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Tired of waiting in long lines on the ship? How to skip them and enjoy the cruise

You're standing in line waiting for an elevator and it hits you: "I paid a lot for this cruise and all I'm doing is wasting my time." Sometimes it seems that the bigger the ship, the longer the lines.

But there are ways to avoid the crowds, according to the online experts at Cruise Critic, which recently suggested six strategies to shorten or eliminate your waits.

Among the tips for circumventing crowds:

If you're worried about getting a deck chair, get up early and snag one. You know if you wait until after breakfast, you'll be lucky to get one at all — much less a chair in a prime spot.

Be flexible when it comes to dining. Choose mealtimes that are less popular. If you stagger meals by opting for flexible dining, you can eat in the main dining room whenever you want during off-peak hours.

That way, you miss the crowded dining room and can also take advantage of exploring the ship's other activities when most people are sitting down to eat. At lunch, for instance, you may find fewer people in the pool and shorter lines at the water slides if you avoid eating at noon.

Loyalty may also help you avoid queuing up with the crowds. Most major lines reward passengers for being frequent cruisers by offering perks such as priority embarkation and disembarkation. That means shorter lines and special waiting rooms.

Alternatively, you may be able to purchase such perks. Carnival Cruise Lines has a Faster to the Fun program that lets guests beat the crowds. Be sure to book early, because the slots fill up fast, according to CruiseCritic.

Money buys other perks that allow passengers to avoid the masses. If you book a suite, for instance, you may upgrade to special lounges, restaurants, pools — places on the ship that aren't as crowded — as well as rapid boarding.

One last suggestion: Stay on board during port days. You'll have most of the ship to yourself.

travel@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimestravel

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