Richard and Robyn Cooper have done 13 cruise ship journeys in recent years and have another three lined up before March 2018.
They have travelled on all three of the Cunard Cruise Line ships – RMS Queen Mary 2, MS Queen Victoria, and RMS Queen Elizabeth – as well as six cruises on Princess liners, two with Royal Caribbean and another on a luxury European river cruise.
The trips have created plenty of great memories, including being on board for Cunard’s 175th anniversary trip in 2015, when all three of its vessels entered Liverpool’s River Mersey and completed a synchronized 180-degree turn.
“Coming into Liverpool, the number of people we could see on the shores and standing waist deep in 9 degree water waiting and waving for us as we came in was unbelievable,” says Richard.
Incredibly, on that trip the Coopers met a neighbour from home who had lived nearby for years but whom they had never met – they’ve now done eight trips together.
Richard says, “we just like seeing different parts of the world”, and cruise ships are one of the best ways of doing that.
The Living Gems Caboolture residents’ last cruise to the Mediterranean was cut short early when Richard suffered a broken ankle suffered descending the 1,350 steps of Montenegro’s Kotor Fortress, but that hasn’t shattered the Coopers’ enthusiasm for travelling on ships.
Highlights included days in Barcelona where they climbed to the top of the unfinished La Sagrada Familia ( the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) – “absolutely fantastic and unreal,” says Richard – and many other works of the iconic architect Antoni Gaudi – “the vision he had was just unbelievable”.
Up next is a trip around Tasmania in December, followed by New Zealand in February and Dubai in March.
Given the amount they travel, the Coopers appreciate the security provided by Living Gems when they aren’t at home.
“It is one of the main reasons we chose Living Gems,” says Richard. “Back when I were on a quarter acre we had to organise people to look after our property. At Living Gems, everything is taken care of.”
Richard and Robyn know their cruises, and here are some of their tips for a successful trip.
Don’t leave home without travel insurance
A broken ankle prematurely ended Richard’s last cruise in the Mediterranean Sea, when he slipped walking down from Montenegro’s Kotor Fortress. He ascended the 1,350 steps no problem, but fell on the way down as he stepped off the track to let some other tourists walk through. His travel insurance covered the business class trip home and also reimbursed him for the two weeks of the trip that he missed. Richard points out however, that once you are back in Australia, you are back under the auspices of the local health system.
Search around for the best deals
It is worth searching around the internet for the best price on websites such as Cruise Finder and Cruise Guru, however, Richard and Robyn usually don’t book through these sites. Flight Centre will beat any price by an Australian competitor by $1, so the Coopers will take the best price and visit Flight Centre at Northlakes. Booking with a reputable travel agent provides peace of mind. “I get a bit worried when I book with various websites,” says Richard.
Consider booking your own airport transfers
Richard has found that he can get cheaper airport transfers by shopping independently from a travel agent. He recommends Suntransfers as an affordable and reliable option.
Look for cruises with plenty of stops
“It can be boring when you spend five or six nights at sea, so we pick trips that have a lot of ports, such as the trip to the Mediterranean, which had only three nights at sea,” says Richard.
Look after your health on board
With so many people sharing a confined space the risk of falling ill on board is real. Richard and Robyn take precautions such as only using their own toilet, refraining from using hand rails where possible, and washing their hands regularly. Richard says he doesn’t blame the cruise ship company for outbreaks of illness, but rather passengers who arrive already ill.