How To Choose The Right Cruise For You: Our Complete Beginner’s Guide

You know that you want to explore more of the world out on the high seas. But when you’ve never hit the water before, in an ocean of options, how to choose the right cruise for you?

Around 35.7 million of us are going to book a cruise this year – a 6% uplift from 2024. That’s according to statistics from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). 

So, with the cruise market booming at the moment, you’re probably thinking of joining the party. But with so many trips, itineraries and liners to think about, it can be difficult to know how to choose the right cruise for you. 

We can help unpuzzle that mystery for you. Our complete guide will take you from novice to know-it-all while giving you more information about the best companies for you. 

Cruise liner sitting anchored in the middle of the ocean
Do you know how to choose the right cruise for you? Photo by Josiah Weiss on Unsplash

How to Choose the Right Cruise For You?

The first, and possibly most crucial, step toward having an unforgettable cruise holiday is getting the right liner for you.

Just like every person has unique tastes, personalities, and preferences, each cruise line offers diverse experiences. Equally important are your trip’s specific requirements- like your interests, traveling companions, type of experiences or desired destinations. 

But there is a little more to unpack here. So, let’s dig deeper into those areas. 

Finding Your Ideal Cruise Line Match Based on Personal Taste

Remember how you pick out clothes based on your style? That’s how it goes with cruises too!

For instance, if cultural immersion is your thing, look for European cruise lines that frequent historic ports. Alternatively, if you have a penchant for gourmet dining; opt for cruise lines recognised for magnificent cuisine. Incidentally, if you are after better grub from your mainstream cruise, you might be better looking for sailings on Oceania or Celebrity Cruises

Match whatever peaks your interest – snorkeling expeditions, Broadway-quality shows or awe-inspiring landscapes – with a liner renowned in those particular realms to find yourself aboard a ‘dream-come-true’ voyage! 

Don’t worry if you don’t know which liners offer those awesome inclusions – we’ll unpack everything. 

Choosing Between Quiet Elegance or Lively Entertainment

If serene luxury stirs up images of relaxation and pleasure in you—opting for premium ships with brands like Seabourn or Silversea offer world-class spas or libraries might be ideal. These liners frequently capitalise on exclusive niches like art auctions or lectures by experts which cater well to peace-seekers.

Conversely, some holiday-goers prefer vibrant nightlife options and raucous amusement choices such as silver-screen movie nights under the stars—or extravagant pool deck parties headlined by prominent DJs. Virgin Voyages are synonymous with non-stop grown-up party atmospheres onboard their ships. 

Romantic Getaways: Cruises for Couples in Love

Cruising creates an idyllic ambiance for couples seeking to rekindle love or celebrate relationship milestones in a mesmerizing setting. Princess Cruises go out of their way to cater to romantic souls. These liners specialize in wooing partners with charmed moments such as private on-deck dinners under the stars, couple’s spa packages, and romantic lodging options.

Cruise ship sailing towards the sunset
Which line should you be sailing off into the sunset with?

Family-Friendly Cruises: Fun for All Ages

Cruising is no longer an ‘adults-only’ endeavor. A plethora of family-friendly cruises like Disney or Royal Caribbean offer an engaging experience full of fun-filled adventures for all ages!

Risk-free environments harboring kids’ clubs—with innovative play spaces paired with enriching programming—enable young cruisers so much fun they won’t miss dry-land life at all. Simultaneously parents get ample time to relax and enjoy adult-centric facilities.

Selecting a Cruise Line by Destination Dominance

In the quest to find your ideal cruise holiday, destinations play a huge part in your decision-making. Like hotel brands such as Elite Island Resorts or Sandals, some cruise lines shine brilliantly when it comes to specific locations or regions.

It’s essential to align your loved location with a cruise line known for delivering an amazing experience there. Let’s take a voyage of exploration – uncovering which cruisers proudly fly their metaphorical flags in certain parts of the world.

Caribbean Cruises – Royal Caribbean International

As the name suggests, Royal Caribbean has asserted its dominance in Caribbean voyages. But, as if the oasis-like destinations aren’t enough to lure you on board then the host of incredible things to do on a Caribbean cruise might. When you disembark you have the freedom to discover a different beach for every day of the year in Antigua or take a shopping day in Barbados. It’s a solace for the wandering soul yearning for a paradisiacal escape.

Alaskan Ventures – Princess Cruises

Next up is another American beauty – Alaska, where glaciers roar into crisp waters and towering peaks blot out horizon lines under the vaulted skies. In this arena of raw wilderness aesthetics, Princess Cruises offers an unrivalled itinerary of captivating explorations tailored to transform your journey into legend.

European Adventure – MSC Cruises

For culturally rich experiences orbiting Europe’s historic sites and enchanting coastlines, MSC cruises stand out with their robust offerings. From weaving through stunning Venetian canals to dancing along Greek shores bathed in Mediterranean hues—MSC secures memories steeped in time-honored heritage.

River Cruises – U by Uniworld

If those Venetian canals piqued your interest, then a river cruise in Europe may be better suited to you. Getting the right cruise type can enhance your enjoyment in a chosen destination.  U by Uniworld offers gorgeous itineraries throughout Central Europe and Egypt which showcase the best of the stunning cities set on the banks of great rivers like the Danube, Rhône, Saône and Nile

MSC Cruise ship in dock
Could an MSC Cruise be perfect for you? Photo by Bruno Castelli.

Considering Duration and Budget for Your Ideal Cruiser Experience

In your quest to find the perfect cruise adventure, some of the most crucial elements to consider are duration and budget. Both these factors greatly influence not only the cruise line you can select but also the type of experience you will have on board.

Short vs Long Cruises: Making the Right Choice for You

The length of your experience is a key factor when choosing between cruises. Shorter trips can range from three to five nights, focusing on a handful of nearby destinations—perfect if you’re aiming for a quick escape or if it’s your first time stepping onto a cruise vessel. 

On the other hand, longer adventures can stretch for months. Take world cruises for example, these can last for around 3 to 4 months. However, most longer cruises, whether 14 or 100+ days are renowned for their extensive schedules and intricate destination offerings. From stunning beaches to cosmopolitan city stops, they provide ample opportunities for exploration and relaxation – an ideal match for dedicated travellers seeking comprehensive voyages.

Many retirees prefer longer journeys as financial and time constraints tend to be freer. Having said that, some of the top cruise destinations for younger couples fall into the longer trip category too. 

Short vs Long Cruises: TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

  • Short Cruises: Suited to beginners or those with limited time wanting a swift captivating holiday.
  • Long Cruises: Recommended for ardent travel enthusiasts with more leisure time desiring deep-seated cultural immersions.
Cruise ship docked in a port at night and lit up
Understand how many nights you want to be aboard for. Photo by Sơn Bờm

Budget-Friendly vs Luxury Cruises: Finding Your Fit Financially

Finances unquestionably play a role in defining your cruising preferences. But there really is something out there for every pocket, from budget-friendly cruises that focus on memorable experiences to more luxurious journeys with every opulence included.

But it’s important to remember that cheap doesn’t mean inferior nor does expensive assure elite experiences. The value lies in what complements your preferences and budget.

That’s why it’s super important to analyse what matters most to you in a cruise vacation. Whether it’s nabbing quick travel thrills or savouring extensive luxury—and strategically plan your finances appropriately. 

Pouring Over Policies

Thoroughly review the cruise line’s terms and conditions like payment policies, cancellation terms or any specific dress codes they may have. You don’t want to encounter any unpleasant surprises. Besides, some lines have unique policies worth noting – for example, you might want to research whether tipping is encouraged on your cruise line. Some do, some don’t. 

What About Onboard Amenities?

When wondering how to choose the right cruise for you, every cruise boasts its own signature amenities. High-end spas, grand theatres, fitness centres, multiple dining venues – you name it! They might also include special attractions like water parks or rock-climbing walls.

Pay close attention not only to what they offer but also if there are additional charges associated with them; a seemingly minor detail that could impact your cruising budget.

Let’s take a look at an example:

  1. Royal Caribbean: Known for its fantastic onboard activities offering surf simulators, zip lines and ice rinks.
  2. Carnival Cruise Line: Have earned accolades for their choice of casual eateries on board along with excellent children’s programmes.
  3. Celebrity Cruises: They boast exclusivity with their adult-only solariums and celebrity chef restaurants.

The key is finding a balance between what you want from your cruising experience and what various lines can provide within budgetary considerations.

Make use of review sites too, previous guest experiences can help narrow your field of judgment. So it does pay to do your research before committing. 

Exploring 9 Popular Cruise Line Options:

One significant step in choosing the best cruise line for you involves exploring popular options. Let’s dive into nine leading providers that you may want to consider.

1. Royal Caribbean International

An excellent starting point is Royal Caribbean International. Acclaimed widely for providing a multitude of exciting onboard entertainment features, ranging from surfing simulators to indoor skydiving. Actively catering to families and thrill-seekers alike, this company delivers high-quality services without compromising on variety.

2. Carnival Cruise Line

The atmosphere aboard ships by Carnival Cruise Line is vibrant and lively, propelling it as a go-to cruise line for party lovers. It’s designed for fun with a capital ‘F’. Specialising in shorter, cost-effective journeys that feature plenty of onboard activities and destinations like the Caribbean or Bahamas – Carnival could be your floating festival at sea.

3. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)

NCL stands out with its ‘freestyle cruising’ philosophy, offering flexibility unmatched within the industry. Top-notch dining options, versatile entertainment choices including Broadway-style shows are among its key attractions. If you prefer steering clear of rigid scheduling while holidaying at sea, NCL might appeal most.

4. Princess Cruises

Widely respected for their personalised service quality and extensive itinerary offerings spanning across the globe, Princess Cruises exemplify elegance and sophistication. Tranquil spas and unique enrichment programs such as destination lectures distinguish them from their counterparts – a dream voyage platform especially if serene exploration resonates with you.

5. Celebrity Cruises

Delivering an exceptional value proposition for luxury seekers without requiring extravagantly high spending. Celebrity Cruises offer a perfect blend of contemporary chic ambiance decorated with outstanding culinary experiences. Also renowned for pampering solo travellers through tailored amenities – Celebrity instantly comes to mind when tranquillity and lavishness are your search criteria.

6. Disney Cruises

Disney doesn’t need any introduction – it’s synonymous with good quality family entertainment. So, it comes as no surprise that Disney Cruises bring that same charm to the high seas. Creating a child’s paradise complete with favourite characters, meetups and themed activities. But there’s an equally engaging array of things to do on Disney Cruises for adults, Broadway-quality shows and exclusive adults-only spaces make it preferred one of the options for a memorable family cruise adventure.

7. MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises is a European cruise line renowned for modern mega-ships equipped with updated technology and a vast range of entertainment options that cater to multi-generational families. Additionally, if authentic Italian cuisine excites you — this could become your choice sailing mate.

8. Ambassador Cruises

Fairly new entrants to the industry, Ambassador cruises are specially designed for British-style getaways, catering exclusively to adults. If rest & relaxation are high on your priority list; their warm hospitality and homely feel decorated with traditional seaside charm fit admirably well. Ambassador also cover a host of locations and durations, from 45-night sailings to Cuba and the West Indies as well as shorter 14-night Norway adventures on offer, you can choose your cruise. 

9. P&O Cruises

Finally, we have P&O Cruises – originating in Britain P&O carries a heritage of over 180 years cruising. Offering both adult-only and family-friendly ships, as well as cultural enrichment through dance classes and guest speakers, sets them apart. Boasting exclusivity by harboring itineraries covering offbeat locations like Northern Lights cruises or a Panama Canal adventure.

Setting Sail Towards Your Perfect Cruise Adventure

Understanding how to choose the right cruise for you comes down to, firstly, knowing what you want to achieve on your trip and, secondly, having a good idea about budget. 

But now you know more about some of the most popular cruise lines and what makes them stand out, you should be a little closer to nailing that final decision.

Our top tips for first-time cruisers could get you even closer to understanding your options. Click the button below to check them out now

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