Guide to planning your first cruise vacation

For first-timers, planning a cruise can be a bit of an intimidating experience. With so many activities and extras available, not to mention the huge variety of cruise lines, exotic destinations, and itineraries, making choices can be overwhelming.

But planning your first cruise does not have to be a scary experience! Preparing for your first adventure on the high seas should be an exciting experience, and with a little helpful advice, it can be. With so many amazing 2021 cruise itineraries already available, finding your perfect cruise vacation should be a breeze, so read on and we’ll guide you through the big decisions you’ll need to make before stepping on board!

What type of cruise?

There are two main types of cruises. The most common, most popular and most recognisable cruises are ocean cruises, which tend to be on larger ships, and cover a far larger area. River cruises (or fjord cruises) tend to be on smaller ships, with fewer people. River cruises offer a more intimate experience, with a select group of people winding their way along narrow waterways and into remote, hard-to-reach locations. They also remove the risk of seasickness! However in general ocean cruises are more accessible, more social, and will visit a larger variety of destinations, so tend to be the go-to pick for a cruise debut.

How long should you go for?

Deciding how long you want to spend at sea is the first thing you need to do when planning your cruise vacation. Cruise itineraries range from as short as three days to as long as three weeks. For cruise first-timers, a week tends to offer the best of both worlds. You’ll have enough time to relax and unwind, and to really get a feel for the cruise lifestyle, in a way that you can’t on a three-day cruise, and you’ll be able to visit a few different ports and destinations. A week is enough time to get a taste, and to find out whether cruise vacations are for you, without running the risk of getting bored or stir crazy.

Which room should you pick?

There is a dizzying variety of rooms on a cruise ship, particularly on the bigger mega-ships, and picking the right one can seem like a complicated task. However, if it is your first time onboard, you shouldn’t worry too much. As you’ll be wanting to get as much out of your cruise experience as possible, it is unlikely you’ll be spending much time in your stateroom, so you don’t need to splash out on the most luxurious options. Save a little money with an interior room, and don’t worry about a balcony or a window. That said, it is always worth casting your eye over the deck plans if you can, to avoid rooms near kitchens or service areas which can be noisy.

What shore activities should you book?

Shore activities are excursions in and around the ports your cruise stops at, which will be bookable in advance. Depending on where you are heading the activities might include anything from rum tasting in Barbados to exploring Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. Some shore activities might be included in the cost of your cruise, and some will be extra. It is worth keeping an eye on your ship’s updated activities, as they tend to be updated regularly, and booking any activities offered by the ship that particularly appeal to you early. It is also worth taking a look at what is on offer independently in the ports you will be visiting. As long as you are back by the ship’s scheduled time of departure, there’s no reason you can’t organize your own adventures as well!

Where should I go?

Choosing your destination depends a lot on the type of vacation you are looking for. For families, the ship itself is likely to be a big part of the appeal, with onboard activities, and the ports and destinations themselves less important. Younger couples and more adventurous travellers might look for exotic locations with loads to do ashore. For your first cruise, it is hard to go wrong with the Caribbean. It is a great combination of lovely weather, exquisite beaches, and exciting and welcoming local culture, and the collection of islands means that you can get a few different ports under your belt very easily, offering great bang for your buck. There are plenty of Caribbean cruises that depart from the East Coast and Florida, so getting to your departure port is simple, and with most islands speaking English the experience is extremely accessible.

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