If you’ve never taken a cruise before, the idea can be intimidating. You’re going to be occupying a small cabin; you’re going to be on the water for extended periods of time, and you’re not really going to find it that easy to turn around and go home if you are unhappy. How do you choose a cruise line? Here are five that might be good starting points.
5 P and O Ferries
If you’re really, really unsure if you can handle being at sea, take a ferry. It can’t get simpler than that. P&O crosses the English Channel, and if you’ve ever dreamed of seeing the White Cliffs fo Dover come into view from the bridge of a ship… well, here’s your chance. The crossing takes about three hours, and it will leave you off in Dover instead of London, but it will give you an idea if being at sea is ideal for you.
Silja operates overnight cruises between Stockholm and Helsinki in Scandinavia. The short-duration trips might be ideal for a first time cruiser: if you really can’t find your sea legs and can’t wait to get the hell off the boat, you won’t have that long a wait. Silja’s cabins don’t look that different from those on Carnival or other ships and they do offer some of the amenities of larger vessels, such as a photography service, shopping galleries and on-board entertainment. Unlike regular cruise ships, you will pay for meals. A lot of Scandinavians seem to use the Baltic ferries and their duty-free shopping to circumvent high prices for alcohol on land, so these crossings can become booze cruises: that can be a positive or a negative. It’s pretty amusing to see everyone rush into the duty-free shop as soon as the ship is far enough out into the Baltic, and to see them again at the end of the cruise, wheeling their beer and liquor purchases away in large carts.
Carnival tends to be seen as a budget line. That’s a good thing: if you’re not sure if you’re really keen on the idea of cruising, you might want to start simply before you invest in a long or expensive voyage. Carnival offers a lot of very short cruises from major ports — from Florida in particular, you can find a lot of two and three night itineraries — and tends to have a very welcoming, easy to understand ship layout. There are lots of orientations and seminars offered on board, so if you’re curious about shopping in the next port, or how to play blackjack in the casino, they probably can help you figure things out.
Disney’s resorts and theme parks are celebrated for their friendly, accessible cast members, whimsical touches and exacting to detail. If you’re nervous about going to sea, hanging out with Mickey, Minnie and the gang might help. It’s certainly not just for families with children, either: if your family is childfree, or you’re traveling alone, you’ll find plenty of adults-only amenities, including pools and restaurants. Disney tends to be more expensive than other cruise lines, but as they say, you get what you pay for.
1 Royal Caribbean
RCL is middle of the road: it offers a huge array of amenities and perks for seasoned travelers, and it’s also easy enough to navigate for newbies. Royal Caribbean ships are known for their amazing on-board activities, which typically include everything from ice skating to surfing in their wave pools on deck. If you’re not sure what one actually does on a cruise ship while it’s out at sea, well, RCL will be able to answer that question.