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What to expect when traveling by cruise ship

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 (Reuters)

First-time cruise ship travelers might be surprised to learn that there are certain unwritten rules that apply. Though these common courtesies are by no means mandatory, they can help you to avoid stepping on toes while on-board.  Here's a short guide to help you get the most out of your trip.

Dress code
Nowadays, few cruises impose strict dress codes, but most provide some guidelines that should be followed. Whether it's formal or casual, adhering to a dress code can help mark a special occasion and turn an ordinary dinner into an evening to remember. Of course, cruising should be a casual and relaxed experience, but showing up to a black-tie dinner wearing shorts and sandals may seem a little disrespectful to your fellow diners. Besides, who doesn't love dressing up every now and then?

Deck chairs
It's a common complaint among almost all holidaymakers: waking up at the crack of dawn for a morning swim, only to find that every deck chair has been "reserved" with towels, books or sunglasses, while their owners are busy digging in at the buffet. While saving a lounger for a friend or family member is perfectly acceptable, reserving entire rows of seats is considered rather uncouth. Of course, there's no harm in leaving your seat for a quick dip or bathroom break, but if you plan on leaving the deck chair for more than 30 minutes, take your belongings with you.

Tipping
When it comes to tipping, policies tend to vary between different cruise operators. While some encourage tipping after each meal or drink, others prefer passengers to wait until the final day to give gratuity. Most ships will provide a tipping guide, telling you who to tip and how much to give, though you're welcome to give extra if you wish. The guide should also tell you the correct way to tip, which could be with cash or using a credit card.

Learn to compromise
Oftentimes, cruisers are kept in close proximity to on another. From the dining table to the living quarters, you'll likely be surrounded by people from all walks of life. What's more, many of your fellow passengers will be from different countries, with different languages and customs. For the sake of peace and harmony, you should always respect other cruisers and learn to compromise when the need arises. Noise levels should also be kept to a minimum, particularly at night or early in the morning, when slamming doors or raised voices might disturb sleeping passengers.

Going ashore
Most cruises will include a few stops at various ports and towns en route. While exploring your new destination is strongly encouraged, it's important to learn the correct etiquette for disembarking. Some vessels may have a limited number of shuttles taking people to the shore, and there will likely be major crowding after breakfast and before dinner. If the lines are long, you'll need to be patient, and if there is a ticketing system in place, be sure that you're on time when it's your turn to leave.

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