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Cruise to your next destination with Ponders Travel

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Grand Canal in Venice at the sunset, Italy
Grand Canal in Venice at the sunset, Italy

There are more places to cruise than ever before, and you can find out about them all at the Cruise and Travel Show in October.

Ponders Cruise, 9 Coxs End Over Cambridge, from left Lorraine Bainbridge, Clare Dudley and Millie Windeler. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ponders Cruise, 9 Coxs End Over Cambridge, from left Lorraine Bainbridge, Clare Dudley and Millie Windeler. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cruising is more popular now than ever before. Big ships, small ships, capital cities of the world, quaint and unspoilt little villages, UNESCO world heritage sites and rambling through the vineyards of France are just a taste of the possibilities open to holidaymakers considering a cruise.

October is National Cruise Month, and Ponders Travel in Over is hosting Cambridge’s very own Cruise and Travel Show where many experts will be showing the vast range of cruises available.

Clare Dudley, managing director of Ponders, has been on more than 90 cruise ships through her career in travel, but still finds the industry is introducing new ships and new destinations for us all to enjoy. River and canal cruises, particularly, are experiencing huge growth in possibilities, so after only a few days returning from a French canal cruise, Clare is already planning her next trip.

“I’ve been in travel for over 30 years, which has allowed me to travel extensively all over the world, but most importantly allows me to share with our clients both the good, or indeed the bad, in many destinations,” she said.

Top themed cruises

1. Wine and food: vineyards full of grapevines and gastronomic delights await

2. Music for all tastes: there is everything from classical to jazz, modern pop artists concerts on board and even Elvis fans

3. Wellness: yes, you can be healthy whilst cruising with healthy eating menus and spas, yoga, pilates, golf and so much more

4. Wildlife: everything from cruising in Antarctica or the Galapagos, to bird watching in the Seychelles or the Orkneys

5. Hobbies: almost every hobby has a themed cruise, so whatever your love there may be a cruise to suit your preference. Here are a few – lace making, quilting, bridge, performing on ship, photography, gardening, painting, arts and crafts, and so many more

“We are often asked what is new to cruise. Well one of the rivers that is attracting our clients is the Brahmaputra, in India, which is a fantastic cruise along the River Ganges where you will see wildlife such as elephants playing in the water and totally in their own natural habitat. Each day you can partake in a little adventure as you go ashore and see the true beauty of this part of India.

“Another river that I think is really exciting, and the one I am aiming to do next, is the Chobe River in southern Africa. The stunning cruise ships are actually small boats taking up to 28 people. We love the cabins, which have floor-to-ceiling glass windows so you can see everything around you. I’m told this is the best way to see the big five –lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and Cape buffalo – because you’re not driving around in a 4x4 with a big engine that disturbs the animals, you’ll see them while they’re at play or taking a drink, enjoying their own environment.

“River and canal cruises are massively increasing in popularity in a way that has surprised everybody.

“However, you can still have some of the most magical experiences at sea. One of our favourites is the Star Clipper brand, an adventure on the waves which includes the atmosphere and character of traditional sailing but still with the comfort and luxury found on most modern cruises. A truly magical experience.”

Colmar, Petit Venice, water canal and timbered houses. Alsace, France.
Colmar, Petit Venice, water canal and timbered houses. Alsace, France.

Clare was extremely proud and surprised to be voted Cruise Line International Association Cruise Manager of the Year in 2016, selected by renowned industry experts.

“I mentioned how lucky I have been to see many ships and destinations, however, the thing I really love about my job, apart from being able to experience all this myself, is that by talking to a customer in-depth and understanding what their holiday needs are, I can help pinpoint some of the right products for them. There really is so much choice it would be very easy to book the wrong cruise, so guidance is always a good thing!

“The world is now full of cruisers but there are still a lot of people who don’t even realise that they would enjoy a cruise. The most common issue raised by clients is that they don’t want to go on a cruise because they don’t want to be stuck on a ship. This is simply not true as every day you can get off the ship and discover a new destination, and sometimes two or three different places all in the one day! So in fact you get to see so much more for your money than you would on any other holiday. It’s the best way to experience lots of different destinations and to only unpack your suitcase once!

“You might also find that somebody doesn’t like big ships and being surrounded by lots of other people while on holiday – the good news is there truly is something for everyone, with hotel barges that go along the canals of France, Scotland and even the Thames that hold as few as two people, but the largest ships can take up to 6,780 passengers.

Top 10 destinations

1. Mediterranean Ocean: still the most popular cruises by far

2. Caribbean Cruises: again, ocean cruising. Our favourite is with Star Clipper as she is so small you can get into the more intimate islands

3. The Danube: ports of call include Budapest and Vienna

4. Baltic Cruises: try to have at least two days in St Petersburg as there is so much to see, we recommend you try to see Peterhof Palace

5. The Northern Lights: the best way to see this natural phenomena is to travel on board Hurtigruten – a fabulously Norwegian concept that still to this day delivers the post as your journey visits many ports of call

6. The Douro: Portugal’s golden river – follow the story of Port and visit The Palace of Mateus (you will all remember Mateus Rose wine!) and the stunning city of Salamanca located in the North-west of Spain. Escorted departure is available

7. The Rhine: probably one of the most popular river cruises in the world. Quaint little villages steeped in history with cobbled streets, churches and castles

8. Norwegian Fjords: breath-taking scenery and cruising straight from the UK at great prices, always in the top 10!

9. French Waterways Cruising: a relaxing and interesting holiday. Barges take as little as two and at most 22 passengers. Hear the frogs croaking and watch the fish jumping as you glide along the postcard scenery. Escorted departure available

10. Expedition Cruising: visit Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, Amazon River, the Arctic and many more

“In the past, it was perceived that cruising was for an older clientele. Twenty years ago the average age of a client might have been 65 or upwards, whereas now the modern ships have so many young attractions for instance: dodgems, rock climbing walls, flow-riders, mini golf, roller skating, ice skating, boxing rings, an enormous array of fun for a younger audience, which is bringing the average age down all the time. Cruising now attracts a massive family audience too. And every family that goes on a cruise once tends to go on a cruise again and again! There is really something for everybody.”

Ponders prides itself on providing truly independent travel advice. Clare even offers escorted departures on some cruises, so clients can be picked up from home, assisted with their luggage and while at the airport and guided throughout the holiday.

“It is first-hand knowledge and advice about products and destinations that we believe really makes sure holidays are what people really want,” Clare continued.

At the Cambridge Cruise and Travel Show people will be able to speak not only to Clare and her team, but also the experts from many different cruise operators who are all on hand with exclusive offers, literature and insights into their own experiences.

European Waterways
European Waterways

Clare said: “The real experts will be there. By talking to the representatives who have a passion and in-depth knowledge of their ship people might find that there is more to a cruise than they thought – it gives the chance to understand a little bit more about a lot of different products under one roof.”

Because October is National Cruise month there will be some great offers available, and as a thank you for attending the show Ponders have asked each cruise provider to bring further offers, so you really can get some great savings!

The Cruise and Travel Show is on Sunday, October 22, at Hallmark Hotel, Bar Hill at 11am-3pm. For more information visit ponderstravel.co.uk or call 01954 232802

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