How to enhance your cruise holiday experience

Cruising is a great way to see the world and provides exceptional value in terms of accommodation, on-board amenities, activities and destinations.

I feel there is also a general movement in terms of how people approach life, with more of a focus to appreciate things around you and embracing experiences – rather than things.  There aren’t many holiday’s that can beat that over a cruise, that’s for sure.  Where else can you choose to sky dive at sea, or relax by a stunning pool area, enjoy a mouth-watering meal, then wake up the next day in a totally different country, all from the comfort of a gorgeous stateroom.

I find that there is an assumption that ‘enhancing’ an experience can be read as costing more money.  While this can certainly be true, I think there’s a whole host of things that can be done which won’t cost you a penny more while giving you an enriched experience.  Or at least you can pick and choose depending on what you like.

In this post we will look at various options that can further elevate your holiday experience.

Off of the ship

Cruise pre- or post-stay

When booking a cruise, and depending on the destination, I would definitely think about whether you should extend your holiday through a pre- or post-cruise stay.  Honestly, I used to just fly out to cruises without spending time in the initial destination and I regretted it every time.  I now always extend a trip by a couple of days to enjoy the culture of somewhere a little more – why not enjoy some sangria on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, or embrace Latin culture on the beaches of Miami, or take in the history and culture of Athens or Rome.  Sounds appealing, right?

It can also help with the inevitable cruise blues by giving you a couple of extra days to relax after your cruise.  Although it will of course come at a cost, I thoroughly recommend it.

Excursions

An easy way to really enhance your cruise experience is through trying a variety of excursions.  This can be done in a number of ways.

Firstly, you could do your own thing and explore the immediate destination.  I often do this on a cruise, especially if I just want to nip off the ship briefly for lunch or something and head back on pretty quickly to enjoy everything on board.

Secondly, you could book an excursion through the cruise line (for a fee).  You can read up about this and book them online before you cruise, or if you choose to, you can also book these on board.  The benefit of this approach is that if anything untoward were to happen, the cruise line is responsible for you, and for instance making sure you get back to the ship.  Of course, some cruise lines offer excursions in the fare in every port they visit, in which case I highly recommend you take advantage of that and then you can still do your own thing with the time remaining.

Thirdly, you could book your own excursion or book a local guide to take you on a tour of the area (again for a fee).  I recommend doing your research beforehand and booking online if possible.  Definitely use websites like Trip Advisor to assess the options and their ratings – and just explore what interests you, there’s bound to be something to tickle your fancy.

For me, the key is research when it comes to excursions.  Read up about the place you are travelling to and make a decision from there – I personally find this to be a lot of fun, but I can appreciate this isn’t always the case with travellers. Typically, I will do a mixture of the above on any cruise port-to-port.

On board

When on board there’s so much that could enhance your experience on board.  Ultimately, this is a very individual thing and depends entirely on what you want to do with your holiday.  Here are a number of ways you could choose to enhance your experience.

Activities

One easy way to mix things up on a cruise is to get involved in the various activities on board.  I really encourage you to embrace a ‘why not’ attitude and just go for it.

Many cruise ships typically have a huge range of activities that take place throughout the day included within the cruise fare.  These are usually found in the daily on-board newspaper that’s delivered to your door.  These can range from trivia, to quizzes and other competitions across the ship, including the pools and other large communal areas.  The types of activities  are evolving as well, with new ships offering drone racing, archery, escape rooms and laser tag. If you fancy a flutter, there is also the on-board casino found on a majority of ships.

You could also take advantage of the other facilities on board.  Many ships offer some out-of-the-world facilities including rock climbing, circus skills, sky diving, surfing, water slides and go-karting (yes really!).  You’ll find that most of these activities are also included within your cruise fare, with a few being offered at a relatively small cost (though could get pricey quickly if you consider a whole family for instance).

Entertainment

Entertainment really is something that cruise lines excel at.  Whether this is incredible house bands playing in public venues, DJ’s, fantastic live band and amazing theatre shows.  Many ships now offer full-length versions of West End shows, all included in the price of your cruise.  When you consider how much a show can cost in somewhere like London, this is in incredible value.

On some ships you will also find ice skating shows, acrobatics shows such as Cirque du Soleil and world-class diving.  It’s really worth seeing all these if you can.

Enrichment and wellness

Wellness is something that goes hand-in-hand with cruising.  Almost all ships have an on-board spa and fitness centre, so I recommend visiting it on your first day of the cruise to get an idea of what they offer.  I personally love to indulge a little in the spa on board, by booking a pampering session early in the cruise.  This really enriches my holiday and lets me relax into the holiday spirit; however, I appreciate it can come at a cost. If you have some on board credit that needs using this is often a good way to spend it.

The gyms on board are all included in the price so why not use this space.  Typically, ships will offer a range of classes from spinning, to TRX, HIIT and other activities at an extra cost.

Enrichment comes in a variety of forms, and another way cruises excel at this is through providing a range of classes and other activities.  These range from cooking classes, to lectures from world-renowned speakers, or why not learn more about wines through a wine tasting.  These are all really great ways to feed to mind and soul.  Again, depending on the line, these can come at an extra cost, but not always.

Food & Drinks

As you know, one of my favourite parts of a cruise is the quality and variety of food found on board.  One way my holiday is enriched is through experiencing all this on board, and I don’t just mean the food, but the experience of the restaurant, the atmosphere and the service.  Many restaurants are also included within the fare, so this indulgence comes at no extra cost.  You can of course opt to book one of the many speciality restaurants found on board a ship as well, which can come at an additional cost, for further experiences.  I always aim to try at least one on a voyage – variety is the spice of life after all.

So, how would you choose to enhance your holiday experience? Let me know in the comments and on social media.