Money Talks: 5 Things to Know Before You Book a Cruise

"Cruising is the best value, because your meals, entertainment and shipboard activities are included."

And included -- sounds good when your a family on a budget and planning a vacation.

If you've never been on a cruise, it may sound a bit intimidating. Which ship do you choose, how do you get to the port, what do you pack...

The last thing you want to do is ruin memories of your trip, so be prepared. Here are a few tips you should see before before heading out to sea.

Stewart Chiron with Cruise Guy dot com, says it's best to research online, but don't book online ... let a travel agent do that for you. They're usally aware of discounts you might not know about. Then, book as early as you can.

Chiron says, "The best cabins are usually the first to go. When you're talking about say Royal Caribbean's Alure, or Oasis of the Seas, the top 7 categories are sold out for almost the next 2 years."

Next idea, join loyalty programs. You may receive discounts on tickets, room upgrades even priority boarding. They're typically free to join.

And, look into booking your own flight. One bonus is flexibility, another? Cost.. Chiron says, "It's aways best to see what the cost of the cruise is cruise only then add in the cruise line air and see how much of a difference because you could wind up saving yourself several hundred if not thousands."

Keep in mind, the price of alcohol has gone up... so make sure you pack extra money in your budget if you plan to drink.

As for tipping? Most cruise lines charge your account up to $15 per person per day to cover restaurant staff. Make sure you ask about this when you check in.

Final tip before you cruise? Check out the US State department's website and see what travel documents you might need. You won't be allowed on the ship if you don't have at least your passport.

Want to see even more tips? Sail over to Money Talks I'm Jim Robinson.