First time cruisers always have a wealth of questions that are never answered and over the next couple of articles I'm going to offer an alternative guide to cruising. We've all read the usual tips, stories and information about cruises. So I'm not going to tell you who has the best food, where to get white glove service and why a certain cruise line is best for you. Instead I'm going to take a look at what can you get up to on a cruise holiday that doesn't involve eating fine cuisine or 24 hour buffets, and how to entertain yourself without playing shuffle board or watching the cabaret shows.

To some people they see cruising as God's waiting room, but in modern cruising they couldn't be further from the truth. Today's ships boast rock climbing walls, zip-lines, water-park quality water riders, 3D films in the theatre and an array of on board sports, bars and shows.

Entertainment on board modern cruise ships has really gone up a notch over recent years, yes there are still cabaret shows, shuffle board and salsa classes but you can enjoy a whole host of other entertainment on board. As mentioned earlier there is plenty to do for the active souls among us. You can play 5-a-side football, basketball and use golf simulators on most 4 star cruise lines. Princess also offer mini-golf, Royal Caribbean have the wave-rider (a surfing machine), the rock climbing wall and on their Oasis class ships a zip line. NCL and Disney Cruise Lines have some pretty impressive water slides on their new, and under construction ships. There are virtually always state of the art gyms, offering a variety of classes, and of course the increasingly popular spas, which offer 'well being' without too much exertion.

Family entertainment on board ships has also seen a huge amount of improvement ranging from all day kids clubs to company tie-ups with the like of DreamWorks Animations and Nickelodeon. Cruise lines now offer families meet the character experiences, such as Disney and Royal Caribbean (DreamWorks) and offer the latest films in 3D. Princess Cruises were the first cruise line to offer 'movies under the stars' with films playing on huge screens above the pool during the evening, in warmer destinations of course and other cruise lines are now offering a similar experience.

The evening entertainment for adults has also improved, along with the good-old cabaret shows you can now see the like of Chicago: The Musical, Hairspray and Saturday Night Fever in a selection of ships theatres. For fans of casinos these range from functional to Vegas-esque, especially on ships more popular with the Americans.

Another aspect of the night-life that has received a welcome face-lift is the lounge bars on board. These were often seen as stuffy and offering dreary entertainment but these days they are massively improved. Many of the large ships will offer a large lounge bar that can double as a second theatre, such as the Vista Lounge with Princess, where you can enjoy guest entertainers including some great comedy nights. There is also more variety on board, typically you will find a traditional English pub themed bar, a Martini bar, a night club, a sports bar and jazz/piano bar. P&O Cruises have the fantastic Olly Smith wine bar the Glass House, Royal Caribbean have private karaoke booths in their sports bar and Princess have self-righting pool tables in the cigar bar - thanks to some clever gyros.

In case you are wondering the likes of Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises bar prices are no different from a city centre pub (though some ships are in US $). Cruises from the UK often offer British beers along with great wines and cocktails. Cruises further a field often offer locally brewed beers such as the Alaskan Brewery, and they are pretty good too.

One of the small touches I've always enjoyed is the small specialist displays or classes on board. Watching a flair bartender exhibit his skills whether into your glass or in front of a crowd has yet to bore me, seeing the ice-carvers create masterpieces from ice and fruit and talking about how they do it, watching a sushi demonstration or taking part in a cook-along with the head chef class is always fun too. For those who dare to ask having a tour of the kitchens mid services is an eye opener, ships today offer food from very-good through to exceptional and seeing how they feed 1,000 people fantastic food in a sitting is amazing. Whether sat by the pool, watching a show, or just chilling in the lounges you can go a whole week without having to venture to the bar for a drink.

Cruise ships have become superb resorts that offer you great destinations that either take you to new cultures, better weather or stunning natural beauty. The shore excursions you can do are a whole other article. How often can you combine the Galapagos with cocktails, a Formula 1 Grand Prix with 4 nights of relaxing in a different Riviera hot-spot each day? Forget the 'Love Boat' and think of the possibilities.