The Baths at Virgin Gorda, BVI

Essential Tips for First Time Cruisers

For those tempted by visiting multiple destinations in a region, cruising may very well be the perfect option. From the all-inclusive five-star sailings around the Med to giant liners in the Caribbean, taking a cruise is big business. If you’re a first-timer cruiser, the idea of cruising may come with its fair share of questions as you brainstorm the details of your first voyage. There are options for a range of budgets, a whole host of destinations, plus cruises run the gamut in terms of amenities and  on-board offerings. For upmarket cruise offerings, you can find a range of packages, such as those with Silversea cruises, which vary in destination and duration. If this is your first time on board, check out the following essential travel tips to help with pinpointing the perfect cruise.

Know Your Budget

Tips for First Time Cruisers
SeaDream’s Champagne & Caviar Splash Party ?

Have a budget and stick to it, but also understand the total costs and the value.  The cost of a single holiday can and often does reach tens of thousands. When you’re pricing out cruises, the price of the cruise may not be the total price. If you’re departing from the Caribbean, you may need to fly in and out. And that ‘all-inclusive package’ you thought you had? That may not include everything so be sure to delve deeper. Do your research and set a budget, and also understand the true value of a cruise. Sometimes all-inclusive offerings that seem out of your budget may actually prove to be more cost-effective in the end.

What Type of Cruise Do You Want?

Aqua Expeditions Amazon River Cruise
TWE Editor, Shannon Kircher, aboard an Aqua Expeditions skiff while cruising the Amazon River.

Some sail around tropical paradises while others hit the historical and cultural cities in Europe. You can also join a trip that spans the length of Canada to experience the nature of the sparsely populated Arctic regions. But it goes beyond the where, into the overall experience you’re looking to achieve. Choices include if you want to go all-inclusive, want a room with a balcony, prefer a small ship to something bigger, or prefer to opt for ocean vs. river options. Know what you want to help narrow down your options from the get-go.

How Long Can You Go?

Xigia, Greece

The duration of a cruise can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks or months. If you’re dealing with a week off from work, scrap the idea of a round-the-world cruise. Sounds obvious right? Don’t forget to factor in transit time, which will often be at least a day or two on either side of your cruise. Factor in flights, connections and time differences, and also leave yourself a buffer in case there are unforeseen issues with getting to your point of departure. You may want to add on a day or two on either end of a cruise in the departure or arrival destination as well, so it’s worth factoring those options in too when dealing with your allotted time frame. Plus, do you really want to head into the office after a long haul flight?

Knowing the Right Time to Travel

Prices vary depending on the time of the year, and just like with any holiday, itineraries are typically developed around regional peak seasons. There’s generally increased demand around major holidays such as Christmas, Easter or in the summer months, and the price isn’t the only thing you need to consider. Weather conditions come into play around the globe, and understanding seasonality and shoulder season options will help in your decision making. For example, while you may score a deal during the hurricane season in the Caribbean, you may want to weigh your options and understand the risk when booking, especially with the increased number hitting the region in recent years.

Do You Get Seasick?

White Bay Villas, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Just because you get seasick doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a cruise. On the flip side, just because you haven’t experienced motion sickness in the past doesn’t mean you’re immune to it on the ship. A range of factors cause discomfort at sea, including the size and type of liner and weather conditions. Travel sickness medication usually works so look at options or talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about how your body may handle a water-based expedition.

What other questions would you have as a first-time cruiser? 

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.