Cruising can be an affordable and fun way to travel, offering ease of transfers between location and greater accessibility for travelers with limited mobility. But with so many cruise lines and sailings to choose from, booking your first cruise can be a daunting task. You want to ensure you pick the right ship size, entertainment options, and ports of call to make your cruise vacation memorable. Before you head out to sea, consult with a travel advisor, and check out these tips for booking your best first cruise.
Cruise ship departing Santorini Island, Greece; Photo by smallredgirl/stock.adobe.com
PICK YOUR DESTINATION
First, where do you want to go? Is the sunny Mediterranean on your bucket list, or do you dream of Alaskan glaciers? With several river cruise, ocean cruise, and expedition cruise options, you can pretty much travel anywhere in the world by cruise.
With that in mind, consider how far the embarkation port is from your home. Will you need to drive or take an international flight to get to the ship? Will you need a visa? These factors can add more time and cost to your vacation.
HOW LONG DO YOU WANT TO TRAVEL?
Some travelers feel more comfortable watching the ocean from the bar lounge all day, while others prefer to get off and explore the ports of call. As a first time cruiser, start short—maybe 5 – 7 days, rather than a 6-month voyage around the world. This will help you to get a feel for the cruising lifestyle and find your sea legs.
Aerial view of Spectrum of the Sea, Royal Caribbean cruise ship; Photo by Phuong/stock.adobe.com
WHAT IS THE BEST CRUISE LINE?
The right ship size and style can make or break your cruising experience. Multigeneration cruisers may prefer a larger ship by Royal Caribbean or Celebrity, where there are tons of activities to keep everyone engaged. If you prefer a quiet, adult-centric, luxury experience, book with more intimate and luxury cruise lines such as Crystal, Silversea, or Viking.
WHICH CRUISE SHIP ROOMS SHOULD I CHOOSE?
There can be upward of 15 categories on each ship that may appear to have minor differences if you are not familiar with cruising. If you tend to get motion sickness, avoid windowless and below-deck cabins. If you are noise sensitive, stay far from bars, pools, and entertainment venues. You can look at the ship’s map and preselect the exact location of your cabin. Book mid-ship for most stability and unobstructed views and aft balcony for larger cabins.
PLAN YOUR BUDGET
First time cruisers are often lured by super-discounted online fares and find themselves paying for everything beyond a basic inside cabin. Shore excursions, Wi-Fi, gratuities, taxes, and beverage and dining packages add up quickly, so find out what is included. If you want to know how to save money on a cruise, all-inclusive fares and kids cruise free deals can be pocket friendly for families.
Planning in advance is always preferable, but don’t be afraid to book a last minute cruise deal—these flash sales can help fill ships approaching their departure dates.