Steph - Cruise with Amber
Hi Lois It’s great to get the chance to find out more about why you love cruising so much. I always like to start off by asking people how they would describe their cruise self. So tell us a bit about you and your cruise blogging life.
I am a cruisaholic! usually with P&O cruises or Cunard. In my usual everyday life I am a Specialist Nurse working on ICU, in my spare time there is nothing I enjoy more than cruising and taking photographs of my travels, showing people how beautiful cruising can be!
I love your Instagram feed! So many great photos. Thank you for letting me use so many in this post. So let’s start from the beginning, How did you end up on a cruise ship? Tell me about your first cruise.
My parents began cruising when the school fee bills finished! At University I was hearing about their cruise adventures and then in 2009, my Dad treated my mother and I to a Norwegian Fjord cruise aboard Oceana. The rest is history! I love cruising, I’ve continued cruising as often as possible since, converting my Husband to cruising in 2013.
Oceana is a beautiful ship. I think Oceana has been so many people’s first ship. The Norwegian Fjords are also a great destination for a first cruise too, so what a fantastic combination you had for your first cruise – no wonder you got addicted and wanted to convert others!
Speaking about converting others, when you’re discussing cruises with non-cruisers what would you say is the main thing which sets cruise holidays apart from any other type of holiday you’ve been on?
I love everything about cruising, the fresh sea air, the ability to completely turn off from the outside world. The excellent service, the wonderful places we visit in such a relaxed, sophisticated way! My husband is more or less on call 24/7 in his work and cruise holidays are perfect to enforce him to completely turn off, no sneaky wifi to join, no work at all!
There is nowhere else in the world where every night you can enjoy canapés pre dinner, go for pre-dinner drinks, eat a delicious gourmet meal with fabulous service, then stroll to the theatre and head back to your cabin, all with a different backdrop of scenery, all whilst feeling incredibly safe. Cruising is fabulous.
I agree – and tell me about your cruise preferences – what do they tend to be?
Currently P&O cruises and Cunard. I’d really like to try Silver Seas and Celebrity soon. Well, I’d love to try every single line!
Yes, so many cruise lines so little time. What about your cabin preferences, tell me more about them?
I love at least a balcony cabin, I love being able to sit on the balcony away from people and sip a drink, sunbathe, read a book or gaze at the sea! I do love a suite too, the extra room, especially outside balcony space is totally worth it. I’m a very ‘you on live once’ type of person. Seeing life and death every single day, usually young, sudden death. Therefore I really want to enjoy life! You never know when your time may be up, so make the most of now!
I have been known to stay in an inside cabin, if it’s the difference between cruising or not, I will happily stay in an inside, although last time I did I was very sick with Legionella Pneumonia….so at least a balcony will always be a preference for me! The private outside area is priceless to me!
I do love a balcony too. Have your cruise habits or preferences changed in any way since you started cruising?
No, not really! I just cruise a lot more now, earning more than ten years ago.
Having cruised so many nights at sea you must have collected some very special moments on your cruises over the years. What would you say was your most memorable cruise and tell me what made it so special for you?
So far, it would be my first Caribbean cruise. It was a cruise aboard Ventura and it was one of our Honeymoons; we had a beach based ‘mini’ moon straight after our wedding, then the following Winter we went to the Caribbean. It was lovely because we were spoilt. Now we spoil ourselves by returning and reliving it each year! And we’ve treated ourselves to an aft suite for our 8th Wedding Anniversary.
That sounds such a good way to celebrate a wedding anniversary each year. Travel plans have been slightly disrupted during 2020 but tell me about your next planned cruise or cruises.
I was supposed to be on Aurora for my birthday cruise at the end of April 2020 to France and Spain, unfortunately that was cancelled. I’ve spent my birthday at sea for the last 7 years or so, going on a birthday cruise with my Husband and Mum and Dad. We used to always do a Norwegian Fjord cruise, last year we swapped to a France and Spain cruise so thought we’d go on one again, but alas due to Covid it has not been possible.
Our next booked cruise after that was due to be IonaFest not really a type of cruise we would go on, we are not big party goers, enjoying relaxation far more, however on thinking about what a party this cruise would be, and researching the vast range of entertainment we decided to treat ourselves! If it had gone ahead, I expect I would have needed a holiday after it to recover from the partying!
IonaFest sounded such a fantastic experience. It’s such a shame so many great cruises have had to be cancelled this year, but we will be cruising again soon, no doubt. Tell me a little bit more about your cruise habits what would you say is more important to you the ship or the itinerary?
I think it depends. I can’t really explain my thoughts on it. I tend to like returns to ships, as a creature of habit, but I am also happy to explore new ships… Then I think a mixture of itinerary and ship whilst looking at potential cruises!
Do have any favourite itineraries or are there any particular destinations you keep returning to?
Every January we cruise to the Caribbean for two weeks. Then we usually take a week to the Fjords or France and Spain at the end of April. Often, I take a 2-week cruise with my parents in the summer, sometimes my husband comes too, we tend to do a Baltic cruise or a UK cruise.
Then my husband and I might go to the Caribbean in November time if he has time off. Sometimes I’ll join my parents on a 10-14-day cruise to the canaries in the Autumn, or the Fjords. Then we start in January again.
That’s a lovely schedule to have, sounds amazing.
Now you mentioned your cruising preferences tend to be Cunard and P&O cruises, what advice would you give to someone thinking about trying a different cruise line for the first time?
I’m a bit of a creature of habit. I’ve been loyal to P&O cruises for the last decade and would have been entering the top loyalty tier this July, but that won’t happen now with cancelled cruises. I do like the loyalty perks that P&O offer. However, I am glad I have cruised with Cunard, to see what a different line is like. I now have 1 further cruise booked with Cunard and another one planned. I would love to cruise with further lines! It’s just finding the time and annual leave!
I advise people to try different lines, enjoy the experience, variety is the spice of life, all are based on the same kind of formula, yet all seem different! Read around, follow influencers, watch YouTube videos, investigate which lines you think might be for you and then enjoy increasing your excitement for the cruise by reading and watching more social media about the lines!
That’s great advice. It’s good to mix it up now and again. Talking of mixing it up – have you ever swapped the ocean for the river cruise?
No, not yet. I’d love to try out a river cruise. My parents have done one and loved it.
Based on your parents’ experience, any advice for anyone thinking of trying to river cruise for the first time?
Go for it! And share your photos please!
So with 260 nights at sea, I bet you have collected a few tips and tricks over the years. What would you say is the best piece of cruise advice you’ve ever been given?
Enjoy every single moment, savour every experience. Get off at every new port, even if it’s just for a little potter around. Be prepared to be tired! Relax, don’t feel guilty about a sea day siesta. If you fancy trying food, do! The food will be delicious and perfectly cooked, so try those more unusual dishes you’ve wondered about. If you don’t like it, you definitely won’t starve! Treat yourself to breakfast in bed!
And for cruising newbies – what advice would you give to someone who is planning their first cruise holiday – there’s a lot to choose from now and it can be quite overwhelming for some.
Enjoy yourself doing lots of research. Look at cruise influencer’s pages on Instagram, watch videos on YouTube. Read blogs. Buy Cruise Mag and World of Cruising and really investigate what you might enjoy. Most of all whatever you cruise, enjoy every moment of it. Don’t join in with moaning, I feel so lucky and grateful to be on that ship, whichever ship it may be!
Knowing what you know now about cruise holidays, what one piece of cruising advice would you give to your former cruise self?
Savour EVERY moment on board, do not take anything for granted. Take lots of photos as you’ll want to relive moments – especially when world pandemics stop all travel!
So, when it’s finally time to leave the ship and head back home, what helps you with the cruise blues (other than having another cruise booked before you disembark)?
Just like you say, booking a new cruise or two whilst on board. Making the most of the on-board extra bonuses for booking on board, then commencing a cruise countdown on a holiday countdown app. We usually like to thank our steward, waiter and butler for looking after us.
When we return home, I like to post all my cruise photos on Instagram to re-live the moments until I get to go again! Looking at other Cruise influencers photos, getting excited about their countdowns and seeing their photos also helps!
You mentioned you enjoy doing research when looking for future cruises, when you’re researching future cruises – what represents a great deal or offer for you?
Extra on-board credit usually hooks me in, but then with not drinking much and usually booking excursions beforehand, we don’t often have too much to spend the OBC on. Luckily now there is a Dixons on board, last cruise I was able to convince my husband to get himself an apple watch with the OBC.
That’s fantastic – additional on-board credit is such a great bonus. Do you have any other important factors you take into consideration when planning your next cruise?
It depends on the cruise, for our Caribbean Cruises, we always like to be able to upgrade our flights to the premium economy , my husband is over 6 foot, so he likes the extra leg room and it’s just nice to start a little treat early. Otherwise other than a balcony and a ship going somewhere, we don’t have particular factors to consider.
You’re all packed and embarkation day is almost here, what do you tend to do the day before your cruise? Do you have any pre-cruise rituals you schedule specifically for the day before you sail?
Whenever we go on a fly cruise, we always book into a hotel the day before, relax in the airport, dinner out, then it’s less of a rush in the morning! We always arrange an airport lounge too to relax in peace pre-flight.
For Southampton cruises we drive down early in order to make use of the loyalty club welcome aboard lunch or the suite lunch.
On embarkation day, what essentials do you pack in your carry-on bag?
My ipad, phone, chargers, swimming costume and coverup if its a hot cruise, to get to that pool or lounge on the balcony. My kindle, earpods, magazines. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary really, I’m rather boring! If we’ve flown somewhere usually the miniature baileys, I couldn’t drink on the plane but wouldn’t refuse freebies haha
What’s the most useful item you’ve packed for a cruise which has now become an ‘essential’?
I’m rather boring, nothing that I can think of! We love our kindles; they’ve been a good buy to not have to carry lots of books around. I will certainly enjoy the Readly app on my next cruise, all the magazines you can think of all on my iPad.
It’s sail-away time – where am I most likely to find you?
On the balcony, waving! I do love a sail away party for the atmosphere but having cruised a lot I would much rather have a relaxed sail away on the balcony! If we are on the same cruise as my parents, we ensure we have balconies on opposite sides of the ship, so we can always enjoy the sail away on one balcony! You’ll find my mother waving a small Welsh Dragon flag!
Sea days are a favourite for many cruisers and make a cruise holiday so unique compared to other land-based holidays, describe your perfect sea day on board?
Waking up as the sun rises, leaving the curtain open the night before a sea day. Then going for a quiet walk along the prom deck, taking some photos whilst walking around for a few miles. Heading to the MDR or suite restaurant for breakfast.
Then it would be either heading to a lecture, reading somewhere quiet or relaxing on the balcony with a book, keeping out of the way for the steward to get on with their job. Usually I have a little chat with the steward, to get to know them.
I’d probably head off to the main dining room for a light lunch. Then an afternoon of relaxing or attending lectures. Watch the sunset on the balcony, then prepare for a formal night dinner time. I’d probably head to a select dining venue for dinner, then visit the theatre for a show after dinner. After the theatre, I’d head to a bar for a cocktail and then go to a quiz. I’d probably return to the cabin early-ish to make the most of the next day, sometimes via the buffet for a hot drink before bed. Then sleep all night long!
Sounds like a perfect recipe to relax and recharge before a new day exploring a new port.
When you’re on ship, what things are you prepared to pay a little extra for to make your cruise or time on board that extra bit special?
I’m happy to spend extra money on select dining, occasionally the spa, I’ll happily spend on ship organised trips, it’s lovely to be organised around instead of being the one doing the organising!
A great ship and epic onboard experience are just one aspect of the cruise holiday – exploring ashore is another highlight so tell me what your ‘go-to’ sources of information are when planning a day ashore?
I tend to google and also look at lonely planet guides. I’ll also have a look at the ship organised tours, then google the different places and attractions and see if there are options to do it alone. I tend to google ships excursions in certain places and look at non ship excursions for ideas.
When ashore do you prefer to explore independently or go on excursions organised through your cruise line?
It’s a mixture between exploring independently in the port we have docked in and going on the ship organised shore excursions
When ashore are there any essentials you pack in a day bag?
Oh… camera phone, battery pack, go pro, kindle, sunglasses and money! Usually my monzo card too to spend money abroad on.
And finally a fun one what famous person would you like to cruise with and why?
I think I’d like to cruise with Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, I’m pretty sure they would have plenty of fascinating stories to tell over a cocktail in the Crows Nest!
Wouldn’t that be a cruise to remember! Thanks so much for sharing all your cruise tips and stories, Lois.
Here’s where you can find Lois online?
YouTube: Lois : No Cruise Control
THANKS FOR READING
Hi, I’m Steph I’ve travelled around the world, backpacked across Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii and spent over 100 nights at sea. Having grown up by the coast, the sea is my passion and now I enjoy exploring the world on cruise ships with my family. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with my ever expanding set of port guides to inspire you on your travels plus money-saving cruise tips, ship tours and cabin reviews.