When it comes to travel I have tried really hard to push the boundaries. As a child we went to the same resort, ate at the same restaurants and visited the same attractions every year. Whilst I have no issues with this, and do still visit these places, I was adamant that as an adult I would try new things. I did my road trip around the American West Coast two years ago and when my friend suggested a trip this year I was excited to see where we would end up. We had one stipulation, we wanted to see something. Not a beach, not a bar, but something. We walked out of the travel agents with a week long cruise aboard P&O Cruises Oceana to Italy and Dubrovnik, not what I was expecting at all! I will write another post about places we visited and where you should see but today, cruising and what you shouldn’t miss when travelling alone or with a friend.
Take it all in
Cruising is something I thought old people did. With their ball gowns and bow ties ready for captain’s dinners then bingo before bed. The cruise scene has changed massively and it is now, in my opinion, the perfect way to see more than one destination in the luxurious surroundings of a floating hotel.
Want to tour the caribbean islands with their lush white sands and crystal clear waters? You can. Want to fall asleep surrounded by nothing but ocean and wake up sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge? You can. But one of my biggest tips is to make sure you soak up life on board the ship. The destinations are amazing but you will have plenty of time to kill on board your ship and she has so much more to offer than you may realise.
We set sail from Genoa after a particularly stressful and hot couple of hours where we weren’t sure we would be able to board at all thanks to a soon to expire passport. Because we were so tired from the ordeal we decided to sit on the deck and watch the boat leave the port with a glass of fizz in hand. Leaving at sunset was magical and something you wouldn’t get to experience on any other kind of holiday.
Even more stunning is sailing into port and there is nothing quite like the narrow river ways of Venice to sail through. Unique to sailing in is the commentary over the ship’s main sound system giving information about the buildings, celebrity haunts and little known facts about this incredible place. I left my heart in Venice, anyone I have spoken to since will know that, but that is for another post.
Equally as entertaining was setting sail for our last night from Dubrovnik where there was a good old British knees up around the pool complete with Union Jacks and the National Anthem. Nothing quite prepares you for the pomp I promise but, as cheesy as it is, it is thoroughly entertaining and addictive. There was a real sense of community during the sail away with random strangers dancing with one another and getting each other drinks, a great social occasion to get involved with.
Book your trips
We spent hours looking at trips and excursions before our trip but decided not to book any until we were on board. Unfortunately by that time a lot of the trips we wanted to do had been sold so we had to go with what was left. These were amazing and we still got to see everything we wanted to but our ship was not full so we were incredibly lucky. I would hate for you to miss out on some of the incredible sights that you can’t get to without a booked trip so make sure you plan and book online in advance.
Pay that bit extra and visit the other restaurants
The food onboard is included in the price of your cruise and it is a la carte every night, if you want it. You will be given a dining time slot where you will be seated either with other guests or at a table on your own. Dinner time is busy so you will have a bit of a wait if you want a table to yourself, eating with others is all part of the charm and if you are cruising alone it is a great opportunity to meet people. You can order wine with your meal and if you don’t finish it, they will happily store this for you until the following night. Anyone who knows me will know this never happened but it is a nice idea…!
You will find a number of other restaurants on board where you can book in for a small fee, and when I say small I am talking less than a tenner. We ate the most exquisite pasta in Le Jardin thanks to a menu designed by Marco Pierre White as well as delicious hanging kebabs al fresco at The Beach House with the sea breeze in our hair. It was well worth it for the change of scenery, beautiful food and contrasting atmosphere. You also have a table to yourself at these restaurants so if you are dining solo and don’t want to chat with others, you get the peace and quiet of the sea as your friend.
Visit ALL the bars
There are lots of different places to get a drink on board and I naively assumed that the same drinks would be available in each bar, this is definitely NOT the case! We drank exquisite champagne in Magnums (who also had a mighty fine gin selection I would like to add) beer flights in the Yacht & Compass as well as cocktails in Winners’ adjacent to the casino. Each restaurant has their own wine list too, you can never get bored with the same drink on board a P&O Cruise. That is saying something for someone with access to as many bars as Manchester now had to offer. When holidaying alone this gives great variety and enables you to move between the different bars where you will also experience different entertainment such as quizzes, karaoke and live entertainment.
Dress to impress
How many times do you go on holiday and end up staying out in your day clothes whilst grabbing something to eat? I have a wardrobe full of beautiful dresses that I rarely wear despite always taking them away with me for a variety of reasons. Cruising is a great excuse to pack your finery and wear it with pride. On black tie nights all guests in the dining room dress up and there are fancy dress theme nights too that are easy to take part in. It is all part of the fun and if you are cruising alone it is a great conversation starter too.
There you have it, my top tips for cruising solo or with friends. Now to book my next one.