The best destinations for first-time cruisers in 2020
Cruising remains one of the best value-for-money holiday options for South African travellers.
Given that cruise fares include accommodation, meals, transport between destinations and onboard entertainment, it’s no wonder why the cruise industry is the fastest-growing category in the leisure travel market.
If you’re considering your first voyage, here are five options:
First-time budget cruises
If you are on a budget, MSC Cruises offers value for money experiences. Its cruise season on board the MSC Orchestra started from mid-November 2019 and will end in mid-April 2020.
Many repeat and experienced cruisers still opt for these local and regional cruises because they are generally short in length (from a long weekend of just three nights to 11-night itineraries). No international flights are required, and these sailings are as fun and relaxing as you want them to be. You can visit some bucket-list ports on your cruise, too – think Mauritius, Reunion Island, Mozambique and Cape Town.
First-time family cruises
MSC Cruises local itineraries also make an excellent option for first-time family holidays.
If you’re looking to travel a little further afield, the Caribbean appeals to all ages and interests, including teeny tots and their grandparents.
The weather is fantastic, with average daily temperatures of 27°C to 32°C, and there is a vast choice of cruise lines and vessels. The ports are very popular, so you won’t have a shortage of facilities or shopping options.
Kids, tweens and teens can find their happy place on board Disney Magic that cruises the Western Caribbean. Under 18s will be entertained 24/7 watching Broadway-quality musicals onboard, snapping selfies with their favourite Disney characters or enjoy the themed deck parties and fireworks at sea.
On land, feast on mouthwatering Cuban cuisine in Miami and visit Sting Ray City in George Town.
The highlight of the Caribbean cruise will likely be Castaway Cay, a private island in the Bahamas exclusively for Disney Cruise Line passengers. As with all things Disney, expect something more magical than just a beach with a few deck chairs. There's a tram to take you between the different areas, a giant water slide resembling a castle, on-beach kids and teens clubs, restaurants, bars, bikes for rental and even an adults-only beach.
First-time luxury cruises
If your travel style is more refined than rowdy, more culinary fine-dining than pizza buffets, try a river cruise.
River vessels are much smaller than most ocean liners, usually only accommodating between 100 and 200 passengers. In the world of river cruising, the staff-to-passenger ratio is high. River cruise vessels can also access destinations that ocean liners cannot, immersing travellers in the very heart of the city.
Think of the river cruise vessel as a floating hotel. Five-star cuisine, butlers and exotic far-flung destinations are the ‘norm’ in river cruising. Cruise the ancient waterways of Europe, journeying through wine country in Burgundy, marvelling at the castles along the Rhine or getting caught up in the festive spirit exploring Europe’s Christmas markets. More exotic destinations include river cruising in Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, India and Egypt.
If you prefer the salty sea air, there are top-notch luxury ocean liners specifically tailored to the discerning traveller positioned all over the world too.
First-time adventure cruises
For those who love adrenalin, an adventure cruise is just your ticket.
Alaska is perhaps the world's last frontier of wilderness and is ripe for the picking. Never before has it been easier to access Alaska. Cruises range in length from seven to nine nights. Alaskan cruises usually depart from Vancouver, Canada, or Seattle in the US.
If Alaska seems a bit too wild for you, ease into adventure cruising the Norwegian fjords. A popular cruise with adventure lovers and discerning cruisers alike, the west coast of Norway with its mythical glacial valleys, Northern Lights and legends, is an accessible gateway to adventure that will leave you breathless.
First-time culture cruises
For culture-loving cruise travellers, visit the Mediterranean. The diverse range of destinations, cruise lines, itineraries and lengths of cruises make it appealing for South Africans. Cruises are roughly divided into Western Mediterranean cruises, typically visiting Spain, France, Morocco, Tunisia and Portugal, while eastern Mediterranean cruises usually include Croatia, Greece and Turkey.
Sara Park, the Marketing Campaign Manager at Cruisabout, said: "From the charming Western Med port of Lisbon with its seven hills to the Eastern Med’s Dubrovnik made famous for its role in the epic TV drama Game of Thrones, the Med will knock your cultured (cruising) socks off."