10 Best Cruises for First Time Cruisers

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Cruising offers a wide variety of activities, entertainment, and dining options that offer something for everyone to enjoy.

But with so many different cruise lines to choose from, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you.

We’ve put together this list of the ten best cruise lines for first-timers to help you narrow down your options. From family-friendly cruises to luxury experiences and everything in between, you’re sure to find the perfect cruise for your needs.

Best Cruises for First Time Cruisers

Here are the 10 best cruises for first-time cruisers:

  • Carnival Cruise Line – For budget-conscious travelers
  • Royal Caribbean International – For thrill-seekers and families with teens
  • Disney Cruise Line – For Disney lovers and families with small kids
  • Virgin Voyages – For young adults and a vibrant nightlife
  • Norwegian Cruise Line – For casual cruises
  • Silversea Cruises – For luxury experiences
  • Princess Cruises – For relaxation and wellness
  • Cunard Line – For traditional cruise experiences
  • Viking River Cruises – For river cruising
  • Holland America Line -For solo travelers

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Radiance Sailing in open ocean
(Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line is one of the best cruise lines for first-time cruisers.

Carnival Cruise Line offers something for everyone with a wide variety of activities, entertainment, and dining choices. Their ships are packed with fun and exciting features that will make your first cruise experience memorable.

Carnival is known as the “fun cruise line” because its ships offer something for everyone.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, late-night parties, or family-friendly activities, Carnival offers a bit of everything for every cruiser.

View of the Panama Canal from the top deck of Carnival Elation with view of waterslides

Another reason we put Carnival at the top list is their low cruise fares.

If you’ve begun your research, you’ve no doubt 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. And, unlike many cruise lines, they don’t go overboard with upsells. You’ll get access to specialty dining venues like Guy’s Burger Joint, the adults-only Serenity retreat, and the Punchliner Comedy Club show free of charge.

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

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

Royal Caribbean International

Exterior photo of Wonder of the Seas
(Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean International)

Royal Caribbean International is one of the largest and most popular cruise lines in the world. Known for its innovative ships and exciting onboard activities, Royal Caribbean is a favorite choice for cruisers of all ages.

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.

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

Quantum of the Seas FlowRider
Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean International

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 and high diving aquatic shows to cutting-edge multimedia experiences.

The thrills continue if you book an itinerary with a stop at Cococay, the cruise line’s private island. CocoCay offers some truly once-in-a-lifetime activities. The island is host to the world’s tallest waterslide, the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool, and a tethered balloon ride that takes you 450 above the island.

Taking a family vacation with little ones can be challenging.

Royal Caribbean is one of the only cruise lines to offer a nursery for babies as young as six months old. 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.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Wonder docked in port canaveral, florida

It’s no surprise that Disney Cruise Line hits it out of the park for family and kid-friendly cruises.

As you wander around the cruise ship, you’ll be greeted by kid-favorite characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Cinderella, Buzz Lightyear, and more. The characters love to interact with young ones and participate in planned and spontaneous activities around the ship.

Disney’s cruise ships are packed with themed games, activities, and adventures for passengers of all ages.

Thanks to Disney’s vast catalog of characters, movies, and franchises, the ship provides expansive play areas themed after the Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel universes of film and television.

Disney Wish Float out from meyer werft shipyard with captain minnie mouse
(Photo Courtesy: Disney Cruise Line)

Like Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line cruise ships provide onboard nurseries for little sailors up to the age of three. The It’s a Small World Nursery is open from 9 am to midnight and is staffed with trained professionals to provide the best care for your little ones.

Parents can take advantage of the service to indulge in a romantic dinner, relax by the pool, or take shore excursions in port.

The cabins aboard Disney’s vessels are specially equipped for the needs of young families. In the cabin, you’ll find split bathrooms, tub and shower combos, travel cribs, and Diaper Genies free of charge for your convenience.

Further, you’ll find parenting essentials such as diapers, sunscreen, wipes, and more in the gift shop.

Disney Cruise Line fares are higher than other mainstream cruise lines. However, paying a premium is worth it when you see the look on your child’s face when they spot Mikey or Princess Elsa on the cruise ship.

Virgin Voyages

Valiant Lady Front View Rendering
(Photo Courtesy: Virgin Voyages)

Virgin Voyages is a new cruise line that has taken the industry by storm. Their hip and trendy vibe make it perfect for young adults looking to take their first cruise.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group backs the cruise line. And, as you might expect, they know how to throw an incredible party.

Onboard nightclubs, pool parties, and the occasional mermaid will have you dancing the night away. And if you’re sailing on one of the cruise lines’ Caribbean itineraries, your trip may include a stop at their private island, Beach Club at Bimini.

Your ship will dock until late in the night while you party on the beach with a live DJ, where Mark Ronson and Diplo have made appearances. If late-night parties aren’t your style, you can rent a cabana, snuggle under the starry night skies, or relax by the beachside bonfire.

Back on the ship, this adult-only cruise line offers guests a new form of a cruise vacation.

Virgin Voyages caters to a previously underserved segment of the cruising market by offering a hipper, trendier, millennial-friendly vibe.

Their ships feature tattoo and piercing parlors, drag queen brunches, karaoke lounges, live DJs, overnight and late-night stops, and balconies with hammocks.

Virgin throws out the old cruise ship formalities. There’s no dress code, no set dining times, no buffet, and no main dining room. Instead, you’ll find more than 20 onboard dining options. Each restaurant provides a totally unique menu and experience, with dishes created by Michelin star chefs.

Virgin may be the new kid on the block, but they’ve taken the industry by storm with their fresh approach to cruising. Their hip, trendy vibe makes it a perfect fit for young adults looking to take their first cruise.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line Ship the Escape docked at Harvest Caye Belize

Norwegian Cruise Line is the perfect cruise line for those looking for a more casual experience.

The cruise line is perhaps most famous for its “freestyle cruising” philosophy. Norwegian cruise ships have a relaxed atmosphere. First-time cruisers won’t need to worry about the dreaded “formal night.” Unlike most mainstream cruise lines, there aren’t any formal nights or black tie nights.

Norwegian’s onboard activities, itineraries, and dining options allow guests to create a vacation that suits their interests and habits.

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

On the ship, you’ll find plenty of incredible entertainment options. Every Norwegian cruise ship offers live music, comedy shows, and guest performers.

But, it’s the Broadway-style entertainment that sets Norwegian apart. Guests can enjoy Broadway hits such as “Jersey Boys,” “Rock of Ages,” “After Midnight,” or “Million Dollar Quartet.” And you definitely won’t want to miss the captivating dinner show Cirque Dreams.

Norwegian’s popular Free at Sea promotion allows passengers to choose up to five free offers, including a free beverage package, free specialty dining, free wifi package, or a discount on shore excursions.

Silversea Cruises

Silver Muse Luxury Cruise Ship from Sliverseas sailing in open ocean
(Photo Credit: Silversea Cruises)

If you’re looking to experience the height of luxury and pampering, look no further than Silversea Cruises.

The luxury cruise line offers passengers a high level of service, outstanding food, and elegant accommodations. From the moment you step on board, you’ll receive personalized service, which is the hallmark of Silversea Cruises.

The cruise line makes every effort to ensure you enjoy your stay to the fullest extent. With nearly a one-to-one ratio of passengers to the crew, you can be sure to have your needs met swiftly.

Every suite is assigned a butler to fulfill even your most unusual requests.

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

You’ll always be a top priority, from selecting your preferred pillow to personalized toiletries and full-sized bottles of prosecco in your minibar.

Silversea is refined and precise. The onboard decor transports you to Titanic-era sailing with chandeliers, opulent decor, and a sweeping central staircase.

The food on the ship is absolutely divine. Gold leaf risotto, lobster thermidor, sumptuous chocolate trio, and fine wine provide a taste of luxury. And there’s always 24-hour room service ready to serve pizza, hotdogs, or pancakes on your balcony.

Silversea’s ships are smaller than those of most other cruise lines. With less than 700 guests on board, the ship isn’t so large that you’ll have to fight through crowds, but not so small that you feel obligated to mingle – if you don’t want to.

Sailing with Silversea isn’t just a vacation – it’s an experience.

It’s an opportunity to relax, indulge, and unwind.

During the time of sailing, you’ll experience a little bubble of luxury so perfect it seems imagined.

Cunard Line

Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 the world's fastest cruise ship anchoring off the coast of Saint Lucia

If you’re looking for a classic cruise experience, look no further than Cunard Line.

The cruise line has been around for over 150 years and is known for its luxurious ships and impeccable service. The cruise lines focus on luxury, culture, and tradition offers the closest experience you’ll find to Titanic-era sailing.

Cunard is perfect for those who want to travel in style. Once you step onboard this luxury line, you’ll be treated to luxurious accommodations, impeccable service, and gourmet food.

Their small fleet includes the famous Queen Mary 2, best known as the world’s last ocean liner. In a celebration of tradition, the ship completes regular transatlantic crossings. Trust us – sailing the transatlantic route on an ocean liner is worthy of every travel bucket list.

Grand stairway on RMS Queen Mary 2 in the port of Hamburg

Cunard’s ships offer luxurious accommodations, upscale dining areas, and opulent ballrooms with art deco-inspired interiors complete with grand sweeping staircases.

Following tradition, Cunard has a strict formal evening dress code that guests must adhere to. The strict dress code is a turn-off for many first-time cruisers, but it truly enhances the traditional onboard experience.

Finally, the Cunard is big on learning. Queen Mary 2 is home to the largest library at sea with over 8,000 books. Through the Cunard Insights enrichment program, guests are presented the opportunity to attend guest lectures and seminars. Past presenters include a NASA astronaut, politicians, scientists, and other notable experts.

According to the cruise line, they “strive to ‘engage, enlighten and entertain’ throughout your voyage with appearances from esteemed luminaries.”

Sailing with Cunard isn’t for everyone. However, traditionalists and lifelong learners will feel right at home.

Viking River Cruises

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

Look no further than Viking River Cruises if you prefer a more intimate and leisurely cruising experience.

Viking has a long history and expansive portfolio of itineraries, including sailings in Europe, Russia, Asia, and Egypt.

What sets Viking apart from the competition is their destination-centric itineraries and focus on cultural enrichment.

river cruise ship VIKING VIDAR passing Cologne Cathedra

Onboard each of their intimate ships, you’ll find an extensive library and an arts and crafts center. Guests are encouraged to get involved in the local culture by participating in traditional cooking classes, learning how to play chess or Mahjong, or attending lectures on the region’s history.

Unlike many ocean cruise lines, you won’t feel nickel and dimed at every turn.

A common mistake made by first-timers is assuming that a cruise ship is all-inclusive. Fortunately, Viking offers a largely inclusive cruise fare which includes a shore excursion at every port and complimentary beer and wine with meals.

Finally, river cruising provides an opportunity to explore the lesser-traveled regions of the world. If you’re looking to visit destinations off the beaten path, Viking River Cruises provides precisely that.

Holland America Line

ROTTERDAM of Holland America Line in the Geirangerfjord Norway

Holland America Line is an excellent cruise line for solo travelers.

HAL has catered to solo travelers for decades. In fact, they’re one of the few cruise lines to offer single cabins on every ship in their fleet.

The cruise line caters to solo travelers through their Single Parner’s Program. The program offers hosted events such as cocktail parties, mixers, games, and more for singles to meet and mingle.

Additionally, The Single Partner’s Program allows solo cruise guests to share a cabin with another solo passenger. Guests who agree to be matched with a roommate are matched with a same-sex, non-smoking solo traveler.

If they can’t find a travel partner, they guarantee the double occupancy fare.

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

On cruises of 30 days or longer, onboard Social Hosts welcome single women to dinner and dancing. If passengers make a special request, Holland America will try to seat single passengers with other single travelers at dinner.

HAL caters to a more mature demographic. Their ships are quieter and slower-paced than many of the other brands on our list.

That said, if you’re traveling solo, Holland America is one of the best cruise lines for first-time cruisers.

Marcello De Lio
Marcello De Lio

Marcello's been cruising since he was 12 years old. He loves the freedom that cruising provides, meeting new people, and exploring amazing new ships. Marcello created High Seas Cruising to share his passion for cruising and travel with readers and grow a community of passionate voyagers.

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