What to do before your first cruise

So you've booked a cruise, and you're very excited.

So you've booked a cruise, and you're very excited. Whether you're off to Norway, Antarctica or a European destination, you'll need to make preparations. If this is your first cruise, you may not know where to start. Going on a Norway cruise or one to another similar destination is also a little different from simply showing up to a ship that will take you around the Caribbean, so a lot of the guidance you find may not make sense for you entirely. Luckily, we've put together a list of tips and tricks for first-time cruisers that will make your experience fun, adventurous and seamless, from booking to your final day:

Any questions? Book on the phone

If your cruise line offers you the chance to book online, think twice before you take it. Instead, take the time to call and speak to a representative. He or she has information you can use, and can answer most of the questions you have about taking a cruise (and with that cruise line in particular). You may also hear of deals you wouldn't have known about otherwise, or perhaps your idea of which type of cabin would best suit you could stand to change. You won't know unless you speak to a representative, which means picking up the phone to make the call.

Consider pre-trip excursions and timing

If you're anxious about making it to your cruise ship on time due to the vagaries of international travel, ease your own mind and get into the port town a day or two early. You can spend that time in your hotel if you like, or you can wander the port alone and begin to get a sense of the country and its inhabitants. This can also be a good financial decision, depending on whether your cruise leaves on a peak travel day. Getting in on a Tuesday may save you money in the long run, for example, even if you have to keep yourself fed and entertained until Friday.

If you're very interested in a destination near your port city, you may also wish to fly in significantly earlier to experience it. For instance, your Norway cruise will not take you to Oslo, but you may wish to go see that city for yourself before the cruise disembarks. If this is the case, make sure to make your travel arrangements well in advance of the time you plan to be there - cruise planning shouldn't be a last-minute situation.

Know what you'll do at each port

Take a look at where the cruise ship you have selected will be stopping, and try to have some idea of what you'll do each day. There are excursions available to you through the cruise line in most cases, most of which you should look into purchasing before the cruise even starts. If you're very interested in something not listed, make sure you can get out into the port city, do what you want to do and make it back to the ship in a timely manner. Cruises aren't a time for stress, so you'll want to be prepared for anything that could happen well in advance. Additionally, don't forget you're always free to stay aboard the ship, maybe during a shorter stop, and enjoy having a quiet space to contemplate in. It's your trip, and you should ensure you put together a schedule that includes only what you want. Of course, it's also important to be flexible - sometimes an excursion will be offered you didn't know about, or you'll be tired and want to stay in your cabin for a few hours.

Get together your documents and payments

For an international cruise, you're going to need your passport. As silly as it sounds, people have forgotten theirs before! You may also need other documents, like proof of traveler's insurance if you have chosen to purchase it and, of course, all documentation related to your cruise. Gather these things well before you leave, keep them safe and remember to bring them with you! You'll also want to figure out your monetary situation. Will you be using an international credit card, traveler's checks or just cash you'll change when you get to your destination? No matter what you've chosen, have it ready for departure well before you'll need it.

Get excited

All this cruise planning doesn't have to be dull or frightening. Make sure you give yourself time to look over what your cruise will be like, where you'll go and what you can expect from excursions. Staying excited about the trip you've chosen to take is important, and it can help you deal with any last-minute anxieties you might encounter.