New to Cruise: The Basics

This is a guide to the absolute basics of cruise holidays. If you’re intrigued as to what a cruise holiday entails, here you can find out the essential information – with more detail available on other pages in this section.

A cruise takes place on a modern ship, with an itinerary that can last anything from one night up to 180 nights. Most cruises tend to have a duration of between one and two weeks, but you’ll always find something to suit what you’re looking for.

Setting sail

New to Cruise: The Basics - Setting Sail

Departure Ports

Your cruise will normally begin in a major city, making it easy for you to get to the port. You may begin your cruise holiday in the UK – from somewhere like Southampton, Dover or perhaps a smaller port around the country – or abroad, depending on where you’re going. Some of the most popular embarkation ports include Barcelona, Rome, Venice, New York, Miami and Sydney.


When you’re on a cruise, you’ll have your own accommodation (known as either a cabin or a stateroom, depending on the cruise line, or a suite if you opt for something more luxurious). These aren’t like older cruise ships, with bunk beds and cramped space. Instead, staterooms have much more modern décor, ample storage space and sometimes their own private balcony – which is an amazing place from which to watch the world sail by.


And when it comes to food, modern cruises are a long way removed from a simple restaurant and buffet. With most ships you can now expect multiple dining venues – sometimes even 20 or more – ranging in style from formal to casual. Some venues, known as speciality restaurants, require a small extra charge, but for the most part, your food is included in your cruise fare.

Life on-board

Royal Caribbean's FlowRider surf simulator

Royal Caribbean’s FlowRider surf simulator


Much of the time you spend on-board will be enjoying the facilities. These vary from ship to ship, depending on the size and the typical customer base, but most ships have at least one pool, a casino, a selection of bars and a theatre, with high-quality shows from various entertainers that are often Broadway or West End standard.

On top of that, some ships include cinemas, libraries, fully-equipped fitness centres, miniature golf courses and more, with some of the more unique offerings including rock climbing walls, skydiving simulators, dodgems, full waterparks with multiple waterslides, surf simulators…the list goes on!

Fellow passengers

It’s been a long time since cruise ships were targeted purely at the richer, older generation. Cruise ships today suit a variety of audiences – with some still preferring a more refined clientele but many others welcoming guests of all ages or indeed branding themselves purely as a fun family escape. Kids clubs are a godsend, with fantastic activities available to keep younger guests busy whilst adults can enjoy some quiet time to themselves.

Cruise destinations

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Ports of call

Of course what sets a cruise ship apart from a typical resort is the fact that your hotel, and all the associated facilities, move from port to port. And it’s in seeing new destinations every day, experiencing a new sunrise or a new sunset, and exploring fascinating cities or relaxing in beautiful destinations that the real value of cruise becomes apparent.

Popular regions

The Mediterranean and the Caribbean remain the two most popular regions for cruise holidays. In the Med you can see all kinds of popular cities and towns, from the sun-kissed Cote d’Azur to the world-famous canals of Venice and the incredible heritage of the Roman Empire throughout Italy.

With the Caribbean, you’ll not only have ample time to soak up the rays on some of the world’s best beaches, but you’ll also see fascinating wildlife and stunning natural scenery inland, with vibrant cultures to enjoy as well.

Beyond these two regions there is so much more to explore though. From the fjords of Norway to the sprawling cities of South America; from the breathtaking beauty of Alaska to the towering skyscrapers of Asia; cruises can take you anywhere in the world that you desire.

Learn more about cruising

There are so many ways you could fall in love with a cruise. From the big (truly the best sunsets in the world, across the ship with no interruptions between you and the horizon) to the small (you won’t be pestered by midges, flies or wasps while at sea!), there are so many hidden treasures that will ensure you become a cruiser for life.

If you still need convincing or you want to know more, take a look through our detailed guides on these pages. If you’re already sold, then just give our Cruise Concierge team and call on 0207 980 2847, and we’ll help you find the perfect itinerary and cruise ship to suit what you’re looking for.

Emma Smith
Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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