The Maiden Voyage: Seven Reasons To Take An Inaugural Cruise

An inaugural cruise: The phrase conjures visions of champagne christenings, celebrity godmothers and brand-new ship facilities and amenities. Is it all its cracked up to be?

Here are some issues to consider when deciding if to book an inaugural cruise on the newest and greatest ship:

The concept of a maiden voyage can be confusing, as the cruise ship will have an inaugural season, during which there will be several maiden voyages of different itineraries (Mediterranean Inaugural! Caribbean Inaugural! Alaska Inaugural!) Therefore, it can be hard to know when the real inaugural cruise actually occurs. Perhaps the best description of a true maiden voyage is the first revenue-producing voyage of a new ship that is, the first cruise for which tickets are sold to the general public.

Consumers should know that they are likely not the first passengers to experience the ship. The cruise companies usually host to one or more trips for the travel media and select members of the travel industry prior to its launch. This allows to the line to generate advance publicity for the ship and to do a final check on all processes.

As for the champagne and celebrities, some of these cruises do include a lot of fanfare, while on others its quite minimal. These days, most ships go through a naming ceremony in a specific port and that is where much of the hoopla occurs. For example, the recent naming of the Seabourn Sojourn by former British supermodel Twiggy occurred on the River Thames in London and only bigwigs and press were in attendance.

Regardless of the pomp and circumstance, AllThingsCruise offers seven (7) fabulous reasons that an inaugural cruise is a great bet:

* The cruise lines realistically expect there may be some problems to be worked out and will oftentimes compensate for what they expect to be minor inconveniences with lower cruise fares. Some inaugural cruises offer introductory pricing.

* Shipboard routines are still being established. Some will complain about this, saying that service and continuity are not what they will be in later voyages. AllThingsCruise suggests you adopt a half-full attitude, appreciating rather than decrying that everything is not set in stone. Because the ships staff is still finding out what passengers want and need, it is more likely to be flexible in getting it for them. Things like menus, seating arrangements, and the scheduling of on-board activities may be available in ways not possible on later cruises.

* Each port is a new stop for a ship on an inaugural cruise so often its arrival becomes a local event. Consider the recent U.S. arrival of Royal Caribbeans mega-ship, the Oasis of the Seas hundreds of people turned up to watch the ship arrive to its home port of Port Everglades, Fla. So expect the locals to turn out to see the new ship, including politicians and local celebrities, often with music and other festivities. Not every port will do this, but its sure a sight to see when they do!

* The cruise lines are wise to the fact that the more positive word-of-mouth thats generated from this first cruise, the better the bookings will be on future voyages. This may mean the cruise line woos you with extra special food, entertainment and activities. Passengers on a maiden voyage can take advantage of perks that may not exist on future sailings.

* There are often special inaugural events and keepsake items commemorating the voyage. When Cunards Queen Mary 2 launched, she offered Limited Edition QM2 maiden-voyage commemorative items like playing cards, cups and saucers, T-shirts, stamps, painted ostrich eggs (!), baseball caps and key chains. These tokens are a great way to remember your voyage. Sometimes the lines even go a bit further, giving each cabin a very special present, often worth $50 or more. Princess gave us a lovely ruby red engraved bowl when we sailed on the inaugural of the Ruby Princess, notes Cynthia Boal Janssens, editor and chief blogger for AllThingsCruise. It is a lovely reminder of a beautifiul ship.

* Who among us doesnt like the feeling of enjoying something thats absolutely brand new, and how much bigger and better is that feeling on a 150,000-ton ship? The vessel has seen no wear and tear. Every aspect of the ship is still in never-been-used, pristine condition.

* And finally, everyone likes to be the first to experience something. Its human nature. Inaugural passengers cant help but feel a bit elite and a part of the ships history. How great is it to be able to say, Oh, yes, I was on the maiden voyage?

There is unquestionably something special about being on board a cruise ship during the inaugural cruise but they do fill up early.

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