Walter from our Commercial Team and Rico from our Sales Team were lucky enough to go onboard Hurtigruten for a Norwegian adventure, here's how they got on...
Hurtigruten, as the name suggests, is a fast route along Norway's coastline. As a working post ship, these ships fly a split flag, a requirement for all ships delivering mail. You get a sense of this when the ship occasionally docks for only 15 minutes delivering mail to these remote fishing towns. Other stops are considerably longer to allow for sightseeing and excursions. The ease with which these ships dock and depart from each port with minimum fuss took me by surprise. Onboard announcements are made in Norwegian, English and German. Whilst day to day sailing through this region is one breath taking view after the next the overall experience is authentically Norwegian including a ceremony on the open deck where shot of schnapps are raised with the ships horn marking the crossing at the Arctic Circle.After announcing the launch of a new programme to source local Norwegian foods, Hurtigruten offer freshly prepared salmon sashimi on the open deck, a welcome accompaniment to the majestic surrounding scenery of waterfalls, snow capped mountains and natural wildlife.
The impeccable service, friendly & helpful staff and finest locally sourced cuisine served onboard Hurtigruten stand as proud testament to this great Norwegian brand. If in any doubt , rest assured that a place of honour in the reception area is reserved on the entire fleet of the official portraits of His Majesty King Harald (in Admiral uniform) and Her Majesty Queen Sonja - keeping an eye on the proceedings onboard.
The Northern LightsIt's not surprising that due to their unpredictability, a great deal of mystery surrounds the Northern Lights, ultimately the prevailing scientific explanation for this natural phenomena is nonetheless interesting and enlightening. Taking memorable photos of the Northern Lights takes some preparation - Hurtigruten supply a flyer onboard with tips and detailed guidelines on how to set your digital camera to take the best pictures. There is much to explore and experience in this largely unspoilt natural wonder beyond the Arctic circle. My suggestion is to go for the destination - the Northern Lights will be an added bonus.
Dog SleddingFinding yourself on the back of a sled attached to a pack of huskies must be the quintessential winter experience. Alaskan Huskies are harnessed in prescribed formation. Lead, racing, team, wheel and swing dogs - each with their own specific task working as a team lead by the verbal commands of their musher. A reminder of the partly lost role of mans loyal working companion providing an efficient means of transport across this otherwise impassable wilderness. Avid mushers compete in dog sled races and share interesting stories of their arduous feats of this winter dog sport.
Bidos - a traditional Sami dinner is served after the Dog Sledging excursion. Reindeer herding is still central to Sami culture and crucial to their subsistence providing meat, fur and transportation. So it comes as no surprise that Bidos is reindeer stew accompanied by a broth made from the same meat and vegetables.
Cruising is the travel success story of the 21st century and it's not surprising more people are converting to the cruise addiction every year. It is estimated that one in three new cruisers say they will never take a land holiday again.
I had never set foot on a cruise ship until I went to work onboard so the whole experience was completely new for me and since then I have never been on a land holiday.
So if you've never taken a cruise and wondering what all the hype is about here is my guide to first time cruising.
Is cruising for me?
The simple answer is yes! With more ships being built every year, the options are endless and there is a cruise to suit everyone.
Why is cruising so great?
One of the biggest attractions is having everything right on your doorstep as you travel the world, including:
Entertainment: from Broadway shows and acrobatic shows to jazz bars and kareoke.
Food: numerous restuarants with tastes from around the world, often including celebrity chefs.
Bars: chic champagne lounges, ice bars and old English pubs
Activities: from surf simulators to TV game shows
Leisure facilities: world class spas and services
With almost everything included in the price, cruising is fantastic value for money. If you choose a cruise and compare it with the price of a land holiday (taking into account flights, transfers, food, accomodation, activities etc) I guarantee that cruise will win hands down for value for money.
Travelling to multiple destinations and unpacking once is a huge advantage of cruising. No other holiday can offer you this and with no luggage allowance you can take as much as you want. Could you imagine falling asleep in Australia and waking up in Fiji? Or visiting seven different countries in as many days?
The truth behind those cruising myths
Although the cruising industry has changed significantly there are still numerous myths circulating that may put people off...so let's put to rest some common misconceptions...
Cruising is not suitable for young people: This could not be further from the truth. Cruise lines cater for everyone and have rapidly grown to become one of the most popular holiday choices for families and young couples. However, choosing the right cruise line for you is important as some lines do tend to attract certain age groups. It has been revealed that the average age of people cruising is 50 years old and the average age of a first time cruiser is 37 years old.
I will be bored: There is no possible way you can find yourself bored on a cruise ship. Whether you go away to relax, explore or try new activities a cruise ship has something for everyone. With rock climbing walls, ice-skating, gameshows, parades and much more, the schedule of activities onboard a cruise is endless. Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas has over 100 activities scheduled on a one week cruise.
I will get sea sick: There is an extremely slim chance you will get sea sick onboard a cruise ship as they are large vessels that have been built with modern stabilisers to reduce movement. If by any chance you to happen to feel sea sick, the onboard medical facility can offer you complimentary medication to help. To avoid any chance of becoming sea-sick choose a cabin in the middle of the ship, this will ensure maximum stability.
You do not get enough time in the ports: One of the main attractions of a cruise is the fascinating places you travel to. Cruise lines will allow certain amounts of time in port ensuring enough time for you to see a fair amount of each location. Ships will travel during the night so they arrive for a full day in port. To fully explore a destination you can add a pre or post hotel stay to your cruise allowing you maximum time in your favourite depature port. Certain cruise lines are now starting to offer overnight stays in many destinations too.
I will feel claustrophobic and see the same people all the time: I find it hard to believe anyone can feel claustrophobic on a cruise ship. They are so large and have many different venues onboard that they never feel crowded. With so much going on at the same time it is unlikely you will continuously bump into the same people. If you are worried about this then I would suggest maybe going for one of the larger ships.
I have to dress formally every night: Again, depending on what cruise line you choose the dress code may differ and some cruises are more formal than others. However, in general most cruises will have a couple of formal nights during your stay and the rest will be casual.
I will have to keep eating: This myth is one I hear time and time again and it is completely false. Yes, food is an important part of a cruise and there is a wide range of cuisine available to you most of the time, however it doesn’t mean it is shoved in your face! You can eat when you want and as much as you want.
Choosing the right ship
One of the most important factors to consider when booking your first cruise is choosing the ship and cruise line that is right for you. With over 40 different cruise lines and hundreds of ships, it can be hard to understand the difference.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is; what do you want from your cruise holiday? Do you like to go away to relax? Explore new destinations? Try new activities? Meet friends? Get a tan? Take the family away? All of these factors need to be considered when choosing a cruise ship.
There are larger ships that promote themselves as the main destination, smaller ships that are more port focused and luxury ships that offer a much more intimate atmosphere.
A common trend within the cruising industry is that the smaller ships will go to more unique destinations and the larger ships tend to go to fewer stops and visit larger ports. Therefore you need to weigh up the importance of ship and destinations on your holiday.
Here are some recommendations based on the people's choice awards for 2013:
Best for families: Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises, Disney Cruise Line
Best for unique itineraries: Azamara Club Cruises, Star Clippers, Voyages to Antiquity
Best for food: Celebrity Cruises, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises
Best for onboard activities: Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Lines
Best for luxury: Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Cunard Line, Silversea
Best for adult only: P&O Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages
Where do you want to go?
There are not many destinations in the world that you cannot access on a cruise. With ships all over the world, there is no stone left unturned. There is definitely an itinerary out there for everyone and the best thing is that you can visit ao many countries in one cruise. In-fact there are some destinations that are only accessed by water such as Panama Canal, Norwegian Fjords, Galapagos and parts of Alaska.
For those who do not like to fly, you can take cruises from numerous UK ports, the most popular being Southampton. Transatlantic cruises are also becoming more popular, allowing you to take a cruise from the UK to the States without flying.
My top tips for first time cruisers
For anyone looking to go on a cruise for the first time I understand it can be hard to find all of the information you need and you may have some questions, here is my list of top tips:
• Before booking your cruise, take a look through our website for more information on different cruise line's and ships or simply call our sales team who can offer expert advice and assistance to help you find a suitable cruise.
• Sign up to our newsletter. With so much competiton in the cruise industry nowadays you can find some incredible prices which are snapped up quickly. Be amongst the first to know about the hottest deals with our email alerts.
• Book a cabin that suites you. If you think you will spend most of your time away from your room then you can go for an interior cabin, however if you want the true experience of being at sea I would definitely recommend a balcony.
Before your cruise:
• Plan what you would like to do in the ports of call before you get onboard. Research the destination and try to get a list of excursions the cruise line offers.
• Pack appropriately, there is no luggage limit on a cruise so you take as much stuff as you like. There is likely to be a formal night so pack an evening dress/suit for this.
• Ensure you take the correct documentation; passports, visas, confirmation and onboard account form.
• Depending where your cruise is departing from it is often a good idea to spend the night before in a hotel, ensuring you do not miss the ship due to flight delays or travel problems. Just like a flight - the ship will not wait for you!
On your cruise:
• Ensure your onboard account is set up. When you board you are given a card that will be your room key, entry to the ship and used for all onboard charges. You can link this to your credit card, pay in cash at the end, or make cash payments throughout the cruse if you wish.
• Ensure you know your way around the ship, not the whole ship (as daily exploring can be fun) but try to know your way from your room to the dining room, theatre and your favourite places.
• If you do not know already, find out how the tipping onboard works. Some cruise lines include gratuities in the price of your cruise, some automatically charge them to your onboard account and some leave it up to you.
• Every day you will receive a schedule of what is going on around the ship. Have a look at this every morning so you can work out what you want to see and ensure you do not miss anything. Good idea to pack a highlighter!
• Make the most of the ports. It is likely you chose your cruise because of the destinations, so ensure you wake up early and get off the ship as soon as you can to start exploring.
After your cruise:
• Reminisce over all of your amazing photographs, let us know your thoughts and start looking for your next cruise adventure!
You only need to ask
By now I'm sure you are eager to book your first cruise! However, if there is anything else you would like to know you can tweet me at @iglucruise using the hashtag #asksally or visit our Facebook page. From spending such a long time at sea I would like to believe I have the answer to almost every question (so please test me!)
Your cruise journey begins from the moment you look for a cruise and it should be an enjoyable and exciting experience from the start.
I cannot count how often I spoke to first-time cruisers onboard who have told me, "If I had known how great this was going to be, I would have done it a lot sooner"
Happy cruising :-)
By Sally Grimes
Carnival Cruises introduce us to their up-and-coming Carnival Sunshine and it's totally awesome!
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