There are so many cruise lines and so much jargon. How do you decipher and how do you choose the right one? Cruise lines are like the company – Toyota, Ford, Hyundai and the ships like Regal Princess or Silver Spirit are like Toyota Camry, Ford Focus, etc.

Ship size does matter – can you imagine being on Symphony of the Seas (capacity of 5,500 passengers) during school holidays with lots of families and kids running around. Is that the kind of experience you would like?


With a passenger capacity of about 800 or less, these are great not only for Expedition and Nature cruises but also to get into ports where the larger ships cannot access. River cruise vessels typically have about 130 passengers, sailing vessels and yachts have less than a 100 passengers all fall within this category.

Advantages of small ship cruising: Access smaller quaint ports and offer interesting itineraries. Ability to offer more personalised service due to higher crew to passenger ratio.

Examples of cruise lines: Silversea, Ponant, Seabourn, Star Clippers, Hapag Lloyd, Oceania,  Scenic Cruises, Avalon Waterways


With a passenger capacity of more than 800 and up to 2400 guests, these ships offer exceptional value for money and are most popular as they offer an extensive range of itineraries.

Advantages of cruising on medium sized ships is that the ships offer personal space without feeling crowded and interesting itineraries

Examples of cruise lines:  Some Princess, Celebrity, Cunard, MSC, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America, Carnival and Royal Caribbean offer cruising on medium sized ships


These are floating cities/ resorts and cater to anywhere from 2,400 guests to 5,500 guests. You have to pre-book most on board experiences where passenger numbers go upwards of 3000 and by the end of it you may get sick and tired of smorgasbord meals.

Advantages of large ship cruising: Great for Broadway style shows if you can find seats and some on board activities like wave pool, basketball courts, rock climbing walls, etc

Examples of cruise lines: Some Princess, Celebrity, Carnival, Cunard but most prominently Royal Caribbean.

The best way to go about planning your cruise holiday is to decide on destination, cruise duration and budget. Think about your preferences of an all-inclusive luxurious experience versus paying as you go along. Do you consider yourself a connoisseur of fine food and enjoy fine dining, then check out the restaurants offered by the cruise lines you shortlisted. If you enjoy Broadway style shows then you must pick medium to large ships. Depending on your destination, see if the cruise offers any overnight stops – this is particularly handy if there is an event in town you want to attend and accommodation in city is frightfully overpriced, or you just need two or three days to explore the city – case in point is St Petersburg. This narrows down your options and you are left with one or two which makes picking one a lot easier.

Once you made your choice, always consult a cruise specialist who will help you with cabin availability and booking. In life, you get what you pay for and it is true in travel too. Yes inside cabins are way cheaper than balcony /veranda cabins but in my years in travel I noticed that people often remember how they felt / the experience and the price becomes irrelevant after a few months. Book early – for some cruises you can book 12 to 15 months in advance. One more tip book shore excursions early too otherwise you may miss out!!


There is always a first time for everything and how do you travel like a pro when you’ve never done it before. Here are my suggestions and tips:


Whatever age bracket you belong to, if you have not travelled long haul up until this point and if you are a single traveller, book a tour through a travel agent. There are a great range of tour companies offering you a number of styles and budgets so it is a no brainer trying to do it yourself. Tours with single night stays are a killer and you are better off doing something with two or three night stays in each place.


While you take on board the information given by the travel agent, please do your own research to identify your interests and travel wish list. I often used to tell my customers that there is a lot of pleasure to be had in the planning phase. If you are doing a tour there are a number of optional extras the tour company offers. It is good to study these in the comfort of your own home prior to your trip and circle the ones you may be interested in doing. This will also help you narrow down additional expenses for experiences while on holiday.


Once you have decided on your trip and paid for your tour, decide if you wish to have a two or three day city stop over enroute or fly straight through. A two or three day city stopover is great because it is only the cost of your accommodation which is the expense part, to see if you like this city as a potential holiday destination in the future or not.


Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of your airfares and tours prior to making a deposit or any payment. Changes can be costly! Once you have deposited for your tour, I recommend getting adequate comprehensive travel insurance too at the same time. You cannot afford to travel if you cannot afford travel insurance.


Once the elements of your holiday are falling into place, make sure your passport is in order. Check if any visas or vaccinations are needed. Budget on how much money you wish to spend and start saving your spending money if you don’t already have saved up.


Pack light – even if you are going away for four weeks and just because the airline gives you generous baggage allowance, try to keep your suitcase under 20 kilos. You should be able to lift your suitcase a few times without dislocating your shoulder!! Please note that hotel rooms particularly in Europe are tiny and you want to be able to open your suitcase and walk around in your room. Make a copy of the photo page of your passport and put it at the bottom of your suitcase – comes in handy just in case you lose it!


Take layers (T shirts, cardigans and jackets) and just in case you need to attend a formal function /event, take one good dressy outfit or something you can mix and match to create a dressy going out look.


Continuing with the theme of what else to pack – I like to take a small pocket torch, some spare shopping bags to put your unwashed laundry, an empty drink bottle (I normally boil the electric kettle the night before and let water cool overnight before filling my drink bottle) and also adequate supplies of dried fruit and nut (so I don’t get hangry!)


If you are changing money, do that at an authorised money exchanger. Be discrete and do not advertise you have cash on you. When you withdraw cash from an ATM, make sure the ATM is well lit preferably in a secure building. Be fully present and while most are honest, there could just be one baddie to ruin your well planned holiday.


Leave your precious jewellery including watch at home. Think about whether you are going to use the free Wi-Fi or pre-pay for roaming. Don’t be caught unawares.


Finally, this is your holiday. The more effort you put into planning, the more success you will have as you are prepared for every contingent. Don’t fret about things you can’t change and tell yourself if you didn’t experience you were not to know whether you like it or not. Enjoy.



Be clear on the purpose of this holiday – is it to relax, experience new sights and sounds, keep up with the Joneses, be one with nature or be a culture vulture.


Make sure enough spending money is included and also based on the purpose make sure there is enough for experiences.


Research on possible destinations to make sure they are fit for purpose that is no point going to a theme park heavy destination if you wanted to getaway to be one with nature.


If you only have ten days no point spending a day each way getting to and back from the destination. For a quick getaway, try something short-haul or domestic. There’s always more to be explored in your own backyard.


Once you decided on the duration, destination and have your budget set, book your flights and accommodation early to get the best value deals. For some destinations, I really recommend booking a year in advance to get the early bird deals.


Get good comprehensive travel insurance when you pay for your flights at least this way you can ensure that your holiday investment is safe –you need to check that you are covered for medical emergencies. You also need to ask your insurer what happens in case of a volcanic eruption or if Foreign Affairs  department deems it unsafe to continue travel to your destination prior to departure.


With regard to experiences, make sure you book at least a couple in advance perhaps you wish to consider a skip the line pass- this gives you better orientation / feel for the destination, insider information from a local guide plus bonus of saving loads of time queuing for attractions like Sistine chapel or Eiffel tower with skip the line. Also be prepared that some experiences are weather dependent and may get cancelled and some are highly subscribed that if you don’t book in advance you may miss out. This is why extensive researching helps.


A month before the trip make sure you have six month validity beyond your intended stay on your passport and that your passport is in good condition. Check if you need any visas for your destination.


Decide how you wish to carry your spending money and get a small amount of cash to tide you over the first couple of days. I prefer to carry cash (withdrawn and taken from my home country) and credit card. I have found that withdrawing cash from an overseas ATM attracts unnecessary charges. Moreover they may not be close to where your hotel is and will be wasting precious holiday time running around. Also several boutique outlets and restaurants are averse to taking your credit card plus internet could be intermittent!


Read and reread your itinerary carefully taking note of any schedule changes since you booked, layovers, airport changes or terminal changes. Be particularly vigilant of any early morning or midnight departures as could be easily misread. Arrive early at the airport giving yourself plenty of time.