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A cruise might seem like a ridiculous way to waste a holiday – until you get hooked

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 2019-09-16 Andy Lynes
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Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

I was, until very recently a cruise virgin. But a string of stories in the press over the last few years reporting a rise in the popularity of cruise holidays and a fall in the average age of cruise passengers meant that, in my early fifties, I fitted the cruise demographic perfectly and that it was high time to pop my cherry.

But was I ready to embrace cruise culture or would the cabin walls close in on me? Would I get seasick and worst of all, would I be bored? A low risk way to find out the answers to all these questions and many more was to sign up for a two-day taster cruise with Celebrity Cruises aboard Silhouette.

I foolishly allowed just the standard two-hour journey time from my home in Brighton to Southampton not thinking what effect that me and nearly three thousand fellow passengers would have on the traffic and soon found myself in a long tail back panicking that I’d miss the 4.30pm embarkation deadline. But the stress was soon forgotten as I pulled up alongside the 122,400-ton, 1,047-foot ship.

It was a jaw dropping moment; how could something the size of a city block even float, let alone get across the English Channel to Le Havre? 

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Although I would recommend sticking to the boarding time stipulated by the cruise line, being one of the last to board worked in my favour. There was no queue and I flew through the embarkation process (virtually identical to going through security at the airport) and thanks to the schematic plans dotted around the ship I quickly found my cabin on deck six (there are 16 in total) where my bags, which had been taken from me in the car park, were waiting for me. 

The cabin, or stateroom came as a pleasant surprise. With space for a comfortable king-sized bed, double seater sofa, large wardrobe with plenty of hanging space and room to store luggage, and a small but perfectly usable bathroom with shower, single vanity unit and toilet, there was no chance of getting cabin fever, especially with a secluded balcony complete with two lounge chairs and table.

Effective sound proofing kept the noise from adjoining cabins out and the position near the centre of the ship meant I hardly felt the movement of the ship at night and so slept soundly. 

Home comforts

The position of the large wall-mounted HD TV was adjustable so it could be viewed from the bed and seating area and had free-to-watch new release movies and a decent selection of satellite channels, plus ‘view from the bridge TV’, a channel showing other cruises you can book and a facility to check your onboard bill, handy for keeping track of things like the well-stocked but expensive mini bar full of pricey Californian merlot and chardonnay, designer vodka and big brand beer. 

As an American-built ship, not only is everything charged in dollars ($28 (£22.50) for the mini bar wine) but the power sockets are American-style too, something I hadn’t considered in advance and which meant a trip to the customer service desk to pick up an adaptor for a $25 (£20) refundable deposit. Something else I hadn’t anticipated was that, for safety reasons, there are no irons on board the Silhouette, which made me regret lazily packing un-ironed clothes, although for $5.75, the laundry did a great job of pressing a long-sleeved shirt. 

The lack of tea and coffee making facilities in the room was made up for by the free hot beverages available at the 'Hide', a quiet space midship, perfect for escaping the lively bars, which did a roaring trade from early afternoon onwards with passengers making the most of their drinks package deals. Well, it was the weekend after all. 

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Safety first

There was a short break in the festivities at 5.15pm for the mandatory muster drill, when everyone gathered at their stipulated meeting points around the ship for a safety briefing, the cruise equivalent of an in-flight safety demonstration. It was a sobering 10 minutes during which scenes from the movie The Poseidon Adventure flashed through my head and I regretted my recent visit to the Titanic exhibition in Belfast. But the mood was soon lifted by an announcement about the onboard entertainment and I headed back to my cabin to get ready for my Saturday night out. 

One of the great advantages of a cruise holiday is that everything is on your doorstep. The ship may be enormous, but you are still only a few minutes’ walk from a huge variety of restaurants, bars, cafes and lounges, a cinema, theatre and night club.

The ship has a glossy, upmarket feel, like a swanky Las Vegas hotel at sea complete with casino, gym, spa, pool and shopping arcade full of designer gear, all set around a soaring central atrium. A daily news sheet left in the cabin by the friendly and efficient steward provided an hour by hour breakdown of all the activities onboard from yoga to karaoke and lawn games on the turfed top deck to jazz in the Sky Lounge with its panoramic sea views. 

I’d booked a tutored wine tasting with Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer, presenters of The Wine Show TV series, in the clubby Master Cellar bar that’s lined with displays of fine wines and craft beers. It was a fun hour with the effervescent hosts being anything but po-faced about the Californian fizz and Croatian rose we were sniffing and sipping; did you know that a bubble in a glass of champagne travels at 10km per second, the same speed as Usain Bolt running a hundred metres? 

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Dinner in the Tuscan Grille restaurant featured crab cake followed by a perfectly medium rare ribeye steak with melanzane alla parmigiana and a rich chocolate crème brulee to finish. Food on board was generally very good, including the breakfast buffet which seemed to stretch to infinity, but it was definitely worth paying the small extra supplement for ‘speciality dining’ where the food was comparable with good quality restaurants on land and significantly better than that served in the complimentary dining restaurants included in the price of the cruise. 

I eschewed the optional excursion to Paris on the Sunday and didn’t even bother going into Le Havre. I was more than happy maximizing my limited time onboard, exploring the ship, eating decent sushi at Sushi on Five and a final Michelin-style dinner in the posh Luminae restaurant. I’d loved every minute of the trip, but what really sold me on the magic of cruising was the other-worldly feeling of sitting on the balcony, glass in hand, the ship moving effortlessly over the water and only the sea and horizon in view. The sense of relaxation and peace is an addictive legal high and it’s got me hook, line and sinker.  

The essentials

Celebrity Cruises is offering a four-night preview sailing on board its newest ship Celebrity Apex, the second revolutionary Edge Series ship. The cruise will depart from Southampton on April 1, 2020 and call at Bruges and Amsterdam. Fares start from £899pp, based on two sharing (celebritycruises.co.uk)

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