A smiling couple relax on secluded deckchairs that overlook the ocean as they sip on margaritas and soak up the sunshine.
This is the image that adorns every glossy cruise brochure and if you’re planning a relaxing cruise yourself, it’s probably not far from what you have in mind. The reality can sadly be something quite different. Sink into your lounger ready to soak up the restful sounds of the ocean and you’ll find it drowned out by the poolside movie soundtrack or the resident entertainers.
Wander down to the pool with your partner for a quick dip and you’ll find yourself fighting for a seat and dodging the throngs of hysterical, splashing children.
The mega cruise ships are a huge draw for families and couples alike with their amazing features and wealth of activities. But these ships often sail at full capacity and a huge percentage of those on board are kids and teens.
You’ll find yourself queuing for everything and whilst the facilities are exceptional, you’ll have to contend with hordes of people, which is the last thing you want when you’re trying to get away from the hustle and bustle. Whether you’re a couple seeking some peace and relaxation or you’re a family looking for a less hectic cruise experience, there are a number of things you can do to avoid cruise chaos and maximise your chances of a more peaceful cruise experience.
If you’re going away without the kids, it makes sense to avoid family-focused cruises. Some ships are adults-only and the atmosphere on board is altogether more ambient. P & O for example have the Arcadia, Adonia and Oriana to choose from, which are all child-free with a focus on relaxation in a luxurious environment.
If you’re taking the kids but looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, the smaller ships make good choices. Although they have facilities and activities on board to keep the children entertained, these don’t attract quite so many families, which keeps the noise and chaos to a minimum.
Your choice of destination can make a huge difference too. Families tend to opt for the Mediterranean, with the Caribbean and Canaries also being popular – so if it’s peace you’re after, consider going elsewhere. Towards the end of the year, a good number of cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Princess will base their ships in many other attractive locations which are worth considering, such as the Far East and Hawaii. The smaller ships also tend to venture to more exotic locations, again making them the perfect choice for a more peaceful experience.
The length of your trip can dictate how many families you’ll be sailing with – those with kids don’t tend to go for the long haul, opting for seven night stays. If you’re set on visiting a busy destination, choose a ten or eleven night cruise which is likely to be far less busy than the shorter week-long sails.
The older ships tend to attract fewer families, as people with kids gravitate towards the mega ships that have all the newest features and facilities. But you’ll find many of the older ships have been refurbished and still offer a luxurious experience. They are therefore a good choice for a more peaceful holiday and can be considerably more affordable, too.
If you scrimp on accommodation and book an inside cabin, you’ll find these small windowless rooms get very claustrophobic and you’ll need to spend more time outside. This forces you into the hustle and bustle of the ship, even when you want to relax. It makes sense to book an outdoor cabin, or better still a suite, so you have somewhere to retreat to if it gets busy by the pool.
Time of year
Pick a time when school’s out and you can expect the ships to be overrun with swarms of children, especially on the mainstream cruise lines. The kids are there when school’s in session too, but there will be less of them, so it makes sense to book during these times for a more peaceful vacation.
Themed cruises can be fun if you enjoy the theme – but don’t tag along if you don’t want to take part. You’ll find the entire ship is taken over and since the whole point of the themed cruise is to get large groups of people together to enjoy themed activities, you’ll struggle to get away from the chaos of it all.
Lengthy round-the-world voyages can offer a life-changing experience but if you’re after some peace and quiet, they might not be for you. They tend to attract seasoned cruisers who enjoy socialising together and they’re no good if you and your partner or family would rather keep to yourselves.
If you’re set on booking one of the newer mega ships, it’s still possible to avoid the madding crowd. Book when the kids are at school and upgrade to a suite if you can afford it, so that you have somewhere to relax during the busy hours of the day. It’s also wise to steer clear of the busiest restaurants, opting instead for the ship’s alternative restaurant choices.