Ask the experts: Latest cruise tips and advice - Cruise International

Ask the experts: Latest cruise tips and advice

By Cruise International | 1 Mar 2022

Alaska Onboard

Got a question about cruise holidays or travelling in the pandemic? We spoke to the experts who answered your latest reader questions with up-to-date advice and cruise tips you need to know.


We missed out on our silver wedding celebrations last summer so we’re making up for it by splashing out on a big holiday to Alaska next year. Would we be better off upgrading our stateroom to a suite, or upgrading to a luxury line but with a more basic room category?

James Cole, founder and managing director, Panache Cruises, says: “When you’re booking a cruise for a special occasion such as a silver wedding anniversary, it’s important to get it right. I always advise customers to look at the total cost of the cruise, rather than the initial cost. Many mainstream cruise lines charge a lower ticket price – the cost to get on board – but have considerable extra charges for the likes of drinks, excursions, speciality dining, Wi-Fi and tips or gratuities when on the vessel. As a result, the costs can be a lot higher than originally thought.

“In contrast, most luxury and ultra-luxury cruise lines have a higher cost to get on board but include most or all the extras as part of the initial price, so the overall cost to cruise on a luxury ship is not as much as you might initially think. Also, on many luxury and ultra-luxury cruise ships, suites are the standard accommodation type so that’s included too, and with some you even get your very own personal butler! So our advice would be to consider a luxury or ultra-luxury line and compare the total cost of the cruise, not just the initial price.”


What happens if there are Covid cases detected on our ship – will we be confined to our cabins or can we be tested and then get on with our holiday?

Andy Harmer, managing director of Cruise Lines International Association (Clia) UK & Ireland, says: “In most instances, passengers will be able to continue their holiday thanks to the cruise lines’ multi-layered approach. This includes additional testing, enhanced sanitisation, contact tracking and the use of isolation and quarantine for those who test positive. There are some differences based on the ship, itinerary and specific protocols, and passengers are advised to speak to their cruise line before departing if they would like further information.”


I’ve been running every day since lockdown started but now we’re going on our first cruise since Covid and I’m worried I’ll find it hard to keep it going – any advice?

There’s no need to put your daily exercise regime on hold says keen runner and Cruise International contributor Jeannine Williamson. She says: “You might be clocking up nautical miles but you don’t have to hang up your running shoes at sea as all large cruise ships have gyms. Many rival the ones you find on dry land and are equipped with the latest treadmills, so you can stick to your training schedule.

“MSC Cruises has panoramic gyms overlooking the front of its ships so you run in the direction you’re sailing, and there’s a really cool urban-style gym on Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady. Alternatively, most vessels also have outdoor running tracks with signs showing how many circuits equal a mile.

“One of the best is onCelebrity Edge, which even has uphill and downhill sections. On river cruises you’ve got a ready-made running track everywhere you dock as there are flat paths and promenades alongside the waterway, and if you stick to the bank you’re not going to get lost. So have a great cruise and keep on running!”

MSC Cruises’ running track. Picture: Ivan Sarfatti

We’re travelling to Barcelona in May for a cruise around the Med but my passport runs out in June – can I still travel or have the rules changed, and will I have time to get a new one before we go?

Gemma Antrobus, managing director of travel agency Haslemere Travel, says: “Since we left the EU in January 2021, passport rules have changed. If you’re travelling within the EU, your passport is now only valid for 10 years from the date of issue.

“Prior to last year, you had always been able to travel within the EU for the full length of your passport, but many travellers are now getting caught out. New passports are being issued with only 10 years’ validity, but if yours was issued prior to the change, you may find the new rules apply to you.

“Please also remember that countries in the EU will require you to have three to six months remaining on your passport, in order to travel. In this case, I’m afraid you’ll need to apply for a new passport.  There are a number of ways to do this, including booking an appointment to have your passport issued on the same day. The quicker the service the more expensive it will be, but better to do this than lose your holiday because your passport is not valid.”


We tried our first cruise around the UK last summer and loved it – where should we go next?

“When UK cruising finally restarted after the cruise lockdown, it was lovely to see so many people taking advantage of these great-value UK cruises,” says Becky Fantham, Cruise International contributor.

“It seems like you’ve caught the cruise bug – there’s no going back now! Seeing as you loved the beauty of the British Isles, I’d wager you’d enjoy discovering the unspoilt, and rather dramatic, majesty of the Norwegian fjords.

“You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to cruise lines: I’d recommend the cool Scandi vibes of P&O CruisesIona, Princess Cruises’ chic Sky Princess or brand-new British cruise line Ambassador, sailing from Tilbury.”


Norwegian fjords

What happens if I book a cruise then restrictions in that destination change – will I be able to get my money back or change the date of my sailing?

Simone Clark, senior vice-president of global supply at Iglu Cruise, says: “Most cruise lines have flexible booking terms so I recommend you check what they are when you book. A cruise specialist will be able to assist you.

“Often you will be able to amend your booking to a different date if the situation changes, or in some cases, ships will still sail but just have a minor itinerary change.”

We haven’t seen our grandkids as much as we’d like during the pandemic. We’d love to take the family on a cruise, but what can we book that will have enough for all three generations to do – and enough space if we get sick of each other?

Julie Peasgood, Cruise International contributor and columnist, suggests: “I am a big fan of multigenerational cruises, having had quality time and a unifying experience with my daughter, her husband and 18-month-old granddaughter.

“Focus on the bigger, newer ships with plenty of facilities, kids’ clubs, entertainment and activities for all ages. We travelled with P&O Cruises, but other notable lines for families are NCL, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Carnival and MSC.

“Arrange for adjacent or perhaps interconnecting cabins, though don’t feel you have to do everything together. Instead, choose a time each day to meet up and take it in turns to pick the venue. For destinations, think about the Caribbean, Europe or even Alaska, and consider excursions that appeal to the whole family to create happy memories on land as well as at sea.”

Multigenerational holidays with P&O Cruises. Picture: Laimonas Stasiulis

What do I need to know about testing, both on embarkation and before returning to the UK?

“Don’t assume you already know what is required, even if you’ve already done this once,” says Edwina Lonsdale, managing director at Mundy Cruising.

“Regulations can change at short notice, so check all requirements methodically: what type of test you need at each stage and the timings, both for the country you are flying into and your cruise line. Your professional cruise consultant will assist you.

“Most cruise lines will carry out a pre-embarkation lateral flow test at the port, and you may need one for your disembarkation port. This will normally be arranged on board, sometimes at a charge, so be sure to check the arrangements when you get your tickets.

“Make sure you also check the latest rules for returning to the UK and fill out your Passenger Locator Form in good time before you get to the airport for your return flight, as you may need to show it at check-in.”


After so many cancelled holidays we’ve set our sights on the idea of an Antarctica cruise in 2022, but should we wait and book nearer the time?

Martin Johnson, director and co-founder of Polar Routes, says: “A number of ships are running the current Antarctic season, so provided there are no further changes, you can travel right now! Be aware there are extra formalities such as vaccination requirements, PCR tests and entry forms for Argentina and Chile. But you will be well rewarded for any hassle as there are some incredible prices that I don’t think will ever be repeated.

“If the current travel climate is too much for you, the next season runs from November 2022 to March 2023. In fact, due to pent-up demand there are already availability issues at key times. Most operators still offer a flexible booking policy, so I recommend securing your dream 2022/23 Antarctic cruise as soon as possible.”


Penguin in Patagonia. Credit: Shutterstock

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