New To Cruising?
If you are new to cruising and are thinking about what you should book next you should first decide what you are looking for in that cruise.
Everybody seems to be cruising. It’s actually gaining in popularity every year, but all cruises are not alike and it’s important to understand what to expect. Consider, you’re looking for a calm, relaxing, short ocean cruise and you don’t want to find yourself surrounded by a noisy party crowd that celebrates way into the early hours. Be careful or you could select the wrong itinerary.
Often the character of a cruise comes less from the cruise line or a particular ship and more from the passengers a particular cruise attracts. With many cruises, the passenger character changes with the seasons. Summer is school vacation season so if you would prefer to avoid children on your cruise, summer Caribbean and Alaska cruises probably aren’t your best choice. Not sure you would be happy with a wild, party crowd on your cruise? The shorter winter time Caribbean Carnival cruises are probably not the best fit. Also, if you have children and you would like a cruise with an active children’s program avoid those wintertime longer cruises. They tend to attract a more mature passenger and less families. On a number of the longer cruises that we’ve taken, if there were any children onboard they actually belonged to the crew.
If you are thinking of booking a cruise from a distant port, which is becoming much more popular lately, you need to also consider some additional possibilities. In the case of Royal Caribbean they are working at opening up new international markets by stationing some of their ships in Asia and South America for extended seasons. While you will always find a passenger compliment that represents a good number of countries some of these sailings can have very few English speaking passengers. We had friends that sailed out of Japan with Royal Caribbean and there was only one other English speaking couple on board. The good news for them was that most of the crew spoke English and they ate dinner with the Captain almost every night. It seemed he also didn’t speak Japanese.
Cruises out of New Zealand and Australia are growing in popularity and also very popular with the locals so you will have an opportunity to make a bunch of Australian or Kiwi friends if you choose those itineraries. Cruises out of
Southampton naturally attract a large number of Brits and Canadians are frequent Alaska cruisers out of Vancouver, so there are opportunities to make some new international pen pals.
We have friends that are frequent Disney cruisers and they claim that while there are a lot of children on board, Disney is very good at providing and enforcing adult only areas. Much better, in our experience, than other cruise lines.
While Carnival is famous for its Caribbean party cruise atmosphere, its Alaska cruises aren’t usually anything like that. Royal Caribbean is very good for families with an excellent kids program. Early in our cruising we had trouble getting our youngest to leave the kids program. The teen also had a great time in the teen hangout. One thing that we find we really enjoy about Celebrity is their lecture series. We’ve listened to lectures by the director (retired) of the Kennedy Space Center, a government official (retired) that spent decades in Asia and professors on dozens of subjects.
There is also a world of cruise lines out there and while a number base their operations on serving American cruisers there are lines that have been focused on Europe, Asia and other regions. For examples, with Carnival, almost all your fellow passengers will be American, giving Carnival cruises a real American feel. On Costa and Azamara, passengers are usually from a number of different, mostly European countries. MSC historically has been another line focused on the European market but is now reaching for a share of the American market. It is based in Italy, but now with a U.S. office in Florida and a number of Caribbean itineraries.
Cruising is a truly international business, Ownership and managed can be headquartered in one country, with a crew from dozens of countries and passengers from all over the world. It is recognized that Cunard is a British company and it was founded in the UK and still has its headquarters there, but its ships are registered in Bermuda. It’s owned by a Panamanian corporation (with headquarters in Miami), and while officers onboard are still mostly British, crew members come from around the world.
Most travel agents that specialize in cruising are a good source for recommendations about what to expect on various cruise lines and itineraries. We strongly recommend you select a travel agent and develop a relationship. It won’t cost you anything additional and can help to save you money and grief.
Disclaimer – While we have now taken over fifty cruises, as far as firsthand information is concerned we can only speak about cruise lines and ships we have sailed. These include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival and Viking River Cruises. Loyalty programs have rewarded us enough benefits that we return often attracted to that extra value. We have booked an NCL cruise next year primarily because it offered an itinerary we couldn’t get through our preferred cruise lines which provides some insight into why these companies are doing the things they are.