Decide what type of stateroom you need. Spacious suites with balconies are very appealing, but what type of accommodation do you really need? An interior stateroom is economical and will have comfortable beds and furnishings, plus a well-appointed bathroom. Some interior staterooms even have virtual windows (screens that show a camera-eye view of what’s going on outside). Chances are you’ll spend most of your time elsewhere on ship or shore, so an interior stateroom may meet your needs very well and leave you more of your vacation budget for adventures onshore and extras onboard. However, if you want to start out with a balcony-equipped suite, by all means, treat yourself!
Think about what you want to do onboard. There’s often so much happening on a ship that your time onboard can benefit from a little planning. Which performances and shows do you want to see? Specialty restaurants may require advance reservations – which do you want to try? Spa treatments require reservations, too. You may want to create a simple schedule of “must-do’s” while on board and ask your professional travel advisor for tips on making reservations.
Think about what you want to do onshore. Enjoying the ship is a big part of a cruise, but your time onshore is just as worthy of advance planning. Do some research into your ports of call and what you would like to see and do. All cruise ships offer organized shore excursions, which are a great, safe way to explore. (Note that you’re welcome to stay on the ship while it’s in port, but you don’t want to miss out on a great shoreside experience.)
Study the deck plans available on the cruise line’s website. No matter the size of your ship, navigating multiple decks among hundreds (if not thousands) of other passengers can be intimidating. Use deck plans to locate your stateroom, pools and activity areas, dining spots, the gym and spa, and the passenger service desk. Take note of deck numbers and fore/aft (front or back) and starboard/port (right or left side when facing fore) locations, and you’ll have a better idea of where to find things when you get on board. Many cruise lines even offer an app that you can download prior to the cruise and use onboard without incurring any data charges. These apps will typically contain the ship’s deck plans along with activity schedules and a variety of other features.
Finally, after you’ve done your cruise homework, stay open to the possibilities. The experienced cruisers you’ll meet onboard may have helpful recommendations and the crew will be ready to help you, too. Bon voyage!
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