1. Don't miss the boat.
You can book your own flight
to the embarkation port, which is sometimes less expensive than booking through the cruise line but also more risky. The cruise line will ensure you get to your ship, but the boat might leave without you if your flight is late. Consider flying in a day early rather than arriving on departure day.2. Tour the ship.
Take advantage of a free tour on arrival day—especially if it's a large vessel (more than 2,500 passengers). This will save time when you need to find services, such as the medical centre or the ship's boutique.3. Avoid double-tipping.
Check to see if the ship's gratuity is built into your tab.4. Check in online.
This makes embarkation day less stressful and saves time.5. Pack a carry-on for Day 1.
It's unlikely your luggage will be brought to your
room right away, so pack a carry-on
with a swimsuit, sandals and anything you might need on your first day.
6. Be patient about room access.
Cruise staff is efficient, but if 2,500 people just left the ship a few hours ago, those rooms need to be cleaned. You may not get into your stateroom until 2 p.m.7. Remember visas and passports.
Double-check requirements for all ports of call and shore excursions.
8. Pack a power strip.
It will be easier to recharge your electronics. (Staterooms are notorious for having limited electrical outlets.)9. Plan excursions wisely.
Book excursions in advance to avoid standing in line the day of. Or, simply explore on your own
. Just be back on time—the ship won't wait!10. BYOB.
The tab for wine and other alcoholic drinks adds up fast. Check your ship's policy for bringing alcohol on board.
11. Have the place to yourself.
Most ships empty out during ports of call. Stay on board to enjoy the boat, quiet and line-up-free.12. Get ready to roam.
Buy an international roaming package for your cellphone—the ship's telephone fees will be expensive.
Looking to go on a cruise vacation? Check out these five stunning cruises from around the world
.This story was originally part of "Fantastic Voyage" in the April 2016 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!