As we approach the May holidays, the majority of us wonder where to go. Those who can afford a trip choose between spring Crimea or Europe, hot South Seas or white Petersburg's nights. However, over the last years cruises become more and more popular. Tour operators inform that a seven-day cruise now costs like a weeklong vacation in a good Turkish hotel, but the service and experiences are way better. ForUm has decided to get into details.

How much

According to experts, sales of various cruises in Ukraine have grown fivefold for the past five years, and only in 2012, the number of Ukrainians wishing to go on a cruise trip increased twice. The number of cruise takers does not exceed 1% out of 18 million people taking water touring annually in the world, but for the past years, the Ukrainian cruise market has grown by 35-40% per year. "I dare to say that we face a boom in this sector. When we just started to sell cruise trips several years ago, we managed to sent about 500 tourists, not more, but in 2012 the number made more than 12 thousand people," director general of the "Express-Voyage" firm Larysa Slobodyan says.

Growing demand is generated by affordable prices and various promotion actions. Thus, minimal cost of a cruise trip including flight and accommodation now makes $1200, and promotion actions offer other bonuses, for example pay for one, take children for free. Another bonus offers $300 deposit on a special card for payments on a cruise liner. Finally, booking in advance (a month before, for example) tourist can save 15-30%.

The base price depends on the endurance of the trip, number of countries of visit, liner class and cabin type. Weeklong cruises are the most popular. The price usually includes almost all services: meal, entertainment, pool, disco, etc. A dinner in an alternative restaurant (sushi bar, Mexican or Italian cuisine) will cost additional $15-20 per person. "The tour price includes accommodation in a cabin of selected category, port duties, FB with drinks (except for alcoholic)," tourism director of "Pan Ukraine" company Olha Yudenko informs. - "Tips on board (service duties), tours in ports, extra services like hairdresser, SPA, laundry, etc. are not included. Moreover, tourists might have to buy separately a flight, medical insurance, or book a room in a hotel before and/or after the cruise (many tourists combine the cruise trip with beach vacation or business trip)."

A seven-day Persian Gulf cruise (the UAE-Oman-Bahrain-UAE) costs about 500 euro plus flight, visas, port tours, transportation, port duties, taxes and tips. A cruise trip in North Europe will cost 1450-1500 euro. World cruises are the most expensive. A trip may last 110 days and include up to 30 countries. Such cruises cost from $25 thousand to $500 thousand.

Important to know

A world cruise requires not only means but also thorough preparation. A tourist will have to apply for 8-10 visas in advance, "Pan Ukraine" specifies. However, it seems embassies are rather friendly to cruise takers, as such trips are considered very respectable.

Being on board tourists must turn in their travel passports in exchange for cruise cards - valid documents during the trip. Thus, touching a port on the list, organizers of the trip will do the registration procedures. Payments on board are also carried out by the card. By the way, for a trip worth 1000 euro, the card must have 1500 euro of deposit minimum. Such policy affects the demand, but insures operators against "penniless" clients. Cash is excepted only in casinos or for tips.

Selecting a cruise trip, tourists are recommended to learn characteristics of a concrete liner, as they differ in size, class and entertainment "stuffing". Moreover, booking and cancelling procedures also have their peculiarities - sanctions and penalties are harsher than for regular tours. For such cases as refusal of a visa or unexpected illness, tourists are also recommended to take cancellation coverage to minimize the financial risks.

Finally, tourists are strongly recommended to book a hotel room for a night before the cruise departure. Buying a same-day flight, you risk missing the ship because of unexpected flight delay.

Seas and rivers

Popularity of this or that cruise route depends on the season. Thus, Mediterranean and North Europe cruises go off well in summer and exotic countries (South-Eastern Asia, New Zealand, South America and Caribbean) - in winter. The United States also becomes more popular among Ukrainian tourists - New York and California in September-October and Florida in November.

Until 2013, the Ukrainian ports, unfortunately, have not offered cruises, though in soviet times Odessa used to have popular trips to Sochi, Batumi and back. The majority of cruise passengers are Europeans and Americans, and for them it is more convenient to start a trip in Europe, not Odessa. However, several years ago MSC operator started offering September-October tour "Odessa - Istanbul -Katakolo (Greece) - Dubrovnik (Croatia) - Venice - Bari - Piraeus (Athens) - Yalta - Odessa". The cruise is scheduled for specific dates only and must be booked in advance, as the number of seats is limited. Only this year it is planned to launch cruises from Odessa.

Dnipro tours, however, have not stopped running, head of the cruise department of Inflot tour operator Yulia Sukhina says. River tours start in Kyiv and the shortest one finishes in Kanev, near Shevchenko Mountain. Other cruises go to Odessa (of Sevastopol, Yalta) with stops in Kremenchug, Zaporizhya, Kherson. However, these tours are intended for foreigners, first of all, and the entertainment program includes local folklore, like Cossack show or performance of local groups. Such cruises cost $1000-2000 per person.

Among other popular river cruises, there are Volga and Danube tours, which include visiting Saint Petersburg, Valaam Island, Kizhi Island, Belgrade, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and a number of German cities. According to Inflot, river cruises are very popular among newly wedded couples, who consider such trips interesting, romantic and not expensive. River cruises may last for several days and up to a month. 

Thus, modern tourism market offers many relatively affordable cruise routes. And what was just a picture from "dolce vita" ten years ago, now is becoming a matter of short-term savings and visa application forms.   

Andriy Boyarunets


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