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Advice on shopping for a cruise

You've decided to book a cruise, or you already have your heart set on a specific sailing. Here is some practical advice to make your dream cruise a reality.

Do your homework. Take time to research all the major cruise lines. It's important that you also take time to look into the different cruise destinations. Most cruise lines will have many similarities, yet some offer very different vacation experiences. There are many choices so you, as a consumer, need to find the right fit for you.

The internet is a great source for pricing and other cruise information. You can log onto each of the major cruise lines' websites and browse their individual offers. However, we always recommend you book with a reputable travel agent. Travel agents can provide you with all the information at once, saving you a significant amount of time logging into and surfing the world wide web.

Your budget plays a major role in your decision making process. Budget will impact your destination, the length of your cruise, the cruise line you'll choose and your experiences at each port of call. Set a budget before you start shopping for your cruise. This will help you narrow down your choices. You'll also need to plan for all other related expenses such as airport transfers if needed, shore excursions, drink packages and gratuities. It's always best to know what you'll be spending before you go so that you don't encounter any financial surprises during your cruise.

Your accommodations will also dictate your experience. Cruise lines offer all types of cabin choices from inside cabins to spa suites and the choices go on and on. For most travelers, price is always a factor, so they typically book an inside cabin. However, if you like to splurge or really need to have breakfast on your balcony every morning, expect to pay a little more. There are some destinations that merit a balcony, for example, Alaska.

Reserving your first cruise can be a lot of fun and a little challenging if you go it alone. Make sure that you've thoroughly researched all the key points of your cruise and, don't be afraid to ask for help.