CRUISE is the fastest-growing sector in the travel industry, and this is despite the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the suspension of 99% of all cruises around the world.
The cruise companies did not take this lying down, however, and instead they went to work on preparing their ships with state-of-the-art health and safety measures and reinventing their product. Et voilà, they introduced the UK Seacaction for the summer of 2021.
With all of this going on, it seemed as though now would be the perfect time to introduce Anne Riant, who has joined Travel Counsellors as the team’s dedicated cruise specialist.
Anne joins the business with decades of experience, having started working at her family business, Colbacks Travel, straight from school at the tender age of 17.
It is true to say that travel runs in her blood and is embedded in her DNA so the team at Travel Counsellors is lucky to have her coming on board – no pun intended!
Most recently, Anne worked at the prestigious Travelmaker by Design in conjunction with Kuoni, until Travelmaker sadly closed its doors last year.
This week, I sat down with Anne to ask her a little more about cruises and her love of sailing the seas...
Hi Anne. Can you tell me what is your favourite place to cruise?
‘It would have to be the Mediterranean. It is so picturesque, filled with some of the world’s most classic landmarks. Travelling like this allows you to explore many hidden gems: piazzas, palaces, churches, cathedrals – it’s got it all.
‘Europe is made up of such diverse landscapes and architecture so each day is a new and completely different experience.
‘It’s one of the many reasons I love cruise so much. It is also worth mentioning that many of the smaller ports cannot be accessed by the larger cruise liners but I will go into this in more detail later.’
Regarding smaller ports and experiences, what about river cruising? Where do you recommend for these?
‘My favourite river to cruise is the Rhine, which is so enchanting. Enshrined in the culture and literature of the six countries it passes through, I can’t think of another area with such historic and famous cities on its banks.
‘Dining on delicious food with a glass of wine, watching the stunning scenery of everyday live on the riverbanks pass by, just feels so decadent and a real treat.
‘I could spend every day like that.’
Why would you suggest clients opt for a cruise rather than a more traditional holiday?
‘The biggest and best advantage of cruising is that, once you arrive on board, you have your bags delivered to your room and you only need to unpack once. It is so satisfying, knowing you don’t need to repack anytime soon. You can just immediately relax.
‘Essentially, the ship becomes your home for the duration of the trip and yet there is little to no compromise on what you see. Quite often you travel to areas that you would otherwise only be able to fly between or that are quite remote and would be difficult to get to on land.
‘I often find that there are big misconceptions about what a cruise will be like. People think the ship will be very busy, with little time for relaxing on your own. They think the food will be one big buffet and pretty rubbish. This, in particular, couldn’t be further from the truth. Some of the best dinning in the world is offered, and I would go so far as to say that many trips are, in themselves, a culinary experience.
‘Despite these and other apprehensions, once I get to know a client, I can recommend a ship and itinerary that will suit their needs and expectations perfectly. There are so many cruises to choose from – there really is something for everyone.
‘For those looking for exceptional service and attention to detail, this is certainly on the cards when cruising. I know that, when I recommend a cruise, my clients will be well taken care of, from the moment they step on board to the moment they disembark. I can also guarantee that no day will be the same, with each different port offering a new and exciting experience.
‘Finally, I would also mention that cruising does not have to be a stand-alone holiday and more and more we are seeing people tacking a cruise onto either the end or the beginning of a longer trip. For instance, it is increasingly popular to add a cruise from Vancouver to Alaska after a self-drive through the Rocky Mountains. Equally, you can add a city break to both the beginning and end of any cruise. We always recommend spending at least one night before the cruise in the departure city.’
Is there anything new in the world of cruise that we should know about?
‘Always. Itineraries are updated and constantly being reviewed year on year, bringing clients to new and trending parts of the world. We have seen a big demand for expedition cruising on smaller ships that can explore areas like the Galapagos, the Antarctic and the Arctic regions. Many of the cruise companies are bringing a certain glamour to these itineraries, which were once reserved for more rustic and basic expedition vessels.
‘This summer we have seen the release of UK “seacations”, which have been – and continue to be – a huge success, with the likes of Disney and Cunard jumping on the bandwagon and offering shorter “taster” sailings and longer trips around the British Isles.
‘Some seacations will stop at various ports along the coastline, while others will remain purely at sea and allow guests to enjoy a plethora of on-board activities, shows and dining experiences. There are also very flexible cancellation conditions, with some even offering cancellation or future cruise credit up to 24 hours prior to travel, and this makes it a very appealing holiday option.’
What made you decide to join myself and Kim at Travel Counsellors?
‘Over the years, I have had the honour of recommending and matching cruises to many wonderful clients and I missed that. I love the feeling of knowing I have made the perfect suggestion and waiting to hear all about a client’s experience on their return. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you have done the best by your client and a better job than anyone else could do.
‘Also, the beauty of working with you and Kim is that it allows me to visit clients in the comfort of their own home, showing and explaining deck plans and discussing their wishlist over a cup of coffee. This interaction and personal service is invaluable, especially with such uncertainty over the past year. I can reassure people and take the worry out of booking and I’m always on hand to help with any aspect of their precious holiday. It is the perfect working environment for me, doing a job I love with wonderful support behind me.’
HERE are Anne’s picks of the five most luxurious cruise liners...
‘Together, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity enjoy a reputation as the world’s mos- awarded luxury cruise line, being named the best in Condé Nast Travellers’ 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards during their 30th anniversary year.
‘The 2020 awards marked their 27th year of earning Condé Nast Traveller’s top acclaim, which is impressive, I think you’ll agree.
‘They cater for a maximum of 900 guests, staying in luxury suites and offer a six-star service, with a favourite cocktail ready and waiting, a pillow fluffed just so and 24-hour butler service.
‘Crystal crew members are carefully selected, with many serving for years, and they delight in anticipating your needs.
‘“No” is a word that is seldom heard. It is service that must be experienced to be believed.’
Regent Seven Seas
‘This premier all-inclusive luxury cruise line promises to create lasting memories while you sail the world on the finest, most intimate award-winning fleet.
‘Guest numbers range from 490 to 750 depending on the ship and all itineraries include every shore excursion, gratuities and meals – not to mention the freedom to sample expertly mixed cocktails and adventurous wine blends.
‘I’m in heaven already and I haven’t even got to the business-class flights.
‘Look out for Seven Seas Splendour when she embarks upon her inaugural season in Europe this September as Regent Seven Seas launch their return to sailing.’
‘Thousands of reasons – one passion. There are as many reasons to travel as there are travellers in this world. It’s your turn to embrace your passion for travel with Oceania Cruises.’
‘I have just read the above on the Oceania website and already I’m in. Sign me up please.
‘Perhaps it’s my desperation to travel again and to have an adventure that draws me to Oceania.
‘Whatever the reason, there is no denying that these small ships are punching above their weight when it comes to spectacular itineraries.
‘Like those mentioned before, they offer six-star luxury in an intimate setting on the sea.
‘Check out their reduced single supplement. Nautical January 2022, Cape Town to Singapore and their new “tropics to exotics” collection for 2022 and 2023 sailings.’
‘Silversea voyages and cruise expeditions sail to over 900 destinations on all seven continents, which is more than any other cruise line.
‘Again, six-star service is on offer and there is a dedicated 24-hour butler service in every cabin.
‘When it comes to expedition cruising, these guys know what they’re doing. After extensive refurbishment, Silversea, Silver Cloud is the most spacious and comfortable ice vessel in expedition cruising.
‘Silver Cloud really does “break the ice between expedition and luxury”, with 20 brand-new Zodiac tours, four outstanding restaurants in Antarctica and a pole-to-pole expedition.
‘Look out for 2022/2023 Grand Voyages across the Indian Ocean and along the Amazon river.’
‘Last but not least, an iconic name with which many will be familiar: Cunard. The Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary II are the epitome of cruising elegance. The exemplary service is renowned worldwide and, while it’s not for everyone, there is no refuting its reputation as the world’s cruising pioneer. Think Titanic and you won’t be disappointed.
‘Things are a lot more reserved aboard a Cunard ship. Formal attire is expected when dining and it very much a part of the experience. If you are worried about what to pack, there is a dedicated “style guide” in the dining section of the website. Afternoon tea and gala balls are a staple and, once you are fully prepared, a cruise with Cunard is a once-in-a-lifetime dream, or perhaps a lifetime love affair.
‘Check out the 2023 Centenary World Cruise, celebrating 100 years of the ultimate adventure.’