Travel writer Philippa Baker reports from The Birmingham Cruise Show and finds that she is pleasantly surprised by what cruising has to offer
I will be the first to admit that before going to The Birmingham Cruise Show 2017, the only knowledge I had of cruising was from the stories my grandparents recounted of their holiday around Australia and its surrounding islands. Held on the 16th and 17th September in Hall 8 of the NEC Arena, the Cruise Show is an annual weekend dedicated to bringing travel providers and experts under one roof to talk about everything cruise related. As Europe’s largest cruise show, the event is free and is ideal for both the seasoned traveller and those (including myself) new to cruising, interested in discovering what was available.
The show itself was bigger than I had anticipated with 53 stands, three walk-in theatres and a selection of catering and seating areas. There was a gentle flow of people across both days, meaning I could leisurely explore the event without being in a crush of people, making the experience a very pleasant one. In the first hour of the morning and in the last hour before closing was ‘Happy Hour’ which provided exclusive discounts on bookings and even the odd complimentary bottle of bubbly if were one of the first to arrive.
The three theatres hosted a variety of talks. These included guest speakers sharing their personal experiences, up and coming destinations for 2018, an expert panel with insider tips and advice, talks from representative of the major cruise liners with visual presentations on the layout of the liner, amenities on board and the range and types and rooms available to purchase including up-grade options and plenty of Q&A opportunities. These were all extremely informative, inspiring and useful for those undecided or wanting a little more information before booking a cruise experience. Particularly memorable was guest speaker Dr John Mason MBE on Hunting the Northern Lights. His informal but engaging talk was a personal account of a cruising expedition to the Northern Lights which he added the occasional moment of humour too. Not surprisingly there was standing room only for this talk.
Whilst the show was predominantly on cruise holidays and captivating must-see destinations there were other stands including charity stands, make-up, binoculars, leather handbags, park homes, retirement properties, clothing and garden furniture representatives. In some ways, having property stands amongst travel companies did distract from the main objective of the show though it did not, however, take away from the vast amount of high-quality travel information available.
The event encourages those that are new and interested in cruising to attend, not least to take advantage of the exclusive booking deals and complimentary gifts that the show has to offer. For example, there are plenty of talks and information provided throughout the event on what to expect, booking your first cruise, things to consider when selecting a cruise package and tips on preparing for your holiday.Visitors also had the option of having a one-to-one conversation with the independent travel providers to discover the holiday that catered for their personal requirements. This was ideal for dispelling the myths of cruising as a boring or confining holiday, instead, the show offered a breadth of options from ultra-luxury experiences on intimate liners to river cruising and all-inclusive family trips.