Are you a big ship person or a small ship person?
I’ve enjoyed fantastic cruises on anything from Queen Mary 2 (2,620 passengers) to Hebridean Princess (49 passengers) so can happily argue for both sides. But over the last nine days on Spirit of Adventure (352 passengers), I’ve definitely felt like a small ship person, for reasons that surprised me.
I realised that all the elements of the cruise that I loved had a common theme: the way we, the passengers, were treated.
- Nobody tried to sell me anything for nine days. There is no art auction, no photographer, no shopping talks – practically no shopping at all, actually.
- There was a happy lack of cruising clichés like music blaring round the pool, or tacky jewellery displays clogging up the reception area.
- Nobody insulted the passengers’ intelligence. Instead, the very funny cruise director, Neil Horrocks, settled for insulting the passengers themselves (in a gently humorous way). They couldn’t get enough of it.
- The library has been designed so that you really want to spend time there, with atlases, magazines and reference books, comfortable places to sit and a coffee area. It’s bigger than the bar. And the daily quiz, as one passenger observed, is harder than University Challenge.
- The spa is tiny; one treatment room, below the waterline, but with a fantastic therapist, Sarah, who played opera music during my massage and didn’t once mention buying the products for ‘after care’.
- Nobody is hassling for gratuities. Basic tips are included and bar drinks are already marked up to include service. But leave the Brits alone to tip and provide them with fantastic service, and many will reward their room stewards and waiters anyway.
- The officers and entertainers mix socially with the passengers and appear to enjoy the experience (unless they were all amazingly talented actors). We often sat with Sarah, the massage therapist, and Anna, the singer, in the bar. A sailaway party on deck turned into a raucous disco when the Filipino waiters joined in.
There’s also an entertaining randomness about a ship that can fit in anywhere and change plans at the last minute. When French ship Le Boreal ‘stole’ our berth in one port and we had to use the tenders, our captain, Kees Spekman, set off to greet Le Boreal’s captain with the offering of a Spirit of Adventure rucksack. As Le Boreal sailed that night, ‘Rule Britannia’ blasted out from our aft decks.
I won’t pretend that there was much in the way of facilities. Spirit has no balcony cabins, no fancy theatre, no casino, nothing for families (the ship is adults-only) and is distinctly quirky. But I grew extremely fond of it.
These are purely personal observations and I’m well aware that there are many big ship fans for every small ship lover. But what is it that specifically appeals about either? Let us know!