Writer Rebecca Denne swapped her go-to city break for a dose of vitamin sea and had zero regrets…
My mum and stepdad are what you call serial cruisers. They absolutely live for it.
When they’re away, I get a minute-by-minute account of their trip – from the fancy fine-dining to the Broadway shows. I might as well be on board with them, Marg in hand.
Their trips always end the same way – with a text declaring how they’ve already booked their next cruise before even disembarking.
However, the idea of a cruise has never really appealed to me. I like meandering around unknown cities, discovering off-the-beaten track places with no real agenda.
After another slide show from my mum of their recent cruise around the Med, I booked myself on to the Northern Europe route with MSC Cruises.
Here’s what I learned along the way…
1. I do love to be beside the sea
I used to live in Sydney and one of the best things about life there was spending the weekend at the beach or doing a coastal walk.
Indeed, studies show that being surrounded by nature can lead to higher happiness rates, while spending time by the water (or even being shown a photo of it) can have a restorative effect on our wellbeing.
I love the water – there’s something extremely soothing about it, so eating every meal overlooking the ocean or dozing off post-cream tea to the lapping of waves, is pure bliss.
Even the treadmills have a sea view. If that doesn’t inspire me to take up running, nothing will.
Waking up in my cabin – surrounded by the fjords – has firmly made its way into one of my top travel moments.
As much as I adore London, the murky Thames doesn’t have quite the same cathartic effect as the Norwegian seas.
2. I need to switch off more
I’m not very good at relaxing.
Some people have a knack for it, but not me.
I’m constantly checking my emails or working on my days off, so being on a ship where you’re practically forced to relax was a new experience.
On the first day, I got up at 6am and made my way down to the gym because that’s what I thought I should do.
I even did some work in my cabin later that morning, but after this initial bout of insanity, I had a word with myself.
Surrounded by nothing but the ocean, fresh air and a ludicrously extensive range of activities – from a 4D cinema to an uber-luxe spa – I couldn’t help but submit to the zen-fest.
Phone off, laptop tossed overboard (OK, back into my bag), I booked myself in for a Balinese massage and embraced the joy of switching off.
If you’re feeling burned out from the day to day stresses of the office, it’s pretty much your dream retreat.
3. I’m really good at eating every hour, on the hour
I’m a big fan of an all-you-can-eat situation, so as soon as we embark, unpack and do a few Titanic quotes on our balcony, we go for lunch.
It’s only then that I realise how many options I have to play with.
Sushi, pasta, teppanyaki, steak… it’s like having Deliveroo on board, without having to wait for delivery.
The thing you need to know about being on a cruise is that you can pretty much eat what you want at any given time.
Feel like dressing up for a posh black-tie dinner? No problem. Want to order room service and eat burgers in your dressing gown? Done, no questions asked.
There’s zero judgement or expectation, and it’s remarkable how quickly you become accustomed to eating a second breakfast.
4. Best friends are the ultimate tonic
My friend was one of those annoying kids at school whose parents took them on a cruise while the rest of us went to Butlin’s.
I knew she’d be up for coming with me, but I was a bit apprehensive.
I live by myself and I like my own space, so spending every mealtime together and sharing a room with someone is a big deal.
In retrospect, that’s a ridiculous thing to be worried about on a ship that’s hundreds of times the size of my house.
What I learned was that on a cruise, you can spend as much or as little time with your co-cruiser as you want, because you meet such an interesting mix of people along the way, from the 20-year-old guy who was travelling solo to the couple in their 40s who had just got engaged.
My mate and I laughed a lot, we slept like two newborns and we didn’t throw each other overboard.
All in all, a successful, invigorating and restorative break. Slide-show incoming…