As holiday choices go, cruising has always claimed equal amounts of fans and haters. Why would you want to be trapped on a boat full of people? What is there even to do on a cruise? Will I get seasick? Cruise sceptics have reservations aplenty.
So when the Majestic Princess, the newest and flagship ship of the Princess Cruises fleet sailed down to Sydney to begin her 6-month summer season in the iconic harbour last month, we took the opportunity to spend a couple of days on board and 'test the waters' aboard this cruise phenomenon. Safe to say, we're converts! Here are some top first-time cruise tips from cruise sceptics:
At 143,700 tonnes, the Majestic Princess is the largest ship ever to visit Australia, weighs as much as 126 Sydney Manly ferries and towers above the Sydney Opera House at over 68 metres - so it's initially quite overwhelming even once aboard. However, the beauty of such a vast cruise ship is that you can take all the time in the world to explore all its nooks and crannies but you can never really get lost. Dive in and enjoy the spectacular construction of the 'floating city'. It's surprising how quickly you get your bearings once you get used to the vessel.
Once you step onto a cruise ship, there is no place for cynicism. The ship is designed to put you in holiday mode immediately so why fight it? Get into cruise mode and go with the flow. We were tapping our feet along to electric violin solos and taking part in charades within the first day – with absolutely no regrets.
A common apprehension of cruising is the lack of personal space, yet it is deceivingly easy to find some peace and quiet aboard the Majestic. Aside from the library, there is a sleepy adults-only conservatory area complete with pool, cabanas and leafy foliage where you can while away untold hours relaxing, playing games or even completing a puzzle. There's also the luxurious Lotus Spa, where you can treat yourself to a host of treatments or simply alternate between the hydrotherapy pool, heated loungers, the Turkish Hammam, steam room and sensory showers.
Large ships such as the Majestic have a host of restaurants and buffets to take advantage of. In this case there are three main dining rooms, two Michelin-starred chef speciality restaurants, a coffee shop, pizzeria as well as a multicultural buffet area among other dining options on board the Majestic. Day one will see you nibbling every time you see the freshly baked bread but to take full advantage of the range of cuisines; it's worthwhile planning when you'll treat yourself. Lobster everyday may seem tempting on day one but there's far more to try.
A sunrise at sea is unlike any other. Take advantage of such a unique experience and enjoy a little breakfast on your balcony or go for a walk on deck. There is nothing quite like the feeling of the sea breeze as the sun comes up.
With so much to offer, you can truly personalise your cruise experience to your needs – integrating as much or as little into daily cruise life as you choose. It's truly a relaxing, memorable experience. Even for the toughest sceptic!
The Majestic Princess will be one of four Princess ships based in Australia this summer. The Majestic remains in Sydney until March 2019, sailing 16 itineraries including Fiji, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Shanghai.