Which cruise line should I choose? How to choose the perfect cruise for you
Cruise lines and which one you pick are a key consideration when planning your first cruise holiday - there are so many to choose from, so where do you start?
First cruises are something you'll never forget. The excitement of arriving onboard, finding your cabin and dashing round the decks to check out all the dining, spa and entertainment options - it’s a magical feeling.
So you must pick a cruise line you're completely happy with, from the cost of the getaway and the level of inclusivity to the quality of food and drink.
“The cruise industry is evolving at a rapid pace, and more cruise lines are reinventing themselves to cater for different tastes, so there’s bound to be a cruise that suits you,” said Anna Perrott, ex-head of cruise at online travel agent Travelbag.
Mixing things up can be exhilarating and give you a different outlook. And after all, travelling is all about new experiences. So how to choose the perfect cruise line for you? Here are our top tips.
Do some research
The best way to get started is to do your research, so find a knowledgeable travel agent and listen to what they have to say.
“Talking to a travel agent who specialises in the cruise sector will prove invaluable in the booking process,” said Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland director.
“Given the rate of change in the industry, it’s always advisable to seek the advice of experts who have access to the most up-to-date information and can work out what sort of cruise line will best suit your personality and needs.”
- READ MORE: Why you should book cruises through a travel agent -
Perrott agreed: “Most cruise agents will have seen the ships first-hand, and this way you can really pick their brains on what you are looking for in your holiday."
"Don’t forget it’s in their best interests to get you on the right ship so you use them again.”
Smart cruise-swappers could also save themselves some money by booking through an agent.
“CLIA cruise agents have access to the latest booking offers from cruise lines, so they will be able to find great-value deals to ensure you make the most of your holiday budget,” explained Harmer.
Speak to friends
It’s always worth asking friends who have travelled on other cruise lines which ones they’d recommend.
Speak to people you know who’ve been on several cruises and ask them which lines and ships they think come up to the mark – and which don’t.
They’re not trying to sell you anything and they know what sort of person you are, so their ideas are worth listening to.
- READ MORE: World of Cruising's complete guide to all cruise lines -
Check out the food and drink
You should never forget to scope out the dining choices onboard. Food can make or break a trip, and a meal that doesn’t hit the spot can be a real low point when you’re hoping for the trip of a lifetime.
Will you be looking for traditional fare or seeking out gourmet options? Do you like to follow food trends or are you happy with crowd-pleasers?
And then there’s alcohol. Some ships include the price of alcoholic drinks in the overall package, which is great if you like a cocktail or two onboard, but if you’re not a big drinker you may just wish to pay separately.
You should also do some research on your cabin choice. Do you want something quite basic or would you prefer accommodation that’s a little more luxurious? Look at the line’s brochures or go online and you’ll find loads of information on the size and decor of every line’s cabins.
Good air conditioning on a trip to a hot destination could help you get the necessary eight hours, while light and airy staterooms will avoid any feeling of claustrophobia.
Also, take into account the size of the cabin – paying a little bit extra will give you more space to relax. Accessories in your cabin such as an iPad, mini-bar and kettle are other pluses to look out for, too.
- READ MORE: Nine top tips for budgeting your cruise holiday -
Formal vs casual
Are you a party animal? You’ll need to factor in the choice between a formal cruise or something more down to earth.
Some of us love the glamour of dressing up for dinner and think it’s all part of the cruise experience: others prefer to be more casual. Do your homework to make sure your new cruise line suits your taste and lifestyle.
Check out facilities
Celebrities and lectures are becoming a big thing on many cruise lines. They can enhance what you’ve already learned about a destination, but you may prefer to do your research independently once you arrive onboard.
Some ships have a library and a computer room where you can do a little light homework on port visits and excursions, so it’s worth looking out for those extras if that sounds like you.
You may welcome the chance to stay fit in a gym or a swimming pool: others just love to meet fellow cruisers at onboard events like quizzes and sail-away parties. Again, decide which type of cruiser you are, and choose accordingly.
- READ MORE: Complete guide to finding your ideal cruise style -
What to do next
When you think you’ve found a cruise that suits your style, start small. See if the company offers mini-cruises on the ship you like the look of.
Booking a short cruise, between three and five days, is a great way to try out something different, and many cruise lines sail on short journeys around the UK.
You could also think about swapping an ocean cruise for a river trip or vice versa. That may feel like venturing out of your comfort zone entirely, but why not try it and see?
Or what about choosing a ship that’s brand new to everyone on board, not just to you? The pristine decor and facilities will add to the fun of exploring, and you’ll have all the bragging rights when you get home.
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