Couple dancing on deck - photo courtesy of Blend Images/Shutterstock

Ah, sailaway! Even if you've been onboard for hours, sailaway is the official start to a cruise vacation. The lines are pulled in, the ship's horn blasts, and you can feel your excitement grow as the vessel glides away from the pier and starts to pick up steam. It might be one of the best moments of the entire trip.

Yet so many people don't give a thought to how they embrace this sailaway moment. You're distracted by the muster drill, perhaps your luggage just arrived, and your thoughts have already turned to where you'll get dinner and what to do on your first evening onboard. Get too bogged down in fighting over closet space and -- bam! -- you're half way to the Bahamas.

What's your sailaway style? Do you live it up to the fullest, mark it with a token gesture or skip it completely? If you don't want to miss the magic moment on your next cruise, try one of these rituals to enhance your first few minutes at sea.


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The Classic

Pool side enjoying a drink - photo courtesy of wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Ritual: Head to the ship's top decks to join the crowds dancing by the pool or lining the balcony as you sail out of port. This is your chance to enjoy the party music while it's fresh, before the oft-repeated opening strains of "Hot, Hot, Hot" make you want to cry. Just be sure you don't drop your drink as you get your groove on.

Drink: the Drink of the Day (preferably a fruity, frozen cocktail) in a souvenir glass

Song: Pink's "Get This Party Started"

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The Romantic

Couple on deck - photo courtesy of Maridav/Shutterstock

Ritual: Skip the crowds, and cuddle up to your sweetie on your own private verandah. You get the same sailaway views of land slipping away without having to elbow your way to the railing. Just remember: other people can see you on your balcony, so don't get too caught up in the moment.

Drink: Champagne or a glass of wine

Song: Rod Stewart's "Sailing"

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The Shutterbug

Friends taking a picture - photo courtesy of Nikkolia/Shutterstock

Ritual: Sailaway is a perfect time for memorable vacation photos. Some people pose for the same shot on every cruise. Facebook fan Tania Mongar's husband "has to take his traditional 'drinking a beer in front of the funnel' pic on the first day of every cruise." Other cruise travelers do the obligatory "drink in everyone's hand" shot, or they wear matching T-shirts or outfits for that first group photo.

Drink: a bottle of beer -- easy to hold while managing a camera

Song: Outkast's "Hey Ya" (especially if you can "shake it like a Polaroid picture")

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The Bliss

Lounging on deck - photo courtesy of Denys Prykhodov/Shutterstock

Ritual: Why wait to fully embrace the relaxation that comes with a cruise vacation? Cruise Critic editor Brittany Chrusciel waxes poetic about enjoying sailaway from the thermal suite in a ship's spa. Whether you're soaking in a hot tub or getting Zen on a heated lounger, you can enjoy fabulous views while letting your stresses melt away. Upside: You can be first in line when they announce the spa raffle winners. Downside: You might fall asleep and miss the sendoff.

Drink: herbal tea or fruit-infused water

Song: Enya's "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)"

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The Oblivious

Unpacking for the trip - photo courtesy of Hasloo Group Production Studio/Shutterstock

Ritual: Some folks are too busy unpacking or exploring the ship from stem to stern to even notice that the ship has already left. You might pass them on the stairs and overhear a confused "wait, is the ship moving?" If you plan to miss sailaway, at least do it with intention: Throw open your window curtains as you unpack, or take a detour via the promenade deck as you make your way around the ship.

Drink: Red Bull -- these travelers are on the go!

Song: Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop"

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The Interior

Relaxing indoors - photo courtesy of Ondine C/Shutterstock

Ritual: Maybe it's cold outside, or maybe you like a bit of peace and quiet, but if you're like Cruise Critic editor Ashley Kosciolek, you enjoy sailaway from the ship's library or a quiet lounge -- any place with large windows, small crowds and comfy seating.

Drink: something to sip like a latte or a gin & tonic

Song: Bobby Darin's "Beyond the Sea"

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The Selfie

Couple's selfie - photo courtesy of Halfpoint/Shutterstock

Ritual: You just have to stick it to all your non-cruising friends: You're on vacation while they're hard at work. So do as Cruise Critic editor Gina Kramer does, and take a selfie to quickly post to your favorite social media site before your land-based mobile service cuts out. Eat your heart out, Facebook.

Drink: anything with bright fruity colors and an umbrella on top for full effect

Song: "If My Friends Could See Me Now" from Sweet Charity

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