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Today at ROL Cruise HQ, we’ve been talking no-fly-cruising, and whether starting a cruise holiday at an airport is a nuisance or a god-send – here’s what we think. Firstly, in this post, we’re going to address the elephant in the room – the one that most cruise specialists would shy away from talking about - for fear of being too honest- but we like to share both sides of the debate.

For both professional cruisers and first-timers, there are four notorious little words that conjure up a thousand thoughts; four little words that have a lot to answer for in the world of cruising, and are probably amongst the most misunderstood.

“The Bay of Biscay.” - there you go, I said them, and it wasn’t so bad, was it?

“In my 13 years’ cruising, I’ve probably navigated ‘the bay’ six or seven times, and I’ve seen it all.

Bounded by the west coast of France and the north coast of Spain, this 86,000 sq mile stretch of water is likely accountable for a large proportion of those who refuse to cruise. There are other reasons too of course, such as the fear of being on the wrong type of ship, or not liking your fellow passengers, but for most, I’d say this naughty little bay is at least partly responsible.

The latter of course can largely be avoided by seeking advice from a cruise expert like ROL Cruise – (do you see what I did there?), but due to Mother Nature and geography, we can do little to calm the Bay of Biscay for you. What we can do however, is put your mind at ease, and tell you that it’s unlikely to be as bad as you’ve heard.

The caveat here is that your no-fly cruise could well be as bad as your friends Richard and Susan reported after their “crossing from hell last summer”, or like the thousands that take to cruising forums every day, but it may also be much better -  so let’s look on the bright side.

The proof is in the pudding

In my 13 years’ cruising, I’ve probably navigated ‘the bay’ six or seven times, and I’ve seen it all: Blistering sunshine, gale-force winds, and five or so other variations of weather – including one of the short cruises that I took in the winter (the worst time for cruising this part of the world), and it was practically still.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re expecting a millpond you’re likely to be disappointed, but it only takes a day to cross, and you’re on holiday, so try to distract yourself with one of the hundreds of activities available on board. 

Here’s are a couple of little tips, courtesy of the Berlitz Guide to Cruising:

  • When you first set sail and notice the natural movement of the ship, try walking back and forth on the deck. You will find that your knees, which are our own form of stabiliser, will start getting their feel of balance and counteraction. This is known as “getting your sea legs.”
  • Get the sea breeze on your face (arguably the best antidote) and, if nauseous, suck some orange or a lemon.
  • When on deck, focus on a steady point, such as the horizon.

Our expert advice

Duncan Croucher, our Sales and Training Manager (and recent Travel Weekly Magazine Mystery Shopper winner) wanted to add a couple of extra tips for you to consider: I’ll share with you his personal favourite tip for overcoming any Biscay-related bother (#1), and his other, slightly more publishable tips for you to consider. 

  • It only lasts a day, I usually just pour a few strong drinks or lie down when I cross the bay, and it’s always fine.
  • Try to choose a ship with a ‘v shaped’ hull, as they’re built for rougher seas, like Queen Mary 2. When on flatter bottomed ships, you’ll tend to notice any movement more as they don’t cut through the water as easily.
  • Book early so you have a good choice of cabins. It’s a well-known cruising fact that the cabins in the middle of the ship (not toward the front or back), have the most stable location. Cabins that are positioned a little lower down on the ship too, can make the journey more comfortable.
  • The crossing is only a day, and I personally love cruising from the UK, my holiday starts straight away, and it means I don’t have to wait around at the airport – its’ definitely worth the risk that It might be a little bit rough.
  • Generally, the winter months are when the bay tends to get a little choppier, but I still love it. Seeing the seasons change from the wet and rainy climes of Southampton to the warmth of the Canaries, is one of my favourite parts, and there are so many benefits – it’s all part of the cruising experience, and one that everyone should try at least once.
  • When our customers call, we can always give some advice on the most stabilised ships, and the time of year, or even the destinations that will mean they’ll avoid any rough seas.”

So, there you have it

I did plenty of research before writing this, and there isn’t much more to add. Telegraph writer (and Blue Horizons regular) Jane Archer hosted a Q & A on the Telegraph website, and she pretty much reported the same, as did the rest of the team here at ROL Cruise; all frequent cruisers.

If you’re still not sold…

We all give cruising the thumbs up - despite the infamous Bay of Biscay.

However, if you absolutely would prefer to stay well away from this little rascal of the seas, there are plenty of other options available to you. Check out our selection of voyages to the Baltic and Scandinavia. The Mediterranean has sunshine and sand, but the chances of spotting the Northern Lights or the Russian Ballet are – well – slim!

Or our equally popular fly-cruises, where anytime of the year, you can fly straight out to the sunshine. You won’t be sharing a drink with Duncan on the runway, as he hates to fly, but there’s a cruise for everyone – you just need to take the rough, with the smooth. (excuse the pun).

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