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Pre-Cruise Planning Checklist (Photo: areebarbar/Shutterstock)

Pre-Cruise Planning Checklist

We've all heard the horror stories of people who show up for their cruise, only to realize they don't have the right passport or visa. Perhaps we've been guilty of putting off travel research, only to find out that the tour guide we want is booked up or a shore excursion sold out. Or -- and who hasn't done this? -- we're staying up until 3 a.m. the night before our trip, trying to do last-minute packing and other preparation.

A little planning goes a long way toward a smooth sailing. To keep you on track -- and keep important tasks from falling through the cracks -- click on (and print out) this pre-cruise planning checklist and refer to it from the time you book your cruise to the night before you set sail. We realize that not every line item will be applicable to your trip and -- depending on when you book and your planning personality -- you might be checking off tasks a little earlier or later.

Updated August 21, 2018

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6 Cruise Ship Cabins to Avoid
You might expect loud noises, close quarters and crazy manoeuvres in the dance club onboard 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 holiday 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 aren't appealing to you. Heed our advice, and you might be feeling a bit less claustrophobic and a tad more refreshed come disembarkation.
Onboard Credit: How to Get It, Where to Spend It
Free. Money. Are there two more beautiful words in the English language? While money doesn't grow on trees, increasingly it can be found somewhere else -- on the high seas. Call it an incentive, call it a bonus; whatever you want to call it, onboard credit lets you spend more freely with less guilt. You've paid your cruise fare, and now you can splurge on those enticing extras -- Swedish massage, specialty restaurant, an excursion to swim with the dolphins -- without busting your budget. Not many need convincing as to why onboard credit -- money automatically deposited into your onboard account-- rocks, but finding out exactly how to get it and where you can spend it is a bit trickier. We found eight ways to hit the OBC jackpot (some more preferable than others) and offer even more suggestions on how to burn through it, although you probably have your own ideas already.
How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks