Deciding on a first cruise to embark on can be overwhelming, as there are a number of factors to consider when selecting the perfect journey, including length of cruise, cost and activities on board. And because different cruise lines cater to different audiences — foodies, singles and raucous Spring Break crowds — the sheer volume of choices is dizzying. We’ve compiled a list of cruises for beginners to the scene, and these recommendations will provide you with a comprehensive introduction to everything cruising has to offer.
For young families embarking on a first cruise, the Disney Cruise Line thoughtfully includes amenities like nurseries and expansive water play areas to cater to tots and young sailors. Disney’s favorite characters make scheduled appearances at designated spots on the ships. Celebrate Pirate Night together by watching a spectacular fireworks display on deck, and relive the most heartwarming moments of original Disney films like Beauty and Beast as a musical rendition comes to life on stage. Parents can end the night at the chic adults-only bar, Skyline, by sipping cocktails as Disney Dream sails past the Caribbean and Alaska.
Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas
Once the largest cruise ship around, Harmony of the Seas is ideal for families sailing with teens and tweens for the first time. This Royal Caribbean ship is equipped with rock climbing walls, thrilling ziplines and surf simulators. Youth programs onboard mean the children are looked after with care and attention, and are treated with sophistication as they have the privilege of attending teens-only casino nights and accessing teens-only lounges. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas beats its competitors in sheer volume of activities onboard, and parents never have to worry about entertaining their children on at sea days.
Holland America Volendam
Experts on Alaska, Holland America is one of several cruise lines to gain exclusive access to Alaska’s pristine Glacier Bay National Park, a rugged landscape of deep glacial fjords and snow capped peaks. Board the Volendam for a front row seat to Alaska’s wild and untamed frontier, and from the ship’s deck, spot bears roaming through the thick forests of Western hemlock and Sitka spruce as you cruise through the untouched Inside Passage. Marvel at the 21-mile-long Margerie Glacier, a natural wonder that advances roughly 30 feet per year. With seven-night itineraries crafted for nature lovers, the Volendam offers shore excursions of hiking Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau and participating in Alaska’s state sport of dog sledding.
For first time cruisers who just want to sample the cruise life, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Victory will allow you a glimpse on its three- to seven-day itineraries, with the most popular destinations being the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico. The line caters to a wide audience, with the common goal of cruising at an affordable rate. The Carnival Victory is a budget-friendly option, allowing free entry into specialty venues like Guy’s Burger Joint for Guy Fieri's signature burgers, and the Serenity Adult Only Retreat with access to a bar and complete peace.
Viking Ocean Cruises Viking Sea
If you’re seeking a more intimate cruise experience, the Viking Sea caps its passenger count at 930 and is proud to be a small cruise line that focuses on enhancing your experiences and interactions with your chosen destination. Through on board music and art performances as well as live cooking demos, passengers gain insight into the history and culture of the ship’s ports of call. Though a journey on the luxurious Viking Sea may seem lavish judging by its price tag, cruisers enjoy unlimited internet access on board, a free shore excursion at every port and beer and house wine with lunch and dinner — perks for a hassle free first sailaway.
Norwegian Cruise Line offers quick three- or four-day getaways on the Norwegian Sky to the Bahamas from Miami, allowing passengers to leave behind the stresses of confined work or school schedules and recuperate. A more exotic itinerary offers a stopover in Havana, where you can dance to the city’s sultry rhythms, and wander past colorful Spanish colonial facades on its cobblestone lanes. Relax with a hot stone massage in the onboard spa on this newly refurbished ship, or exercise your privilege to access the open bar, where drink prices are already included in your fare.
Sail the Danube with AmaWaterways, a leading river cruise line that graces the waters of Europe. Glide effortlessly past a refreshing blend of lively capitals and picturesque villages on week-long itineraries down the majestic Danube. You can even witness sunset or sunrise as you sail past the lush countryside and medieval towns from the heated pool on the Sun Deck. The elegant Main Lounge onboard invites lingering, so unwind with cocktails while you listen to talented performers on the baby grand piano. For first time sailors to this region of the world, cruising the Danube on AmaCerto provides a comprehensive overview of Central Europe’s centuries old castles and stunning architecture.
Avalon Waterways Avalon Artistry II
Cruise along the romantic Rhine between the end of November and late December to experience Europe’s warm holiday atmosphere. Whether you decide to begin your journey in Basel or Amsterdam, and no matter which route along the Rhine you choose, the quaint villages and vibrant cities that twinkle in festive lights and decor will enchant. Peruse the stalls of gingerbread cookies and handmade jewelry at timeless Christmas markets in your ports of call as you sip on piping hot mugs of Glühwein and munch on spice cakes. The Avalon Artistry II offers a magical first experience at sea.
Cunard Line Queen Mary 2
A transatlantic journey from New York to Southampton on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 takes you back to the glory days of sailing when cruising was the only way to travel across the Atlantic. The ship’s grand public spaces and elegant details allude to the golden era of travel in the early decades of the 1900s where passengers donned formal and glamorous attire. Indeed, Queen Mary 2 enforces a strict dress code. For a culturally rich and traditional experience, this Cunard Line ship offers afternoon high tea sessions, sophisticated entertainment options centered around Shakespeare and evenings of ballroom dancing.
Ponant Le Soleal
Because of its relatively small size, Ponant’s Le Soleal has access to hidden ports of call for passengers seeking more intimate and authentic experiences. The Ponant cruise line focuses on introducing travelers to exotic destinations and seemingly virgin territories like Antarctica. Set sail on a polar expedition in collaboration with National Geographic on Le Soleal into the untamed beauty of the White Continent for your first cruise, where you can witness an array of wildlife in their natural habitat — sea elephants, penguins and fur seals. Discover the globe’s exotic destinations with Ponant before the crowds arrive.