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Cruise holidays are no longer the sole domain of the rich and famous as they are increasingly becoming an affordable and desirable alternative to the conventional resort based vacation. Whether you want to cruise in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, or maybe perhaps an Arctic excursion for the trip of a lifetime, there are things you can do to ensure you enjoy an unforgettable experience that will see you taking take a cruise time and time again.

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Do Your Research

Think ahead about what size ship you want to be on. Do you want to be on a ship aimed at a more low key experience or are you looking for a party experience or maybe something in between? Various preferences can be catered for. In addition, what ports of call are important to you? Are you looking for Caribbean dream with exquisite beaches and sheer blue water, or the enchanting historical treasures of the Mediterranean? You might opt for something completely different like an Arctic cruise. Think about what you want both on the ship and off and plan accordingly.

Think about what you want cworthy / Getty Images
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Purchase drinks and Wi-Fi packages

Once on board, drinks can prove to be expensive and it's not as if you can go anywhere else cheaper. To some extent they have you trapped. They know happy holidaymakers will pay for a drink or two so the prices don't need to be driven down. Buying a drinks package with your chosen cruise line will see you making a saving. Also the same applies to Wi-Fi. Ask about pre-booking a data package if you really can't go without for the odd day sea.

Make a saving with a drinks package
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Independent excursions

Don't feel obligated to do all the organized trips offered by the cruise line. These can prove costly which is fine if money is no object, but for most travelers saving money is preferable. With a little research, you can organize trips yourself which will invariably prove cheaper. Just have a few phrases stored on your smartphone or a translation app to overcome any possible communication difficulties, and have a great trip! On the other hand, if you don't feel obligated to get off the ship, spend the day relaxing on the ship. You'll have many of the facilities practically to yourself.

Book excursions independently
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Vary your dining experiences

Try different dining options. Most cruise ships have several dining opportunities. You will often find the more formal restaurants catering to the tuxedo and ball gown, and far more informal options too where you can dress down a bit. Usually, a great variety of cuisine from all over the world will be on offer. A cruise ship is a perfect way to sample a little bit of everything with the vast cosmopolitan spread.

Try a range of dining options

Don't forget to exercise

It's a little too easy to overindulge with plenty of days relaxing at sea and sumptuous buffets several times a day. Get some exercise either by briskly walking around the deck of the ship admiring the oceanic views as you go, or check out the gym. Most come equipped with a gym where you can use exercise bikes, treadmills and the like.

Burn the calories while on on the ship

Window or no window

Think about where you want to be on the ship. If you want a window to gaze out at the ocean, the cabin will cost a little more, and it will undoubtedly cost more for the luxury of a balcony. If you're planning on having a rather lazy week or two with plenty of days at sea and hardly any sightseeing, then perhaps you will want to splash out a little. On the other hand, if you're in port every day, seeing the sights and traveling around, you might conclude that saving money makes more sense and opt for a cheaper windowless cabin and be satisfied with the views up on deck when you need to gaze out at the vast blue waves outside of the ship. You simply have to decide what your priorities are.

What type of cabin will you choose?

Stay on the ship

Stay on the ship during one of the port days and take advantage of the offers that will inevitably be available. With far fewer customers, spas and all the associated treatments will likely be offered at greatly reduced rates. You will likely find special deals available at the ship's restaurants too. You may even get the Jacuzzi all to yourself.

Stay on board for great bargains during port time James D. Morgan / Getty Images

To tip or not to tip

No need to tip! Some first-time cruisers have not realized when buying a drink from the bar, for example, that there is already a 15 percent service charge added to the bill and have found themselves tipping twice. Then there are some cruise lines which will automatically charge a set amount to each passenger per day. Make sure you know ahead of time what's expected when it comes to tipping on whichever ship or cruise line you happen to be.

Will you be expected to tip?

Waterproof clothing, just in case

Rainy days may be the farthest thing from your mind when thinking about Caribbean cruises or docking in some exotic port of call in South East Asia, but some of these places have highly changeable weather and the ship will call in at port regardless. All that's required is to pack a few light waterproof clothes. Seems astoundingly obvious, but some otherwise happy cruisers find themselves in the miserable condition of being soaked to the skin and catching a cold. A poncho that can be packed into the space of a side pocket could make all the difference.

Rainy days may occur Giles Clarke / Getty Images

Treat yourself to a spa

If you intend on pampering yourself via the onboard spa facilities with saunas and therapy pools, it's a good idea to purchase a spa pass. Onboard spas are unsurprisingly more pricey than those on land, so a pass makes sense. It's best to book quickly as spaces tend to fill up quickly. Many experienced cruisers say that keeping things fairly simple is a good idea on a ship with a straightforward massage with aromatic oils. Treatments such as facials and nail treatments can be overpriced. For all that, bear in mind that if you're going to places such as Thailand or Vietnam in South East Asia and you are intending on going on land, you will find spa treatments all over and for a lot cheaper than what is on offer on the ship.

The ultimate in relaxation pepmiba / Getty Images

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