AAA Travel Counselor Jeff Hrdlicka of the Galleria branch in Sparks, Nev., explains how to plan the perfect cruise.
Q I can't wait to take a cruise! What should I do in advance?
A The earlier you book, the better the price. You're also more likely to get the cabin on the ship you want, leaving on the sailing date you want. And if the rates come down later, we'll almost always be able to get the revised price for you. Another piece of advice: Buy travel insurance. It can get you home in case of an emergency.
For those who are computer savvy, put all your key travel documentation—a photocopy of your passport, airline confirmation numbers and immunization records—in an email to yourself. Then you can get them anywhere in the world by checking your email.
Q How can I be sure I've chosen the right cruise for me?
A Buy a book on the destination, look at travel blogs online and talk to people who've been there. But keep in mind that what appeals to others might not appeal to you.
That said, the amount of information out there can be overwhelming. That's where your AAA Travel Counselor comes in: We can help make sense out of the confusion. For example, we'll help you figure out whether it's the places you go or the onboard experience that matters most to you.
Q What are some pitfalls to avoid?
A Figure out what you want from a cruise. Sometimes what you think you want may not be the best choice for you. I've had first-time cruisers say they want to go to Hawaii, but they don't realize how much time is spent at sea instead of in Hawaii.
One key thing to know is that cruise lines have personalities. Some are like going to a five-diamond Las Vegas hotel. That would suit someone who wants a cruise that's really fun and lively. Other lines are more traditional, with Old World charm. Your AAA Travel Counselor will match your travel style with the right cruise line.
Please contact your AAA Travel Counselor or go to AAA.com/offices  to find one near you.
This article was first published in September 2012 in Traveler. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.