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Top Cruise Destinations for First Timers

Taking a Cruise for the First Time? Check Out These Top Destinations

Looking for a premier destination to add to your first cruise’s itinerary? Don’t worry — we have got you covered.

There are plenty of great options for the first-time cruiser. Here are five of our favorites. Read on to see why, and to find a port or two to make your first cruise an unforgettable experience.


ftc destinations alaska 2

For one thing, the Last Frontier is a state of the union, so you won’t have to worry about any passport of visa requirements beforehand. For another, Alaska’s proximity to Washington and the Pacific Northwest makes getting there a breeze. Alaska’s deep blue waters make for gorgeous voyages, and a cabin with a view will provide an excellent vantage point for the breathtaking coastline. Many cruise ships stop at the must-see and must-do attractions and experiences, so whether you want to glance at a glacier, watch for local wildlife, or hitch up your hiking boots, Alaska will have something for everyone.

The Bahamas

two dolphins swimming together on a clear white sandbed

If it’s a tropical trip you’re yearning for, an affordable jaunt to our neighboring island commonwealth might be just the thing. It’s not far from stateside, as the Bahamas are only about 55 miles from Florida’s coast (a car trip from Seattle to Olympia, for comparison, takes you about 60 miles). That makes it easy to schedule a shorter journey if you’re a cruise ship newbie. Still, the Bahamas haven’t earned their reputation as a tropical tourist haven for nothing, with beaches, resorts, water sports, and Nassau nightlife calling to would-be cruisers. Want more? Grand Bahama’s underwater cave system will appeal to swimmers and nature buffs. Port Lucaya’s marketplace calls to shoppers and souvenir seekers. And if you’re looking to make a new friend, the dolphins and sea lions of Blue Lagoon Island would love to say hello. 

Some areas of the Bahamas may be unsafe, so be sure to follow the State Department recommendations in terms of exercising caution.

The Western Caribbean

cruise destinations western caribbean

The Western Caribbean region offers convenience — many ports of embarkation on the Gulf and Florida coasts — with warm weather and a treasure trove of diverse destinations. Is it “fun in the sun” you’re after? You’ll get it in Jamaica or Grand Cayman. Like a little history with your revelry? Mayan ruins near Cozumel or Costa Maya might entice you. Ecotourism or adventure more your style? Go hiking or caving in Belize or Honduras. Perhaps the biggest draw for first-time cruisers, though, is the price tag — Caribbean cruises due west usually cost less than those heading to more easterly destinations.

Puerto Rico

cruise destinations puerto rico

Not that Eastern Caribbean trips are cost-prohibitive, mind you. Many are quite affordable, and the region offers many destinations that are tailor-made for tourists. Take Puerto Rico, for example. San Juan, the capital, is five centuries old, and boasts rainbows of Spanish colonial architecture and magnificent fortresses overlooking the ocean. If it is nature that you’re after, the island’s jungles, rivers, and foothills provide plenty of pull. Those with more time in port should check out El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. national forest system.

The Virgin Islands

cruise destinations virgin islands

This small island chain shared by the United States and Great Britain is a tourist magnet and a frequent stop for Caribbean cruises. St. Thomas, the largest American island, is known for its beaches and a haven for snorkelers. Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, gets 1.5 million cruise ship passengers a year. Its outdoor vendors plaza is world-famous, earning the city a reputation as “the duty-free capital of the world.” On the British side, Tortola — Spanish for “turtle dove” — boasts a string of spectacular beaches, as well as some of the most famous beach bars in the Caribbean. And if water sports is your thing, this might be the destination for you, with ample opportunity to try your hand at scuba diving, kiteboarding, and wind surfing.

– Written by Arnie Aurellano 

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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