More than just a 'motel of the seas', cruising is a must-do travel experience

To cruise or not to cruise? That is the question.

It seems in these current travel times that there is a big buzz around cruising. So many options and destinations on offer.

Outside of my work with the travel shows, I had never been on a large ocean liner; mine were river cruises or adventure cruising.

I know I have a great job, but you are still working so it’s not like I can sit poolside and sip cocktails. For some reason, I have never really had the desire to cruise. Something was scaring me off.

Some of my close friends are cruiseaholics, they cannot get enough of ocean adventures and they have often encouraged me to sea test one. So, what was stopping me? What was holding me back?

I guess I had some negative feelings about being trapped on a ship in the middle of the ocean with a couple of thousand other people that I didn’t know. Was the accommodation on board tiny little claustrophobic cabins that would have me climbing the walls, or worse looking at going overboard? Would the food be decent? Would there be too many kids running riot?

Wow, I just read back what I wrote. A little paranoid and a touch anxious or what? That’s not me, so I decided to push all that aside and take the plunge, so to speak.

Now I didn’t want to dive in too deep, so I eased my way in with a short break offering with Carnival Cruises, onboard Carnival Legend. Carnival had a few good choices on offer, but I went with a four-day adventure that would visit one of my favourite Australian cities, Hobart.

The bonus here was it was departing from Melbourne so I took full advantage and had a couple of days in one of my other favourite cities before we disembarked. Perfect.

Stepping on board, the first thing I noticed was the décor. Well, it's not like you could miss it. How to describe it? Ostentatious? Flamboyant? Flashy? Yep, it certainly had your head turning.

Massive artworks that took up several decks, chandeliers that could have come from the set of Phantom of the Opera, but I must admit the longer I was on board, the more I noticed the smaller touches and eclectic additions to the décor and it actually had me intrigued and looking for more. Go figure.

I was desperate to set my eyes upon my room as I was worried about the claustrophobia issue. As I pushed open the door, a sigh of relief, I had nothing to worry about.

The cabin was close to a standard size hotel room and it had a balcony, so fresh air was always available. Nice size bed, a bathroom that was definitely practical and functional, even a small lounge setting to relax on.

To be honest I didn't see myself spending a lot of time here after reading the ship's newsletter and seeing the number of activities and dining options on offer.

Speaking of dining, well you really are spoilt for choice. Apart from the Lido deck, which is basically a massive food court with a multitude of selections including a deli, salad bar and chef's choice (which highlights dishes from all over the world), there was also the BlueIguana Cantina delivering freshly made tacos, burritos, tortillas and other Mexican faves, and the Pizza Pirate, which might have a bit of a dodgy name, but if you love a slice as I do, you can grab it here 24 hours a day. Dangerous.

That’s just for starters, believe it or not. I love a good burger, it’s one of my many food weaknesses and the first bite I had on board was at Guys Burger Joint. Lip-smacking American style burgers that come with an extended toppings bar where you can add your own personal touches. I had to detach myself from there as it could have become hazardous.

All these and more, it’s crazy, but in a good way.

Truffles Restaurant to me was the go-to dining option as it is a standard inclusion with your cruise and it is a terrific experience. A three-course full restaurant with super friendly staff and great quality cuisine.

Then there are the food opportunities that you can pay a little extra for. I investigated a couple in the name of research, of course.

Bonsai Sushi was one of them and I must admit I was surprised at how worthy it was. Fresh sashimi, excellent choices of dishes and good size portions for the prices.

For $55 a head, a must-do is the dining offered at Nouveau. Put your good threads on and indulge in a five-star dining delight matched with a fine wine selection as well. Note: The beef and lobster tail was exceptional and cooked to perfection.

Entertainment is big on these vessels and once again you can take in as much or as little as you please.

I’m not really one for theme nights or those group games, like scavenger hunts or battle of ages or even bingo (not yet anyway) and there seems to be countless of these activities daily.

I did, however, enjoy watching families getting into it them with gusto. It’s nice seeing people having fun. I do however still love a waterslide and Legend has a couple of crackers.

Being a performer myself it was great to have a sticky at the stage shows on board. Musicals, comedy, even game shows. All were of a really high standard. In fact, all the entertainers right around the ship, be it part of an ensemble and right down to the solo performer in the pub, would not be out of place performing on any stage.

I am big on deposits and withdrawals as far as food intake and exercise goes, so I was extremely happy that the gym on board was not just a small room with a few weights and a treadmill in the corner. Far from it actually. Very notable in fact.

A great space with up to date equipment and facilities and a nice view out across the ocean from the bow of the ship.

There’s a putt-putt course, a basketball court, two main pools with spas and an actual spa too, you know the type that your partner likes to disappear to. Honestly, it is quite amazing the number of offerings on board. I was staggered and I really need a second chapter of this tale to mention them all.

I do have to mention Serenity. This is the adults-only area and I admit to spending an amount of time in this location. Here you have your own pool, bar, deck chairs and daybeds. Don't get me wrong, I love kids, but if I'm not travelling with mine, I don't want to hang out with yours.

Will I be giving cruising another shot?

I have to say yes. I believe a little seven-day pacific island sojourn might be the go and we will see what comes from there.

The question is, will you?

Loved:

  • People watching. (An actor is always researching)
  • The day trip to the Richmond and Puddleduck winery.
  • Watching the ocean while sipping a cocktail on my daybed at Serenity.

Disliked:

  • The amount of food some people would pile on a plate and then waste it! Please, you can always go back.
  • Seeing people playing a poker machine for hours on end. That’s not a holiday.

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  • Scott McRae is The Travelling Guy (www.thetravellingguy.com). Follow his travels @scottythetravellingguy on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Scott was a guest of FleishmanHillard.