Choose a cruise

Choose a cruise

Cruises have long been acknowledged as a relaxing way to see the world. As the luxury accommodation carries you to each destination, entertainment is always available, food is plentiful and pampering is paramount. However, as the popularity of the ocean-based holiday grows, so does the choice. Specialist cruises are designed for the modern traveller: one who is used to high quality, tailor-made holiday packages and will settle for nothing but the best.

Why a cruise?

The 'floating hotel' is no longer the sole domain of the rich and elderly, with ships now aimed at specific demographics from the younger clubber to the older tea-dancer. Ships stop at ports for convenient day trips, which could suit those wanting to explore the main sites of a country or area in a safe and structured way. Cruises can be a gentle introduction to Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean or the Baltic, or if it suits, can offer a more intense exploration of a smaller region. With cruises leaving from destinations worldwide, your dream package could be just a flight away.

Families are particularly well catered for, with specialist ships staffed by qualified personnel who can entertain the kids while you settle down with a good book and a chilled wine. Ships such as P&O's Aurora, Oriana, Oceana and Ventura are served by the 'Reef Rangers' who can entertain 2-17 year-olds with a specialised onboard programme. Some companies will also provide children's food separate from the adult restaurant, for parents trying to unwind with a special meal.

Your interests catered for

You name it, and there's a cruise for you. Those looking for love could be interested in singles cruises, available from most popular destinations. Specialist packages designed for those travelling alone mean there's less chance of being financially penalised for booking a single cabin. Some will also cater for certain age groups for a better compatibility. Another popular option is the poker cruise, where gamblers can play around the clock, with marvellous sea-views when they glance up from their game.

However, there are more obscure flavours available which are well worth investigating. GeekCruises offers a glorious range of specialist packages, including photoshop, gaming and chess cruises so you can relax your body while using your mind. If that sounds a bit too much like hard work, then maybe classical music could prove relaxing, such as the English Chamber Orchestra music cruises; the next is from Istanbul to Athens in September this year.

Wildlife cruises are designed to take travellers, often on specially designed ships, to areas of particular natural interest such as the Galapagos Islands, which can be accessed by flying to Quito in Ecuador. These cruises are often especially eco-aware, and sightings of animals such as seals and dolphins are done with full respect and consideration of the environmental impact.

Most faiths are also served by the cruise industry, with Christian cruises from which claim to help "worship the Lord through uplifting praise music as you sway across the ocean." Well, amen to that, and hallelujah for the even more curious sea-bound treats. Murder mystery trips, knitting cruises, art cruises and most other activities which you care to mention are all ready and waiting to set sail.

Where to go

It's not just the themes which are specialised to suit your taste, but the destination possibilities now seem endless. If you fancy a break from the norm, why not try a trip to the Arctic or Antarctic? Companies such as Polar Cruises offer packages ranging from luxurious to adventure ships which can include overnight camping on the ice or cross-country skiing. Cruises leave from Santiago, Chile although many packages start with a short-haul flight from Miami.

If hotter weather suits your fancy more, African cruises are an alternative to the the Caribbean, with ships such as the MS Royal Star taking passengers around the South African Cape, taking in sites such as East London and Port Elizabeth. Flights are available to Mombasa from Gatwick, with some travellers preferring to tag a land-locked holiday on either side of their aquatic adventure for the ultimate experience.

Getting there

Start your holiday as you mean to go on by flying business class. You'll arrive less stressed and will be able to hang onto that holiday vibe for longer with more legroom and more attentive service. Check transfer times from the airport to the dock, although you may want to allow a couple of days to acclimatise before getting on board.

A cruise can provide a central theme to your perfect holiday - a way to see an area from a different perspective in-between land-based explorations. Add a comfortable flight to either end of the experience and you could find yourself joining the thousands of others who have sailed away on a trip of a lifetime.