10 Best Cruises for First Time Cruisers

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Embarking on a cruise vacation can be one of the most exhilarating experiences for first-time cruisers. It offers the perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and pampering.

As a first-time cruiser, the array of choices is overwhelming. Selecting the right cruise line is crucial; it’s not just about the destination but the journey itself.

Whether you’re drawn to the vast ocean or the scenic rivers, we’ll help you pick the best cruise line for your vacation.

Best Cruises for First Time Cruisers

Royal Caribbean International: Best Overall For First-Time Cruisers

A view of the pool deck from the top deck of symphony of the seasPin

Royal Caribbean International is one of the world’s largest and most popular cruise lines. The cruise line is perfect for active families and teens, with thrill-packed ships and world-class entertainment.

Royal Caribbean is an excellent option if you’re looking for a cruise line that offers plenty of excitement and adventure.

Their ships are packed with fun and exciting features that will make your first cruise experience memorable. Race down the Ultimate Abyss slides, surf on the signature FlowRider, zip line 11 stories above deck, or learn what it’s like to fly on RipCord by iFly without ever leaving the ship.

A top down view of the Serenade’s Centrum taken from the seventh floorPin

With some of the largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships genuinely feel like a city at sea.

If heart-racing thrills aren’t you’re style, take a trip to the Solarium. This adults-only retreat is a slice of paradise away from the crowded pool deck and nightclubs.

Another standout feature is their incredible entertainment options. The cruise line’s entertainment will astonish you, from original productions to Broadway shows, high-diving aquatic shows, and cutting-edge multimedia experiences.

Royal Caribbean’s reputation for innovation extends beyond thrilling activities; it includes creating entire neighborhoods on its ships.

Stroll through the verdant tranquility of Central Park or soak up the lively atmosphere of the Boardwalk.

An aerial view of perfect day at cococay with thrill water park and daredevils peak in the forground and a visiting Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the backgroundPin

The thrills continue at Royal Caribbean’s Cococay private island. CocoCay offers some truly once-in-a-lifetime activities. The island hosts North America’s tallest waterslide, the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool, Zip Lines, and a tethered balloon ride that takes you 450 above the island.

With itineraries that whisk you away to the sun-drenched beaches of the Caribbean, the awe-inspiring fjords of Scandinavia, or the ancient ruins of the Mediterranean, Royal Caribbean turns your first cruise into a global expedition. Each destination is an opportunity to discover, learn, and be enthralled by the world’s beauty.

Royal Caribbean makes it easy to travel with kids. Their Adventure Ocean Kids and Teen Club provides endless fun for young ones.

Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas docked in Labadee Haiti in 2023 from the Oasis class of Royal Caribbean ship classesPin

Royal Caribbean is also one of the only cruise lines offering a nursery for babies as young as six months old. So, while you relax on the ship, spend the day in port, or take a trip to the spa, you can rest comfortably knowing your child is in the care of trained professionals.

For first-time cruisers, choosing Royal Caribbean means stepping into a journey with world-class thrills and entertainment, creating unforgettable experiences. Royal Caribbean doesn’t just take you on a voyage; it invites you on an adventure that promises to be as boundless as the sea itself.

Royal Caribbean is our top pick because it offers something for everyone. Whether you want exciting thrills, relaxing getaways, world-class entertainment, or fine cuisine, there’s something for everyone to love.

Royal Caribbean was my introduction to the world of cruising. I first sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas in 2009, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Carnival Cruise Line: Best First Cruise on a Budget

The pool deck and large movie screen on Carnival Breeze. Passengers enjoy a day in the sun on the top deck of the cruise shipPin

Carnival Cruise Line offers an incredible first-time cruiser experience that’s all about fun and value for money. The cruise line offers a vibrant, casual atmosphere with many activities and amenities, ensuring a memorable vacation without breaking the bank.

With a range of comfortable accommodations, you can find a space that suits your preferences and budget. From cozy interior cabins to ocean views and spacious balconies, you can tailor your cruise experience.

A view of the starboard side of Carnival Spirit sailing through Juneau Alaska with trees and mountains in the backgroundPin

If you’ve begun your research, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that a cruise vacation isn’t cheap. If this is your first cruise, you might not want to spend too much – just in case cruising isn’t for you.

Carnival Cruise Line has some of the lowest fares in the industry. Unlike many cruise lines, Carnival doesn’t go overboard with upsells. You’ll also get free access to specialty dining venues like Guy’s Burger Joint, the adults-only Serenity retreat, and the Punchliner Comedy Club show.

The Dr. Suess themed camp ocean on Carnival Panorama cruise shipPin
Camp Ocean kid’s club on Carnival Panorama

Further, they offer a large number of three—to five-day itineraries. This way, you can try a new form of travel without using too many precious vacation days.

The laid-back atmosphere, various activities, and low fees make Carnival Cruise Line one of the top choices for first-time cruisers.

Disney Cruise Line: Best First Cruise For Families

Disney Wonder docked in port canaveral, floridaPin

It’s no surprise that we picked Disney Cruise Line as the best first cruise for families. Disney Cruise Line sets the standard for family-friendly vacations with its resorts, and you can expect the same Disney magic on its cruise ships.

Disney Cruise Line isn’t just about transportation from one breathtaking destination to another; it’s about stepping into a world where every detail is meticulously crafted to ensure your voyage is nothing short of magical. You’re not just a passenger on a Disney cruise; you’re a cherished guest in a floating castle where dreams really do come true.

Disney CruisePin
Disney Cruise

What makes Disney Cruise Line an unparalleled choice for first-time cruisers is its extraordinary ability to deliver a magical experience for guests of all ages. You can meet favorite Disney characters in person, enjoy Broadway-caliber shows, or participate in themed deck parties that transform the night into a celebration under the stars.

Many people think that Disney cruises are just for kids.

I used to think so before taking my first Disney cruise.

The cruise line does an excellent job of providing entertainment and activities for kids, parents, and adults. Disney’s newest Triton-class cruise ships offer traditional Disney experiences alongside the worlds of Star Wars and Marvel.

The top deck of disney wonder cruise ship with the iconic disney funnel in the forgroundPin

The cruise line creates an atmosphere where you let your inner child shine.

Accommodations are your personal haven, a place to retreat after a day filled with adventure and magic. Whether you choose a cozy interior room or a spacious suite with ocean views, you’re guaranteed a space where comfort meets creativity.

For those setting sail for the first time, the thought of navigating a cruise might seem daunting.

Disney’s legendary guest service ensures that every question is answered, every need is met, and every moment is a step towards making cherished memories. This unparalleled level of care and attention to detail transforms a first cruise into the beginning of a lifelong passion for sea voyages.

Pelican Plunge water slides at Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Lines private island in the Bahamas with a lifeguard on duty and clear blue waterPin
Pelican Plunge water slides at Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Lines private island.

Choosing Disney Cruise Line for your maiden voyage means embracing an adventure that’s full of magic. This isn’t just a journey across the ocean; it’s a voyage into the heart of what makes Disney magic so timeless.

Virgin Voyages: Best First Cruise for Young Adults

The cruise ship Valiant Lady operated by Virgin Voyages docked at the dock in La Coruña Spain on March 23, 2022Pin

Setting sail with Virgin Voyages is like stepping into an exclusive club with a laid-back atmosphere and late-night parties. This cruise line is born from the daring spirit of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin brand.

Virgin Voyages is uniquely crafted for the young and the young at heart. With its blend of innovative design, inclusive fares, and nightlife that rivals the hottest spots on land, Virgin Voyages offers an unparalleled sea adventure for young adults.

Passengers on the Pool deck of Virgin Voyages Scarlet lady cruise ship in the BahamasPin

Virgin Voyages breaks the mold of traditional cruising with its unique features, like adult-only cruise ships, nightclubs, tattoo parlors, and hammocks on the balconies.

One of Virgin Voyages’ most popular features is its inclusive fares. Unlike other cruise lines, the base fare includes gratuities, WiFi, fitness classes, and specialty restaurants.

The inclusive pricing adds transparency to your cruising budget and makes it easier to budget for your cruise vacation.

Double Agent alcoholic beverage from the Sip Lounge on Virgin VoyagesPin

Virgin Voyages’s Bar Tab is different from a traditional drink package. The Bar Tab is a pre-paid drink card that’s topped up by the cruise line. In my experience, Virgin Voyages has more reasonably priced drinks than other cruise lines.

Virgin Voyages ships are unlike traditional cruise ships.

There’s no atrium or main dining room, and every restaurant is included in your cruise fare. I did find the ship a bit trickier to navigate, but the small venues and unique layout provide a more intimate setting.

The sea terrace cabin on Scarlet lady with curtains bed and tvPin

Accommodations are sleek and stylish, offering a touch of modern luxury. The clever cabin design, including mood lighting and configurable bed setups, ensures that your private space is also an integral part of the voyage experience. After sailing on Scarlet Lady, I think every cruise ship needs hammocks on the balcony.

But where Virgin Voyages truly shines is in its vibrant nightlife and entertainment options.

The cruise line curates an atmosphere that feels like an endless festival at sea. Live music, DJ sets, and high-energy theatrical performances keep the party pulsing through the night.

One of the big differentiators is the food.

Virgin Voyages offers more than 20 eateries on each ship, with menus created by Michelin-star chefs. The upscale restaurants offer some of the best food I’ve eaten at sea, and they redefine what food is possible on a cruise ship.

Norwegian Cruise Line: Best First Cruise For Solo Travelers

Norwegian Prima Cruise ship docked at the Passenger Terminal AmsterdamPin

A first cruise is exciting and nerve-racking, especially when you’re traveling solo. Norwegian Cruise Line offers a “freestyle” and casual approach to cruising that’s welcoming to new cruisers and provides the best accommodations for solo cruisers.

At the heart of Norwegian’s appeal is its pioneering “freestyle cruising” concept. There are no formal nights or assigned dining times. So don’t worry about packing a tuxedo or evening gown.

Norwegian Encore go-kart track and outdoor laser tagPin
Norwegian Encore go-kart track and outdoor laser tag (Photo credit Norwegian Cruise Line)

The casual atmosphere reduces packing stress and sets the stage for a vacation where you can be comfortable and relaxed.

Entertainment on board Norwegian ships is nothing short of spectacular, with options to suit every mood and preference.

The cruise line shines with its Broadway-style productions, featuring smash hits like “Jersey Boys,” “Rock of Ages,” and “After Midnight,” not to mention the breathtaking “Million Dollar Quartet.” But the real showstopper is Cirque Dreams, a dinner show that combines fine dining with jaw-dropping acrobatics and performances, promising an evening you’ll never forget.

A studio cabin on the Norwegian Bliss cruise shipPin
A solo cabin on Norwegian Bliss (Photo Credit: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian is the best cruise line for solo travelers. Many cruise ships in NCL’s fleet feature solo cabins, eliminating the solo supplement.

One of the biggest drawbacks for solo travelers is meeting new people, especially for introverts like me.

But Norwegian creates a welcoming environment with their solo lounge. A dedicated space for single passengers to meet and hang out. The small setting makes it easy to meet people and make new friends.

Passengers getting off the Norwegian Bliss on a sunny day at a cruise port in MexicoPin

Norwegian’s popular Free at Sea promotion bundles your cruise fare with a perk of your choice. The offer allows you to choose from up to five complimentary perks, including a beverage package, specialty dining experiences, a wifi package, and discounted shore excursions. The promotion enhances the value of your cruise and enriches your experience with personalized touches.

Silversea Cruises: Best First Luxury Cruise

Sea trials of the Silver Dawn.Pin
(Photo Credit: Silversea Cruises)

Silversea Cruises offers an experience where luxury and discovery merge to create an unparalleled voyage for first-time cruisers. Imagine setting sail on an intimate, all-suite ship where every detail is meticulously crafted to offer an experience of pure indulgence and exploration.

Silversea isn’t just a cruise line but a luxurious gateway to the world’s most remote and coveted destinations.

Silversea offers an intimate introduction for those dipping their toes into the cruising world for the first time. The cruise line’s smaller ships visit ports beyond the reach of larger vessels, providing you with unique opportunities to explore more exotic ports of call.

Aft view of Silver Whisper docked in a European port of callPin

What sets Silversea apart as the pinnacle of first-time luxury cruising is its unwavering commitment to personal service. With one of the highest staff-to-guest ratios at sea, Silversea anticipates your every need. Crew members know you by name and offer unparalleled personalized attention.

Whether it’s remembering your favorite drink or arranging a private car for shore exploration, the crew goes above and beyond to make your experience unforgettable.

Luxury on Silversea is not just a word but a promise.

The cruise line’s all-inclusive fares cover virtually every aspect of your journey. Your needs are covered, from gourmet dining experiences to complimentary beverages, including fine wines and spirits. Including gratuities, shore excursions, and even Wi-Fi.

Silversea's Silver Moon Veranda SuitePin
Silversea’s Silver Moon Veranda Suite (Photo Credit: Silversea Cruises)

The accommodations aboard Silversea ships are nothing short of spectacular.

The all-suite accommodations have sweeping ocean views. Each suite is a haven of sophistication and comfort, equipped with luxurious amenities and personalized touches, including butler service for every guest.

Viking: Best First Cruise for River Cruises

Main river cruise ship in town of Wurzburg with castle visible in backgroundPin

Viking River Cruises is a beacon for first-time river adventurers because of its vast selection of itineraries. With an expansive array of river cruises in Europe, Asia, and Egypt, Viking ensures that every traveler finds a route that whispers to their wanderlust.

These itineraries are carefully crafted to showcase the best of each region.

Cultural immersion is a big focus for Viking Cruises. The cruise line encourages guests to dive deep into their destinations’ history, cuisine, and culture.

The level of service and amenities aboard Viking River Cruises’ ships is where the line truly shines. The line sets a standard, ensuring first-time cruisers are comfortable and elegant.

Viking River Cruises cruise ship Viking Akun docked at the pier of UglichPin

Viking’s river ships offer Scandinavian simplicity and warmth in an intimate setting that fosters a sense of connection among guests.

Amenities on Viking ships are thoughtfully included to enhance the journey. Spacious, elegantly appointed staterooms provide a tranquil retreat after a day of exploration.

The dining experience is crafted to enhance your cultural immersion. Viking uses locally sourced ingredients and menus inspired by the destinations you visit to immerse you in the experience further.

Moreover, Viking’s inclusive value approach means that many aspects of your trip are covered, from meals and beverages to shore excursions and Wi-Fi, allowing you to indulge in the experience without worry.

Holland America Line: Best First Cruise for Retirees

holland america line koningsdam docked in Vancouver, CanadaPin

Holland America Line (HAL) is a more traditional cruise line, making it especially appealing to retirees and solo travelers.

Unique among its peers, HAL offers single cabins across its entire fleet, ensuring that solo travelers have a private, comfortable space without a companion.

But the allure of HAL for solo travelers doesn’t stop at accommodations. The cruise line’s innovative Single Partner Program is designed to foster connections and camaraderie among guests traveling alone. Solo travelers find ample opportunities to meet fellow adventurers in a welcoming and relaxed setting through hosted events such as cocktail parties, mixers, and games.

Holland America Cruise ship Zaandam motoring through Tracy Arm on summer morning in AlaskaPin

The program also offers a cabin-sharing option, pairing solo guests with a same-sex, non-smoking traveler, making the cruise more affordable and socially enriching. HAL’s commitment to guaranteeing the double occupancy rate if no match is found alleviates any financial worries for those concerned about finding a roommate.

Retirees find Holland America Line’s tranquil and refined atmosphere perfect. The ships offer a quieter and more leisurely pace than the hustle and bustle found on many other cruise lines, offering a serene backdrop to the journey.

For solo travelers on 30-day or longer voyages, HAL’s onboard Social Hosts ensure that the experience remains inclusive and engaging. Single women are warmly invited to dinner and dancing, providing a sense of belonging and community.

Aerial view of a Holland America cruise ship in front of a glacierPin

Moreover, upon special request, Holland America makes a concerted effort to seat single passengers with other solo travelers during meals, fostering an environment where friendships can flourish.

In summary, Holland America Line is an exceptional choice for first-time cruisers, especially retirees and solo travelers. With its thoughtful accommodations, dedicated programs to connect solo travelers, and pace that resonates with a more mature demographic, HAL ensures that your maiden voyage is as enriching as it is memorable, setting the stage for many more adventures to come.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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