Guests talking to a bellhop on board Queen Elizabeth



How do you choose the perfect first-time cruise destination? What does a typical cruise itinerary look like? What about selecting the ideal accommodations to suit your requirements, or planning excursions onshore?


The last thing you want is to feel overwhelmed before you’ve even stepped foot onto your Cunard Queen: which is why we’ve put together this guide, to help you book a cruise for the first time with confidence. 

The best cruise length for a first-time cruiser

While a short trip may seem appealing to first-time cruisers, try opting for a slightly longer stay to get the true feel for life on board. You’ll find a range of 5–7 night cruises which offer you the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the daily activities on board, as well as exploration in port. Experience a well-balanced mix of relaxing days at sea, delighting in all your Cunard Queen has to offer, and absorbing destinations where you will have the chance to bask in breathtaking landscapes, exciting cuisine, and local culture. For first-timers sailing from North American ports, we recommend a short break to New England and Canada, an unforgettable Alaskan adventure, or even a Transatlantic Crossing on our famous flagship, Queen Mary 2.

Guests on board Queen Elizabeth in Alaska

Ways to book your first cruise

Nowadays, the quickest way to find and book your first cruise is online. You’ll have the option to browse cruise types, dates, and voyage durations that suit your taste and timescales. We even have a handy guide to online booking to assist you with the process! The website is also a perfect place to research the range of cruise destinations available - from the dramatic glaciers of Alaska to the white sandy beaches of the Caribbean - and elements of the Cunard experience on board. 


If you feel you need a little more help with booking, you may benefit from speaking to a Travel Advisor who can help with cruise recommendations, and even book your voyage on your behalf. You may also find it useful to chat with friends or family who have been on a cruise before - they will undoubtedly have some top tips and nuggets of information that will help you on your way. And of course, if you get stuck or have any questions, you can call our Customer Service Department, where our teams are on standby to help you.

What type of cruise should I pick?

Duration isn't the only factor when picking your first cruise. If you're not sure what to expect your first time, it’s advisable to choose a destination that allows for a healthy mix of port days and sea days, giving you the chance to sample the best of both experiences. Itineraries in Alaska and the Caribbean are perfect for this, and both offer sailings from North American homeports- making them a practical choice as well!


Cunard offers a few additional types of cruise that first timers may consider to make a true Cunard impact on their first voyage. The iconic Transatlantic Crossing is one of the oldest and most famous known sailing routes, and Cunard's Queen Mary 2 is the only ocean liner in the world to make it regularly with passengers on board. If this is on your bucket list, you may want to tick it off right away.


Alternatively, Cunard offers special Event Voyages - with selected themes such as cuisine, theater, dance and literature, these voyages offer unique on board experiences, special guests and much more. These voyages are one of the most special jewels in the Cunard crown, and shouldn't be missed.

Couple enjoying breakfast in their stateroom on board a Cunard cruise ship

Which stateroom should I choose?

Cunard offers four distinct grades of staterooms and suites on board - each one with its own restaurant (included in your fare) and Cunard touches. No matter which you choose, every element of your voyage is carefully considered and delivered with our White Star Service, so that every guest wants for nothing during their vacation.


Four doesn't sound like many, but for first-timers it can be a little confusing knowing which grade to select for your voyage. Here is a short summary on each grade - though for full details you may wish to visit our accommodations pages.


Britannia staterooms

Britannia staterooms may be the lowest in price, but that doesn't mean you won't get a luxurious king-sized bed, sparkling wine on arrival, and your meals in the gleaming two-storyed Britannia restaurant. With all the service and comfort you will need, your Britannia experience will see you travel in style. You can pick from Inside, Oceanview or Balcony staterooms in this grade. Oh, did we mention room service is included as well?


Britannia Club staterooms

Similar to Britannia Balcony staterooms, but with added elegant touches, Britannia Club guests enjoy speciality tea and coffee in their stateroom, access to the more intimate Britannia Club restaurant, and use of an extensive pillow menu for the perfect night's sleep. Plus, of course, use of a private balcony for stunning views: morning, noon, and night.


Princess Grill Suites

Dining in the Princess Grill restaurant, a Grills concierge and access to unique venues on board. These are just some of the additional features and amenities of a Princess Grill Suite. With additional space, chocolates on arrival and a private balcony for every suite, this is truly luxury travel.


Queens Grill Suites

The only step up from a Princess is a Queen. Queens Grill guests enjoy exclusive access to the Queens Grill restaurant, complimentary mini bar and pre-dinner canapes every evening, plus their very own butler for impeccable tailored service. The largest suites are truly unique, with sweeping staircases, entertainment space, wraparound balconies and even - on Queen Mary 2 - a private elevator.

How do shore excursions work?

Shore excursions - known at Cunard as Shore Experiences - offer you the chance to truly immerse yourself in the unique delights of your cruise destination. Picture wine-tasting in the lush, green vineyards of Italy, taking in the beauty of marine life on a catamaran in the warm, Caribbean Sea, or gazing out at the breathtaking panoramic views of the Canaries from the volcanic tip of Mount Teide.


Should I book Shore Experiences before sailing?

In the months leading up to your first cruise, Shore Experiences will begin to appear on My Cunard for you to book in advance. If you do spot any that take your fancy, we advise you book fast - some sell out fairly quickly! If you forget, you can book your excursions once on board - just bear in mind that availability may not be as good, and your first choices may not have spaces left.


What is a sea day?

As you cruise between destinations, you’ll be spending some days completely at sea. These days are also known as sea days.


Sea days, especially for first-time cruisers, are well spent exploring everything your cruise ship has to offer. Each voyage has its own itinerary, with a range of sea day activities - collected in a handy Daily Program, delivered to your stateroom each evening for the following day - to keep you fully entertained while on board. These days also bring the perfect opportunity to stroll around the decks and enjoy the cooling sea air, or maybe sit back with a refreshing drink. Spend time choosing between delectable cuisine and watch the waves of the ocean gently roll by as you relax between port visits. Look through our full range of on board activities in the lead up to your voyage - which will you choose?

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore at night

Do I need travel insurance?

Now more than ever, it’s important to ensure you are fully protected throughout your cruise. For this reason, it is highly recommended that all guests obtain travel insurance before sailing with us. Ensure that the cover you choose is fully inclusive of Covid-related cancelations, and if you’re required to fly to your embarkation point, consider policies that will cover you should your flight be delayed. For our North American guests, this is easily taken care of during your cruise booking online - simply select CunardCare® Guest protection to add this extra layer of confidence to your voyage.

A man enjoys a sunset view while relaxing in a lounge on board a Cunard cruise ship.

Ready to book?

The great news is, you can take your time. Browse our cruise holidays online and discover for yourself the unrivalled sense of freedom and possibility found on board, as well as the fascinating destinations and cultures you can explore while sailing across the globe. Once you're ready, dive right in - your dream voyage is only a few clicks away. We look forward to welcoming you on board!

New to cruising?