Okay, so you have planned the perfect cruise.  Here are a few bonus tips on what to avoid

Picking a cruise ship by price alone could be a big mistake.  It’s a fact; cruise ships may all look alike when you’re browsing websites and brochures. But they aren’t actually all alike; as with hotels, lines have their own personalities, strengths, and weaknesses, and you have to pick the best cruise line for you.

Disney Cruise Line, for example, often offers fares that are very similar to those of Celebrity Cruises (pictured). But while Disney serves boisterous families with young children best, Celebrity is the better choice for empty nest and retiree couples looking for a quietly chic experience. The prices are comparable, but the experiences are very different, so it pays to do your homework before plunking down your deposit.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.  Picking a cabin category on some lines can be tough—the newest mega-ship builds can have more than 30 categories—but once you figure out which category is best for you, it’s important to look at the individual cabin location. Consider where you will spend your time on board, and be sure to avoid staterooms that are under the pool deck or the nightclub, as well as any highly trafficked areas.

Read this one twice.  Unlike on a land vacation, your holiday actually has a firm departure time. Cruise ships don’t wait for delayed flights so—especially if you’re cruising in winter when snow can ground planes—you’ll want to fly into your embarkation port the day before your sailing. One exception: If you live in a major city and have a non-stop flight to Miami, and there are several more after yours that would get you in before the ship sails away, we might look the other way if you fly in that morning.

I found this out the hard way.  Most lines allow you to check-in for your cruise on their website in advance. It may seem like an annoying extra step when you’re trying to get ready to go on vacation, but it will save you a lot of extra time when you get to the cruise ship terminal.

Don’t over pack. Repeat, don’t over pack.  Cruise ship cabins are small—in some cases, very small. Check out the cruise ship dress codes, and pack exactly what you need. Then edit out anything you don’t really need, such as extra shoes and alternate outfits (all cruise ships have laundries and laundry service).  Don’t risk feeling like the things you brought make your cabin feel claustrophobic. Plus, if you pack light enough, you can use a carry-on bag and not risk that your stuff will miss the ship.

Carryon bags.  If you are going to let the ship take your bags at the dock and deliver them to your cabin later (and most cruisers do), you’ll want to make sure anything you need for the afternoon is in the bag you carry up the gangway yourself.

Some ships allow passengers to board as early as 11 a.m., but some give themselves until as late as 6 p.m. to deliver your suitcases. If you plan to spend the first day at the pool or the gym, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need with you—or risk being way overdressed on the Lido deck.

Most important, have fun.  Cruises are full of silly traditions: Costume night, a parade of baked Alaska on formal night, goofy pool-side contests or activities on sea days, a song the staff sings in the main dining room on the last night. To some cruisers, these playful moments are their favorite part of the trip. So consider yourself warned: Make fun of them aloud at your own peril.

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