How to decide if a cruise is for you

Richard Mellor

Booking your first cruise can seem daunting—but there are ways to know whether a floating holiday is the right choice

Promising signs

You like a set itinerary

Rule #1 of cruising: when your boat’s due to leave dock, be on board—because it won’t wait. Schedules are pre-decided, inflexible and non-negotiable: you don’t get to decide the stops, nor the length of stop. Independent travel this is not.

What is up to you is the content of each stop, with various guided excursions commonly available. There can also come a blissful relief in knowing that the major decisions—i.e. when you’re arriving and leaving—have long since been made. 

 

You like to be pampered

From silver-service restaurants to turndowned bedrooms, you’ll lack for nothing on board. 

Drinks are also available everywhere, and there are massages, facials and hot tubs to hand should you need to relax.

 

You like ticking off countries

Port-hopping cruise itineraries love to pack in the destinations. Voyages around the western Mediterranean, for instance, can stop at Portugal, mainland Spain, Gibraltar, the Balearics, mainland France, Monaco, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and mainland Italy. 

Trouble picking a Caribbean destination? Multi-island cruises there could provide the answer—plus earn you some travel bragging rights among friends.

 

You prefer to have a clear budget

While each cruise liner tends to have a slightly different version of ‘all-inclusive’, the rates by and large include board, most drinks, meals in selected restaurants, wi-fi, access to most on-board amenities and use of the kid’s club.

All of which means you’ll hardly have to pay for anything else.

 

Warning signs

You’re an introvert

The biggest ships can accommodate over 5,000 guests; and even the smallest-size vessels have surprisingly high capacities. While there are usually places to escape, cruises hardly scream seclusion.

Some people—extroverts—thrill at socialising, and at constantly meeting new people. But if you’re more of a wallflower, a cruise might not be the trip for you.

 

You can feel overwhelmed with choice

While port timetables are non-negotiable, infinite choice abounds on board bigger boats. 

On any given day you could attend quizzes, listen to concerts, watch theatre or films, take a cookery lesson, learn a dance, inspect a gallery, hit up the water park… and all that in between eating, sleeping and choosing between 16 sun terraces.

Such myriad options can thrill—but they also daunt some passengers.

 

You prefer to deep-dive a destination

Yes cruises can visit a lot of places, but rarely for long, and when they do, it’ll be you plus hundreds or thousands of others.

Selected liners like Hurtigruten and Quark Expeditions take things slower, and do genuinely introduce you a town, region or country. But mostly cruising is inappropriate for any traveller craving authenticity or immersion.

 

You like young people

Like all cliches, the one that says cruises are full of old people is semi-truthful. Retirees tend to have both the means and the time for long voyages.

In 2017, river-cruise specialist Uniworld announced a sub-brand called U by Uniworld, stating that its hip, black-gloss boats could only be booked by those 18-40 years old. Nearer to launch, however, it scrapped that age constraint. 

Uniworld would never admit it, of course, but the conclusion seems obvious: millennials don’t go on cruises.

 

Still unsure?

Leading firms such as P&O Cruises, Cunard and Royal Caribbean often offer ship visits when their vessels are docked in UK ports. You can inspect the cabins and facilities to get a sense of life onboard.

Alternatively, consider booking a 2-3 day mini-cruise as a taster for your cruise career.