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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Making the Most of Your First Cruise

If you’ve booked your first cruise, you’re probably not quite sure what to expect. But you’ve got a lot invested in this trip and expect a great time. Here are a handful of tips to help ensure you make the most of it:
 
Read, read and read some more. About everything—the ship, the cruising experience, the ports. The more you know, the more you’ll get out of the trip. Be sure to read the forums in cruisecritic.com and other sites (see the posting “Cruising the Web”).
 
Inside or out. Consider an inside or outside room your first trip. Avoiding a balcony room your first cruise is the best way to ensure you get the whole ship experience. We love having a balcony, but it’s so tempting to stay on it at sail-away, on a sunny sea day, coming into port—nearly all the time! Our first trip, we had an outside room and never regretted it. Check out “The Cure for Deck Plan Distress” to help you navigate deck plans and find the right room for your needs.
 
Plan, but don’t plan. You may want to do some planning; for example, if you’re taking the Oasis or Allure of the Seas, you’ll need to schedule your shows before your trip. But you don’t want to plan every minute of your cruise; you may miss out on great spur-of-the-moment experiences.
 
Ice show on the Oasis: worth making plans for
Don’t feel compelled to excursion. For our first visit to San Juan, we booked an excursion. Mistake! The bus trip and Bacardi tour took forever and by the time we got back to town, everything was closing. When the ship sailed away, we knew we were in San Juan, but hadn’t a clue what it looked like.
 
Open for fun. If you got pushed into going, go with an open mind. One of the great things about cruising is that you can have any type of trip you want. Relax or be active. Be social or recluse. Eat to your heart’s content or sweat it out at the gym and spa.
 
Oh-oh. If something goes wrong, know it can happen on any vacation. Try not to judge the whole experience by your one trip.
 
Join in the fun. Some of it may feel silly and may not be to your taste. But getting into the games,
Joining in on the fun at Mardi Gras, Caribbean Princess-style
dancing the disco, singing the karaoke and showing up at the shows will guarantee you a good time. And no worries—you’ll never see your fellow passengers again!

 
Tap the wealth of info around you. Share a table. Seize the moment in a bar. Go to a Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle. You can learn a lot by talking to others on the ship, who may be experienced cruisers.  They can tell you where to go in port, what not to miss and what on the ship is worth seeing or doing.
 
Digital pictures are free. Whether your memory-capturing tool of choice is a smart phone or camera, don’t be stingy with taking photos. You’ll really appreciate it when you get home. I filled a digital frame with tropical pictures and it does wonders on those days of stress and strain.
 
Don’t leave the ship without it. Book your next cruise while you’re still onboard. You may get some great deals, like a super low deposit and shipboard credit. It’s a no-lose because you can get a refund at any time. I share this because I know once you get a taste of cruising, you’ll be lusting after more!

Photos by RJ Greenburg