Best Length For a First Cruise | My Two Cents

In my opinion, longer cruises of seven nights and more are far better for first time cruisers. This is particularly true for cruisers with small kids.

I know, you look at your vacation days as precious. You spend time considering the price and value of a shorter cruise combined with other vacation options and start to second guess the longer cruises. The three night cruises are cheaper, after all!

Hear me out.

If you break down the cost per night, the longer itineraries are often less expensive and you get to enjoy more quality vacation time.

A note for families of children who are worried about sea sickness: if your kids *don’t* get sick (and according to my pediatrician, it’s rare for a child under five to experience seasickness), a three or four night cruise is still not that relaxing with littles compared to a longer cruise. Blame the adjustment period.

Over Four Nights is the Best Length for a First Cruise

Day/Night 1
The first afternoon/night generally turns into a rush between unpacking, safety drills and all the excitement of a new place our kids barely made it through dinner (always book main, not late with littles) and crashed before the show for their first few cruises. Night one, although magical, is kind of a wash.

Day/Night 2
Shorter Cruises
Getting acquainted with the ship. You and your family are learning your way around the ship (if it is a sea day), figuring out how the Oceaneer Club functions, and learning what works onboard for your family. Possibly a port day, at which point you’ll learn your way around this night. This is the first evening the kids have to settle into the club.
Longer Cruisers
This is probably a sea day. So once your kids settle into the club, might I suggest a nice brunch?

Palo Brunch Dessert
You say Palo. I say Mmmmm.


Day/Night 3
VACATION! (Finally!) Port day? Sea Day? Either way, you’re getting into the cruise vibe. (If you’re on a three night cruise, prepare to pack up your bags and have them ready to set out after dinner. If it’s your first cruise, pay extra attention to debarkation instructions provided in your room. Hint: leave out an outfit to wear to debark the next morning.)

Day/Night 4
Three Nighters
Breakfast and Debark before 9am. Vacation is well and truly over.

Family Reunion'
Disembarkation Zaniness

Four Nighters
Vacation but with that bittersweet almost over feeling. The afternoon is spent packing up the room to ready the suitcases to set out after dinner.
Longer Cruisers
VACATION! This is the point where we begin to forget what day of the week it is. Double down on sunscreen today because you’ve still got half your vacation ahead of you.

Day/Night 5
Four Nighters
Breakfast and Debark before 9am. Vacation is well and truly over. See above.
Longer Cruisers
VACATION! Stage shows, rotational dining menus and entertainment (from the stage shows to the activities for different age groups) remain new each evening. If this is your first cruise, you are likely to discover new parts of the ship to hang out through the end of your trip. Today it’s an overlooked aft deck perfect for looking at Castaway Cay or the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico
Old San Juan

Day/Night 6
Doing the we’re on vacation dance all day long!

Day/Night 7
Vacation but with a bit of the bittersweet “almost done” feeling. Remember to put your bags out this evening and then go enjoy your last night of vacation!

Morning 8
Breakfast and Debark before 9am. Vacation is well and truly over. See above.

So in a four night cruise with little kid’s, that’s maybe two good days of vacation. No sea days (so no brunch) and a feeling among the other passengers that everything is very urgent. Rather than offering many , reservations and meet and greets become almost competitive. While a seven night offers five good days of vacation…and more diverse ports in addition to Castaway Cay (which is super for kids.)

All for the same amount of adjustment time and packing/unpacking.

I get the dilemma of trying it out on a shorter itinerary for less of an investment, but for us it was worth the risk.

Best Length For a First Cruise
A short cruise is better than no cruise…but I recommend at least a four night, preferably seven.

Any cruise is better than no cruise!
Our first cruise was a three night cruise. We did not have time to do it all, despite my best planning and a solid effort to try everything! Our second, seven night cruise, we still did not have time to do it all. There were activities to do, things to see and restaurant menus left to try. Much like Walt Disney World, there is more to see than can ever be seen and with new spaces and features premiering all the time, revisiting old favorite ships is still very much worthwhile.