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TIPS FOR SMART CRUISING

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For some people, vacation time is summer time. This is especially true for parents of school-age children. But for many others, September through May is the better choice. So as we approach that time period, I thought I’d share one of my favorite sources for really good vacation tips with you: Cruise Critic.

Cruise Critic is an excellent source of information for first timers to folks who have as many as 40 cruises under their belt.

Just Google that name and go to the official site. It’s the leading cruise reviews website, hosting the largest cruise community in the world, and features more than 350,000 cruise reviews plus advice and information etc. from their team of cruise experts. You’ll find pretty much everything and anything you might want to know about setting sail on a dream vacation. There are categories for destinations, specific ships, special deals, helpful tips, news and much more.

How much will it cost you to access this information? This is totally free and very useful. Here are some examples of articles Cruise Critic offers: how to choose and book a cruise, things you need to know before you set sail, tips and advice for first-time cruisers, secrets the cruise lines don’t tell you, best free things to do on a cruise, ship dining, packing tips and so much more. Best of all, at the end of these articles you’ll find comments posted by people who have directly experienced these topics while cruising.

I have to admit that I’m addicted to reading these comments. Sometimes they agree with the points made in the articles, sometimes they don’t, and many times they don’t agree with the other folks posting comments. This makes for some very entertaining reading. Everyone, it seems, has a favorite cruise ship line, destination ports, and cabin locations.

Fortunately, you should be able to sort out the good advice from the rest of it. Like all websites that post reviews, this one also has reviewers who have their own agendas. You just have to take them with a grain of salt. Remember, different folks are looking for different things on these trips. For some, it’s excellent food. Others don’t really care about the food as long as there’s plenty of it, but they really get intense about their state rooms.

What to pack and how to pack it are two of the most helpful topics covered on this site. Seasoned travelers will share their tips on what you really need to have on a week-long cruise. These folks have this down to a science. They’ll tell you that you do NOT need eight pairs of shoes for a one-week cruise. They will warn you not to bring an iron on board, because you are not allowed to use one since it can be a fire hazard. They’ll recommend you bring magnetic clips or hooks along to put on the cabin wall, since these walls are metal. This gets all sorts of paperwork, schedules, and sales flyers out of the way until you need them. (Who knew? Metal walls – really?)

In future columns I’ll share some of the best tips and reviews I find on Cruise Critic. Stay tuned.

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