruising is an ideal option for us as it gives us an opportunity to visit many places in one trip and we also thoroughly enjoy the luxury offered by a cruise liner, especially when we have formal dinners during some of the evenings. Last year we went to the Caribbean for a 12-night cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. It was just perfect.!’

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