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Yay! So I booked my first EVER cruise! I am booked on a 12 day Ovation of the Seas from Sydney around New Zealand! The itineraries were released this past week. Thanks to the many people who have posted on these forums as I have lurked and learned from you all! I chose Ovation and leaned toward RCL because of these boards and Ovation was the newest ship in the area (though I think Princess Majestic might be newer). As an aviation geek I can definitely tell the difference between plane types but, I didn't know much about cruising and ships but these forums helped heaps and I am still learning! So I wanted to share a perspective from a Noob when booking a new cruise and hope to share my experience cruising in the future! Negative reviews: There are bound to be some rough currents; meaning, there are ALWAYS going to be whiners and grumps that complain about everything so take these with a grain of salt Positive reviews: There are going to be some over the top fabulousness reviews where everything was awesome...can everything REALLy be THAT awesome...also take these with a grain of salt. Research what cabin you want BEFORE bookings come out. I knew what cabin I wanted based on what was above, below, to the sides and even based on foot traffic and those whited out areas (which I avoided). I booked a forward balcony and it was only 200 more on the TOTAL, not per night. UNFORTUNATELY, the cabin I wanted wasn't showing up online. I wanted deck 9 and there was only one for the whole deck 9 and sailings were just released! I wanted starboard side but had to choose the only deck 9 cabin on the port! (more on this below) BOOK EARLY! I am not using an agent as I like to be in control. I booked via rcl.com Gratuities: for our 12 night cruise gratuities were added on by my choice just before payment and were clearly stated if you wanted to pay now or later. I opted to pay now and just pay the minimum deposit. Gratuities were $222 per person. On the same page it asks for traditional dining which gave the choice of 1730 or 2000. We chose 1730 because we also want to have time to go to the buffet later at night, oink! There was an option for my time dining but seems too much hassle for our first cruise. Keep up on Sales! So the day AFTER we booked our cruise RCL started a new promotion and of course got an email. I took the advice from many on here and did a dummy booking to see if it was cheaper and sure enough it was $256 CHEAPER! I did what Matt and you guys said to do and called up on my lunch break and with no waiting the girl on the phone said yes it is cheaper and she changed it for free! YAY! BUT WAIT....I wanted a specific cabin and asked politely if it were available because it wasn't showing on the website. She said is was available and saw it was the same price category and SCORE! We were now on the starboard side! EMAIL DINING: I emailed dining about a 2 topper. (like the lingo?) They replied and said that things were loaded about 50 days before sailing! So I will request again later. Thanks again for all info on these forums. No question (no matter how many times I saw asked) went unanswered. Cheers!