We’ve had an interesting year for holidays, and in some respects it’s made us think about what we want from a holiday. Just to recap, we had a 14-night cruise to the Baltic starting in late June. This is the 10th year that we’ve taken a cruise, and in that time we’ve done 16 (17 by the end of the year), ranging in length from 2 nights to 17 nights, although most have been between 10 and 14 nights. Then in early August we took a 7-night holiday to Salcombe in Devon, with a multi-generational family party (four generations, in fact). This was the first real non-cruise UK-based holiday (other than ‘short breaks’) that we’ve had for a long time. We’ve been thinking about both of these holidays since the return from Devon.
What we enjoyed most about about the cruise itself was the itinerary, whereas we found other aspects e.g. food and mealtimes, entertainment, and even the ship itself, nothing terribly special (with an honourable exception to the Glass House). For the UK holiday the opposite was true: while Salcombe itself is truly beautiful, many of the other places we visited were pretty so-so. (Val has just said that I’m wrong: she says that they were all e.g. Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Torcross, very pretty. So the previous statement is not shared!) The most enjoyable part of this holiday was the company and the time we spent altogether; we had a meal out with almost the whole party that was probably the highlight of the year so far. (So too was the cost, at £75 a head…) So where does that leave us with regard to future holidays?
We’re feeling less and less willing to book cruises a long time in advance. I know all the arguments that say we must have considered a cruise reasonable value when we booked it, and intellectually I do accept them, but we have both found it increasingly irritating knowing that other passengers are having exactly the same cruise as us but for 25%, 35% or almost 50% less money. When you’ve paid over £2000 each that’s a significant amount. We’re also annoyed with the endless range of special offers that the lines keep announcing during each year. So I think our future strategy will be to decide on a date range and a preferred destination, and then hold off from booking until a lot nearer the date. Of course, this won’t take effect until quite a long way in the future – thanks to our previous policy of making early bookings we already have our cruise for 2015 booked. In fact the one thing that night make us rethink this whole area will be what happens to the prices for next year’s cruise, which we will keep under review. At the moment there’s only the Select price available, and that is rather higher than the amount we’re paying. It will be especially interesting to see what the figures are like when the Early Saver price is announced, and then when the New Year sales campaign starts.
We’re also wondering if we should abandon the major cruise lines and go to those that definitely put the itinerary first. I’ve been looking at brochures for Voyages to Antiquity, for example. Very interesting itineraries, often visiting small ports, and therefore very attractive. But their prices do seem high, and their ship is very, very small. So our dilemma is whether the attractiveness of the ports outweighs the shipboard compromises; there’s no Glass House on Aegean Explorer! There are other ‘small ship’ lines, of course. Many of them cluster in the premium/luxury category, e.g. Regent Seven Seas, with prices to match. Alternatively there’s Fred, and looking at their brochures they are making more and more of a point of devising interesting itineraries which call at smaller out-of-the way ports; perhaps we’ll find the cruises that will satisfy us with them.
And there is a further thought beginning to float around in our minds – are we perhaps all ‘cruised-out’? Even if only temporarily? It’s possible; but at the back of my mind I can’t help remembering that we had glorious weather in South Devon, with temps in the mid-20s every day. A holiday that had consisted of a wet week on a cold beach might have left us with a different conclusion.