During the next few weeks we will be publishing our Q&As with experts who have hundreds of cruises under their belts. Voted for by the public, the bloggers who made the USA Today list are highly trusted and respected, with fascinating blogs of their own for you to enjoy.
First up is Danielle Fear, also known as Cruise Miss. Danielle brings a refreshing, youthful perspective to the world of cruising, and began her love affair on P&O's Oriana back in 2007. She is now approaching her 30th cruise. Having had numerous articles and quotes published, there's no-one better to kick-off our one-on-ones.
1. What are the most important tips you would offer any first-time cruiser?
Do your homework. There are so many cruise ships out there, and if you are a first-time cruiser they can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. If you don't know where to start, take the advice of a GOOD travel agent or do your own online research via blogs, Facebook groups and reviews. Look out for extras such as onboard credit, free parking or included flights... These can all save you a good chunk of money! Drinks packages can also be a lifesaver for the bank account, so tally that up too!
2. Can you sum up your best and worst cruise experiences?
I can honestly say I don't have a worst cruise experience. Well, not one that directly relates to a ship! I have had a few encounters with passengers that I'd like to forget though! I remember an older gentleman in bright orange speedos, but I can't say any more on that, the scars are still fresh!
My best cruise experience? I have so many! But my five-week Caribbean cruise will forever remain one of my best, and the Arctic Circle cruise I embarked on last year is definitely, up to now, the one I will remember for thrilling and exciting excursions. I really did enjoy that cruise, even though it was freezing cold.
3. What's the strangest thing you've ever seen on a cruise?
Good question! I don't really know. I have seen so many weird and wonderful things. I did see a water spout once while cruising the Mediterranean, that was kind of strange. I also remember sunbathing on one cruise and looking to my right to see a Submarine surface, not so much strange, but very cool!
4 In your many years of cruising, what do you think has changed the most during that time: demographic, facilities, itineraries on offer, etc?
I think everything has changed, with so many ship builds in recent years. Just look at the new facilities we were blessed with when Quantum of the Seas arrived, and that was just one ship! The cruise industry has twisted and turned in all directions and that is a great thing.
5. In terms of the future, how do you think the major lines will look to improve the experience and get more people onboard?
This is probably something they look at on an almost daily basis. How can they improve on the experience and fill the berths? I suppose a lot of things will be trial and error. I personally would like to see more reasonably priced drinks packages, and that the lines who are currently experimenting with the room service charges to scrap it before they even get going: I don't agree with that at all!
6. If you could choose one ship and one destination, where's your ultimate cruise?
I would do a world cruise with P&O! I don't even need to think twice about that one! I know it's not exactly one destination, but it would be one cruise, so technically it still counts. ;)
7. Have you travelled to Australia or NZ on previous cruises, what are your memories of the region and what did you particularly enjoy?
I am yet to visit Australia or New Zealand, but I am sure our paths will cross eventually. Obviously I want to see the famous sights, but I REALLY want to hold a koala. I have family in Australia and as a child they would send me a koala in the form of a teddy bear, every year! Oz would be all about the animals.
8. Do you think cruise travel can ever lose the stereotype of being just for the 'older generation'?
Definitely! Thanks to the likes of Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines, it already is losing that stereotype. Even with the arrival of Britannia for the British market - she is making waves amongst a new generation of cruiser that are going to be priceless.
9. Where are the most important cruise destinations of the future?
All cruise destinations are important, regions such as Alaska, Caribbean and Mediterranean are always going to be the lifeline, but Asia seems to be stepping things up a gear. In fact, CLIA actually announced back in March that the region had seen a growth of 20% since 2013. British Isles cruises seem to be slowly increasing too!
10. If you are travelling with a family, how do you get the most out of your holiday?
You need to plan everything, from the smallest to the largest detail. It doesn't need to be militarily regimented, but it never hurts to know exactly what is going on. You should plan as a family (where possible), and be sure to check out all of the deals available. I always say to make this process easier, start by picking your preferred cruise line and then ship before diving into prices, it is far less stressful! Always, ALWAYS spend a little extra to get a bigger stateroom, that space could become invaluable. You should also make sure your kids are aware that they can't go and buy everything in the onboard shops, otherwise you could have quite a large bill by the end of the cruise. If you don't trust them, put a limit on their cards via the Guest Services desk. Soft drinks and ice cream packages are great for the kids and could save you a fortune, so always invest! Parents 'USE the kids' clubs and leave them with someone else for a few hours, it's your holiday too!
Thank you so much to Cruise Miss for those insightful answers. If you would like to learn even more about Danielle and her travels, check out her blog here.
Our exclusive series of interviews continues with Sherry Kennedy, also known as Cruise Maven.