Many first time cruisers wonder if there is a protocol for the period immediately after boarding. Is there a special place to gather? Are passengers required to immediately sign up for the shore excursions? Or, go wait in their rooms to be told what to do next?

The answer is as varied as the passengers. The most common answer is to check out the cabin and then get something to eat. If the ship is leaving shortly, it might be fun to stand on deck and watch the port fade away, perhaps with a camera in hand the whole time.

Others like to wait in their cabins until the luggage arrives and meet the cabin steward. This is a perfect time to get to know the staff that will be handling room service and if you are so inclined, offer a small advance on the tip. Sometimes a couple of dollars offered early can help ensure top-rated service.

Many passengers say the first thing they do is check out the ship, including finding their staterooms. One tip that rose recently was to carry a piece of colored yarn, a door hanger or some cheap beads to hand on the cabin door knob. It can make finding the cabin much easier among a whole hall filled with similar looking doors.

Still other recommend dropping the carry-on luggage at the stateroom and then immediately checking on the seating for dinner. It might also be advisable to locate the main stairways, elevators and entry/exit points from the various onboard rooms.

The best recommendation is simply to have fun. Relax and enjoy the experience. Great Lakes cruises are about the fun of the experience and the relaxation of being away from day-to-day problems. So, get something to eat, check out the cabin or just stand on deck and watch the port fall behind, all options are good.

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