Whether you’re a seasoned cruise-goer or have just booked your first time, you’ll want to get the most from your cruise experience. Cruises don’t come cheap so getting more bang for your buck and knowing a few handy hints can help you achieve the ultimate enjoyment from this unique experience, whether it’s a retirement gift to yourself, a honeymoon or a family vacation with the kids.  Here are ways to get the most out of your vacation

#1 Spa Treats

If you’d love to visit the on-board spa and have to pay extra for this then a good tip is to wait for the last day of the cruise to book a treatment. Often cruise liners will offer discounts as you approach the last few days of a trip. It’s a great way for them to boost some last-minute trade and you to grab a bargain on spoiling yourself just before you head home.

#2 Read Up

It’s one thing knowing the itinerary of your cruise but do you know anything about the ports you’ll be visiting? Stepping off the boat into unknown territory could leave you floundering and wasting precious time. Do lots of research and find out the best places to see, where to visit and a little of the culture and heritage of each port you’ll be calling at. There are so many activities at each port but if you don’t know about them, you could be losing out.

#3 Excursions

Taking part in exciting excursions can be cost prohibitive in every port so give yourself plenty of time to find out what’s available in each port and pick the excursions that you fancy the most. Shore excursions can include things like snorkelling and scuba diving so if you have your heart set on trying one of these activities then pick the best destination for this activity so you don’t miss out but get to experience the best surroundings for your chosen excursion.

#4 Get Your Shots

Check with your cruise ship in plenty of time if you are up-to-date with any shots you might need for various destinations on the cruise. Get the immunizations organised in good time and don’t forget to take your immunization record with you as you board the ship.

#5 Budget

Unless you’ve won the lottery, you’re going to want to set a budget and stick to it otherwise you’ll spend the whole vacation worrying about the cost of everything. Cruises are expensive and especially if you want to get involved in various different activities. Create a budget beforehand and stick to it so you don’t run up horrendous credit card charges.

#6 Remain Onboard

If there is one port that you’ve maybe visited before or don’t mind missing then think about staying on the ship while everyone else departs. This way you get the boat all to yourself and it will feel like the whole place belongs to you. This could be the perfect time to relax, use the pool facilities or try another activity that is usually very busy.

#7 Prepare for Life at Sea

A large cruise should not cause you too many sea sickness issues but if you’re cruising in winter then expect more rocky conditions. If you’re a cruise newbie then it might pay to be prepared by packing items like ginger, sea sickness medication and acupressure bands. An eye mask and some ear plugs can also help when trying to sleep and stop you from feeling any movement from the ship.

#8 The Beauty of Ziploc

These handy bags can be used for pretty much every eventuality but are especially useful for taking food back to your cabin, transporting wet swimsuits and any other uses you can find for them. Don’t forget to pack a few. It’s also a good idea to pack your swimsuits in your carry-on luggage so you don’t have to wait for your bags and can head straight to the pool before others do.

#9 Booking in Advance

Many things on board do require pre-booking so decide what you want to do as early as possible and get it booked up. Certain spots on deck and luxury sun loungers might need pre-bookings so if these things are important to you, find out early on what you should get organized before embarkation day. The same applies to wining and dining and some specialty dining that gets booked up quickly can be pre-ordered online ahead of the voyage.

#10 Stick with Cruise Excursions

If you’re a seasoned traveler and know the ports like the back of your hand then you might not need this piece of advice but for those unfamiliar, it’s far better to stick with a shore excursion organised through your cruise line.  This ensures that if there is any delay, the cruise ship will wait for you but if you’re on your own or a privately-run tour and run late, then the ship will leave without you.

#11 Make New Friends

A cruise is the perfect opportunity to forge new friendships and many people have met whilst onboard a cruise ship that have gone on to form lifelong relationships. If you love meeting new people then you can socialise to your heart’s content and will often find yourself seated next to other passengers at mealtimes. If you want to see the same faces every day then think about a cruise on a smaller ship as you’ll find greater anonymity on a large boat.

#12 Arrive the Day Before Embarkation

Don’t run the risk of literally missing the boat due to delays to flights, bad weather or heavy traffic. Vacations are supposed to be about fun and relaxation, not tearing your hair out over missed connections. Add a day to your break and avoid the stress by arriving at your port city the day before departure. There are some great hotel deals to be found which include parking and a shuttle to your ship.