When you’re ready to jump into the world of cruising, it’s hard to know where to start. Every destination sounds captivating when you’re deciding whether to sail transatlantic or transpacific — or to go island hopping. To guide you in picking a cruise, we’ve crafted a list of the most important questions to ask yourself so that you can select the journey you’ll enjoy the most.
To determine your starting point, you need to know where you want to go, when you want to cruise and how much budget you have to get there. From there, you can determine the length of your trip, how large your group will be and what kind of activities you would like to experience while cruising.
What’s Your Dream Destination?
How to choose a cruise destination depends on the sights you want to see and activities that are most meaningful to you. When you cruise to Hawaii, for instance, you discover four islands from a unique perspective you can’t get from staying on land. If The Aloha State isn’t on your wish list, then maybe you or your family are drawn to one of these spectacular destinations for a first-time cruise:
- A cruise to Alaska means you can experience off-the-beaten-track vistas — think glaciers by helicopter and Skagway by dogsled.
- A cruise to Europe lets you visit Rome, Brussels, London, and a number of other historic cities on your bucket list.
- A cruise to the Caribbean takes you to sun-drenched, tropical destinations, such as St. Thomas, where you can swim with sea lions, or Cozumel, where you can sail and snorkel on the beach.
What’s Your Budget?
When you take a cruise, you’ll feel like you’ve rolled multiple trips into one vacation because of the all-inclusive and add-on activities you can experience. To get the most bang for your cruising buck, figure out a budget. Then look for discounts, and consider which dates may be less crowded. Scale up and down on your stateroom choice to see what length cruise fits into your budget. Driving to your departure point may be less expensive than flying depending on where you live. You definitely can afford your first cruise.
- Discounts: Carnival has a number of ways to save on your cruise costs. You’ll find some of the best senior cruise discounts and deals for guests 55 and over. There are also extremely affordable rates for military families. For those planning their first cruise, there are Early Saver Deals, where you can sail toward a discount. This means that you can book early and save when cruising to Alaska, Europe, Mexico, and many other destinations. If you’re planning a group cruise, then we have you covered with fantastic group rates for an unforgettable event.
- Stateroom: The right stateroom can make your first cruise more comfortable than you can imagine. You don’t need to go top dollar for the best location on board. Every stateroom has advantages, even those with lower costs. When booking your cruise, ask if there’s a current sale or free room upgrades.
- Departure points: Carnival offers ground transportation between select airports and cruise ship terminals. Or, choose a destination near a departure point nearest your home. For example, if you live close to Maryland, set sail from Baltimore for The Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. Sail from Galveston, Texas, to the Caribbean and the Panama Canal.
- Sailing dates: Some weeks during the year are less expensive for cruising. For example, off-peak weeks tend to be the second week of January through early February, just after Valentine’s Day, early May (after spring break but before Memorial Day), right after Labor Day, and the two weeks in December before the Christmas holiday.
- Length of cruise: Look for shorter two-to-four day Pack & Go discounted cruise or affordable three-to-five day cruises to Ensenada and Catalina Island.
Are you hoping for a solo, romantic, or family getaway? As long as there is a reason to embark on adventure, there’s a perfect onboard itinerary and stateroom for all. Let’s discuss some of the common cruisers you will find onboard:
- Solo cruise: If your first cruise is a solo one, then you’re in for a treat. Choose your cruise depending on the experience you’re looking for, whether you want to meet new friends at a fun hangout or go on adventures to learn about history and culture or experience any number of enticing shore excursions.
- Romantic cruise: Cruises come with romance baked in. Experience a romantic first cruise by relaxing in the Cloud 9 Spa™, the peaceful space of the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat™, or the Loft 19™ retreat space on select ships. A balcony stateroom offers romantic ambiance with ocean breezes and a moonlit outdoor oasis. A Havana stateroom offers exclusive access to the Havana pool and bar.
- Family cruise: Whether you’re a single parent who wants to treat your kids to a spectacular first cruise, or you’re a family hoping to bond while setting sail, there’s a cruise for you. No matter the shape and size of your family, you’ll enjoy family entertainment that gives you and your kids time with favorite childhood characters and games. Younger kids will love Seuss at Sea®, whimsical activities for the youngest kids and young at heart. You can’t beat the complimentary kids’ clubs and programs organized into age-appropriate groups that let you have some much deserved alone time while the kids have fun. Enjoy Camp Ocean™ for 2- to 11-year-olds, Circle C® for 12- to 14-year-olds and Club 02® for 15- to 17-year-old teens. Stay in Family Harbor Staterooms for an extra-special family-themed experience near the Family Harbor Lounge. Kids can play, eat free in most onboard specialty restaurants, and have one free evening of Night Owls babysitting.
What Do You Envision Doing on Board?
Every inch of a cruise ship, regardless of its size, offers activities that’ll delight your senses. Whether it’s a scenic workout with an ocean view, a cozy cabana that’s blissfully quiet, or food and entertainment that’ll bring you back to life, any of the following experiences can make your cruise worthwhile:
- Casinos: Take part in casino fun by joining the Carnival Players Club, or playing slots, blackjack, poker, and other table games.
- Adventure: Enjoy adventurous onboard thrills, whether it’s the SkyRide® overhead bike trail or the unprecedented Bolt™: Ultimate Sea Coaster debuting on Mardi Gras™ in 2020.
- Entertainment: Whether you’re solo or with family, onboard entertainment choices are designed for pure fun, from the Lip Sync Battle™: Carnival and Family Feud™ Live to IMAX® flicks, Playlist Productions™ live stage shows, The Punchliner Comedy Club and so much more.
- Cuisine: Cruising is all about cuisine, and your meals, snacks, and light drinks are included in the price of your cruise. You also have a variety of dining and drink choices for an added cost if you choose, such as those brought to you by celebrities Guy Fieri and Creole cuisine sensation Emeril Lagasse.
A vacation aboard a Carnival ship is designed to give you an experience of a lifetime, whether you’re a first-time cruiser or seasoned passenger. After experiencing your first cruise, you’ll realize how easy and fun it is to visit even more destinations and check off plenty of experiences from your wish list.
Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.