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Best cruises for first-timers

By BootsnAll | February 20th, 2009

Carnival funIf you talk to friends who’ve gone on a cruise, almost every single one of them will go on and on about how wonderful it was, and how they intend to go again as often as possible. Cruising definitely seems to be addictive, and it’s gaining in popularity every year, but there are still aspects of the experience that aren’t suited to everyone. If you are one of these people who aren’t sure you are going to love it, below are some tips for choosing a cruise that should serve as a good introduction to the experience.

Things some people don’t love about cruises

  • Being trapped in one (large) environment most of the time
  • Small cabins
  • Too much formality
  • Fixed meal times and restaurant choices
  • Always being part of a crowd

You can get around most of the above concerns by just choosing the right ship and itinerary for you. It’s really a rare person who walks off a quality cruise and swears off the idea for the future, but just in case you are worried you might be one of these here are some strategies to try:

Start with a shorter long-weekend cruise of only 3 or 4 days

This might be the most effective technique for being sure you enjoy cruising, and it’s also worked extremely well for the cruise industry itself. By pricing these shorter cruises so affordably, they often attract younger people and first-timers to see how much fun this can be, and those same people often sign up for another cruise of 7+ nights shortly thereafter.

Most of these short cruises leave from either Florida (Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami) heading to the Bahamas, or from Los Angeles heading to Baja California. These tend to be popular with locals from those areas as cheap weekends away, but it’s also easy with enough notice to find a cheap flight into these areas, making this easy to pull off for almost anyone. Prices for these tend to start under $300 per person most of the year, and they can even be done for under $200 per person during the off season (fall).

Choose a cruise line that is less formal

If you are worried that you may not like having a set dinner time and a specific dining room each night, you have a couple of great options. Norwegian Cruise Line has about a dozen ships doing all different routes, and they specialize in what they call Freestyle Cruising. On these ships you get to choose from as many as 13 different restaurants at any meal, and go at any time you please. There are no formal dress codes at all, and they offer a wide variety of cabins, most with balconies, so there is something for everyone.

Carnival Cruises is also famous for emphasizing the fun factor over any kind of formality. They have great and varied nightlife on all their ships, so they tend to attract the party crowd and many young people, but there are also plenty of more formal and high-end options on each ship, so you have the choice of mixing and matching your adventures depending on your mood.

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