For many going on a cruise is the preserve of retirees, looking for a leisurely way to holiday, while seeing a bit of the world in the process. But last summer our columnist, Three Counties Radio DJ and Aylesbury panto star Andy Collins found out that cruising can be a fun holiday for the family too! In a special column, held back to brighten up the cold dark winter, Andy muses on the cruising life, and all it has to offer…
From the moment you check in at Gatwick airport your holiday begins you check your bags in at the drop off to be informed next time you see them will be in your cabin on board the cruise ship, which let me tell you was a true blessing considering how much the kids and my mum had packed the thought of me lugging the cases up the gangway once we arrived at Malta had filled me with dread!
Our flight was a charter flight to Malta packed full of excited fellow cruisers none more than my two kids Molly (15) Harry (12) and my Mum (70 ish).
On arrival a short transfer by coach to the port and to begin the process of checking in at embarkation which took no time at all.
This is where you collect your room key card, itinerary and any questions you may have are answered by your check-in crew.
Nothing can prepare you for the first time you make your way out into the sunshine and see the ship for the first time normally my kids will talk for England but this time they were just open mouthed and silent, so much so that I thought for a second I had gone deaf!
The boat we were travelling on, Oceana is the fifth largest of the seven ships currently in service with our holiday operator, 261 meters in length and over 77,000 tonnes she is vision of pure beauty with a crew of 889 that look after over 2000 passengers and before you go oh that’s a lot of holidaymakers (or cruisers as we are called) here’s the thing Oceana has over five restaurants, three kids clubs, two swimming pools, a beauty spa salon, two West-end style theatre live entertainment venues, a Monte Carlo club casino , a fully loaded gym a shopping centre to cater for all your purchasing needs and so many other things going on it would be impossible to list but don’t worry it also has so many bars I seriously lost count!
With so much to do with a packed itinerary from workshops on a range of activities, seminars, guest speakers plus family fun and entertainment on the top decks around the pool you just don’t ever get that feeling of crowds.
For me a major worry was the kids and their time on board.
It was alright for me my time would be spent chilling by the pool or listening to one of the many fascinating guest speakers. My mum was kept busy by the salsa dance classes and the shuffleboard competition which by the way she was blooming good at, but I truly worried the kids would be bored I couldn’t be more wrong the Oceana had three styles of kids clubs.
Each club had its own dedicated area of the ship and Molly and Harry’s club had a cool arcade feel where they could play air hockey computer games, pool or just chill out with their new friends.
On day one you have to register with the kids clubs and my 15 year-old daughter was like ‘dad I don’t want to’ (a typical teenager strop).
I told her she had to as it was the captain’s orders (little white lie) anyway she did and that was the last I saw of her for most of the day, as she absolutely loved it and even now three months on still keeps in touch with the friends she made on this cruise
Of course sometimes you’re not at sea, you have docked in these amazing places in the med and you’re able to leave the ship and explore be it on one of the organised excursions or just explore your surroundings armed only with a map.
Be it Malta, Souda Bay, Heraklion or our personal favourite Rhodes.
Every excursion was different and we loved that. After all the hustle bustle and exploring it was a joy to return to the calm and beauty of the ship and returning to our balcony cabin.
Now if you take one thing from this feature I cannot strongly recommend enough that you get yourself an outside cabin I cannot explain the joy you will get from sitting on your own balcony looking out to sea watching the world sail by if I can add as as well the experience is doubled in wonderment if you have a gin and tonic in your hand too!
I must also before I forget mention, the amazing entertainment you get to see on board. The on-ship entertainment crew put on a range of shows, be it West End musicals to soul music tribute nights.
A high-end grade of talented individuals, singers and dancers who work so well together, and I don’t say this lightly as this is my field of expertise so I was judging them with a keen eye and I cannot fault them a credit to the ship.
Of course as well as the on ship entertainments team, they fly in entertainment too for one /two nights to entertain us on board.
This includes comedians, famous singers, bands and the family really enjoyed the Stephen Mullhern magic dance illusion show.
So there we go, it turns out cruising can be for the whole family! Maybe I’ve made you go mmmmmm maybe we should try this cruising lark trust me you won’t be disappointed
Enjoy and let me know how it was for you!
n Andy’s cruise was with P&O. For more information go to www.pocruises.com