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These Are the Best First-Time Cruises to Take

Ready to take the plunge? Cruise newbies can get off to a great start with these voyages.

Whether you are just starting your journey journal or are making a checklist for retirement travel, cruising can be an exciting and affordable way to see the world. By ship, you'll have an endless variety of entertainment and dining options while waking up each day to a new destination. Since first-time cruisers may be curious about ship life and perhaps anxious about earning their sea legs, short sailings with tailored itineraries can provide the entry-level experience to get you hooked and onboard like a pro in no time. Read on to discover the six best first-time cruises to take.

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The Bahamas

Beach on Princess Cays Island in The Bahamas

One of the most popular itineraries for first-time cruisers is a weekend getaway to the Bahamas. Just about every cruise line offers two- to four-night sailing trips to Freeport, Nassau, and even private tropical islands. These brief jaunts can be a great way to test your comfort level sailing on open water, especially since the Bahamian islands are so close to Florida ports and don't require navigating rough seas.

"The Bahamas is the best destination for first-time cruisers," says Marcello De Lio, co-founder of cruise website High Seas Cruising. "Vacationing on a ship isn't for everyone, and many first-time cruisers are anxious about living on a ship."

These quick vacations are also usually the cheapest for entry-level cruisers. "The Bahamas are the perfect choice for first-time cruisers as an affordable and tropical cruise destination," adds De Lio. "And thanks to the popularity of the Bahamas as a cruise destination, many cruise lines use their latest and greatest cruise ships for Bahamas itineraries."

The California Coast

Catalina - California. Avalon Harbour.

First-time cruisers may be surprised to learn there are several domestic itineraries along the Pacific coastline. Los Angeles area ports of Long Beach and San Pedro offer three- to five-day trips ideal for sampling Catalina Island, California, and Ensenada, Mexico.

These short itineraries are a good sampler cruise for earning your sea legs and spotting marine wildlife close to home. "Gray whales pass on their annual migration, and dolphins are a frequent sight," around Catalina Island, according to Princess Cruise Lines.

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The Mexican Riviera

the bay of Tulum in the Mexican Riviera

While it can be overwhelming for first-timers to cruise to multiple countries in one trip, a dedicated itinerary along the Mexican Riviera allows for focused immersion in local culture and cuisine.

Such sailings are common among the various cruise lines, but Carnival Panorama was built with this exact itinerary in mind. The seven- to eight-night sailing adventure is offered at an incredibly affordable rate so first-timers can stretch their travel budget while experiencing three to four different sunny cities along the coast.



While those new to cruising may not embrace the idea of a few sea days crossing the Pacific Ocean, it is possible to enjoy a dedicated Hawaiian Islands itinerary roundtrip from Honolulu. That means the ship never strays into rough open ocean waters, so cruisers can focus less on worrying and more on being in paradise.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America is a U.S.-flagged ship that sails the Hawaiian Islands year-round. Traveling to more than one or two islands during a single trip can become quite costly by land and air, but this weeklong sailing bundles savings so cruisers can experience the Napali Coast, Kilauea Volcano, Kona coffee farms, and stunning beach towns with one easy price tag.

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The Caribbean

Virgin Gorda Caribbean Magical Islands

First-time and experienced cruisers alike love Caribbean itineraries for their multi-country port visits combined with sugar sand beach destinations. "The Caribbean is an ideal place to start because you can pick cruises from three nights or longer, so you can start with a short cruise to see if you like it," says Karon Warren, editor of the travel blog This Girl Travels. "Plus, many of the cruise lines have their own private islands, which make a great stop on any itinerary."

For bucket-list travelers, it can take some time to fly individually to Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, the Cayman Islands, and more. But a weeklong sailing through the Southern Caribbean offers just enough time in each port to discover regional highlights.


Glacier in Alaska

An Alaskan cruise tops the wish list for many travelers, thanks to the charms of remote coastal towns, stunning glacier fields, and the abundance of marine wildlife at every turn.

"Some of Alaska is not easy to get to by car, and planes can be expensive. Cruises let you hit coastal towns and (with smaller ships) narrow channels you wouldn't otherwise see," suggest the travel planners at

If Alaska is your first-time cruise choice, prepare to get hooked on the sailing lifestyle. The awe-inspiring mountains, picturesque inlets, and friendly seaside towns will likely transform you into a cruiser for life.

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Lori A. May
Lori A. May lives out her suitcase most of the year and her articles have been published in Best Life, Business Insider, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Time Out. Read more
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