It’s a fact of cruising life that big ships in peak holiday periods are booked to capacity, but if that’s the only time you can go it doesn’t mean your cruise will be ruined by being over-crowded.

There are a few things you can do – not all of them involving spending more money – to make sure you’ll enjoy some quiet time onboard and avoid annoying queues.

However, starting with spending more money, if you have a balcony cabin you will always have a private outdoor spot for sunbathing or reading when the sun-loungers around the pool are full. Which they are most of the time on sunny sea days. And if you book a suite on mainstream cruise lines such as Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O and Princess, not only will you have more living space and amenities, you’re entitled to queue-beating perks such as priority check-in and departures, priority disembarkation and embarkation for shore tours, and breakfast and lunch in specialty restaurants.

When the budget doesn’t stretch to balcony cabins or suites you can still find ways to avoid crowds and queues. Many people forget that the main dining room is open for breakfast, which is usually a less rushed experience than the buffet – room service is another option, although some cruise lines are now charging extra for that. Otherwise, go to the buffet as soon as it opens or just before it closes.

 Most people seem go to lunch about the same time; that’s when the gym, spa and pools will be less busy and queues for waterslides and other activities thin out. In the evening, dinner in the main dining room is usually scheduled around show times but when you have a choice of “anytime” dining and “set dining” you can eat more or less when you want. Paying extra for specialty restaurants is worthwhile not just for the food and service but there’s no queueing involved, as you have to book in advance.

Observation lounges and libraries are likely to be peaceful during the day, if you don’t mind being inside. Promenade decks are usually spacious enough to accommodate sun-loungers and are well away from the busy pool area. Adults-only decks offer parents and child-free passengers a reprieve from the under-18s but again, are often full except at meal times….


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How to enjoy a cruise in peak periods
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