An Interview with
One of the things which never ceases to amaze me is how supportive and helpful the cruise blogging community are. Times are tough for the cruise industry at the moment and we all can’t wait to be back travelling and sailing on the high seas. So I thought I’d launch a new series of interviews with some great members of the cruising community.
I’m so excited to share this series of blog posts with you. There’s a shipful of great cruise bloggers lined up, who have collectively spent over 6 years on board ship! So welcome to the first in this regular series of interviews with cruise bloggers, vloggers and all-round cruise experts. I hope you enjoy them.
An Interview with Dana Freeman
With over 150 nights on board ship and 20-plus cruises in the bag, it was great to have the opportunity to interview the wonderful Dana Freeman.
Dana Freeman is freelance travel journalist and digital influencer living in Vermont. Through her photography and writing, she provides authentic destination information, reviews, and travel tips focusing on the cruise, luxury, and food & wine industry. Her work has been featured in CNN Travel, Porthole Magazine, Thrillist and several other print and digital publications. In 2019 she was named by Porthole Magazine as a Top 10 Cruise Influencers.
So what first got you interested in cruising?
My Grandmother. She was an avid traveller and cruiser. She went on 50 in her lifetime. We sailed out of Venice, Italy on her 96th birthday on a Windstar Cruise. My first cruise with her was In August 1980. We sailed on the Holland America Line SS Veendam on a cruise to the Caribbean.
Sounds like that was a pretty special cruise with a pretty special person. I love those kinds of cruises, and Venice, on a Windstar cruise sounds dreamy.
Like many others, I believe there’s a cruise line and a cruise type for everyone. What would you say your cruise type or preferences are e.g. luxury, adventure, family fun, expedition etc?
I prefer small luxury cruises. The smaller the better.
So what’s your next planned cruise and why did you choose this particular one?
The Greek Islands in September with Running on Waves (it is a media trip).
Tell me about your cabin preferences – location, cabin type?
Mid ship towards the front with a balcony if possible. I love a room with a large (walk-in closet) and enough counter space in the bathroom for two people’s toiletries.
Have your cruise habits or preferences changed in any way since you started cruising?
My taste in luxury cruises has increased. I love small ships with unique itineraries that go into smaller, less touristy ports.
What things are you prepared to pay a little extra for to make your cruise or time on board ship that extra bit special?
A spa treatment.
What the best piece of cruise advice you’ve been given?
Don’t fly into your embarkation city on the day you set sail. Always come in the night before.
That’s a great piece of advice – I know from personal experience that it can certainly help to make any holiday run more smoothly.
So let’s talk about choosing a cruise. What are some of the most important factors you take into consideration when planning your next cruise?
Flight costs. Living in a secondary city (Burlington, Vermont), it is usually expensive to fly into one city for embarkation and out of another when you disembark. A cruise like this Scenic River Cruise that embarks and disembarks in Paris makes the flight round-trip and usually more cost effective.
That’s a great option. Where do you usually to cruise to? – do you have any favourite itineraries or destinations you keep returning to?
I love cruising in the Mediterranean Sea. There are so many fantastic coastal towns to explore and the food is fantastic.
Yes, great choice, the Mediterranean is a wonderful place to cruise – you are spoiled for choice with all the great ports. There are a lot of different types of cruise holidays to choose from too. It can sometimes be quite overwhelming if you’re new to cruising and don’t know where to start. What advice would you give to someone who is planning their first cruise holiday?
Determine the type of itinerary/destination you want first. Beaches might mean the Caribbean while romantic and cultural experiences might mean the Mediterranean and expeditions might mean Alaska or the Antarctic. With so many options for itineraries and ship sizes, a first-time cruiser might find using a travel agent that specialises in cruising a great choice.
I agree, cruise specialist travel agents are worth their weight in gold when choosing your first cruise
Staying with ports and destinations, let’s talk about exploring ashore. Cruising is so much more than just a fantastic ship and an epic on board experience; It’s the chance to sample multiple destinations in one holiday whilst unpacking only once. So when planning a day ashore what are your ‘go-to’ sources of information ?
I read reviews relentlessly on trip advisor and google.
Google is a favourite of mine too. Such a useful app to take on your travels. When ashore do you prefer to explore independently, seek out local guide or opt for shore excursions organised through your cruise line?
I prefer to explore on my own. I am not much of group tour person unless it is with a very small group. I have used Viator in Spain and Urban Adventures in Austria for smaller, local day tours.
I agree about Viator – we had an amazing small group tour experience with them in Cannes that took in Eze and Monaco too. It was excellent value for money.
Tell me about the essentials you always pack in a day bag for your time ashore?
Sunscreen, hat, water bottle, camera, hair ties, hand sanitizer, sunglasses and the phone number for the ship. If for any reason I get delayed, I don’t want the ship to leave without me.
Some cruisers are loyal to one cruise line whereas others like to mix it up. What advice would you give to someone thinking about jumping ship and trying a different cruise line?
Pick the top three things you love about the cruise line you are loyal too. Ask yourself if you didn’t have those on your next cruise would you be disappointed. If you answered yes, then you should probably stick with the brand you know and love.
Great advice! I think that’s a good way to choose whether to stay with your cruise line or mix it up. Talking of mixing it up – have you ever swapped the ocean for the river cruise? If so, what intrigued you the most about river cruises?
I have sailed on both. I tried a river and a barge cruise because I wanted to see what cruising the interior of a country was like instead of along the coast.
Yes, this is one of the things which appeals to me too. Having not tried a river cruise myself yet, what advice would you give to anyone thinking of trying a river cruise for the first time?
River cruises are much smaller than ocean cruises. They may not have the same bells and whistles as a large cruise ship (no pool, casino, large theatres). Lack of rain can cause the river to become too shallow. This may result in your cruise itinerary being changed or the cruise being cancelled altogether
The cruise industry has faced some difficult challenges recently – how do you think this will impact the future of cruising? Will it change any of your own cruising habits or choices?
If American’s can only travel domestically, I see the rise in booking river cruise in the USA.
- American Queen Steamboat offers them in Mississippi, Ohio & Tennessee and Pacific Northwest. The American Countess launched this year.
- Viking is planning cruising the Mississippi starting in 2022
They sound great – I think I’d like to try those too when it’s safe to travel again.
Now for a few ‘quick fire’ questions:
What are your pre-cruise rituals before you sail? I usually arrive in the city of embarkation the day before the cruise departs. I try to get a good night’s sleep and adjust to the time difference if there is any.
It’s embarkation day. What essentials do you pack in your carry-on bag? Passport, camera, toiletries, change of clothes.
It’s sail-away time – where am I most likely to find you? On the top deck with a cocktail in my hand.
Knowing what you know now about cruise holidays, what one piece of cruising advice would you give to your former cruise self? If you are travelling with elders, make sure the ship has an elevator. Some small ships do not.
The most useful item you’ve packed for a cruise. I travel with a set of over the door hooks in my suitcase. They easily hang right over any door, no mounting hardware needed.
What’s more important to you – the ship or the itinerary? The itinerary.
What’s a cruise great deal or offer for you? Cabin upgrade!
Describe your perfect sea day on board? I love the days at sea! I like to find a lounge chair away from the crowds and spend the day reading a good book.
And finally a fun one to end with. Apart from your loved ones (of course), what famous person (living or otherwise) would you like to cruise with and why? Bono, the lead singer of U2. I have travelled around the world to see the band. Most recently I saw them in New Zealand and Australia. I would love to travel with a member of the band.
My thanks once again to Dana for making time for this interview. It was great to have an opportunity to catch up with you about cruising!