Bright bikinis and black-tie outfits will take you from poolside to cocktail hour in style, says Carol Smith.
1. Pack heavy
You need a lot of different outfits for cruising. Unlike other seaside holidays where you pack light and your bag mostly contains T-shirts and shorts, you'll also need sparkly dresses, suits, high heels, low heels, and no heels (don't wear your highest heels on the first night before you get your sealegs or you'll be lurching down the corridor and it won't be caused by the amount of alcohol you've consumed).
Each day the ship's newsletter announces the dress code for the evening, which could be anything from casual to black tie.
One woman took 27 suitcases on her round-the-world cruise so she'd have a different outfit for each event. (They were stored in the hold). Unlike planes, you're not charged for excess baggage.
You will need a few different sizes of clothing if you're going on a long cruise as there is a tendency to gain weight.
Don't forget to bring something warm, even if you are visiting sunny spots, because ocean breezes can be cold.
2. Bring earplugs
On the first night of our cruise my husband woke me to ask if I had heard a horn sounding. It turned out to be a fog horn.
I told him not to wake me again unless there were seven short blasts followed by one long blast (emergency signal), and then only if he was sure. Both of us would have benefited from earplugs.
3. Walk the stairs and hit the gym
You are surrounded by delicious food and if you're not careful it will show on your waist when you leave the ship.
Studies reveal an average weight gain on a seven-day cruise can range from 2kg to 4kg, depending on alcohol and food consumed and workout frequency. So walk the stairs, swim, and take advantage of the great gym equipment because unless you are boringly disciplined you will eat more than usual.
I felt obliged to attend the decadent "Chocoholics Tea" one afternoon aboard the Arcadia (for research purposes) and had to repent by circling the promenade three times.
If you like table tennis, bring your own balls as the ship's ones are too light and there are some very competitive people on board.
4. Wear your brightest bikini
There's not much competition in the firm flesh stakes on a cruise, so you don't need to be embarrassed to bare your body in a two-piece. You'll easily spot the serial cruisers - they are the dark brown shapes asleep on the sundeck loungers.
5. Get a cabin with a balcony
A room with a view is a must as you never feel claustrophobic and your cabin feels bigger. It's also great if you want to read a book alone outside or have a romantic oceanfront meal.
Choosing a cabin mid-ship is a good idea as there is less movement and you are handily placed.
To avoid noisy service and entertainment areas, get a cabin in a deck between other passenger decks.