You’ve decided it’s time to book a cruise holiday... all that’s holding you back is the overwhelming task of finding the itinerary that suits you, planning your time away and actually making the booking.
If you don’t know where to start, or you’re just too busy and want to know how to outsource the planning of your holiday, this guide is for you. We’ll help you decide where to go and share some insider tips from our cruise specialists.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be prepared to make your ultimate cruise holiday a reality.
Finding the type of cruise and cruise line that aligns with your preferred style of travel can be the start of a beautiful travel relationship. You’ll want to review the general size of the ships in the fleet, the service level, the onboard atmosphere, the selection of restaurants, the decor and even your fellow passengers, exploring the world with that cruise line can make travel a breeze.
We breakdown your three main decisions below.
Everyone’s idea of ‘luxury’ is different and unfortunately, it’s one of the most overused words in the travel industry, so it’s important to do your research. ‘Contemporary’ cruises tend to appeal to a broader range of travellers.
In many ways, this is similar to choosing a hotel chain. If you stay in 4-star and above accommodation when on land, then you are likely to enjoy the same at sea. Cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea and Oceania are likely to appeal.
In the contemporary space, we often see larger ships that are more focussed on the on-board entertainment. These tend to be the cruise lines that make headlines with passenger numbers equivalent to many New Zealand towns, and that often cannot berth in Auckland harbour. Think more of a busy resort with waterslides, rock climbing walls and endless restaurants and bars.
The decision between small, medium and large ships usually goes hand-in-hand with your preference between Luxury & Premium or Contemporary. Luxury and Premium cruise lines tend to operate small to medium ships (with some notable exceptions such as Cunard's fleet) and Contemporary cruise lines tend to have larger ships (such as Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises) focussed on a plethora of onboard entertainment options.
Small and medium ships are still significant vessels (think boutique hotel vs expansive resort) and generally offer itineraries that are more port focussed. Guests can spend time off the ship on shore excursions, exploring cities, towns and villages and soaking in the local culture (rather than perfecting the flying fox).
Larger ships will often have more sea days where time can be spent enjoying the entertainment onboard the ship. Guests can still spend time off the ship on shore excursions, however, the big draws include the many activities (everything from zip-lines to shuffleboard), dining experience, and live theatre and music.
Once you’re onboard your cruise there can be little avoiding the fact that you are a captive audience. Recognising that this can cause friction, some luxury and premium cruise lines endeavour to help guests relax into their holiday by pricing on an “all inclusive” basis.
All inclusive will mean different things between different cruise lines. For some, it includes everything, like tips and shore excursions. For others, shore excursions and tips may be an additional charge.
A final piece of advice is that sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised to find that a Luxury or Premium cruise line's itinerary will be more affordable than an equivalent Contemporary cruise line's itinerary once the additional onboard costs are factored in.
One challenge when choosing a cruise line is sourcing independent and expert advice. It’s difficult for the cruise lines to be objective (it’s hard to imagine a cruise line saying “sorry we think our ship will be too big for what you are looking for”) and often ‘hot takes’ on review websites are not made with the best intentions.
Discussing your plans with your Fine Travel Consultant allows us to share our experience and also talk directly with our specialist wholesale partners who represent a wide range of cruise lines. With no vested interest (other than ensuring you have a memorable cruise) we aim to be your trusted advisor.
There are cruises to just about every popular coastal port city you can think of, plus river cruises to thriving inland metropolises and expedition cruises to remote, far-flung places. Here is an overview of each major cruise destination to help you narrow down your wish list.
Glittering waters, fascinating cities, sun-soaked islands; it’s easy to see why the Mediterranean attracts millions of visitors every year. Whether you’re keen to explore ancient ruins in Rome or eat your way around the French Riviera, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant region. If you’re planning a European holiday, a Mediterranean cruise is one of the most popular ways to join an organised itinerary that takes in famous European cities and engages in local cultures.
There are two main types of Mediterranean cruises: Eastern and Western. Eastern Mediterranean cruises visit countries such as Croatia, Greece and Turkey, while western Mediterranean cruises visit Monaco, Spain and France. Italy usually features in both – visit Venice in the east or the Amalfi Coast in the west.
Travel through Europe like many settlers and traders used to: by river. Imagine cruising through Paris and admiring the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower from the river Seine or cruising from Amsterdam to Switzerland along the river Rhine. Europe’s many waterways are a wonderful way to explore parts of this diverse continent.
River cruise ships are smaller than seafaring vessels so you can expect a more intimate (but no less enjoyable or luxurious) experience. Another point to keep in mind is that river cruises usually stop somewhere new each day, so you’ll probably spend most of your daylight hours onshore.
For the New Zealand market there are often Earlybird specials which include offers such as Air Credits, discounted airfares or no single supplements.
On the Fine Travel cruise site you can search for river cruise itineraries by city - selecting where you want to start and finish. The most iconic? A river cruise between Amsterdam and Budapest (or vice versa).
Breathtaking scenery, the thrill of seeing wildlife up close, the feeling of your mind expanding as you learn all about the regions rich history and culture – these are just some of the things you can expect from a cruise (and the shore excursions) of Alaska and Canada's west coast.
A cruise is an excellent way to admire the region’s many snow-capped mountains, emerald forests, and spectacular glaciers and fjords. Combined with a Rocky Mountaineer rail journey you'll want to have your camera handy!
Many Alaska & Canada West itineraries depart Vancouver and cruise up the coast to Alaska. Itineraries will generally include the regions highlights: Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. Take an expedition-style cruise which includes guided excursions to places off the beaten track.
A wide variety of cruise lines now come to New Zealand. From luxury cruise lines to large, resort-like ‘floating playgrounds’, there are lots of different cruise experiences to be had in this corner of the world.
A local itinerary cruise is a great way to dip your toes in the water and try a cruise for the first time. There are voyages around New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific that will take you to memorable ports that we sometimes forget are in our backyard (French Polynesia is particularly popular cruise destination).
Most cruises in this region have a primary focus on New Zealand, or Australia or the Pacific Islands. Longer voyages may include a taste of all three regions (with some carrying on to World Cruise itineraries). If you’re cruising for the first time, we recommend starting with a short cruise from Auckland (to Sydney, for example) and then progressing to a cruise around the Pacific Islands or Australia once you’re sure a cruise is for you.
A world cruise is a unique way to explore multiple countries and continents – and you’ll potentially only have to unpack your suitcases once! If you’re a seasoned cruiser who loves being on the ocean, this could be the ultimate adventure for you.
A world cruise involves more sea days than most, but the ships are usually designed to ensure the word ‘boredom’ never crosses your lips. You can expect activities and entertainment, plus you’ll still be calling into different ports for shore excursions so you’ll always have your next destination to look forward to.
Most World Cruises are around three months long with shorter World Cruise segments (up to one month) often available. World Cruises from Auckland are particularly popular. Several cruise lines offer world cruises; every itinerary varies in terms of length, countries visited, and onboard entertainment.
If adventure is what you’re looking for, an Expedition Cruise could be for you. Most expedition cruises are to destinations such as Antarctica, the Galapagos, Iceland or Greenland. These itineraries are educational and experiential with highly qualified guides and speakers to help you get up close and personal with wildlife, venture out onto the ice, or take part in other incredible adventures in a safe, comfortable environment. Expect total immersion in your chosen destination.
A quite fascinating variety of cruise lines offer expedition cruises and therefore it is important to understand both the itinerary, and the cruise line offering it. A "soft expedition" experience may be more appropriate for you than a more authentic Russian Icebreaker. Modern ships are designed with guests' mobility in mind, making it easier to board a zodiac.
Home to the Amazon River, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, and the vibrant cities of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, as well as many more incredible destinations, South America is a mix of different cultures, landscapes, and experiences. A cruise is an ideal way to get a taste of this exciting destination while enjoying some creature comforts – like resting your head on the same pillow each night.
South America is a big continent, so there’s plenty of diverse cruise experiences to be enjoyed. You might be interested in a cruise along the Amazon River or prefer to stop in at ports along the coast.
Asia has it all: ancient history, futuristic cities, lush landscapes, and towering skyscrapers. If you haven’t ventured to Asia yet, a cruise could be the perfect introduction to this breathtaking part of the world. Expect variety and vibrancy – in this corner of the world, there is so much to look at and experience.
You can choose to cruise Asia (China, Japan and South Korea) or South East Asia (Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam). Many South East Asian itineraries operate between the major ports of Singapore and Hong Kong. Both offer quite different experiences; cruising Asia will focus on busy urban centres while cruising South East Asia offers ample opportunity to visit white sandy beaches and resort towns.
Combine your dream of going on an epic cruise holiday with another must-do: going on safari! Most African cruises include the opportunity to see wildlife up close, whether that’s by exploring the plains of Namibia or snorkelling at one of many ecological hotspots along the coast. Depending on your itinerary, you might also experience outings like touring vineyards in South Africa or visiting the pyramids in Giza.
African cruises tend to be split over three regions: North Africa, South Africa, and Madagascar. Cruises depart from several different places, including Southampton, Cape Town, and Durban, just to name a few.
If you've done your research and the excitement levels are high for a specific cruise itinerary, it’s a good idea to book it as early as possible. Some cruises only depart at certain times of the year, and popular itineraries and popular cabins / suites can sell out quickly (remember, you’re competing with people all over the world for space, not just New Zealanders).
Generally, you will only need to pay a deposit to secure your cabin or suite with the balance due closer to the departure date. As there can be an extended period of time between when the deposit is paid and when the balance is due, we recommend that travel insurance be taken out when the deposit is paid. You never know when life may get in the way of travel plans.
For cruise holidays the largest discounts often apply when cabins and suites are first released as the cruise lines want the security of knowing the ship will be full when it departs. When some itineraries go on sale there can also be bonus offers such as Free Flights and Air Credits.
If an itinerary still has space close to departure, some cruise lines release “last minute specials”. There are upsides and downsides to these - it’s great to pick up a bargain, but it’s hard to plan a holiday when you don’t know if a last minute special will be released - you could end up paying a higher price by waiting - or worse - miss out altogether.
In addition to Fly Free Specials and Air Credits there can also be Past Passenger Discounts, Back to Back Discounts (when two or more cruises are combined), Onboard Credits, Beverage Packages and more. Talk to us if you’d like to learn more about these cruise offers.
With cruise deposits often required well in advance of the departure date, sometimes airfares have not been released to connect with the itinerary. Once we've booked your cruise, we can arrange your flights (when they are released), pre- and post-cruise accommodation, and any additional tours or sightseeing you want to include in your trip - all in a single, coherent, itinerary.
With most cruises departing one port and finishing at another, booking airfares can become expensive. We take advantage of “Open Jaw” airfares which can be an excellent way to save time and money by avoiding backtracking.
Our goal is to make your cruise holiday as easy and stress-free as possible. All you need to do is choose where to go, and we can take care of everything else.