No Fly Zone

‘It’s not the destination but the journey that matters’ is a quote used time and time again to describe cruising. But what happens when the journey terrifies you?

It starts with sweaty palms and clammy skin, escalating to a pounding in your chest and a rising sense of panic that churns in your stomach, like a white load on a spin wash. You try to think logically, convincing yourself that you’re actually taking the safest mode of transport possible. After all, statistics say you have more chance of winning the lottery than experiencing a plane crash, not that the facts and figures do anything to silence the doubts running through your mind.

For many of us, nothing beats the relief of clearing customs, offloading your luggage and slipping through security to enjoy the first drink of your holiday. However, for the 30% of the population who suffer from a fear of flying, or aviophobia, the journey is a terrifying yet necessary evil, which is unavoidable if you are to reach your ship. Only then, with both feet firmly on those polished decks, can the holiday begin.

Airplane in the sky and cloud at sunrise

Rumour has it that Aretha Franklin’s fear of flying developed overnight and led to her missing out on the opportunity to perform for Her Majesty the Queen of England. Actor Sean Bean famously drove to all of his European film locations, until his role in The Lord of the Rings forced him to face his fears and fly to New Zealand, where he still refused to join the rest of the cast on helicopter transfers. The late David Bowie’s fear of flying saw him develop a long-lasting love of cruising during the 60s and 70s, with stories shared of his impromptu performance of Space Odyssey on board Canberra. The legendary artist continued his love affair with P&O Cruises throughout the years, preferring the relaxed pace of cruising to the stress of air travel. Even rock stars have embraced cruising as a way to side step their fear of flying; Blink 182 drummer, Travis Barker, is one of the many famous faces to have sailed on board Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 in recent years, his own involvement in a plane crash having instilled an intense fear of flying. Even today, the star continues to travel by cruise ship to all of the band’s European engagements, often opting for the luxury of Cunard’s Princess Grills.

Cruising is a revelation for those whose fear of flying is beyond repair. When everything from soothing the anxiety with meditation and breathing techniques, to seeking professional help from psychotherapists and hypnotists has failed, cruising becomes the only way to see the world without a hint of stress.

For years, many thought cruising could only take you as far as the Mediterranean or Northern Europe, perhaps even to the Caribbean at a push. Today’s reality is that there are few places in the world which are beyond the reach of a cruise ship. A transatlantic sailing with the likes of Cunard, Fred Olsen or P&O Cruises opens up the whole of America and Canada for exploration, oftentimes departing from a port just a couple of hours from home. How’s that for putting the world on your doorstep?

Summer cruise getaway

For those who have long dreamed of leaving the monotony of the day-to-day behind in place of extended adventures, world cruises spanning almost six months depart on a Southampton round-trip. Such circumnavigations have become a sort of later life ‘gap year’ for many, with those who were always too fearful of flying now suddenly able to experience a whole world of new cultures and snatch-your-breath sights, including the odd Wonder of the World, or two.

Of course, it isn’t all about the long-haul; aviophobia has the ability to make even a short hop, skip and jump to the Mediterranean inconceivable. Fortunately, there are many cruise lines sailing from the UK to the sun on a weekly basis.

P&O Cruises bases much of its fleet in Southampton and supplements its long haul itineraries with shorter sojourns to the Baltic and Northern Europe, the Norwegian Fjords and the Mediterranean. Similarly, Royal Carribean International’s Southampton-based Independence of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas offer family-fun without the airfare, whilst Fred Olsen’s smaller ships sail from no fewer than 12 ports across the UK, so you’re almost guaranteed a local departure. For those seeking sophistication, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse brings its unique ‘Modern Luxury’ to the masses with sailings from Southampton and around the UK.

With so many no-fly cruises on offer, even those who aren’t afraid of flying are often tempted to skip the airport hassle. An unlimited luggage allowance makes the usual 23kg constraints of airlines seem tighter than ever and the possibility of hopping across the time zones without a hint of jetlag in sight is enough to see long-haul air travel put on the back burner.

View from stern of big cruise ship