If you’re thinking about taking your first cruise, you’re not the only one. Both relaxing and exciting, cruises allow you to see far more than you would on a traditional holiday, and when you’re not off sightseeing, you can sunbathe on the deck and admire the views. There’s a reason cruises are one of the travel markets’ fastest-growing areas…but the real question is, where should you go?
There are many amazing cruise destinations all around the world, and each one offers something a bit different; there are exotic cruises, bucket list cruises, and off-the-beaten-track cruises. But if this is your first cruise, it’s worth pointing out that some destinations are more suitable than others.
From cruises where you get to see a dizzying array of diversity to cruises that are easily accessible and affordable, here are 10 of the best destinations for first-time cruisers.
1. The Bahamas
Boasting more than 700 idyllic islands and 2,400 dreamy cays – mostly uninhabited – the Bahamas is an obvious yet excellent choice for a cruise. This magnificent archipelago is home to gin-clear waters, powder-white sand, fathomless ocean trenches, sultry mangrove forests, and characterful, historic towns – and a cruise will allow you to see the very best of this captivating country.
All cruises to the Bahamas stop in the capital, Nassau, where you can explore 18th-century forts and historic homes. Yet, Freeport on Grand Bahama is just as beguiling. When you aren’t strolling around towns and relaxing in laidback bars and restaurants, you can swim in underwater caves, kick back on paradise-like beaches, dive in colourful coral reefs, and savour the unique subtropical charm.
2. The Greek Islands
Steeped in myths and legends, the Greek Isles are another popular cruise destination – and because there are over 6,000 islands to explore, there’s lots of variety too. If you want a sun-drenched break with a side of history and culture, Greece ticks the box. Boasting ancient ruins, dazzling blue skies, and sparkling azure seas, there’s a reason more than 30 million tourists flock here each year!
You can visit Crete, Greece’s biggest and greenest island, to hike Samaria Gorge and tour Knossos Palace. Visit the Cyclades to admire white-washed villages and dramatic sunsets, and head to Corfu to find peace among the forests and olive groves. The Ionian and Dodecanese Islands are beautiful too – but, wherever you go, expect mouthwatering food, glorious weather, and compelling culture.
3. The Norwegian Fjords
While cruises often conjure up images of tropical coastlines or sun-drenched beaches, many take you to vastly different destinations, but the experience is no less magical. Norway is regularly voted one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and its fjords – dramatic inlets that run along the coastline – are arguably its most spectacular scenery; vast, rugged, remote, and serene.
The best way to explore the Norwegian Fjords is from the water, and a cruise will take you from the towering mountains to the thundering waterfalls. You can explore colourful towns like Bergen, where you can sip local craft beer in cosy pubs and learn about Viking history. Then, trek to the top of iconic Pulpit Rock, spot eagles soaring in the skies, and immerse yourself in the inimitable energy of Oslo.
4. Mexican Riviera
If you’re not sure what type of holiday you’re looking for, why not take a cruise to the Mexican Riviera? This gorgeous part of the world has something for everyone, from fascinating history and mysterious ruins to enthralling wildlife. It also has an astonishingly diverse landscape that includes deep canyons, dense rainforests, and pristine beaches. And of course, there’s the food (and drink!).
Cruising along the Mexican Riviera provides you with just as much action and adventure as rest and relaxation. Marvel at the Chichén Itzá pyramid, one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in the world, then bask in the sun on Cozumel’s tranquil beaches. Go ziplining in Puerto Vallarta, wine tasting in Ensenada, and enjoy experiencing the local culture and trying the delicious cuisine.
5. Spain and Portugal
If you can’t decide between visiting Spain and Portugal, why not visit both? In Spain, you’ll get to visit coastal cities like Barcelona, Malaga, and Valencia, where you can tuck into tapas, sip sangria, and soak up the sun. And, in Portugal, you’ll dock in Lisbon and Porto, where you can visit castles and museums, and sample local wine in trendy bars.
The beauty of a cruise here is as well as exploring the best of mainland Spain and Portugal, you can visit many of their enchanting islands too, like Majorca, Minorca, and Ibiza – Spain’s beautiful Balearic Islands. There’s also the volcanic Canary Islands, subtropical Madeira, and the stunning Azores – as well as the sweeping beaches of the Algarve, where you can swim and sunbathe until your heart’s content.
6. The Caribbean
Few places evoke paradise like the Caribbean. This blissful region has more than 700 islands, reefs, and cays, and comprises countries like Dominica, Grenada, Aruba, Barbados, Antigua, Belize, Puerto, Rico, and St Lucia (the Bahamas don’t actually border the Caribbean Sea). The diversity is staggering, and landscapes include sugary beaches, towering mountains, rugged cliffs, and lush rainforests.
It can be tricky to pick which countries you want to visit most, which is why a cruise to the Caribbean makes sense. Dance to reggae in Jamaica, salsa rhythms in Cuba, and calypso steel drums in Trinidad and Tobago. Sip local rum and feast on fresh seafood; delve into the past in vibrant colonial towns; explore historic pirate hideouts; swim in shimmering reefs; and enjoy being in a true paradise.
If frozen landscapes and dramatically desolate scenery are more your thing, and you’re drawn to exploring some of the wildest and most remote corners of the world, you might want to think about a cruise to Alaska. While Patagonia is one of the most iconic off-the-beaten-track cruises, it’s a far-flung destination, right at the tip of South America, and is trickier to get to – and more expensive.
So, for something more accessible, there’s Alaska, which has much of the same scenery: vast glaciers, snow-capped mountains, shimmering glacial lakes, and an abundance of marine life. Cruise along picturesque inlets and past charming seaside towns, explore the landscape on foot or by kayak, keep an eye out for eagles and bears, and embrace the thrill of visiting one of the world’s final frontiers.
Hawaii is a bucket list destination for many people, but with eight major islands to explore, so why not visit them all on a cruise? If you’re new to cruising, you might not love the idea of crossing the Pacific, but the good news is that you can enjoy a Hawaiian islands cruise from the capital, Honolulu.
Flying to Honolulu means you avoid any rough open ocean, allowing you to focus on your glorious surroundings as you move smoothly through the water. You’ll visit the largest islands – the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, and O’ahu – as well as some of the smaller isles, like Lana and Moloka. Visit Kona coffee farms, explore the stunning Napali Coast, trek up Kilauea Volcano, and relax on perfect beaches.
9. The Canary Islands
While some cruises to Spain and Portugal do include the Canary Islands, if you want to maximise your time in this unique archipelago, it’s worth taking a dedicated cruise. These beautiful volcanic islands are incredibly diverse, and whether you want to experience their eye-opening culture, mouth-watering cuisine or sensational scenery, there’s something for everyone.
If you’re looking to soak up some sun, the miles of soft sand on Fuerteventura’s coast will tick the box, while Tenerife’s rugged Anaga Mountains are ideal for hiking. History buffs will enjoy exploring Gran Canaria’s charming capital, while wine enthusiasts will be in their element touring vineyards in Lanzarote. Plus, the jagged cliffs and dense pine forest of La Palma will take your breath away!
10. The British Isles
And finally, you don’t have to stray far from home to enjoy a truly unforgettable cruise. The UK is one of the best destinations in the world for a cruise, and if you’re looking to gain a new perspective on our very own island, a cruise is the way to do it. Plus, if you’re new to cruising, it’s an obvious option: fuss-free, affordable, and accessible, while still being exciting and fabulously diverse.
Cruises around the British Isles take you past the rugged coastlines and green pastures of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Explore the peaks and lochs of the Scottish highlands before visiting the remote Orkney Islands and Hebrides; discover the subtropical paradise of the Cornish Scilly Isles; tour the charming Channel Islands; and visit vibrant Belfast and the mythical Giant’s Causeway.
There are so many reasons why you should consider taking a cruise for your next holiday – and the fact you get to see far more than you would on a ‘normal’ holiday is just one.
Because all the logistics are taken care of, cruises allow you to avoid the stress and hassle of travelling while retaining all the magic and mystery. Cruising along a country’s coastline and visiting its islands as well as all the mainland hotspots also gives you a more immersive travel experience.
Plus, when you’re not off exploring, you can sunbathe on deck, admire awe-inspiring views, enjoy your favourite hobbies, feast on new and delicious cuisine, watch star-studded entertainment, and be part of an exciting and welcoming community.
If you’ve never taken a cruise before, we hope this article has inspired you. Whether you’re dreaming of drifting past tropical beaches, glimmering glaciers, volcanic islands, or our own green and pleasant land, there really is a cruise destination for everyone.
For more inspiration for your next waterborne adventure, why check out our article; 12 off-the-beaten-track cruise destinations?
Have you been on a cruise before – or have you visited any of these destinations? Are you thinking about taking a cruise anytime soon? We’d love to hear about your travel experiences in the comments below.