Why I think Alaska is the World’s Best Cruise Destination
Cruising to Alaska - Like No Place on Earth We all have our favourite cruise destinations and for me, with over 60 cruises around the world under...Read more
Slow travel is a new trend in travel
Time is a precious commodity today, amidst the breakneck pace of modern life. This is why slow travel has become one of the fastest-growing holiday trends right across the globe. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia, where our vast landscapes offer a compelling opportunity to stop and take stock of our surroundings. And what better way to do just that than by embarking on a heritage rail journey back in time? In this spirit, Cruise Express has your ticket to slowing down, fast.
Pioneering this nostalgic mode of travel, Cruise Express transports passengers to the golden era of travel. Unique heritage rail and sail experiences are specially designed to help you switch off and slow down. Like the new ‘Southern Aurora’ tour, which takes you on an eight-day adventure by sea and rail – traversing the country from Sydney to Tasmania, Melbourne and back. Daydream out the window from your private compartment aboard the historic ‘Southern Aurora’ train and disconnect from your devices; or laze on deck aboard Australia’s latest cruise ship, Explorer Dream and let the meditative ocean calm you down.
By offering a unique combination of rail and sail adventures, you are able to reconnect with old world pleasures. Travelling by rail is particularly peerless in its grounded potential. You will embark and alight in the centre of town, journeying through gentle, eye-pleasing scenery along the way. In this sense, rail travel proves both comfortable and relaxing. Which makes it the perfect way to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of your journey – without the highly-strung pressures of modern-day life.
If you’re from Melbourne, we also offer a chance to recharge close to home through our ‘Northern Explorer’ rail and sail tour – taking you along the eastern seaboard to Sydney by rail and back by sea.
Or venture further afield with international steam train journeys like their ‘British Isles Rail & Sail’ experience. Once aboard, you will have the chance to travel through gorgeous countryside, visiting some of the remotest corners of England and Wales. Take in the russet and gold tones of the great moors of West Country, for instance, and seek solace in the rolling hills of Snowdonia National Park. Gaze up at the clouds or across vast plains as you relish the relaxing simplicity of travel – just as it used to be.
Nature often acts as our most powerful reminder that time is incredibly precious, and we can bring you closer to nature at every turn. So set your sights on a slower speed and take the time that you deserve to return to some of the simpler things in life.
* For details on the exclusive rail holidays offered by Cruise Express, click here.
The joys of holidaying with the ‘entire’ family
Booking a cruising or any holiday for multi-generational families is increasingly popular and while holidays are a chance to get away from it all, holidays with the family are more about bringing everyone together, without having to spend all your time together and it’s great value for money…sounds appealing…. read on!
It’s becoming increasingly common for grandparents, their children and theirs to take a holiday together. Destinations that have been on the increase include Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, Europe and Vietnam.
It is still relaxing, affordable and guaranteed to create a lifetime of incredible memories, especially for the little ones to treasure.
Outlined below are a few of Cruise Express’ favourite suggestions to help grandparents, parents and children have the best cruise holiday possible!
1. Size Counts – Choose a larger resort-style ship that offers more facilities for kids and teenagers and more activities (including yoga, cooking and craft classes) for different age categories. Bigger ships also carry more kids so your brood can make friends more easily. Best of all, adult-only retreat areas on the larger family size ships offer a real-time out!
2. School Holidays – If you can and your grandkids/kids are young enough and not in senior years at school, take a cruise outside school holiday periods when there are more cabins available and fares (even airfares) are more affordable. You’ll be surprised at how many other kids there will be onboard for children to mix with.
3. Balcony – If there are young ones traveling with you on a multi-generational, a balcony cabin is not recommended for safety reasons. An outside cabin with a window or porthole will be just as exciting for the kids and you won’t need to keep an eye on them constantly. Some cruise ships now, like Royal Caribbean’s ‘Ovation of the Seas’, offer ‘virtual balconies’ in their inside cabins – live feed of what is occurring outside, dock or ocean!
4. Rooms – There are many options here including suites, sharing a 4-person cabin with bunks, interconnecting cabins, or you can opt to get neighbouring cabins – next to each other or one outside/balcony cabin and one inside cabin directly opposite the hallways to save money. Grandparents also may want to look at treating themselves to a suite!
5. Activities – Many larger cruise ships today have water slides, rock climbing walls, wave-surfing pools and flying foxes which are huge hits with all children.
6. Package – Before you leave or as soon as you board, look into buying a soft drink/ice cream package for yourself and possibly for the children so they can enjoy unlimited refreshments during the cruise, saving you/them money in the long run.
7. Kid’s Clubs – Encourage the children and allow yourselves to take advantage of the Kid’s Clubs. That way they can have lots of fun and you can enjoy a relaxing time together, meeting up as a family as you wish.
8. Dinner Sittings – If your kids are under 12, opt for the first sitting dinner or book earlier dinner times if your ship offers open dining. If you are travelling in a multi-generational group, we recommend making bookings as far out as possible to avoid disappointment, especially for the specialty restaurants.
9. Ashore – When ashore don’t try to pack too much into the day, particularly in hot, tropical zones, as the kids will tire quickly. A morning excursion could work best before returning to the ship for a late lunch and afternoon siesta!
10. Duration – Shorter cruises of under 10 days are better suited to multi-generational families. There are weekend and 5-day cruises from Australia or longer 7-10 day cruises to Queensland or through the South Pacific which the kids will love.
Call us today on 1300 766537 to find out what is available, where and when!
There are many cruise lines that offer great multi-generational cruising options, and we also suggest visiting our website to find out some current amazing discounts with Royal Caribbean this summer and get the most suitable options for your family holiday!
Probably one of the most common questions our Travel Specialists are asked by those new to luxury cruising is, “but is it worth it”? With a globally booming luxury ocean cruise segment, it seems the answer to that is yes!
Naturally, budget is a major factor in being able to consider such a cruise, and at the end of the day it comes down to what you want out of a cruise holiday, where you are travelling to and with whom. Keep in mind that while these cruises are more expensive up front, there are no surprise out-of-pocket expenses at the end of the day, and its this all-inclusive nature of the luxury market that has increasingly come more attractive.
Depending on the cruise line, generally included are gratuities, a fitness centre, 24-hour room service, all drinks and meals (including specialty dining), your personal preference stocked mini-bar, unlimited Wi-Fi, shore tours, enrichment and entertainment options, even a butler who will unpack your bags and cater to your every whim. The only thing that won’t be covered is the high-shelf liquor, as well as spa and salon services. However, if you manage to book at the right time you may be entitled to shipboard credit that will cover these extras.
The onboard dining is also a luxurious experience with many cruise lines offering Michelin-inspired menus partnered with some of the world’s most prestigious chefs and gastronomic societies. These extraordinary culinary options are often accompanied by master sommeliers and connoisseur wine lists.
Luxury class ships generally offer all suite accommodation with the majority offering a private verandah. In-suite amenities usually include luxurious custom mattresses, premium cotton linens, pillow menus, walk-in wardrobes and your choice of bathroom products from brands such as Molton Brown, L’occitane and Bvlgari. Your hostess and waiters (often with a 2:3 passenger ratio) will offer personalised service knowing your name and your seating/drink preferences, amongst other things. There is a smaller number of passengers onboard compared with the mega-ships, offering more room to move freely and rarely a queue to be seen.
Increasingly, first-class luxury ships offer destination-rich itineraries, sailing to some of the most incredible places on our planet. Usually being more intimate ships, they can access more remote waterways in exotic destinations, stopping at more exclusive ports of call and giving passengers more quality time on-shore.
Booking a high-end cruise also entitles you to access exclusive shore excursions and activities. Some of these ships have zodiacs, kayaks and other aquatic toys all included in the price. These cruises are designed to be more educationally immersive with naturalists, historians, geologists and many more specialists at your disposal making it a perfect holiday for the young and old.
At the end of the day, cruise ships like all of us, have their own personalities, quirks and all, so what may be a wonderful ship for you may not be for the person next to you. Unlike any other cruise experience, choosing to sail away on a high-end luxury ship is the making for a most unforgettable holiday. Please talk with our Travel Specialists as they are equipped to explain the differences between the luxury cruise lines so you can pick the best ship and experience for you.
Cruising to Alaska – Like No Place on Earth
We all have our favourite cruise destinations and for me, with over 60 cruises around the world under my belt, Alaska is the best place on Earth to explore by ship.
Just thinking about the three Alaska cruises I have done with Princess Cruises makes me wistful and wanting to return soon. I even bought an Alaskan CD of nature-infused music on my last visit so I could relive the magic of this amazing place back home.
The Alaska summer cruise season runs from May to September during the warmer months in the northern hemisphere. Over one million people annually visit Alaska by cruise ship, with over a dozen cruise lines touring, including Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises.
Because so many cruise lines sail to Alaska, competition is fierce, making fares very affordable. Seven-night cruises are often available from under A$1200 per person, twin-share, but the price is not the only reason to cruise to Alaska.
Here are some other reasons why Alaska is an ideal cruise destination:
Best way to see Alaska – Due to the rugged nature of Alaska’s mountainous coastline, cruising is the best and easiest way to explore the USA’s biggest State. In fact, the coastline of Alaska is longer than the coasts of all the other US States combined. The Alaskan capital, Juneau, is so hemmed in by snow-capped peaks and the sea that there are no roads in or out of the city from other centres making cruising the best way togo. Cruising in Alaska is so accessible, simply fly directly from Australia into Vancouver and you’re onboard your cruise to Alaska.
The Scenery – Breathtakingly spectacular sums up Alaska. Abundant pine forests, towering, snow-cloaked mountains, mighty glaciers plummeting into the sea, glistening lakes and frontier gold towns with ‘wild west’ saloons. The famous Inside Passage that almost every Alaskan cruise traces is a maze of beautiful waterways lined by a thick green blanket of pines, cedars, firs and hemlocks. Your cruise ship will stop in front of a massive glacier in Glacier Bay so you can watch the awe-inspiring process of ‘calving’, where giant pillars of ice tumble into the ice-blue water in front of you.
The Wildlife – From the ship or ashore you are bound to see some of Alaska’s rich bounty of wildlife including whales, otters, bears, deer, caribou, moose, bison, eagles and salmon.
The Culture – Alaska boasts a rich fabric of native Indian and Eskimo cultures, showcased in recreated villages and colourful song and dance shows that cruise passengers can visit.
Short Cruises – Most Alaskan cruises are seven nights long, with three ports (such as Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway) and three days at sea (including sailing close to glaciers) so there’s an ideal mix of days ashore and relaxing time at sea – the perfect cruise as it were. You can choose from round-trip cruises from ports such as Vancouver and Seattle or one-way cruises between Vancouver/Seattle and Anchorage (using the ports of Seward or Whittier), with a connecting flight back.
Great Ports – There may be three or more ships docked at the ports but each destination is filled with colour, excitement, wonder – and lots of shopping. A stroll along the restored frontier-era storefronts and saloons of Skagway will take you back to the days of the Klondike Gold Rush. Lofty peaks loom over beautiful Juneau where a stop at the traditional Red Dog Saloon with its straw floor will have you singing along with the guitar player. While in Ketchikan, we recommend visiting the river brimming with Salmon, and take a stroll along historic Creek Street, a former red light district during the Gold Rush.
Great Shore Tours – You are spoilt for choice when it comes to land excursions in Alaska – everything from native Indian cultural parks filled with colourful totem poles, kayaking trips with whales and sled rides on glaciers to salmon bakes at remote lodges, a scenic ride on the historic White Pass Railway, seaplane flights to far-flung fjords, glacier climbing and trips to see wild bears catch jumping salmon.
Land of the Midnight Sun – Because Alaska is so far north, you can enjoy extra long days of sunlight, daylight 24 hours a day during the summer solstice on June 21. Walking around the deck at 11pm after dinner and seeing Alaska in all her glory in muted daylight is a real thrill. Despite what you may think, Alaska is not that cold in summer, with average temperatures up to 18 degrees Celsius.
Add-on Tours – After travelling to North America for a seven-night Alaskan cruise we recommend visiting Canadian Rockies from Vancouver or Seattle. Alternatively, the wild interior of Alaska, including the wildlife-rich Denali National Park, from Anchorage is stunning. You could also bookend your cruise with both destinations! The major cruise lines run their own rail and coach tours through Alaska – and several run their own wilderness lodges. No matter which tour you add on, this is an unforgettable holiday!
Top 10 Alaska Cruise Tips
1. Vancouver is my tip for boarding your Alaskan cruise – spend a day before you board to explore this beautiful harbour city.
2. One of the best itineraries is the seven-day Gulf of Alaska cruise, one-way between Vancouver/Seattle and Anchorage. This cruise takes you further north to the fascinating city of Anchorage as well as the stunning College Fjord, renowned for showcasing the world’s biggest collection of tidewater glaciers.
3. The shoulder seasons of May and September can be colder and wetter but also more affordable but June-August are warmer, with lots more daylight – but also busier.
4. In Juneau, buy your own ticket up the Mt Roberts tramway to the top of the mountain for panoramic views. Enjoy a helicopter flight that lands on the glaciers and before returning to the ship, but make sure you stop off for a pint of local lager at the foot-stomping Red Dog Saloon.
5. When visiting the tourist strips of ports like Ketchikan, take time to stroll along streets back from the main shopping centres so you can get a better, more authentic feel for how Alaskans live.
6. Ride the White Pass Railroad in Skagway up through the mountains and if you can make the take time to walk through the nearby pine forests, dotted with lakes throughout – you won’t be disappointed. Quench your thirst at the fun Red Onion Saloon in town before heading back to your ship.
7. Although you see lots of snow and ice in Alaska, the pools onboard your ship are warm and the jacuzzis are hot. There’s nothing like soaking in a steaming, outdoor spa, drink in hand as you watch the spectacular scenery float by. You might get funny looks from other rugged-up passengers but you’ll be the one having all the fun!
8. Bring some binoculars with you so you can look out for bears and whales from the ship.
9. Highly recommended before or after your cruise is an add-on rail/coach tour through the Canadian Rockies and/or the interior of Alaska to the wonderful Denali National Park – home to North America’s highest mountain, Mt McKinley.
10. Book your Alaska cruise holiday, including your flights, through Cruise Express who can organise all the details and book you the best deal – and take time also to also check our 24/7 self serve ‘look and book’ page on our website.
Call our team on 1300 766 537 or visit our website for more information!
Regardless of age, family situation, destination desire or budget, cruising can meet everyone’s requirements and is a terrific way to enjoy your holidays.
Whether you have taken cruise holidays before or are a complete cruise rookie, outlined below are some top tips for planning your cruise to ensure you get the most out of any and every cruise holiday.
What sort of cabin would I like?
The first of our top tips for planning a cruise is that there are essentially four types of cabins to choose from. From cheapest to most expensive they are an inside cabin with no ocean view, an outside cabin with sea views, a balcony cabin and a suite. It’s really a myth that you don’t spend much time in your cabin and that any cabin will do.
You do spend much of the cruise in your cabin and it can define your whole holiday so it’s important to select the accommodation that you will enjoy. If you’re on a tight budget and you’re motivated by the destinations then, yes, an inside cabin is a good choice. But since you’re on a sea holiday we think it’s a good idea, if the budget permits, to see the sea from your bed – waking up to see where you are is a real treat.
A balcony allows you to enjoy the fresh sea air and relax outside in private and if you really want to treat yourself, or if you’re celebrating a special occasion, then a suite will indeed be sweet. We know our ships so ask us at Cruise Express for our advice. We can help you find cabins with the best views and positions and away from noises, and we can often organise free cabin upgrades if they are available so booking through a travel agent like Cruise Express is a good idea.
Do I want to go on a group trip or on my own?
Cruise Express offers its own hosted cruise tours but we can, of course, book you on any cruise so you can enjoy a voyage on your own or with a partner, your family or a group of friends. Regardless of how or who you go with, there are lots of ways to plan for this – some ships cater better for families, some for adults only, and some to the single traveller.
The advantages of a hosted group tour include:
– Group savings/lower fares/many inclusions such as transfers
– VIP/express entry into major attractions
– Assistance at hand if you get sick or lose your passports or money, etc
– Camaraderie with as much or as little group interaction as you want
– Your host looks after all the paperwork, directions and details so you can relax and have fun
You might feel safe and confident holidaying on your own in many places but perhaps destinations such as Egypt, Africa, the Middle East, South America and parts of Asia are best explored as part of a group led by experts in the region.
What is my budget?
Let us know your budget so we can tailor a holiday that suits, with enough money left over for spending along the way. Factor into the budget items like souvenirs, gifts, photos, tips, spa treatments, drinks, snacks, meals ashore local sightseeing and specialty restaurants on your ship.
What is included?
Your Cruise Express consultant can help you find out exactly what is included in your holiday cost so that there are no nasty surprises. Sometimes it can be more affordable and relaxing to sail on a luxury liner that includes drinks and often shore tours in your fare. We can do the sums for you.
Of course, when you join our escorted cruise tours, more is included in the fare with flights, transfers, sightseeing, pre or post cruise accommodation and some shoreside meals often all covered for peace of mind. – decide what works better for you.
Who do I book through?
The cruise line, a website company or a travel agent? Of course, we’re biased, but a travel agency specialising in cruising like Cruise Express can offer you independent advice and the best deals from ALL the cruise lines, not just one. And we feel it’s important when it comes to holidays to speak to a real person, not a website address, for the best personal and friendly advice, and fast answers to all your questions.
Do I book early or should I book closer to the cruise?
For peace of mind, it’s always better to book in advance so you can choose the best cabin for you, lock in your holiday dates, reserve your place on the cruise (which might book up later) and take advantage of early booking fares. Of course, last-minute booking specials do pop up but your choice of cabins and dates can be limited. Booking connecting flights is also cheaper in advance than at the last minute.
Do I have travel insurance and all the right visas/documents?
Cruise Express can advise you on all the documents, visas and vaccinations you need for your trip so that everything goes smoothly. Of course, your passport needs to be up to date (with up to 12 months validity depending on the destination) and travel insurance is always a must because sometimes things in life just don’t go to plan!
What do I bring?
To ensure you are comfortable onboard, it’s important you find out, in advance, what dress codes are expected. Most ships have smart casual and formal nights and some add fancy dress or semi-formal nights as well so do your research to find out what is expected so you can join in the fun and look the part.
Of course, we can assist with all these important matters!
Please call us on 1300 766 537 or visit our website to see all of our great adventures…