9 Fun Cruise Ideas for First-Time Cruisers

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With a brand-new adventure awaiting on the high seas, here are a few of our favorite fun cruise ideas for those that are newbie cruisers.

Themed Cruises

Our first suggestion is to base your cruise vacation on a topic of interest or hobby that you and your family enjoy. While most voyages offer a wide range of activities across a broad number of interests, choosing a special-themed cruise will revolve around those specific fun ideas. And, you will be surrounded by other passengers who share your interests.

There is an amazing number of quite diverse topics offered as either a partial- or full-ship-themed voyage. For example, bikers, wrestlers and cat lovers all have a cruise!

Themed Cruise
Themed Cruise (Photo Credit: GillianVann / Shutterstock)

You can also find crafting topics like knitting, scrapbooking and beading; genealogy and religious cruises; sports themes such as football and golf; and, specialty LGBT itineraries.

Worth Reading: Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival Cruise Line: What Are the Differences?

Cruises with musical themes abound across multiple genres: rock, country, R&B, jazz, soul and decade-based tunes. These most often include guest appearances by famous performers in the genre. Other entertainment-themed voyages include Broadway, Star Trek, Golden Girls and Harry Potter. Once you find a cruise, it is recommended that you book early since these types of sailings are fewer and sell out quickly.

Ports of Call

You have chosen your first cruise line, travel dates, destinations and booked your reservations. Now all you need to do is countdown the days on the calendar until departure, right? Well, you could simply wait – or you could take a peak at what adventures lie ahead.

Some of the most popular and memorable times on a cruise happen onshore. Your itinerary will include stops along the way, termed ports of call. These are destinations specially selected by the cruise lines where passengers can go ashore.

Cruise Pier in Cozumel, Mexico
Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive

Depending on your schedule, you may have only a few hours to explore or you might be docked for a longer time. Either way requires a bit of planning.

Have a look at how many hours you are at each port and do a quick online search for activities you enjoy. Would you like to sunbathe on the beaches? Eat at a world-class restaurant?

Visit historical sites and cultural museums? Have a nature and wildlife experience? Swim, jet ski or parasail? Some (or all) of these fun ideas for your first cruise may be available. So, to avoid spending time searching for them in the moment, do a little research ahead of time.

Special Occasions

One terrific benefit of choosing a vacation on a cruise ship is that you can travel any day of the year. Close your eyes and put your finger down anywhere on the calendar and a ship will be setting sail! This offers the opportunity to book passage for whatever special occasion you would like to celebrate.

Some of the most popular dates for cruises include holidays – Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and more. Book early around these dates for a better choice of cabins and itineraries.

Carnival Cruise Line Christmas
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

Or, take your first cruise around a more personal special occasion date such as birthdays and anniversaries. The kids will enjoy (and long remember) celebrating a birthday at sea; and for the adults, an anniversary cruise can be quite romantic (see our next section!).

Also, the cruise itself can become a special occasion. For example, the Captain (on many ships) can be the legal officiant at a marriage ceremony. Couples can choose to participate in a group event with others or arrange for a private ceremony with family and friends. Check with your cruise line for details about getting married or renewing vows at sea.

Find Romance

Many couples book passage on an adult-only cruise, a growing trend for those who want a grown-up experience. These are popular with couples, newlyweds, honeymooners and singles; and, offer a sophisticated atmosphere with activities centered around cultures, food, history and luxury (rather than water parks).

Read Also: Best Cruise Lines for Couples and Top Romantic Cruise Ideas

Whichever cruise you take, there are options for romance. For example, reserve a cabin with a balcony. Here you can watch the sunrises and sunsets together; grab a blanket and stargaze into the dark night skies; and, order a special room service meal al fresco. And, take in a movie under the stars. Most ships show outdoor films where passengers lounge in deck chairs and munch on popcorn (much like the old drive-in theater experience).

Cruise Ship Couple
Photo Credit: Space_Cat / Shutterstock

Book some couple’s time at the ship’s spa. The options for relaxing and unwinding include massages, body wraps, mani and pedi services, yoga, Turkish baths, facials, healing rituals, sauna and steam grottos and much more. Then, make a reservation at one of the ship’s many specialty restaurants for a dinner for two. While there are many, many other passengers onboard, this is a way to have a quiet meal together.

And, leave the electronics in the cabin and walk the promenade deck – this one is a must.

Try Something New

For those who like to have new experiences and learn a little something along the way, cruise ships offer a wide range of classes. These educational opportunities are largely hands-on where the passengers have access to experts in the field while trying their hand at new skills. Keep in mind that reserving a spot is often required and always recommended. These fun options often have a limit on the number of participants.

Some of the most popular classes are related to cooking. Either observe while a chef walks you through the process of creating a culinary delight. Or, sign-up for individualized courses where you actually make dishes from the cultures and areas you are visiting during your trip. You get to learn skills to take home and enjoy tasty creations at the same time.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Deck
Photo Credit: Aerial-motion / Shutterstock

Almost everyone returns home from vacation wishing they had made more and better pictures. Learn how to make memorable and attractive vacation photos with a class in photography. Courses cover the basics, and some cruise lines have professional photographers as the instructors. Then, join a technology and/or social media class to learn about sharing your images and stories with friends and family.

Read Also: Best Cruises for Young Adults Looking for Adventure

For a deeper appreciation of the history and cultures that you will visit during shore excursions, attend an onboard lecture. The cruise lines will often welcome local experts and historians to come aboard to give a presentation.

You can gather tips about where to make the most of your time ashore; hints for shopping; and, learn a few phrases in a new language. These lectures are quite informative, entertaining, and a good way to expand your visit ashore.

To get a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of your ship, take a tour of the engine room, galley, bridge and other areas usually restricted to the ship’s personnel. And, for more science, book a trip on a ship with an onboard planetarium. The dark skies at sea are the perfect environment to glimpse (and learn about) the stars, constellations and other celestial bodies not easily visible from land.

Royal Caribbean's FlowRider
Royal Caribbean’s Flowrider (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock)

Practice or learn new sports skills while onboard your first cruise. Many lines have instructors for golf, scuba, surfing, rock climbing and other healthy exercise pursuits. Some of these sports activities can be enjoyed right on the ship. And, you can find opportunities to try them at venues during your shore excursions.

Lastly, take the family to a class to learn new dances of different cultures; and, join a game night for trivia, board games, card games and other tournaments. The latter is a fun opportunity to spend time away from the digital world.

Foodie Fun

One of the most enjoyable experiences on a cruise is…well…eating. Included in the price of your voyage are breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main dining room, buffet restaurants and (sometimes) room service meals. While you will find delicious meals with those options, our fun idea is to elevate food to culinary excellence.

Today’s cruise ships have a series of specialty restaurants scattered about the vessel (up to 15 of them in the largest ships!). These establishments have words like Michelin Star and James Beard Awards associated with them. And, we all know that this means scrumptious fare.

Carnival Cruise Line Chef's Table
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

Passengers will find a variety of dining options, including high-end, steakhouses, regional cuisine, chef-created and/or prepared and more. Our suggestion for foodie fun is to take a culinary journey right there on the cruise ship. Choose a different specialty restaurant each day and order “the most popular” meal on the menu.

Most of these eateries will require a reservation, are generally not included in the price of the cruise (although some lines have the option to purchase a special dining package) and may have a dress code. So be sure to check on these requirements ahead of time as the seating areas are smaller (and you would not want to show up in casual cruise attire).

Sailing Solo

Along with the benefits of taking a cruise vacation all on your own (do what you want, when you want) it can be a bit challenging if you want to gather and talk with other shipmates. One fun idea to set the stage for social interaction happens before the cruise – finding new friends online.

If you have not fully decided which cruise itinerary, ship or cruise line to book for your next vacation, do a quick search on social media sites. There are quite a few “groups” online who “gather” ahead of time to talk about their upcoming cruise plans.

Solo Cruise
Solo Cruise (Photo Credit: Jeff R. Clow / Shutterstock)

These are generally open to new members, so you can jump in and read what others are saying, ask questions and learn some names of your future shipmates. You might also have the chance to plan some onboard get-togethers, too.

Also, check your cruise line’s website to see if they have an option for solo cruisers to sign up for meet-and-mingle events. Many of the major lines offer this opportunity, which places you in the company of fellow solo travelers once onboard.

After setting sail, ask the cruise director what and where other solo cruisers gather. One fun spot that is popular is the piano bar or other sing-along areas. This is a great way to relax and make friends. Look through the activities for topics that interest you and join in. For example, if you choose a themed cruise, participate in the events, workshops, tours and other happenings to meet like-minded folks.

Time to Sail

Stress is the antithesis of fun. So, in order to launch your voyage on a good note, the purpose of this hint is to prevent possible fun-killing anxiety on embarkation day. Simply stated, arrive early.

Plan all flights and driving times so that you get to the port city one day before your sailing time. Airline delays and traffic jams could cost hours in your schedule.

Planning a cruise
Photo Credit: VIAVAL TOURS / Shutterstock

If you book an overnight stay (preferably in a hotel close to port), you can arrive on time (or early) to board the ship the next day. And, on a related note, if you are flying into the port city, lost luggage may also be an issue.

Most experienced cruisers will recommend that you try (your very best) to pack everything in a carry-on. These steps remove all obstacles that might make you miss your first cruise vacation – the ship will not wait!

Tech Ready

Our final tip related to fun ideas for your first cruise vacation: Download the app(s) for your cruise line. This is an easy and convenient way to keep up with all the fun activities onboard as well as your reservations.

Today’s vessels have “fun” built right into the ship! On the app you will find lists of venues, events and times for a large array of attractions. Live performances, aquaparks, climbing and ziplining, bumper and race cars, mini golf, interest classes (dance, cooking, painting and more), special areas and camps for kids, parties, arcades and even ice skating, roller coasters and more. The app is an easy way to choose, plan and keep track of the fun during your first cruise.

Angela Minor
Angela Minor
Enchanted with cruising from my first voyage in the Bahamas on the SS Emerald Seas to Alaska’s Inside Passage. Professional freelance writer and published indie author. Find out more about us here.

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