Travel agent and vacation planning in Prescott by Bruce Brenner

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First Time Cruise Tips

In searching for that "just right" first cruise, you've followed all the rules -- researched cruise lines, examined possible itineraries, and exchanged posts on Cruise Critic's First Time Cruisers and Ask a Cruise Question forums. You've booked your ship, selected a stateroom and picked an itinerary.

So what's next?

You'd be surprised at how many factors -- perhaps less earth-shattering but important nevertheless -- remain to be considered. Consider this "Fun Facts" a sophomore-level primer, tackling topics such as packing, getting to the ship and onboard activities. The following information will help you find the answers to any remaining questions you might have, so that you can get off to a stress-free and fun-filled start.

Scheduling Flights

Booking flights: If you haven't booked the cruise line's air/sea package or, in the U.K., bought a fly-to fare, you'll need to book your own air transportation to the port... read more

Cruise documents

Be sure to read through the information before you leave, attach your luggage tags (either sent to you through the mail or printed out on a computer) to your bags... read more

Getting to the pier

You can purchase roundtrip transfers that get you to and from the airport and pier (these are included if you've booked an air/sea package) from most cruise lines. Note: They... read more

Cruise Packing 101

What to put in your carry-on bag: Unlike a hotel where people check in on varying days and at varying times, folks check in to a cruise ship en masse.... read more


Lines have a variety of policies regarding how much alcohol you can bring onboard with you (Carnival a few years back actually put a ban on bringing water onboard; it... read more

Cabin F.Y.I.

  The majority of staterooms include standard 110-volt AC electrical outlets and hair dryers (some also have Europe's 220 volt plugs). Check your ship's specifications to determine if you need an... read more

Making the Most of Embarkation Day

Explore the ship and get organized: Depending on when you board, you may not be able to access your cabin right away. Instead, grab lunch in the buffet restaurant, and... read more

Shore Excursions: The 411

Booking shore tours: An updated list of available shore excursions is typically available a few months before your departure. Be sure to visit your cruise line's website to see if... read more

Keeping in Touch

Phone service: Many cabins contain phones for ship-to-shore calls; however, the per-minute charges are quite costly. Most cruise lines have now made their ships cell phone friendly; while phones typically... read more

Money Matters

Cashless system: Though cruises may be billed as "all inclusive," let's just say that the term is relative. There are several things not covered in your cruise fare. A few... read more

Medical Information

Onboard doctors: Medical services typically consist of a physician and nurse to take care of temporary illnesses and accidents for a fee. In most cases, those with health insurance will... read more


Seating assignments: If you are sailing on a ship with assigned seating times, you'll receive confirmation of your assignment as early as before you sail to as late as when... read more

Religious Services and Special Occasions

Religious services: Some cruise lines have clergy onboard for significant holidays like Christmas, Easter, Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Some offer weekly services, usually led by a passenger volunteer.Special... read more

Of Special Note for Parents

Cabin service: If you have a child that takes a nap each afternoon be sure to speak with your room steward on the first day to make arrangements to have... read more


Tipping: Gratuity policies vary widely. For example, Carnival adds the suggested gratuities (roughly $11.50 per person, per day) to your onboard account on embarkation day. After that, you have the... read more
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