09/18/2013 03:18 pm ET Updated Nov 18, 2013

20 Top Tips From the World's Smartest Cruisers

Travel gives you something few other things can: experience and exposure to different cultures and locations around the world. When it comes to booking a memorable vacation, cruising is a great way to go. Not only does it allow you to see multiple locations on one voyage, but it's also very relaxing.

Before you board your ship, consider some advice from several professional cruisers. While cruising is an excellent source of travel, those who do it often have invaluable tips for first-time cruisers that can make your voyage more memorable and less stressful.

1. Communication

Bring walkie-talkies if you are traveling with more than just a few people. Without cell phone service on the sea, it can be quite difficult to track down your friends and family aboard a large ship if they are not answering the phone in their staterooms.

2. Call for a wakeup call

The rule on most cruise ships is that you must be off the boat by 9 a.m. on the last day of the cruise. Since rooms do not come with an alarm clock, either pack one of your own or call the ship's room service butler to request a wakeup call.

3. Sign up

Many cruise ships offer membership programs. They are free to join, and you earn points every time you book a cruise. Some ships provide special incentives to members, such as discounted upgrades or even special treats in your stateroom.

4. Book in advance

The best deals happen well in advance of your departure date. If you want to take a cruise, book at least six to nine months in advance, when many cruise lines offer discounted prices on staterooms and voyages.

5. Book your flight with care

If you have to fly to your departure port, be sure to book your flight for a day or two prior to your ship's departure. The last thing you want to do is fly out on the day of departure and experience a flight delay, missed connection, or cancellation that causes you to miss your boat.

6. Use the spa

If you plan on using the spa, do it on a day when the rest of the passengers are off the boat at some port or another. Ships often offer discounted spa services on days they are docked.

7. Book excursions

Renting a boat or going parasailing is great fun, but it's often less expensive if you book those excursions yourself, directly, rather than going through your ship. The price on board is always more expensive than the price offered by island tour companies.

8. Bring wine

Many cruise lines allow you to bring one bottle of wine per person aboard the ship. You will pay a corkage fee at dinner, but many cruisers have noted that a bottle that costs $100 at home could cost as much as $300 on a ship.

9. Get the table you want

Sure, it's fun to dine with a dozen other guests on a cruise. However, if you want that romantic table for two and you forget to request it in advance, your best bet is to get to dinner early the first night and sweet-talk the headwaiter.

10. Be smarter than the Internet fee

Internet and email are the best way to stay in contact with friends and family while you're at sea, but this can get quite expensive. Save yourself a little money on the minute-by-minute fee by typing your emails and messages before going on the Internet so all you have to do is send them once you've logged on.

11. Bring a radio

When it comes time to getting ready for dinner and excursions, you'll want music in your stateroom. A portable radio can pick up a lot of local stations when you are in port, which makes the atmosphere in your room more lively.

12. A tabletop mirror

It's not always easy to apply your makeup on board your ship, which means you'll want to use a tabletop mirror to help you out. If you can pack one, do it.

13. Power is important

Plugging in your electronics so you can charge batteries and everything else you want to use on board -- not to mention your hair dryer and flat iron -- can be difficult with the limited number of power outlets in your stateroom. Bringing a power strip allows you to plug in as many items as you need at any given time.

14. Post-it notes

Need more towels or ice, or would you rather your room attendant left only bottles of water instead of the usual sodas and other unhealthy beverages? Bring some sticky notes and place them on your doors and mirrors when you have a request. Your attendant is sure to see them and honor your requests.

15. Book your next cruise before you depart

If you loved cruising and you want to do it again, try booking your next cruise while you're still on this one. Many cruise lines offer a discount to travelers when you do this.

16. Skip the pricey cocktails

The drink of the day might sound fantastic, but it's usually one of the most expensive drinks on the boat. If you want to save, drink things such as rum and coke or rum and diet and opt for the house rum. It's usually much less expensive than other cocktails on board a cruise ship.

17. Skip the buffet

The breakfast buffet is always busy. Skip it by ordering room service in your stateroom while you prepare to depart for shore that day or head to the main dining room. The main dining room serves a sit-down breakfast with an impressive menu and plenty to choose from, without the long lines.

18. Use the spa shower

Even if you're not using the spa for any services, most cruise ships will allow you to use the shower in the restroom. It's far more spacious than the showers in your stateroom, which means you can take a nice, long, luxurious shower without the cramped feeling of being in your room.

19. Ask about baby items

Many cruise lines are now offering passengers baby items such as baby-proofing, pack and plays, and even pureed baby food for your little ones.

20. Head to the Caribbean

Some of the most inexpensive and fun cruises are simple trips to the Caribbean. You'll have a holiday full of fun in the sun, fruity cocktails, and plenty of white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. Sometimes the best cruise vacation requires nothing more than a different beach every day.

Cruising is a great way to see the world. Take the advice of expert cruisers and you'll find that your vacation is utterly relaxing. Isn't that the point of a vacation? To relax and enjoy yourself without having to stress over all the details?

Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower and freelance writer. He's a frequent contributor to Mainstreet, Lifehack, and HardcoreDroid and an affiliate of Manduka and Tazo. He documents his experiences working with Anonymous, practicing yoga, and fighting the banks on his blog.