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Travel | Traveling
A Beginner's Guide To Choosing A Cruise Line


infographic about choosing a cruise line

A cruise vacation can be relaxing, educational, and enjoyable at any age. If you are looking to take an adventure on the high seas for the first time but don’t know where to start, here are some basic considerations to get you on your way.

girl relaxing on hammock looking out at cruise ship

The most common oversight with first-time cruisers is to get on board a ship that caters to a demographic that is different than theirs. Think about your likes and dislikes. Do you prefer to be constantly entertained with games, shows, and outdoor activities? Or do you like to stroll around the ports of call or have a laid-back day by the pool?

Typically, cruise lines such as Viking and Silversea cater to active adults looking for culturally immersive experiences, whereas Carnival and Disney offer a wide variety of onboard family-friendly experiences to keep kids and adults engaged. If you're traveling alone, pick a solo traveler experience where you can meet like-minded people and forego paying single supplements as part of your cruise price.

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Glacier Bay, Alaska seen from a cruise shipGlacier Bay, Alaska; Photo by David Lindahl/

Make a list of cruise ports that are on your must-see list. It's a good idea to think about any specific regions of the world you want to see, or specific themes, such as wine/vineyards, diving, culture, etc. Also, decide if you want to take an ocean cruise or a river cruise. For example, is your goal to see the towering glaciers of Alaska or the colorful villages along the Mekong river?

A Royal Caribbean and MSC seaside cruise ship side by side

An average cruise ship is 1,000 feet long, or roughly the length of three football fields. Cruise ships can carry from 16 to 7,000+ passengers, depending on the destination and the theme of the ship.

For example, adventure cruise ships tend to be smaller, which enables them to navigate to remote islands or smaller ports of call. Mega ships often look like floating cities with roller coasters, running tracks, spas, theaters, shops, sun decks, and as many as 30 different restaurants. Also, the larger ships tend to be wheelchair accessible.

If you are prone to seasickness, start with a larger, more stable ship or a river cruise. For your first cruise, you might also want to avoid itineraries that include crossing rough waters, such as the Antarctic Ocean.

couple drinking wine on cruise ship deck

When it comes to selecting a cruise line, budget and trip duration are important factors to take into account. Some luxury cruise lines offer more spacious accommodations, with private balconies, fine dining, and personal butlers.

Many of the cruises from Celebrity are affordable—starting at $299 per person—especially when you select interior (windowless) cabins. Of course, you can upgrade to a high-end, resort style experience with suite accommodations and other exclusive amenities, like a spa package, specialty dining, and more.

When looking at the base price of a cruise, be sure to check for cabin options and inclusions, such as gratuities, drinks, laundry, Wi-Fi, shore excursions, and access to premium restaurants. In general, purchasing bundled packages ahead of time can save you as much as 40 – 50%.

people boarding cruise ship

Before booking, read passenger reviews and critiques from cruise experts. However, keep in mind that cruise lines often release new ships each year. Dianna Rom, Vice President of Sales at Windstar Cruises, says, “Travel advisors can be a big help when looking for the best cruise line to fit travelers' needs. They are very knowledgeable in the ships and destinations and will work with you to make sure you have a perfect trip from the moment you walk out of your door and head to the airport.”