Have you cruised? Those that have generally love it. Those that don’t think it’s for them usually have misconceptions about the experience. I find cruising a wonderful way to explore port areas with very little hassle all while using your ship as a floating hotel.

Cost of your cruise will include your stateroom, meals and a high crew to guest ratio ensuring a pampered experience. What is not included is alcohol, extra cost dining experiences, gratuities, port experiences and, depending on the cruise line, other items. For example, Disney offers free soda in the dining room and on deck, while there is an extra charge from bars, etc. Disney allows you to carry on any liquor you might wish to bring (to be consumed in your stateroom), while Royal Caribbean allows only 2 bottles of wine per stateroom carried aboard. It is important to learn before you go what your particular cruise line allows before boarding, so as not to feel negatively nickel and dimed during your trip. It’s also important to get your passport in plenty of time to avoid panic leading up to your cruise.

Ship size can be an important part of your trip planning. Mega ships may be a city holding 5,000 passengers, mid-size ships come in at under about 3,000 souls and smaller ships very widely in passenger count. Larger ships can offer a huge variety of activities that smaller ships may not be able to match, but there is something to be said for a smaller ship with a more intimate feel. I prefer mid-size ships as they offer plenty of amenities without the hordes all trying to do the same thing at the same time. Depending on where you want to go will also play a factor in ship size. For instance, a Panama Canal cruise can only be accomplished on smaller ships that are able to navigate the locks. New locks are being built but seem behind schedule and not ready to open anytime soon.

Dining on your ship is usually handled on your own for breakfast and lunch, with dinner being at an assigned time and place. There are options to enjoy dinner on your own as well, either at a buffet, room service (most cruise lines have 24 hour room service and no extra charge save tips), or specialty restaurants that come with an extra charge. Disney has a unique rotational dining system that places you in a rotation of restaurants nightly, each with their own theme. Your serving team remains the same throughout the cruise so a relationship is established and you may find your beverages of choice already waiting for you as you are seated. Dress is generally cruise casual but lines will have some specific standards they expect, such as no shorts or swimsuits in the dining rooms. These standards don’t apply at walk up quick service locations or the buffet. You will also have nights where you are expected to dress up. Outfits run the gamut but you can feel like you fit in dressing as you would for a nice evening out on land.

How do you choose your stateroom? It might be easy to just say “as cheap as possible”, but don’t be too hasty to choose that tiny inside stateroom. That choice may be just fine for you, but consider what you want to get out of your cruise. I am sold on balcony staterooms, and find the higher price well worth it.. The fresh air and ability to see the world is important to me, and not much beats ordering a coffee delivery the night before and having morning coffee on a balcony while watching the sunrise.

Are you afraid of getting sea sick? It is a good idea to take something along ‘just in case’ and even be proactive by treating what might happen before it actually does. Some treatments are as simple as ginger pills or candy, meclizine (generic Bonine), or Sea Bands. Getting a prescription for the ‘patch’ is a big guns approach. If you chose the patch, try it out before you leave as it does have some side effects that you will want to understand before your Bon Voyage.

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Cruising can be as busy or as relaxing as you wish and are easily configured to multi-generational trips. Cruise lines have clubs for kids as well as nurseries so kids and parents can get a break from each other.. Bars, Spas, exercise rooms and casinos are plentiful as well, so all age groups can find plenty to do, or not, even on non-excursion days.

Need more information? I can help you pick the right cruise for you and your family and friends! Contact me at nancy.julian@mousetalestravel.com. All of my services are free to you, and I’m happy to spend my time researching so you don’t have to.

Next time we’ll look at a specific cruise as a day-by-day experience. I hope you’ll join me!

All images in this article copyright 2014 by Nancy Julian.

Nancy Julian is a travel writing, trip planning expert. She has had a life-long love affair with travel, starting with childhood road trips and extending through service in the Air Force, a degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, professional work in that field, and finally to the creation of her own company, Magic Feather Memories. You can read more at Nancy's blog, http://magicfeathermemories.blogspot.com, and also drop by Mouse Tales travel at http://.mousetalestravel.com/.