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Written by Sally Macmillan, Travel Editor at Traveller.
Savvy travellers already know why cruises are so popular, but if you’re still undecided, travel editor and cruise convert Sally Macmillan has five good reasons to tempt you onboard.
When was the last time you laughed until your face hurt at a stand-up comedy show – and had the chance to chat with the stars afterwards? Or went out for cocktails and dinner and didn’t have to stress about getting a taxi home? Or maybe just relaxed on your balcony and watched the sun setting over uninterrupted ocean views? Yes, it’s probably been a while.
A short cruise from a city near you is a wonderful opportunity to discover (or rediscover!) the joys of life at sea – and to explore exciting destinations ashore. Here are five of my favourite things to do on a cruise.
Our everyday lives are crammed with busyness and we all need time to ourselves to relax and revive. A cruise offers the perfect opportunity to unwind; simply being surrounded by wide-open ocean vistas and breathing invigorating fresh air induces a sense of well-being.
You have time to relax and do absolutely nothing, read a book, soak up the sun by the pool in the adults-only Oasis, indulge in a cocktail with a friend – or maybe join a wellness class. P&O Cruises offers an inspiring collection of health and fitness activities, from yoga and Pilates classes to walking and jogging around the track on the wraparound promenade deck.
Massages and facials are my idea of bliss. Therapists at P&O Cruises’ spas offer an excellent range of indulgent treatments, for men as well as women – and why not boost the romance factor with a decadent couples’ massage? Acupuncture and medi-spa treatments are also available and there’s a full range of hair and beauty treatments in the salon.
Love a spot of retail therapy? You can shop for duty-free watches, jewellery, liquor and cosmetics, as well as well-known fashion and accessory brands – and throughout your cruise the retail team hosts special shopping events.
When you cruise, there’s no boring meal-planning, shopping, cooking, or washing-up – it’s all done for you. While you can happily dine out for free at the Waterfront Restaurant, The Pantry, Angelo’s and Dragon Lady I always recommend splashing out for a special dinner at least once on every cruise. Cover charges are incredibly good value compared to restaurants at home – check out P&O Cruises’ specialty selection and enjoy celebrity chef spreads at Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, casual al fresco venue Luke’s, and 400 Gradi, brought to you by award-winning Melbourne chef Johnny Di Francesco.
Waterfront Restaurant and The Pantry are both open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; you can’t beat an a la carte breakfast at the Waterfront for a leisurely start to the day. The food court-style Pantry serves up a smorgasbord of cuisines, while Angelos and Dragon Lady specialise in Italian and Asian dishes for dinner. Your ship’s concierge is also on hand to advise about all dining options.
Lounges and bars cater for all tastes, whether you’re into draught beer, local ciders, creative cocktails or a glass of your favourite Aussie vino. Venues range from the laid-back Ocean and Explorer Bars to the atmospheric Bonded Store and jazz-fuelled Blue Room, and lively themed parties feature on all cruises of three or more nights. Bar prices are very reasonable and you can save money with P&O Cruise’s drinks package.
Another reason why cruises are so popular is that they offer the chance to let your hair down and do things you don’t have the time or opportunity to do at home. Whatever your age, you can channel your inner child at P&O Edge Adventure Park – hurtle down a waterslide, fly above the top deck on a flying fox or test your nerve by walking the plank over the side of the ship. There are 19 exhilarating cruise activities to choose from with a Edge VIP pass, which saves you 10% off the onboard price.
You can dress up to the nines for P&O parties, have a good belly laugh at top-notch family-friendly or side-splitting adults-only Comedy shows, sign up for trivia and game shows, sing your heart out at karaoke and head for the Marquee theatre after dinner for spectacular shows. It’s all about doing something different – and having fun doing it.
Talking about doing something different, you might be surprised to discover how much you can learn on a cruise. If you’ve always wanted to know how to mix the perfect cocktail, master the art of making coffee or brush up your dance skills, a P&O Cruise is a great place to sign up for a class led by experts.
One of the best things to do on a comedy cruise – apart from seeing well-known comedians in action – is joining a comedy workshop. The pros give you insider tips and you’ll have the chance to make your stage debut at the Comedy Gong Show, where your performance will be judged by the experts in front of a live audience. That takes some courage, but you might just amaze even yourself!
Arts and crafts workshops are a more comfortable option, while coffee-making, wine master and mixology classes are designed to make learning a hands-on, fun experience. If you want to get physical, join a dance class or sign up for some personal training in the gym; you’ll find plenty of challenging activities to kickstart a fitness routine you can continue at home.
Shore trips and tours play a huge part in the overall cruise experience, even on short cruises. A four-night round-trip from Sydney to Queensland’s >Moreton Island, for example, takes in a full day on one of the world’s largest sand islands. Thrilling trips include tandem parasailing, a heli-adventure, snorkelling over shipwrecks and hand-feeding wild dolphins.
Another short cruise close to home is a four-night round-trip from Adelaide, calling at Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island. Discover why Port Lincoln is known as the ‘seafood capital’ and get up close to amazing wildlife on Kangaroo Island.
Cruises to New Zealand are incredibly popular; a 13-night round-trip from Sydney is packed with shore trips and tours that suit everyone from foodies and wine-lovers to thrill-seekers, sports fans and nature lovers.
A little further afield, 10-night Discover Vanuatu cruises are a dream for adventure-lovers – think horse-riding, boating, diving and abseiling – while sailing the laid-back Pacific islands of Fiji, Tonga and New Caledonia top many travellers’ wish-lists.