MSC cruises South African waters every summer.
Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer. Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer.
Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer. Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer.
Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer. Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer.
Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer. Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer.
Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer. Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer.
Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer. Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer.
Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
MSC cruises South African waters every summer. Pic: Ivan Sarfatti MSC
You always remember your first - whether it's a kiss, a car or a cruise - because of that heady combination of anticipation and trepidation. 

For a first-timer, all the decisions that come with taking a cruise - ship, cabin, clothes, tipping and so on - can be overwhelming, especially when you're clueless about how a cruise works.

To help ease the anxiety felt by novices, we asked a few experienced cruisers the question "What do you wish you knew before your first cruise?" 

Here are the answers:

Choose the right cruise

Instead of spending days researching cruise lines and itineraries. Each cruise line and ship has its own personality, and a cruise specialist can find you the best match."

There are cruises tailored for singles, couples, families with children, older adults, party animals and adventurers. Different ships have different offerings. Some are as compact as 125 passengers, while mega ships can sail with more than 5,500 passengers, plus crew.

There are benefits to each. With more amenities, restaurants and diversions, large ships keep you entertained all hours of the day and well into the night. Small ships (fewer than 500 passengers) can reach ports the large ones can't access.

Pick the right cabin

Cabin choices are typically simple: interior (no view), exterior (ocean view with a window or porthole), balcony ( exterior room with a private balcony ) and suite (a larger cabin often with separate living and sleeping areas and a private balcony).

Scrutinize deck plans to determine the exact location of the room you're being sold. Light sleepers will want to avoid one underneath the nightclub dance floor or just above the engine room. For maximum stability, book a midship cabin. That's where you'll feel the least movement.

Pre-book shore excursions

Popular shore excursions with limited space, as they fill fast. As soon as it opens, access your ship's online reservation system to secure your spot. The same holds true for tables at speciality restaurants, spa treatments and shows.

Pack light

No one cares if you wear the same outfit more than once. Pack enough washable, quick-drying clothes for half your voyage. Toss in a sweater; even on warm-weather cruises, ships can get chilly. Bring a couple of pairs of shoes - one for walking and a dressier pair for the dining room - plus flip-flops for warm-weather cruises.

Some ships still have formal nights  -women can get by with a cocktail dress or dressy pantsuit and men with a jacket and tie. 

Be early

Once a ship opens for boarding, its restaurants and facilities are fully operational. Leave your suitcases with the porters and get on early with a carry-on packed with whatever you'll need to entertain yourself for a few hours. You can eat lunch, familiarize yourself with the ship, and, if you've packed a swimsuit and sunscreen, be lounging by the pool before the ship even leaves port.

Every ship is required to hold "muster" (the emergency drill) before sailing, during which each passenger is accounted for with orange life jacket in hand. This is one requirement you can't skip; trust me, you do not want to be that person being paged over the loudspeaker.

Read the ship's next-day program of activities, events and shows before you go to bed. Highlight what you want to do and carry the schedule with you.

Your cellphone plan's rates do not apply at sea. Turn off your phone or set it to airplane mode to avoid expensive roaming charges.

Eat (and drink) well

One unequivocal fact: You won't go hungry on a cruise. 
Do the maths before buying an "all-you-can-drink" package. There are drinks packages available for alcoholic and nonalcoholic options with, bottled water and coffee's

Manage your money

Unless your fee is all-inclusive, expect to shell out money during the cruise and settle up at the end of the voyage. You may be charged for WiFi; restaurants other than the main dining room and buffet; shore excursions; and spa treatments.

Washington Post