First Cruise Guide: Tips for First-Timers

Booking your first cruise can be extremely overwhelming. Our love for cruising is undeniable, but even we have to admit that planning, booking and preparing for a cruise can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start. Because of this, many people give up in frustration before they ever book a single cruise, reverting back to traditional (and somewhat uneventful) vacations. We want you to experience the best of what cruising has to offer, which is why we put together our complete guide for first-time cruisers. Get the tips and advice you need to book your first cruise, including how to choose the best cruise ship for you, how to prepare for your trip, and much more. Also,be sure to check out our verified reviews from experienced cruisers to get the inside scoop on any cruise line, cruise ship, destination and port.

Is cruising right for me?

Need a little convincing before you get your feet wet? That's alright — so did we! Read up on the most commonly asked questions by first-time cruisers, learn why some things you've heard about cruising are completely false, and then compare cruises to resorts to see which is the best vacation for you.

Life on a Ship

Want to see what cruising is all about? Check out our thousands of user-submitted photos taken by real cruisers, or browse our collection of professional shots of the most popular beaches, ports, and attractions in cruising.

Ok, I'm interested — what do I need to know?

Glad we've got your attention. Start with our Cruising 101 quiz: we'll test your knowledge about the basics of cruising and show you where to learn more about the questions you get wrong. Then learn how to cruise without a passport and how to avoid the 9 most common mistakes of first-timers.

Get Answers to All of Your Cruise Questions

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and we'll get you up to speed with fun and exciting cruise content, plus featured reviews and tips on how to get the most out of our website. Or, if you have a specific question you can't find the answer to, ask our community of seasoned cruisers in the forum. 

Start Researching

Don't skip ahead to picking a cruise just yet. Timing is everything when it comes to planning. If you book too early, you'll probably end up overpaying for your fare. Book too late, and your options will be severely limited. We'll also tell you what you can expect to spend and how to get the best deals possible.

Research Tools

Check out our Explore section for info and reviews on every line, ship, and port. 

Choose a Cruise

The vast majority of cruisers make their choices in the following order: destination, line, ship, cabin. You should research each choice thoroughly before moving onto the next. For personalized recommendations, take our quizzes for the best lines and destinations according to your interests.

Compare Cruises

Can't decide between a Caribbean cruise with Carnival or a Bahamas sailing with Disney? See prices, interaries, and ratings for up to three cruises stacked side-by-side by clicking the "Compare" button when searching for a cruise.

Getting Ready

Start your final preparations by consulting our How to Prepare checklist. If you're the kind to forget things easily, we included a printable version in the article as well. Finally, read up on shore excursions (they're not going to book themselves) and learn what you should (and shouldn't) bring onboard.

Before You Sail

Want to start making new friends while you're still on dry land? Sign up for a roll call and meet other cruisers you'll be sailing with. And don't forget to download the Ship Mate app to see photos, deck plans, and excursions for your cruise.