Planning Your First Cruise Vacation

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge—quite literally—and take your very first cruise vacation. The open sea, exotic destinations, and the convenience of a floating hotel has finally caught your attention. As exciting as this prospect is, cruising can be a bit overwhelming for first-timers. But don’t worry; this comprehensive guide aims to steer you in the right direction.

Which Type of Cruise is Best for You

Each cruise line will offer different amenities that may or may not be of interest to you. To have the best time, understand which type of cruise is right for your vacation.

Maybe you’re looking for a romantic getaway, then an adults-only cruise may be for you. However, a family or adventure cruise may be the best fit if you’re planning a family vacation with young kids. River cruises are focused more on exploring the cities and towns along the waterways than it is entertainment and relaxation.

Types of Cruises

Here are the main types of cruises: river cruises, family cruises, luxury cruises, singles cruises, holiday cruises, gay/lesbian cruises, senior cruises, holiday cruises, and themed cruises.

A river cruise is a voyage along an inland waterway such as a river, canal, or lake. These cruise vessels tend to be smaller in size, carry fewer people, and travel at a slower speed. River cruises can be up to a week-long and will make multiple stops, sometimes within the same day.

Family, adult-only, singles, luxury, and other cruises are all typically ocean cruises. Ocean cruises are conducted on much larger vessels, carry thousands of passengers, and travel at a much faster speed. These cruises tend to be at least two nights long, with an average cruise length of 7 days.

Each cruise line is unique, so you’ll want to browse the amenities that are available. From bumper cars and go-karts to planetariums and zip lining, your main goal is choosing a cruise that calls you.

How to Find the Best Cruise Line Deals

Cruise lines offer low upfront costs for “all-inclusive” voyages because they make money from excursions and add-on purchases. If you’re looking to go on an extended or luxury cruise, those rates can be much higher.   

I recommend using a cruise line comparison tool. These websites allow you to compare cruise lines as well as get deal alerts straight to your inbox. Once you find a deal you like, the site will redirect you to the cruise line’s website to book your cruise at the discounted rate you found.

Be sure to sign up for your prospective cruise line’s e-newsletters for their latest deals too.

Discount websites like Groupon are also a good place to find deals. However, be aware that there is usually a designated time frame for these tickets to be used.

And finally, never be afraid to ask your travel agent to negotiate a lower rate if you see the price drop during your installment period.

Choosing the Best Cruise Cabin Location

Choosing a cruise cabin (stateroom) may sound like a no-brainer, but there are actually a good number of options when it comes to amenities. Your main options include inside cabins, ocean-view cabins, balcony cabins, mini-suites, and normal suites.

Inside suites have no windows and are for budget travelers who don’t plan on spending much time in their rooms. Oceanview cabins are a little bigger in size and have a window, while balcony suites have a full-on private balcony you can walk out onto from your room. Mini-suites and normal suites are the largest rooms with separate quarters for sleeping and entertainment.

Things to consider when booking a cabin

As mentioned above, if you don’t plan on spending much time in your room, then an inside suite is for you. Is there a possibility that you may become seasick? Then you won’t want a cabin at the front of the ship.

Maybe you’re a light sleeper? Then you won’t want a cabin under the pool deck, and you will want a room on a higher floor. Opting for an ocean view? Ensure you’re not paying extra for anything, as sometimes you can end up with an obstructed view. Check your cruise line’s deck plans before booking your cabin!

How to take advantage of sea days

A sea day is a day spent on the sea for travel. This is the time you’ll want to explore the ship and participate in onboard activities that tickle your fancy. This is why it is so important to choose the right type of cruise for you.

Your sea day activities depend highly on the cruise ship, but here are some of the basic amenities you’ll find on most cruises: pools and waterslides, gyms, spas, restaurants and bars, shops, and onboard entertainment. Other cruise ship-specific activities include go-karts, bumper cars, rock climbing, zip lines, shuffleboard, casinos, and tons more.

Make sure to research all the activities available on your particular cruise ship and plan your days!

Planning the Perfect Shore Excursions

Shore excursions are activities done off the ship and at the port. You can purchase them through the cruise line or an outside vendor. Typically, it’s recommended that you book through the cruise line because if something goes wrong, it’s easier to get it taken care of.

Shore excursions include sightseeing, scuba diving, snorkeling, cuisine and culture tours, adventure tours, and more. It depends on your destination and budget, so plan accordingly!

Photo Credit: [@TallyPic/DepositPhotos]


Planning Your First Cruise Vacation

Alexandrea Sumuel Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.