Ray and Barb King from Hobart met on the “fun ship” Fairstar and just notched the decade at sea mark, having enjoyed an incredible 271 cruises, with more booked.
Their landmark cruise was on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel — their 10th cruise in 2018 — which neatly took in Ray’s 71st birthday.
Ray and Barb told Escape what they have learned.
DECADE OF CRUISING IS INCREDIBLE — WHY DO YOU KEEP COMING BACK TO CRUISE?
We have never lost the want to cruise, we just sailed on Norwegian Jewel and it’s a new ship for us. We have been around to find what it has, we are delighted to find how different it is to the last ship we were on. It’s the way we get treated and the way that the crew look after us on most ships. We have no loyalty status on this ship but you would not know it.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SHIP?
I always say that our favourite ship is the one we are on at the time. There are some ships that have a special place with us. The Fairstar, Barb and I met on the Fairstar in 1975. The QE2 was flagship of the world for 25-plus years, wow did we love her and the times we had on her. Royal Princess, we were invited to the naming, we were in the official party when The Duchess of Cambridge cut the ribbon, me a boy from Canley Heights at an occasion like that, I will never forget it. Norwegian Bliss with her race cars is great fun.
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU DO WHEN YOU BOARD A SHIP?
We go to the cabin and drop off our hand luggage, change shoes, then go for lunch. We do this as we have generally travelled from Hobart and it could be five hours or so that we have been on the move. Some ships have a dining room open, on others it’s the buffet.
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN ON A CRUISE?
I always say that someone who has not cruised before, take a Great Barrier Reef cruise. There is no passport required, the food is the same as at home, there are no language or currency issues, everything is nice and easy. If you are not happy you can leave the ship and fly home easily. Some other ports have no airport so that is not an option.
WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO A SHY SOLO TRAVELLER CONSIDERING A CRUISE?
Go to trivia and join a team, you’ll quickly make friends. Go to the choir and have a go. Go to the meet-and-match solo party. Some do aerobics, others do needle work — there are so many things that a single person can do and they will meet others who are in the same boat, so to speak. Everyone is on holidays, everyone is friendly.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PACKING TIPS FOR NEW CRUISERS?
We always pack, Panadol, Band Aids, safety pins, Savlon, tablets for constipation, a portable clothes line, our own coffee (Robert Timms coffee bags). Wire coat hangers, you can never have enough. We take clothes that we can wash and dry over night that do not need pressing. Take an extra pair of reading glasses and sunglasses, they tend to get lost and broken.
HOW DO YOU RESEARCH AND PLAN YOUR TRIPS?
We work out what we will do by what ship it is, where it is going and what the price is. At this time we are trying to do more different ships, so a ship that we have not been on would be our first choice. There are of course some ships that we would go back on as we had a very good time on them. Most ships are good, some are real good.
Dublin why because they have the best Guinness in the world and the Irish are such fun people. Ketchikan in Alaska is the home of the Happy Bears in the Arctic bar, good beer and the best internet in Alaska. Sydney because it’s the best sail out, it’s even better as a sail in — what an entry.
DO YOU HAVE A PRE-CRUISE TO-DO LIST?
Yes we are always in a check and recheck. We once were coming in to land in Sydney from Hobart I said to Barb “you have the passports”, she said “no you have them”. I did not have them. We had travelled to Sydney the day before the cruise so had to get the passports to the airport then up to Sydney. It was a Friday so it meant get them to Sydney on a Saturday. At one stage it was cheaper for me to fly back to Hobart and get them. In the end Virgin came to our aid. But yes we do check and recheck and then a final check that we have everything.
HOW DO YOU SPEND A “PERFECT” DAY AT SEA?
A perfect day for us is to meet some friends, have some coffee, maybe lunch and a nice dinner. I would also go to the gym. We sometimes do trivia, or go to a show. If there is a party that’s always good. There is so much to do, it’s just a case of what do you want to do.
DO YOU GET INVOLVED IN ALL THE ACTIVITIES ON BOARD?
We do some of the activities on board. I loved the race cars on Norwegian Bliss, the dodgem cars on Ovation of the Seas are good, and the (sky dive simulator) “I fly”, on Ovation is a must for me. Most ships have something that is super good and my advice is try them. It’s like the food on a ship, you can try something, if you don’t like it get something else, there is no extra charge.
ARE LOYALTY PROGRAMS WORTHWHILE?
Loyalty programs are good and bad. They are good because they give you benefits for your loyalty. They are bad because they stop you from trying a different company or ship. They are different, some give free drinks, others laundry, some free Wi-Fi, others discounts in shops. All have benefits, it is just a case of what you want.
ANY TIPS FOR SHORE TOURS?
Shore tours are something that need to be carefully thought about. If we are in a country where we cannot read the signs or speak the language then we do the tour. If we can do the above we usually do our own thing at about 40 per cent of the ship price. So for example if I am in Korea I do the tour, if in New Zealand I do my own thing, same for Canada. The ship will say “we will wait for you if you are on a ship’s tour that’s late”. Yes, but if you are on the same train as the tour they have to wait in any case. If you want to take the risk, do your homework before you go.
ANY TIPS FOR BOARDING/DISEMBARKING TO BEAT THE QUEUES?
On most ships the loyalty program gives you help in boarding so it’s up to what loyalty you have. Getting off is fairly easy, most ships now let you carry your own bags and walk off. We put the bags out at night and get them in the terminal. We get a time and it works, it’s not a problem….
Source: www.escape.com.au (Brad Crouch)
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