CRUISE WEEK: Best Cruises for Non-Cruisers
You’re sure cruising isn’t for you. You’re bound to be bored. You might even be cooped up and held captive by the bores themselves. When you’re not bored, you’ll be seasick. When you’re not seasick, you’ll be going stir-crazy in the buffet. We’re back to the big bores at sea.
Relax: keeping boredom at bay is rarely a problem. There’s simply too much to do, if activity is what you’re after. You’re in a new port of call most days so there’s a whole new city to discover, sometimes a whole new country. And so little time to explore.
Don’t forget that the ship has a seductive life of its own, with more entertainment than you can handle. If you choose a big ship, the options are even broader, from entertainment to making new friends. Cruising offers you a floating hotel or a city-at-sea to play in.
Let’s debunk a few more myths. You’ll find your sea legs. Most modern cruise ships are more stable than you are. The bigger the ship, the less you’ll feel the motion. If you travel badly, try a short taster cruise to see if it’s for you.
Talking of taste, you don’t need to suffer the proverbial death-by-chocolate buffet, unless you want to. The sushi bars, salad stations and spa menus will help stop you ballooning at sea. If you’re still worried about boredom, here are a few offbeat cruises to lure you in.
What about a tall ship’s cruise?
This is a cruise for those who say that most cruise ships aren’t `real ships.’ Tall ships are at one with the wind, sky, and romance of the sea. Succumb to the timeless quality of these majestic square-riggers. These are sailing ships as they used to be over a century ago. Don’t expect luxury on board – the luxury lies in the experience itself.
The fix: A Mediterranean cruise under sail on Royal Clipper
At full sail, the Royal Clipper is a rousing sight, gliding silently by on the horizon of a ghostly early morning mist. As the world’s largest true fully-rigged sailing ship used for commercial cruises, this is the closest most people will come to the romance of cruising under sail (www.starclippers.co.uk)
What about a luxury barge cruise?
This is a cruise for those who want cosy quarters, fine dining and a small house-party mood. Follow the swallows south and catch some sun in the Midi, the poster region for the French `good life’. The Canal du Midi, connecting the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, was pioneered by Pierre-Paul Riquet in the 1660s. Designed to bring glory to Louis XIV, the Sun King, the canal remains the most popular waterway in France. Now a Unesco World Heritage site, these 150 miles of navigable waterways have barely changed over the centuries.
The fix: Barging on the Canal du Midi with European Waterways
Try the Anjodi, which started life as a grain-carrying barge between Paris and Amsterdam. Celebrity chef Rick Stein loved his meanderings on Anjodi, as did we, from the slow pace of life on the canal to the wine-tasting and gourmet meals. The barging adventure includes all excursions, local transfers and the use of bicycles along the towpaths (www.gobarging.com)
What about a Swedish cruise on a canal steamer?
This is a cruise for nostalgics who want to get back to the days when ships were romantic. The Gota Canal waterway sweeps from Gothenburg to Stockholm and links the lakes of Vattern, Sweden’s cleanest lake, and Vanern, the largest lake in Western Europe. It is Sweden’s greatest feat of civil engineering, designed to link the country’s eastern and western seaboards. Planned in 1810 by Baron von Platen, and built by 60,000 soldiers, the canal responded to the desire for a trade route beyond Danish domination. The Gota Canal is also a testament to British know-how as it was partly masterminded by Thomas Telford, of Caledonian Canal fame, who brought in steam-driven dredgers.
The fix: Canal-steaming along the Gota Canal
A cruise on a turn-of-the-century canal steamer means cramped cabins and bunk beds, but nautical charm triumphs over modern convenience. On board, the mood is more Poirot than P&O, but with no murder mystery to solve. Any mystery is confined to who ate all the cloudberry jam or the last salmon bite (www.gotacanal.se)
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is your first port of call: www.cruisexperts.org
Star Clippers – for tall ship cruising in style: www.starclippers.co.uk
European Waterways – for luxury canal cruises: www.gobarging.com
Canal-steaming on the Gota Canal: www.gotacanal.se
Lisa Gerard-Sharp is an award-winning travel writer whose work, including blogs, can be found on www.lisagerardsharp.com
Header image credit: Lisa Gerard-Sharp