You are about to embark on your onshore excursion. There are a few things to remember in addition to your sunscreen and sunglasses. Most of your preparation should have already taken place, but there are a few notes to consider, or items NOT to do to make the most of your fun day on shore. Here is our list of Things NOT To Do On Your Onshore Excursions to make your day the most enjoyable.

Don’t Dress Inappropriately

Do your research ahead of time to find out how to dress for the experience. Are you walking a lot, wear your sneakers. Limit your jewelry if you are going to be active to prevent damage or loss of precious keepsakes. Going to be wet, make sure that you pack a towel or change of clothes if needed to make the travel back more comfortable.

Don’t Forget The Necessities

Your day will be a full six to eight hours away from your stateroom, so make sure you bring the necessities. Sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks, and insect repellent fit nicely into a backpack or shoulder bag. Depending on your activity, a small first aid kit might be a good idea as well.

Don’t Bring Your Passport

Unless required by your tour company, leave your passport in your stateroom safe. Be sure to bring a picture ID of some sort, but don’t risk losing your passport while on a zip line high above the tropics. One exception is if you want your passport stamped at your port of call. If you do choose to bring your passport, be sure it is kept safe and dry.

Don’t Bring Loads of Cash

We are not saying to not bring any cash at all, but don’t bring an excessive amount of cash. Having a minimal amount of cash and a credit card has proven to be the best option. Most vendors have the ability to run credit cards so if you find that “got to have” item that is more than the cash you have on hand, you can still bring back a piece of paradise home.

Don’t Go Onshore “Blind”

If you are booking your excursion through a private company, be sure to do your research before you go. Make sure you know what time you have to be back on board and communicate that with the tour operator. This is a great time to research the city, the culture, your surroundings, common language, and local food. If the locals do not speak your language, it is a good time to learn a few phrases to help you get around.

Don’t Shrug Off Safety Warnings

Each excursion guide is require to provide a safety briefing before your fun begins. Many excursions could result in injury if the rules are not followed; diving, ATV and horseback riding for example. By not paying attention to the safety warnings and rules could result in injury of yourself or others. So listen closely.

Don’t Be Late

Be considerate to others and be on time. If you lag behind on the excursion, that will make others late as well. Being late on a private excursion could hold up the entire ship from its departure. Be courteous to others if you are given a set time to be back at a meeting point. Remember that you would not want to wait for others, and they don’t want to wait for you either.

Don’t Over-Extend Yourself

Many excursions you will do things that are likely outside of your normal range of daily activities. It will be easy to over-exert yourself. Pushing yourself too hard can result in injury and ruin the rest of your cruise vacation.

Don’t Lose Track of Time

Nothing will ruin your vacation as much as being left at a port because you lost track of time and missed embarkation from your port of call. Keep a close eye on your watch, your alcohol intake, and the time it takes you to get back to the cruise ship. You don’t want to miss your ship, or you don’t want to be the last one onboard. If your port of call requires tender service, you will want to give yourself extra time to allow proper return to the ship.

Hurricane season starts June 1st and runs through November 30th. Although hurricanes are not likely to interrupt your cruise vacation plans, it is best to know what to do if tropical weather threatens your much needed vacation.

Here are frequently asked questions about cruise vacationing and being hurricane prepared.

Is there a way to avoid hurricanes when cruising in the Caribbean?

Sailing outside of hurricane season will greatly reduce the chance of your cruise vacation being effected by a tropical storm. If you are cruising within the six month Hurricane Season, here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Mid-August to Mid-September are prime time for tropical activity in the Easter U.S. Coast and Easter Caribbean
  • Mid-August to Early November storms are more likely in the Western Caribbean

What if a storm develops while at sea? Will our ship sail into a storm?

Compared to islands and coastal areas, a cruise ship is mobile. If you find yourself on board ship as a storm develops, rest assured that the cruise line is using the sophisticated weather technology on board to steer you around the storm and out of harms way. This may mean missing a port of call or changing the destination of ports of call.

In addition to being able to steer,  your cruise ship is pretty fast. Most modern cruise sips can hit speeds of 20+ knots. Most storms move between 5 to 10 knots. That does not mean that there may be rough seas if you are caught running from a hurricane while at sea. This is why seasickness/motion sickness medication are a vital part of any cruise vacation prep list.

The cruise line may also cut your vacation short or extend your cruise depending on the position and severity of an approaching hurricane. Most cruise lines will provide compensation for shortened cruises and will provide meals at no additional charge if your cruise extended. Please note that all circumstances are different and cruise lines operated independently due to each situation.

During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the storm shut the port of Galveston down and cruise ships were unable to return to port. The typical one week cruise was extended to just under two weeks when the port reopened. Passengers were given the choice to disembark in New Orleans and find ground transportation on their own.

Are seas higher during hurricane season, even if there is not a storm in sight?

Typically seas are affected by wind or storm elements. The later in the summer the more calm the water is generally how the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico behaves. When a storm, any storm not just hurricanes move over water, the sea can be rough. The closer you are to the center of the storm activity, the more rough the seas will be.

Do cruise lines have to issue refunds when my cruise is affected by a hurricane or bad weather?

The general answer is no. Some travel company’s or cruise lines offer vacation insurance and only apply if purchased for an additional charge. However, many cruise lines will offer some kind of compensation when inclement weather affects a cruise vacation itinerary. This may be a variety of different methods: discounts on future sailings, onboard credit for current or future cruises, refunds, or special offers. Again, this is always determined on a case by case basis by the cruise line.

If there is a hurricane, can I cancel my cruise?

Cancelling is generally not an option without a penalty. The option to reschedule is often an option. Most cruise lines will do whatever possible to still accommodate the sailing date of the cruise.

On a recent 5 day cruise out of Galveston, fog delayed the cruise line from reentering the port of Galveston. The delay was 36 hours. Cruisers were given the option to still go on the cruise with a shortened length and receive an onboard credit or reschedule.

Does travel insurance cover hurricanes for cruise vacations?

Please note that each policy is different, and it is best to read the fine print. But any travel insurance plan that is worth anything will cover trip delays, cancellation or interruption due to hurricane and stormy weather. Look at the details of your insurance plan to see how airfare is covered. If traveling to Galveston via plane, you will want to make sure that you are covered if your plane is delayed and you miss disembarkation of your cruise.

Cruise travel insurance must be purchased in advance in most cases. If the storm develops and you are 2 days away from your sailing date, chances are you cannot purchase travel insurance.

If I booked an excursion privately and the cruise is affected by a storm, can I get a refund?

Again, this will depend. Each vendor will have different cancellation policies due to weather. It is best to read up on their policy prior to booking to see what would happen due to weather delays. Larger tour providers will most likely refund your excursion, but it is always best to confirm their policy before booking.

What if there is a delay in leaving our port due to a hurricane?

The port that you are leaving from can close due to weather conditions. Most likely there is a cruise ship of passengers waiting to disembark on that cruise ship. So tensions on both side of the situation can be elevated. If the port is closed, it is by good reason. The port will be reopened when it is deemed safe for travel. A closure of this type can create havoc. It is best to communicate with the cruise line for information and not rely on other passengers or port officials.

If my return from my cruise, how can I make travel arrangements/change flights/extend car rentals?

Be sure to have all travel companies involved toll free number with you during your cruise vacation. In the event of a delay getting back to your disembarkation point of origin, most cruise lines will make internet and phone services open or at a reduce rate in order for you to make travel arrangements.

If my car is damaged by a hurricane in port, who is responsible?

If you car has storm damage while you are at sea, it is not up to the cruise line or parking facility to make repairs. Most parking lots policies are provided at the time of reservation or when you check-in.

Are there special discounts for hurricane season?

The summer is a high demand time for cruise vacationers. Most cruise lines do not offer specific discounts for cruising during hurricane season. Later in the year there seems to be a drop in price but that reflects the drop in demand as school begins.

What is the best way to communicate with your Dolphin Parking regarding news about weather, weather delays, and the conditions of Galveston?

Information regarding weather conditions are posted to the Dolphin Parking Facebook Page. During Hurricane Harvey, Ike, and other tropical storms, we did our best to post as much information as possible as quickly as possible about weather conditions in Galveston. We posted pictures and videos of the parking lot to show the conditions of vehicles. This is your best communication method about cruise ship delays.

Packing for a cruise is always stressful. You have all the necessities covered: swimsuits, shorts, dinner attire and your toothbrush. It is that one item that you remember…just as your embarkation port is out of distance. Not to worry! We have the 10 items that you need to pack to enjoy all the comforts of home your cruise vacation.

A Bungee Tie Strap

This is a crucial item for those with a balcony. Your door to your balcony has self closing hinge, a safety feature onboard the ship. Packing a tie strap will can allow you to keep the door open to enjoy the ocean breeze. In addition, it is a great way to bundle luggage together.

 

A Surge Protector

There are never enough outlets in  your stateroom. With all of the electronics chargers, hair dryers, and accessories, you need more outlet space. A surge protector is a great item to pack that does not take much space and can be a lifesaving time saver.

Antibacterial Towelettes

Cleanliness is crucial to stay healthy on a cruise ship. Although cruise ships are clean, you come in contact with surfaces that thousands of others come in contact with on a daily basis. Packing individual packs of antibacterial wipes can be the difference in getting sick on your trip and staying healthy.

First Aid Kit

Sunburn, cut from coral, seasickness, upset stomach are common ailments while on board a cruise ship. Packing a small first aid kit with aloe vera gel, a small back of bandages, anti-diarrheal and motion sickness medication can be a lifesaver. Pharmacies on board your ship can be expensive, so we recommend that you pack a small first aid kit just in case it is needed.

Clothes Hangers

Each stateroom comes equipped with clothes hangers, but they are limited in number. Packing a few extra can create additional closet space, act as bathing suit clothes dryers, and keep clothes wrinkle free. So plan on packing a few extra clothes hangers on your next cruise vacation.

Over The Door Organizer

Most cruise ship staterooms are quite cozy. And when I say “cozy” I mean small. Over the door shoe organizers are a great way to store shoes, bathing suits, toiletries, and items that you want to keep off the limited counter space.

Ear Plugs

You never know who you will be neighboring next to on your cruise vacation. Snoring, loud kids, loud parties, music are just a few of the noises that make keep you awake at night. Packing a set of ear plugs can provide that much needed rest.

Starch or Wrinkle Remover Spray

Limited space makes ironing difficult, however dressing to impress for formal night is a must. Packing a clothing wrinkle remover can save you from having to iron all together. If you have to break out the iron, make sure you pack a travel size starch to get the wrinkles out.

Wine & Champagne

Most people do not know that they can bring wine or champagne on board free of charge. Some allow a bottle per person, others allow one per stateroom, while others allow unlimited with a cork fee. We strongly encourage you to check with your cruise line to know their policy and corkage fees. *Please Note: Check the wine list of restaurants on board for their price per bottle and compare that to the corkage fee. You may find that it is not worth the hassle. You may end up paying more buying your own bottle and paying the cork fee versus the cost of a bottle at a restaurant on board.

Bottled Water & Soda

You will need to check with your cruise line for their policies. Some cruise lines allow you to bring your own bottled water and soda, some water only, and some none at all. This can be a big money saver while on board and on your excursions.

With exception to a family road trip, a cruise vacation maybe the greatest American vacation you can take with your family. You prepay to have fun in the sun eat as much gourmet food as you want, and see exotic places….what could be better than that. What more could you ask for? Although it can be tough to mess up a cruise vacation, planning ahead can make your cruise that much more enjoyable. Here are common mistakes that you can avoid to make your next cruise vacation a fantastic experience.

Avoid Booking Your Excursions Through The Cruise Line

Your cruise line will provide some great port excursions. However, they can be very pricey and may not be convenient to your schedule. Do your research ahead of time to find things to do in your ports of call. Compare prices of local vendors to that of the cruise line. Many times local vendors provide more amenities and a more unique experience.

**Please Note: If using a vendor outside of the cruise line, be sure that they know the time that you need to be back aboard ship. Being late can leave you stranded at a port of call.

Don’t Lose Track of How Much You Are Spending on Alcohol

You can charge just about everything to your room while on a cruise ship. So when you are just “billing it to your account” and not seeing a running tally, it makes for a shocking reality when you get your checkout bill. All of those pool side beers that you didn’t realize that were $7 have added up to quite the tab.

Don’t Attempt To Overcrowd a Stateroom

Cruise ship rooms can be quite small. Close living quarters can make for uncomfortable times while sleeping and getting ready to venture out for the evening. Although you can save money by bunking up in tight quarters, having a place to rest and retreat too after a busy day enjoying the cruise life can make for a much more enjoyable time. Sharing bathrooms, and showering can be difficult when every extra space is covered with clothes, baggage, and toiletries.

Always Explore The Ports of Call

Although most cruise terminal debarkation facilities are packed full of vendors selling souvenirs, excursions and a taste local culture, there is much more to explore past the crowded market areas. Do your research before you set sail to find out what adventures interest you in your ports of call. Many times you can stumble across a gem that will make an experience of a lifetime.

Subscriber Testimonial:

On our honeymoon, one of our ports of call was Cozumel. My new wife and I had been there several times before and wanted to find something that we both had not done before that also provided some time that we could enjoy just being together. I researched online and found that Chankanaab National Park was about a 10 minute cab ride from the cruise terminal. We decided to check it out and do some snorkeling on our own, have lunch at the park restaurant, and enjoy a relaxing day away from the crowds of the cruise ship. WOW! What a pleasant experience! The cab ride cost about $8, and the park entrance fee was $16 per adult. They had a marine life show and cabanas right on the beach that we enjoyed for free. We had a great lunch that was very reasonable. We enjoyed about 6 hours of snorkeling and the only other divers we saw were some locals that guided us to some spectacular coral formations and buried statues. Total cost for the day was around $80 including lunch, but the memories made were priceless!

Pay Attention to Your Booking Dates

If you are looking for a relaxing, kid free cruise vacation…don’t book during summer vacation, or around the holidays. Spring break dates are going to be packed full of college kids ready to blow off steam from their academic pressures. So be mindful of your goal, the group you are traveling with, and plan accordingly.

Don’t Fly In To Your Departure City The Same Day Your Cruise Embarks

Airlines can run late, delays happen, luggage can be delayed, and weather is unpredictable. Airline personnel are not overly concerned that your flight was delayed 2 hours, that you are an hour away from the cruise terminal, and you have 45 minutes to get there. We always recommend leaving yourself a day’s cushion so you don’t risk missing your cruise departure. In addition, you may get to enjoy an additional port of call that you may not have a chance to visit again.

Plan Ahead For Cellular Service While On Your Cruise Vacation

Be sure to check roaming charges and coverage areas prior to leaving home. You will encounter roaming areas quickly as you leave the shore depending on your cellular service provider. Many companies charge steep roaming fees if you use your phone outside of the coverage area. International cellular service can be pricey, so check your provider and see if you want coverage while on vacation. Don’t let your latest selfie with a dolphin end up costing your $30 because you did not check your coverage limits.

Wi-Fi is Not Always Readily Available

Most cruise ships charge by the hour for in-room internet service. Sometimes it can be as high as $25 per hour or more. In addition, the service is subpar to that you will receive at home or at an internet cafe. We strongly recommend checking with the cruise line what their wifi situation will be on board when booking. It may be a welcomed “vacation” to unplug and save the money.

From the moment you lock eyes with your cruise ship on embarkation day, you want nothing more than to rush through the lines, get onboard and start your vacation quickly. Unless you’ve planned ahead, though, it might not be that easy. Little hurdles like forgetting to print your boarding pass or arriving at peak boarding time without realizing it can keep you in line longer, dragging out the boarding process.

Preparing ahead of time will make getting to your cruise ship a breeze, but there also are a few ways you can combat the lines, once you get to the terminal.

Follow these five tips to speed up the cruise embarkation process, so you can enjoy that umbrella drink on the pool deck sooner (and smirk at all the unprepared cruisers still stuck in line at the terminal).

1. Check in before you arrive at the terminal.

Cruise lines offer the ability to check in online at least a few days prior to sailing, so be sure to take advantage. By getting this step out of the way before you arrive, you’ll be able to fill out forms you otherwise have to do at the terminal. You also can print your boarding pass and luggage tags, which will help speed up the process as soon as you arrive. Make sure you attach those printed luggage tags (which indicate your cabin number) to your bags.

2. Avoid arriving at peak boarding time.

It’s hard to say when the best or worst time to board is — every cruise is different — but generally speaking, roughly noon (when regular check-in begins) to 2 p.m. is when most people show up, and when you’re bound to run into crowds and long lines. We recommend getting to the terminal either early (11 a.m. to noon), before the rush, or late (after 2 p.m.), when most people are already onboard. You might still have a little wait, but it won’t be anything compared to peak boarding time. Just don’t arrive too early, as you might find yourself waiting even longer for the previous cruise’s passengers to disembark.

3. Bypass the lines with priority boarding.

Priority boarding is a perk enjoyed by many suite passengers and upper-tier cruise line loyalty members, but a number of cruise lines allow regular passengers to pay for the same privileges. With priority boarding, you’ll have access to a dedicated security and check-in lane, which saves you from waiting in the usual lines. In some cases, this also means your accommodations will be ready before others. If you can’t avoid peak boarding time, or simply can’t stand to wait in line, upgrading to priority boarding is worth the splurge.

4. Drop off your luggage with the porters.

When you arrive at the terminal, porters will be there to greet you and take your luggage — which will be delivered to your cabin — so you don’t have to lug around all that weight yourself. (Don’t forget to tip the porters a few bucks.) You’re not obliged to hand over your bags; however, doing so will make it easier for you to move through the security and check-in lines. Our advice? Pack a comfortable carry-on bag with all your essentials, since there’s no guarantee how quickly your bags will arrive to your cabin.

5. Have your official documents handy.

You’ll be asked to show your official documents — passport or other legal form of ID, boarding pass and visa (if required) — more than once during check-in, so it’s a good idea to keep them somewhere easily accessible. This way, you’re not stuck digging for them at the bottom of your bag, when you could be moving swiftly through the lines.

cruise terminal parking, galveston cruise terminal parking, cruise parking galveston, galveston cruise parkingSeasoned cruisers know that booking the ultimate cruise deal is a tricky formula of aiming for the right destination at the right time of year; booking at the exact moment when good prices and excellent availability align; jumping on promotions; scoring perks like onboard credits; remaining vigilant for price drops; and sometimes, a dash of pure luck.

Simply browsing the web might not be enough to secure the ultimate deal. Heed our advice using these five cruise booking hacks and you might be able to find secret pricing, score double the bonuses and land the upgrade of a lifetime.

1. Book onboard; then switch to an agent.

Booking a cruise while you’re on vacation might seem impulsive, but it’s actually a great way to gather extra bonuses and discounts. When you book a cruise onboard, you not only earn onboard credit to use on that future sailing and often pay a reduced deposit, but you can transfer that booking to your preferred travel agent once you disembark. A travel agent can offer you even more perks on top of what you negotiated on the ship (more onboard credit, bottles of wine), and many times you can even adjust dates and ships without a penalty, if your plans change. It’s really a win-win situation if you know you want to cruise the same line again soon.

2. Call for hidden pricing.

When online agents tell you to call for pricing, it’s not a gimmick or another way of saying a ship is sold out. Through direct connections with cruise lines and marketing partners, agents and cruise specialists receive deals called “quiet offers” that they’re not allowed to publish. What that means for the consumer is that there might be even lower rates available than the listed bargain. In order to get in on the savings, you have to call to discuss your options. Agents are also privy to sales before they go public, and know about any additional savings you might be eligible for, such as a military or AARP discount. Picking up the phone might seem a bit archaic these days, but if you want to book a cruise at the lowest rate, it’s almost essential.

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3. Refer a friend (or get referred).

Referral programs exist for gyms, hair salons and apartment complexes, so why not cruises? Some companies, offer onboard credit in exchange for a new referral to their agency. Likewise, select cruise lines offer onboard credit to you and your friends when they are referred. If you’ve never been on a cruise but have friends who have, ask them if their cruise line or agency offers a referral program and chances are, you’ll all reap the benefits.

4. Scour for price drops.

Be your own bargain advocate. Sign up for cruise line e-letters, which will inform you about the latest deals, and even check their pages on social media. If you see a bargain that’s better than the one you have, call your agent to see if it’s possible to make a switch. Depending on the terms of a new fare or promotion, you might be able to score extra perks, get a price reduction, upgrade your cabin or receive the fare difference in onboard credit. While some travel agents might notify you of price drops, you’re the person most invested in your vacation, so it makes sense to monitor the price changes yourself.

5. Pay more for a lower total price.

Sure it sounds counterintuitive, but if you don’t mind shelling out a little extra on the base cruise fare, the upgrades and amenities included can make a significant impact on your total vacation expenses. If you’re on a super tight budget and plan on limiting onboard spending, then it might be important to adhere to low cruise rates, down to the last cent. However, if you have the ability to pay a bit more, the returns can be much greater than the difference in fares. You’ll hear it often from travel agents: The best deal isn’t always the sailing with the cheapest price. For example, pay slightly more for an ocean-view or balcony cabin, and on some lines you can receive an included drink package, internet or prepaid tips that aren’t available to inside cabin cruisers. The perks included in upper stateroom categories could add hundreds of dollars of value to your vacation. Think about what amenities you plan to buy (be it airfare or alcohol), and compare the total cost of a cheap fare plus all the add-ons with a pricier intro fare that includes more. The results might surprise you.

Cruising is one of the safest forms of travel, and the vast majority of cruises pass without incident. But just like on a land-based vacation, it’s worth taking a few basic precautions to stay safe. When you get on board it’s easy to forget that you are sharing your vacation with thousands of other people (crew and passengers), and all it takes is one person to spoil the experience.

Most of the following tips are common sense — go easy on the booze, don’t flaunt your cash, keep valuables in your safe — but sometimes they are all too easy to forget when you’re on holiday. The key thing to remember is have fun, but be aware — just like you would on a night out at home.

1. Drink alcohol responsibly.

Alcohol is a major contributing factor of personal safety incidents on cruises, so go easy on the booze. Be aware of your limits. There’s alcohol aplenty onboard and it’s easy to get carried away, but be mindful of how much you’re consuming. Also be aware of who is buying you booze, and don’t accept drinks from strangers. However inebriated you are, don’t accept a walk back to your cabin from a stranger.

2. Buddy up.

If you’re a solo cruiser, find a friend early on. That way he/she can look out for you. You’re also far less of a target when traveling in a pair than you are solo. Don’t advertise the fact you are traveling alone, and don’t walk around solitary areas by yourself late at night. If traveling with a friend, make sure you have a buddy system in place, and make a plan to meet up at certain times.

3. Practice in-cabin safety.

Whether you’re new to cruising or a seasoned sailor, you’ll notice that not all cabin doors automatically close, so give them a pull when you leave and a push when you are inside to make sure they click shut.

If the door has a dead bolt, use it. If it doesn’t, consider a door stopper. Cabin stewards carry plenty, so ask for one, or bring your own. Staples carries a line of door stoppers with built-in alarms.

Call room service directly; don’t place the order outside the door since it usually lists the number of people per cabin. Look through your peephole before opening your cabin door to a knock. Don’t loudly speak your cabin number when near others, and don’t give that number to strangers.

4. Be safe on your balcony.

This is a tough one, as there is nothing like listening to the gentle lap of the sea against the hull while you sleep, but for safety’s sake, keep the door locked at night. Also check your balcony before you go to sleep, and don’t leave the door open when you are not in your room, especially in port. (Contractors who clean windows and do maintenance can easily gain access.)

5. Use your safe.

Your safe is not just there to take room up in your closet. Though often small, you can usually get a mid-sized laptop, a tablet (or two), cellphone and jewelry/watches inside. The vast majority of cabin stewards are honest, but it’s not worth putting temptation in their way. Or better still: Leave your valuables at home.

6. Get to know your steward.

Ask his or her name on day one. Establish a rapport. He or she will notice if someone other than you is trying to get into your room.

7. Don’t carry large amounts of cash.

Unless you’re a gambler, there is no reason to bring a lot of money on board. All on board transactions can be carried out with your room key as a credit card. When on shore excursions, take out what you need, but don’t advertise it. Keep your cash in a money belt attached to your body.

8. Don’t accept an invitation to crew quarters.

This is not a good idea, ever. It could result in instant dismissal for the crew, and you will likely be asked to leave at the next port stop.

9. Pay attention during the muster drill.

Before your vacation gets started, you must attend the muster drill. This is where you learn where your muster station is, how to don a life jacket and what the alarms mean, should they be sounded. While most passengers listen attentively, every muster has a few people talking all the way through it, people on their cellphones, people trying to get a drink from the bar (all outlets are closed during muster) and couples who hide in their cabins thinking they’ve pulled one over on the authorities. Not clever. Even if you’ve heard the drill a thousand times, pay attention; don’t see it as an inconvenience, but rather as an important part of your cruise experience.

You might expect loud noises, close quarters and attention-grabbing maneuvers in the dance club on-board your cruise ship — but not in your cabin. Even if you don’t plan to spend much time there, it should be a restful and private place so you can maintain that much-needed vacation stamina. To help you do so, we’ve compiled a list of cabins you’ll want to avoid booking if closet-like dimensions or scraping chair sounds overhead don’t sound appealing to you. Heed our advice, and you might be feeling a bit less claustrophobic and a tad more refreshed come disembarkation.

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Smaller than Small

Sure, price is a major factor when booking your cabin, but give yourself the benefit of the doubt: Would you want your “home away from home” to be smaller than your own bedroom? To give you an example of square footage, the average master bedroom in an American household runs about 200 square feet. Carnival’s standard inside cabins begin at a healthy 185 square feet, but beware of the line’s Category 1A cabins, which are oddly shaped and feature pull-out or bunk beds. In comparison, Royal Caribbean’s inside cabins on Majesty of the Seas run 114 square feet.

“Inside” doesn’t mean one size fits all, so carefully read cabin dimensions before selecting. Also, check whether a balcony is included in the total square footage of the room — the added outdoor space might be nice but not if it’s being factored into an already teeny-tiny cabin.

It’s important to note that cabins on newer ships seem to be smaller than those found on their older siblings. For example, Haven suites on Norwegian’s Breakaway and Getaway are smaller than the suites on its Gem-class ships. Even if you’ve sailed a line before, don’t assume each ship will offer similar cabin sizes.

What a Lovely View?

If a view is important to you, make sure you know what you’re getting a view of. An obstructed-view cabin category might cost less, but the quality of the vista varies from room to room. One view might be only partially obstructed, leaving most of the window occupied by sunsets over waves, while others artfully frame a length of lifeboats.

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Passengers on Caribbean Princess vow that even cabins categorized as having a fully obstructed view still provide room for photo ops and ocean gazing. It might be helpful to read the reviews of others who have stayed in the same cabin. The Cruise Critic boards offer thousands of reader reviews and feedback from cruisers across every line, making them a great place to start.

Ear Plugs Required

One common rookie-cruiser mistake is not checking the deck plans before booking a cabin. It might seem obsessive to a first-timer, but locating loud and late-night venues could be a lifesaver when picking a place to rest your weary head. Anything near a dance club, sports venue, lido deck or all-night eatery could mean throbbing bass, bouncing basketballs and the sweet sound of deck chairs scraping at 3 a.m. Even worse is the galley: bumping, rolling, shouting and stomping around the clock. Just because a venue shuts down at a certain hour doesn’t mean there won’t be commotion as it’s being cleaned.

It’s widely agreed that the best passenger deck to choose is one sandwiched between other passenger decks — you might run into noisy neighbors, but it’s unlikely they’ll have access to pots, pans or an industrial sound system. Additionally, a cruise line will be more equipped to handle a passenger noise complaint rather than a request to move your cabin on what could be a fully booked ship.

If your ship offers family suites (typically located near children’s facilities), keep in mind that families are likely nearby (read: the potential for screaming children). If you’d rather avoid the ambient sounds of a large family group, then perhaps it’s best to relocate away from that area entirely.

If you can, identify where crew service entrances are located — stories of slamming doors day and night are enough for us to check twice. And if the sound of footsteps keeps you up at night, don’t book a cabin nearby major promenades or staircases. Another potential peeve is the dinging of elevators, if you’re close enough to that area to hear them.

And don’t forget the cruise ship engine. While humming noises put some to sleep, the loud buzz of machinery might drive you batty. Passengers on the lowest deck are most likely to hear engine or even anchor sounds.

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Privacy out the Window

A view is always preferable to no view, but be wary: Cabins that open onto a promenade deck offer little privacy, even with curtains closed.

Other cabins providing questionable seclusion include the mini-suites beneath the SeaWalk on Royal Princess and Regal Princess and cabins facing the Boardwalk and Central Park areas on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. A passenger who stayed on the lowest level of the Central Park cabins reported having to keep their curtains closed for the length of the cruise because other passengers strolling through the park could see straight in.

Motion of the Ocean

Rough seas or not, motion sickness can ruin a cruise vacation. If you know you have a history of motion sickness or even if you’re not sure, err on the side of booking a more stable cabin. By “stable,” we mean mid-ship, closer to the interior and on a lower deck, where rocking motion is less likely to be felt. A balcony room might seem enticing for the fresh air, but a location on the outer edges of the ship could make it more susceptible to movement. That said, visual contact with the horizon line is said to aid in reducing nausea as you bob up and down.

Rough waters can be anticipated by itinerary and the time of year you’re sailing. Generally, in the winter months, seas are rougher especially in the Atlantic. If you don’t have a stomach of steel, consider skipping cabins that could make you queasy. A deluxe suite at the front of the ship might come with all the bells and whistles, but you won’t be able to enjoy them with your head in the toilet.

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What Kind of Guarantee?

Not saying that guarantee cabins aren’t worth the gamble for an upgrade, but if you want assurance that you won’t be in a pitching, noisy cabin, these cabins aren’t the way to go. A guarantee cabin isn’t actually a type of cabin but, rather, a method of booking a cabin. You pick a minimum cabin level you’d be comfortable in, and the cruise line assigns you a cabin close to booking dates based on availability.

The potential for an upgrade is appealing, and if you’re cruising on a budget and don’t have a particular issue with any of the cabin dilemmas listed above, then it could be worth your while to see what a guarantee might deliver. But your guarantee also could place you squarely above the anchor, next to a crew entrance or below the theater. With guarantee cabins, you lose your ability to complain about what you end up with.

Higher Category Cabins Filled First

It’s much more palatable for cruise lines to publicly sell their lower-priced cabins (insides and ocean views) at discounted rates than to advertise deep reductions on balcony-level rooms or cruise vacation planning,cruise vacation tips,cruise vacationing,cruise vactation,cruise terminal parking,galveston cruise terminal parking,parking for cruises galvestonsuites. That’s because it’s better to lose $300 by discounting an $800 inside cabin to $500, than to lose $500 by cutting the cost of a $2,200 suite to $1,700, especially considering all the perks that a suite passenger gets.  In order to fill the higher categories first, cruise lines will typically try to upsell already-booked passengers. Keep in mind, most upper categories do sell out with little extra effort from the cruise lines.

So cruisers who have already booked and paid for a balcony might get a call from a cruise line sales representative or their travel agent, offering them a suite for a couple hundred dollars more (for a total suite cost less than its advertised price). This fills up the suites, and empties the balcony cabins which will then be offered to those who booked ocean-view cabins for a small upgrade fee.

Exclusive Sales

The remaining unsold cruise cabins (mostly lower category options, but not always) will cruise vacation planning,cruise vacation tips,cruise vacationing,cruise vactation,cruise terminal parking,galveston cruise terminal parking,parking for cruises galvestontypically be offered to select groups of cruisers through several methods.

Cruise lines will offer many of the remaining cabins at exclusive sale prices to partner travel agencies with an ability to move lots of capacity (think huge Internet agencies or land-based big-box travel retailers). The lines will also try to sell empty cabins via resident discounts to cruisers from the state from which the cruise ship sails. Cruise lines might also advertise a flash sale to subscribers of its e-letter or to its social media audience.

How to Snag a Deal

Cruise lines are not going to flag specific sailings as having empty cabins, making it easy for a potential booker to find a deal. If you want to save, you’ll need to make some effort.

Subscribe to Mailing Lists

The easiest way to find out about sales is to sign up for the cruise line’s e-letter or follow the line on social media; do this for every cruise line you’re interested in. The lines will advertise flash sales through these outlets. Also, get on the mailing list of large travel agencies (Cruise.com, Vacations to Go, CruiseOne, Cruise Planners, etc). If they’re asked to fill cabins, they’ll advertise the exclusive discounts through their e-letters.

Do Mock Bookings for a Sailing You’re Interested In

If you have a specific sailing in mind, you’ll want to be doing mock bookings for that sailing starting the week after final payment is due. During the booking process you’ll be able see how many cabins in any category are left.

cruise vacation planning,cruise vacation tips,cruise vacationing,cruise vactation,cruise terminal parking,galveston cruise terminal parking,parking for cruises galvestonIf you’re already booked on that cruise and see that there are open higher-category rooms than what you’ve got booked, contact the line or your travel agent to see if there are any upgrade offers open.  It’s more difficult if you’re not already booked. If you see lots of empty cruise cabins, you can try contacting the line to see if a sales rep or a travel agency will offer you a good deal. Chances are high, however, that if no sale was advertised on the website, you won’t be offered a discount. If this is the case, keep checking in. If cabins don’t start filling up as the sail date gets closer, the chances of a sale popping up increase.

Not All Empty Cabins Will Be Filled

Be aware: If your cabin search results in only a handful of empty rooms, chances are there will be no deals offered. This is because a cruise ship can reach its double-occupancy number without filling every cabin (due to filling third, fourth and fifth berths, not to mention cribs and rollaway cots). Cruise lines breathe easier about financials when that passenger count is reached, so they’re not always bothered to offer you a discount on their very last unsold cabin.

It seems everyone who has ever cruised either has a staple piece of advice to offer others or has received said advice from someone else. There are several recommendations we hear on repeat — bring magnets to hang things, pack a highlighter for your daily schedule and don’t leave home without duct tape — but some of them do make us scratch our heads. Read on for our list of some of the most overrated cruise advice.

1. Don’t Book Independent Shore Excursions

cruise vacation planning, cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vactation, cruise terminal parking, galveston cruise terminal parking, parking for cruises galvestonIt’s true that your ship isn’t likely to wait for you if you’re late getting back from a shore excursion you’ve booked through a private provider. That risk often scares cruisers into paying inflated prices for cruise line-sponsored tours. These days, many independent excursion operators provide guarantees that promise to get you to the next port of call to rejoin your ship if, for some reason, your tour returns late. You should always do your homework by reading the fine print before reserving anything, but we think it’s safer now than it’s ever been to book with a private company. The goal is to find a provider that offers a fun, safe tour for a fair price — even if it’s not through your cruise line.

2. Bring An Over-the-Door Organizer

cruise vacation planning, cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vactation, cruise terminal parking, galveston cruise terminal parking, parking for cruises galvestonThis is a tried-and-true bit of wisdom that works for many cruisers — particularly those sharing cabins with more than one person — because they help you to keep all of your things in one place while taking up relatively little space. But with cruise lines instituting more stringent policies on what passengers are and aren’t allowed to hang on doors, and with newer ships offering more storage space than ever, we question whether it makes sense to pack a bulky organizer when you can simply use the drawers and cupboards already provided.

3. Arrive at the Terminal Later to Avoid the Embarkation Rush

cruise vacation planning, cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vactation, cruise terminal parking, galveston cruise terminal parking, parking for cruises galvestonAs a general rule, most cruisers prefer to board their ships as early as possible, which means, if you share that mentality, you’re likely to be met by long lines. For that reason, experienced cruisers advise arriving after the masses. It’s a trade-off, though: If you show up on the later side of embarkation, you’ll probably zoom through without much of a wait, but you also risk missing out on those extra couple of hours onboard when you could have been exploring the ship, taking part in activities or grabbing a bite to eat.

4. Wear a Seasick Patch

cruise vacation planning, cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vactation, cruise terminal parking, galveston cruise terminal parking, parking for cruises galvestonWe’ve met many a patch-adorned cruiser who has no idea whether he or she actually gets seasick. “It’s just a precaution,” they claim. Maybe it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially where your vacation is concerned, but to us, that’s like saying “I’m just going to drink this bottle of Dayquil in case I get the sniffles.” Our advice: Take the patches with you, and apply them if you start to feel nauseated. Many times seasickness preventatives can make you drowsy and lethargic, so use them with caution so you are not too tired to enjoy your cruise vacation.

5. Buy a Beverage Package in Advance

cruise vacation planning, cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vactation, cruise terminal parking, galveston cruise terminal parking, parking for cruises galvestonBeverage packages are a great value for anyone who drinks enough soda or alcohol to outweigh the hefty cost. If you’re new to the concept of these packages, hold off on purchasing one until you’re onboard so you can see if your consumption habits warrant the per-day expense. Passengers generally have until the second or third day of a sailing (depending on its length) to decide if they want to commit to a package, but once you do commit to one, you’re locked in for the remainder of the voyage.