Picking your first cruise

How to choose your first cruise

Are you just starting to look for your first cruise?  Don't know what cruise line or cruise itinerary to pick?  Where to begin choosing your first cruise?

Well, I am here to help.

Many people that want to start cruising are often overwhelmed with the choices of lines and itineraries.  This article is dedicated to those who are traveling from the United States, however much of the information can be used worldwide.  When choosing your first cruise, there few things you should consider:

Length of the cruise

One of the first things to consider is the length of the cruise.  Some cruises start as short as two days; major cruise lines usually offer plenty of 3 and 4-day cruises.  There are many more 5-7 day cruises, as well as 7 day or longer cruises.

If you are brand new to cruising and want to try a short cruise, you need to keep few things in mind.  The advantage of a short cruise is the price (it tends to be on the lower side), the ability to find out if you get seasick. Many shorter cruises leave on Friday (evening) and are back in port on Sunday.  If you are short on vacation time and live near the port, those could be great for a short getaway.

There are a few disadvantages to short cruises as well.  Short cruises tend to be on smaller, older ships.  The food tends to be the same as on the bigger sister ships, but since you are going to be on a shorter cruise, you won't experience some of the dishes.  Since the cruise ship is smaller, it often does not have the amenities of larger ships and less variety of an entertainment on the ship.  Finally, you are very limited to the ports of call you can choose from.  For ships leaving from U.S. ports, those ports will be either Nassau or Ensenada,  The worst thing about choosing a short cruise, is feeling like your vacation was cut short.

The other thing to keep in mind on a shorter cruise.  The age of people cruising tends to be younger and alcohol consumption tends to be higher.  Shorter cruises tend to have more of a party atmosphere.

Bottom line: If you are brand new to cruising, short on vacation time but want to get away or are sampling a new cruise line, 2 or 3-day cruise might be for you.

If you really want to experience cruising, I would recommend taking a longer cruise.  My personal favorite is 7-day cruises.  I feel that during a week-long cruise, you get enough time to relax and enjoy it, but not enough time to get tired of cruising.  There are tons of ships, ports to choose from.  Five to seven-day cruises tend to appeal to families, so usually, there will be a lot of kids on board.

The advantage of taking a cruise in this category is having the choice of many ships and ports.  Majority of the cruises offered fall into this category (5 to 7 days).  There are a lot of variables you need to keep in mind before choosing your cruise.

Bottom line: I think 5-7 day cruises offer the best value for your vacation.  There are a lot of families that choose those cruises, so if you don't like kids, you should consider longer cruises.

Cruises longer than 7 days tend to have older passengers.  They usually do offer more upscale cruising experience.  Longer cruises do visit more ports.  As the length of the cruise increases, so does the price.  As there are fewer people interested in longer cruises, there are fewer options.  The best part of a long cruise is an ability to visit remote ports of call that regular cruise lines don't visit very often.  If you have time and money, you can visit a lot of different country in a relatively short time.

Departure Port

One of the most important things is figuring out your port of departure.  If you live near a cruise port, that would be a very easy question to answer.  However, if you are far away from the cruise port, this would be one of the essential things to consider.  Airline tickets will add to the cost of the cruise, and if you are trying to stay within a specific budget, the location of the port should be something to consider before looking at cruise lines and itineraries.  Many people do stay in the city before or after the cruise, so if there is a city that has a port that you wanted to visit, that would be something to consider as well.

Here are few of the U.S. ports

  • California
    • Long Beach
    • San Diego
    • San Francisco
    • San Pedro
  • Florida
    • Fort Lauderdale
    • Jacksonville
    • Miami
    • Port Canaveral
    • Tampa
  • Hawaii
    • Honolulu
  • Louisiana
    • New Orleans
  • Maryland
    • Baltimore
  • Massachusets
    • Boston
  • New Jersey
    • Bayonne (Cape Liberty)
  • New York
    • New York City
  • South Carolina
    • Charleston
  • Texas
    • Galveston
  • Virginia
    • Norfolk
  • Washington
    • Seattle

If you don't live within a driving distance, the first thing I would look at is the cost of the flight.  There are a lot of budget airlines that fly to Orlando, Florida, which is about an hour away from Port Canaveral.  If you chose to fly on a budget airline though, always keep in mind additional costs for baggage.

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