Updated March 2017
Cruising is the travel success story of the 21st century and it's not surprising more people are converting to cruises every year. It is estimated that one in three new cruisers say they will never take a land holiday again.
I had never set foot on a cruise ship until I went to work onboard so the whole experience was completely new for me and since then I have never been on a land holiday.
So if you've never taken a cruise and are wondering what all the hype is about here is my guide for first time cruisers.
Is cruising for me?
The simple answer is yes! With more ships being built every year, the options are endless and there is a cruise to suit absolutely everyone.
What's so great about cruising?
With almost everything included in the price, cruising makes fantastic value for money. If you choose a cruise and compare it with the price of a land holiday (taking into account flights, transfers, food, accommodation, activities etc) I guarantee that cruise will win hands down on value for money.
Travelling to multiple destinations and unpacking once is a huge advantage of cruising. No other holiday can offer you this and with no luggage allowance you can take as much as you want. Could you imagine falling asleep in Australia and waking up in Fiji? Or visiting seven different countries in as many days?
One of the biggest attractions to cruising is having everything right on your doorstep as you travel the world, including entertainment from Broadway shows and acrobatic shows to jazz bars and karaoke. Numerous restaurants featuring cuisine from around the world, often concocted by celebrity chefs. Bars like chic champagne lounges, ice bars and olde English pubs. Activities from surf simulators to TV game shows. Leisure facilities like world class spas, beauty therapies and services.
Is cruising suitable for young people? Cruise lines cater for everyone and have rapidly grown to become one of the most popular holiday choices for families and young couples. However, choosing the right cruise line for you is important as some lines do tend to attract certain age groups. It has been revealed that the average age of people cruising is 50 years old, and the average age of a first time cruiser is 37 years old.
Will I be bored? There is no possible way you can find yourself bored on a cruise ship. Whether you go away to relax, explore or try new activities a cruise ship has something for everyone. With rock climbing walls, ice-skating, game shows, parades and much more, the schedule of activities onboard a cruise is endless - we did 100 activities in one day onboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.
Will I get sea sick? There is an extremely slim chance you will get sea sick onboard a cruise ship as they are large vessels that have been built with modern stabilisers to reduce movement. If by any chance you do happen to feel sea sick, the onboard medical facility can offer you complimentary medication to help. To avoid any chance of becoming sea sick choose a cabin in the middle of the ship, this will ensure maximum stability.
Will I get time in port? One of the main attractions of a cruise is the fascinating places you travel to. Cruise lines will allow certain amounts of time in port ensuring enough time for you to see a fair amount of each location. Ships will travel during the night so they arrive for a full day in port. To fully explore a destination you can add a pre or post hotel stay to your cruise allowing you maximum time in your favourite departure port. Certain cruise lines are now starting to offering cruise and stay holidays in many destinations too.
Is it claustrophobic? I find it hard to believe anyone can feel claustrophobic on a cruise ship. The ships are so large and have many different venues onboard that it never feels crowded. With so much going on at the same time it is unlikely you will continuously bump into the same people. If you are worried about this then I would suggest maybe going for a larger ship.
Do I have to dress formally every night? Again, depending on what cruise line you choose the dress code may differ and some cruises are more formal than others. However, in general most cruises will have a couple of formal nights during your stay and the rest will be casual.
Will I just eat all day long? This myth is one I hear time and time again and it is completely false. Yes, food is an important part of a cruise and there is a wide range of cuisine available to you most of the time, however it doesn’t mean it is shoved in your face! You can eat when you want and as much as you want.
There are so many different types of cruises you can easily feel overwhelmed trying to work out which one would be best for you. Here are a few different types plus some highlights to help you narrow down your search.
Mini cruise and taster cruises - Mini cruises and taster cruises are ideal for first time cruisers. Mini cruises usually last a couple of nights and make the perfect weekend getaway. Sail from the UK on a mini cruise and you’ll likely get a great introduction to Northern Europe as well as a great introduction to cruising.
Cruises from the UK - Many cruise lines offer a great range of cruises that sail straight from the UK from ports like Southampton, Harwich, Tilbury, Liverpool and more. When you choose a cruise sailing from the UK you can start your holiday straight away and enjoy the hassle-free process of arriving straight to your port for embarkation. Check out our top tips for embarkation when you cruise from the UK.
Fly-Cruises - A fly cruise involves catching a flight to meet up with your chosen cruise ship in your desired destination. This gives you the chance to travel far and wide, cruising to destinations you may never have thought possible. A fly-cruise is a great way to do one section of a world cruise where you can meet up with your ship to sample a section of the itinerary.
River cruises - These types of cruises are fantastic for cultural immersion. You cruise directly into the heart of cities and most land excursions are included as standard. There tend to be more ports of call since less area needs to be covered meaning you can spend more time enjoying the destinations. They are a great starting point for anyone who may be worried about getting sea sick.
Cruise & Stay Cruise and stay holidays are a great way to see more of your desired destination. Spend a night or two on land in addition to your cruise and get the best of both worlds. Ideal for those who would like a bit more time to explore on land.
Luxury cruise - If you prefer a more tentative service, larger staterooms and an overall more inclusive experience then luxury cruises are best suited to you. See our guide to choosing your luxury cruise line.
Six star cruise - The most luxurious way to travel, six star cruises offer the most inclusive experience at sea. The quality of services offered as standard are exceptional and the whole experience is very personalised. See our guide to six star cruises.
World Cruise A world cruise does exactly what it says on the tin. Choose a world cruise and you can sail to several exciting destinations worldwide. World cruises can last from anything between 30 days to 6 months. Choose a world cruise if you have time to spare and want to experience a good variety of destinations.
Themed cruises From arts and literature cruises to Disney film theme cruises, cruises that take you to the Grand Prix, Calgary Stampede and Rocky Mountaineer and more! Themed cruises are all the rage and perfect for anyone with a real passion or hobby to top off a great holiday.
Transatlantic Cruises Transatlantic cruises have long been a popular choice for cruise holidays. You can sail transatlantic and experience a traditional British style cruise with Cunard. Your entire cruise will be spent at sea and generally these sailings arrive in New York where you can explore and enjoy the Big Apple.
Single cruises - Many cruise lines are now catering towards the solo traveller than ever before. As well as offering low or no single supplements and dedicated cabins, they make arrangements for solo travellers to meet and dine with each other if they wish. Several cruise lines are now even offering dance partners for solo travellers. View our top cruise line and ship recommendations for solo travellers.
Yacht cruises - Perfect for anyone who loves the water - there is no other cruise holiday that offers so much opportunity for water sports, with most equipment included as standard. These cruises also appeal to anyone who wants a real adventure and wants to experience destinations that larger ships are unable. It is also a very romantic way to cruise and offers very high staff to guest ratios.
One of the most important factors to consider when booking your first cruise is choosing the ship and cruise line that is right for you. With over 40 different cruise lines and hundreds of ships, it can be hard to understand the difference. The first thing you need to ask yourself is; what do you want from your cruise holiday? Do you like to go away to relax? Explore new destinations? Try new activities? Meet friends? Get a tan? Take the family away? All of these factors need to be considered when choosing a cruise ship.
There are larger ships that promote themselves as the main destination, smaller ships that are more port focused and luxury ships that offer much more of an intimate atmosphere. A common trend within the cruising industry is that the smaller ships will go to more unique destinations and the larger ships tend to go to fewer stops and visit larger ports. Therefore you need to weigh up the importance of onboard activity and destinations on your holiday.
Here are some recommendations based on the 2017 UK Cruisers' Choice Awards.
Best ships for first time cruisers: Freedom of the Seas, Norwegian Jade, Celebrity Constellation, Aurora, TUI Discovery
Best large ships overall: Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Eclipse, Norwegian Jade
Best mid-sized ships overall: Riviera, Thomson Spirit, Queen Victoria, TUI Discovery, Thomson Celebration
Best small ships overall: Viking Star, Viking Sea, Saga Sapphire, Boudicca, Seven Seas Explorer
Best for families: Harmony of the Seas, Thomson Dream, Norwegian Epic, Celebrity Eclipse, Britannia
For anyone looking to go on a cruise for the first time I understand it can be hard to find all of the information you need and you may have some questions, here is my list of top tips:
• Before booking your cruise, take a look through our website for more information on different cruise line's and ships or simply call our sales team who can offer expert advice and assistance to help you find a suitable cruise.
• Sign up to our newsletters. With so much competiton in the cruise industry nowadays you can find some incredible prices which are snapped up quickly. Be among the first to know about the hottest deals with our email alerts.
• Book a cabin that suits you. If you think you will spend most of your time away from your room then you can go for an interior cabin, however if you want the true experience of being at sea I would definitely recommend a balcony.
Before you cruise
• Plan what you would like to do in the ports of call before you get onboard. Research the destination and try to get a list of excursions the cruise line offers.
• Pack appropriately, there is no luggage limit on a cruise so you take as much stuff as you like. There is likely to be a formal night so pack an evening dress/suit for this. Read our top tips on packing for a fly cruise with a luggage allowance.
• Ensure you take the correct documentation; passports, visas, confirmation and onboard account form.
• Depending where your cruise is departing from it is often a good idea to spend the night before in a hotel, ensuring you do not miss the ship due to flight delays or travel problems. Just like a flight - the ship will not wait for you!
On your cruise
• Ensure your onboard account is set up. When you board you are given a card that will be your room key, entry to the ship and used for all onboard charges. You can link this to your credit card, pay in cash at the end, or make cash payments throughout your cruise if you wish.
• Ensure you know your way around the ship, try to know your way from your room to the dining room, theatre and your favourite places.
• If you do not know already, find out how the tipping onboard works. Some cruise lines include gratuities in the price of your cruise, some automatically charge them to your onboard account and some leave it up to you.
• Every day you will receive a schedule of what is going on around the ship. Have a look at this every morning so you can work out what you want to see and ensure you do not miss anything. Good idea to pack a highlighter!
• Make the most of the ports. It is likely you chose your cruise because of the destinations, so ensure you wake up early and get off the ship as soon as you can to start exploring.
After your cruise
• Reminisce over all of your amazing photographs, let us know your thoughts and start looking for your next cruise adventure! Share your favourite cruise moments with us on twitter @iglucruise
By now I'm sure you are eager to book your first cruise! Your cruise journey begins from the moment you look for a cruise and it should be an enjoyable and exciting experience from the start.
I cannot count how often I spoke to first-time cruisers onboard who have told me, "If I had known how great this was going to be, I would have done it a lot sooner.
We are ATOL Holders and members of ABTA for your financial protection.
You do not currently have any cruises in your shortlist.
View Our Awards
What our customers say
"... Happy New Year! Thank you for looking after us so well in 2016. You really are the best online travel agents! x ” C. T. (January 2017) Read more feedback