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My wife and I are considering our first cruise - help and advice needed

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Chat' started by Danny61231, Jan 11, 2017.

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  1. Danny61231

    Danny61231 Tourist

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    My wife and I are considering our first cruise and really have no idea what we need to know or what to expect. We are probably still a year away from this happening but we are just trying to gain some knowledge and get some idea of what we would be in for. Here are some of the things we already kind of know:

    - It would be a Caribbean cruise and my wife would like it to stop in Cozumel (We have vacationed in Cozumel a few times and she loved it)
    - We are most likely looking at a 5 to 7 day cruise
    - We are thinking we would like a room with an Ocean view - wife is afraid she would be claustrophobic with an interior room

    So, besides those few things we really have no idea what we are getting into. Some of the questions that we have are:

    - I see that most of the cruises sail out of either Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, or Tampa. Are any of these areas cheaper to fly into (coming from Minneapolis, MN) than others or any other close by areas I should consider flying into?
    - We are looking to do this on somewhat of a budget... any tips or tricks to cut down cost?
    - We know that we will have the cost of the cruise and the airfare, what other expenses will we incur?
    - How big / small are the casinos on the cruise ships? Do they have low limit slots (penny slots?)
    - Typically, what dining options are included in the cruise price and what do you have to pay extra for? I know this varies between different cruise lines and ships but just looking at ballpark.
    - What destinations in the Caribbean are your favorites and why?
    - When it comes to the entertainment on ships are the different shows included in the cost of the cruise or extra?
    - What cruise lines and ships are your favorites and why? Remember, we are looking to keep cost down a little.

    I know that I have a lot of questions and will most likely think of more but I would really appreciate any help and advice you can provide. Thanks a lot, Dan
     
  2. GamblingGolfer

    GamblingGolfer High-Roller

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    A lot of questions, but you're looking for good advice. A couple of things (and others will chime in, too, I'm sure).

    I'd go for a balcony cabin if you can afford it. Most ships, for not a lot more than an "ocean view", will have a wide selection of balconies. Great to have breakfast out there or just enjoy the view. Also, do a web search for 'cruise critic' where you can find specific answers to all your questions.

    Have fun!

    GG
     
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  3. Imperial_Palace_King

    Imperial_Palace_King High-Roller

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    An inside stateroom will save you a bunch. A lot of them have last minute deals to try and fill the ship.

    Other expenses include tips onboard (NCL adds 12.50 person per day), drinks, excursions, shows onboard, meals off the ship in port etc.

    FLL is sometimes cheaper to fly into than MIA. Caribbean cruises also leave out of Houston and New Orleans.

    The casinos are usually pretty small. They have penny machines.

    I've only cruised with Norwegian. You dine when you want and as much as you want. No set times. They have specialty restaurants that are excluded from the basic cruise fare (steakhouse, french restaurant etc) I've always been fine not paying extra and just going to the restaurants that are included.

    I'm go with Carnival if you're trying to keep the cost down. I think they are usually the cheapest. Try and get on the newest ship you can or one that's been recently renovated.
     
  4. kevin853

    kevin853 High-Roller

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    Caribbean is a great destination for a cruise. We went on the MSC Divina from Miami visiting Bahamas, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. If you can stretch to it it is great having a balcony and can get some great deals if you look around. I book ours through Cruisenation and am currently looking for one now funnily enough.

    I did a mini cruise once on an inside cabin and really wouldn't recommend it just pay the bit extra it will be well worth it.

    You can opt out of tips on The MSC ships just go to reception and sort it out there (we just tip the people who we want to on the last night).

    I would also upgrade to an all inclusive package. It may seem expensive but you will save money as drinks can be pretty expensive on a cruise. Casino wasn't a bad size on Divina but obv nothing is gonna compare to Vegas. We just spent an hour in there most nights.

    I think all of the entertainment on the ship was included in the price and has a theatre/cinema and about 10 bars all with different shows/singers/piano players etc.

    Spend the first day having a good look around as the ships can be huge.

    Enjoy
     
  5. NYNYGirl

    NYNYGirl VIP Whale

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    When we went on our cruise and it stopped in Cozumel our decision was what beach we wanted to go to. They have many to choose from if that is your interest. And as far as excursions, it is usually cheaper to book them on your own rather than through the ship itself.

    On our last 5 day cruise we chose and oceanview room but got very lucky and got an upgrade to a Suite, that included a whirlpool tub! And a much bigger room. But for our next 7 day cruise we are going with the oceanview again.

    Our cruise sailed out of Miami, but we flew into FLL. That was cheaper for us by way of SW airlines. But we also stayed a few extra days in Miami.

    We paid extra to dine at the Steakhouse on our ship for one night just to get a break from the regular main dining room. You will have to pay tips as well, they usually run about $12/day but you can pay these ahead of time and not have to worry about that additional cost when it comes time for the Cruise.

    One of our favorite stops was on a cruise that went to Progreso because we then got to go see Chitchen Itza. Though that was a cruise that sailed out of New Orleans. Our last couple of cruises have been with Carnival as they are less expensive.

    Good luck in your planning venture. And agree check cruisecritic website for a lot of info...
     
  6. Jaygee77

    Jaygee77 Low-Roller

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    I'm an admitted Royal Caribbean loyalist, but I've found that the prices on Norwegian tend to be competitive or a little bit better, on some of the larger ships. Flights are probably cheapest into Ft. Lauderdale, which is good because that cruise terminal is larger than the other cities'. You'll have more options there.

    Drink prices are ridiculous on cruise ships, but on Royal Caribbean, you're allowed to bring on two wine bottles per stateroom (not per person). Plenty of people attempt to sneak alcohol on board, with varying degrees of success.

    Most Caribbean cruises will stop at a private island (e.g. Coco Cay for Royal Caribbean.) This is nice for a free beach day, but just like the other ports, there will be pricey excursion options available.

    Royal Caribbean does not charge extra for the entertainment options, though the bigger ships give the ability to reserve "tickets" for free ahead of time. Otherwise, you could be looking at a standby line that may or may not get you a seat for the specific performance you're wanting to attend.

    I tend to find that the newest, biggest ships have a price premium attached to them, so if you look one tier of ships down, you can find some pretty good values. The Allure of the Seas is a pretty good value for a week-long cruise, and Independence of the Seas offers some shorter durations. Both sail out of Ft. Lauderdale. If you were to look at Orlando, note that the ships actually sail out of Port Canaveral, 45 minutes away from the airport. The Oasis of the Seas, which is Allure's sister ship, sails from there.
     
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  7. nostresshere

    nostresshere Mr. Anti Debit Card

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    We have done a dozen cruises across multiple cruise lines. There are so many options and so many different types of cruise lines. I would go to cruisecritic.com and start reading. There are a number of cruise specific travel agencies that will email you specials top get a good idea of "real" prices.

    You can pick from 2-5 day cruise, then jump to 7 day, or more. I would strongly suggest staying away from the shorter ones. Usually more of a party ship/cruise and older boats. 7 day is the norm. Also, consider flying in the day before to avoid any airline delay issues.

    Again, cruisecritic.com is the best place to read up.
     
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  8. TriggerMN

    TriggerMN The Norwegian Hammer

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    We have been on four cruises, all over the Caribbean, all with Carnival. First thing you need to do is decide where you want to go. Western Caribbean cruises tend to be cheapest (Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Honduras, Belize, etc.), whereas eastern/southern Caribbean cruises are usually more expensive (Aruba, Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, etc.).

    The ship itself will have about 10 levels of staterooms. The higher up you go, the more expensive they become. Interior rooms are always a bit cheaper than their sister exterior rooms. Lower levels will have portholes. Higher up may have a window. Even higher up you may have a small balcony that holds one or two chairs. There are many elevators on the ship, but at times you will have to wait upwards of 10 minutes for them. Most of the on-ship activities are at levels 9-12. Buffet restaurant, pools, hot tubs, etc. The casino is usually on level 5, along with many of the bars and nightclubs. The grand ballroom will be on level 3, and to exit the ship for all of your exursions, you will exit at the bottom of the ship.

    You have two food options on the ship. Buffet or formal dining room. Both are free. You can eat in the formal dining room as many times as you like. They will have better food there, and each day you will have the option of trying something "different." Our last trip I was able to try frog legs and oxe tongue. There may be a few food items only available with a small upcharge.

    Free drinks include water, milk, fruit juice, lemonade, and coffee. All soft drinks and alcohol are extra. You will get a "cruise card" upon arrival which will charge all drinks to your room. A bottle of beer is going to run you nearly $8 and an 18% tip is automatically added. Soft drinks will be about $3.50 per can. Some cruises offer an "all you can drink" upcharge before you cruise. We've never done that, and I'm not really sure how expensive that is. Pizza and soft serve ice cream are available 24 hours, as is room service.

    Your steward each day will make up your room and leave the towels in animal shapes. The stewards, as will all employees, will go out of their way to introduce themselves to you and make you feel welcome and important.

    Do some research beforehand to figure out which excursions you want to do at each port of call. You don't have to do anything--each port of call will have a shopping area near the dock you can peruse at your leisure. Otherwise, people will be out there holding placards with the name of your shore excursion, directing you to a bus. We've found that if Carnival charges $80 for excursion ABC, the excursion itself probably only costs about $50 and Carnival is keeping the other $30, but to us it's not worth the risk of showing up in St. Thomas, for instance, getting off the boat, and trying to find a place to buy tickets. Buying through Carnival is sort of an "insurance."

    In addition to that, you will find that your airfare may see expensive if you book airfare through the cruise company. You may ask, "Round trip flights to Miami are about $400 per person, but after figuring out my room rate, Carnival appears to be charging me $600 per person." Again, this is an "insurance" policy. If you choose to book airfare separately, you need to taxi yourself to the cruise terminal. In addition, if your flights are delayed, you will have to find your own way to the next port if the ship leaves without you. If you book through the cruise company, they will shuttle you to the terminal free of charge, and if your flights are delayed, THEY will foot the bill to get you to the next destination.

    Each morning you will get a pamphlet under your door of what's happening on the ship that day. There will be many game shows, activities, etc. It will give you dining room hours, bar hours, times of shows, daily specials, arrival and departure times. The casino cannot be open while in port, and can only open when the ship hits international waters. The casino is relatively small. They will have a couple hundred slot machines, mostly penny slots. One or two craps tables, an electronic Texas Hold 'Em table, and maybe a dozen blackjack/pit games. Our last cruise, once you hit a certain coin-in, Carnival gave people an "all you can drink" card. I just played Hold 'Em and the pit critter bought us at least two drinks a night. For whatever reason I've had this happen my last three cruises, and I don't know of anybody else who was getting free drinks.

    Read the fine print about alcohol. You are allowed to bring one bottle of booze on board I think. If you purchase alcohol at the various ports, Carnival will take it and store it upon your return to the ship and give it back to you upon departure the last day. They want you buying their booze.

    What's better and what's worse? Jamaica is very poor and rundown, and it rains a lot, but all excursions should include climbing Dunn's River Falls. Same with Dominica. Belize was surprisingly third-world looking. Roatan Island of Honduras is very poor as well, but beautiful, lush, and green. Cozumel is a bit run down as well. Grand Cayman is better. I suggest going to the rum cake factory and Hell while you are there, or to see the sting rays. St. Thomas is beautiful. Very safe to walk around, and your cell phones will work there. Aruba and Barbados are also wonderful, with white sand and great snorkeling. On St. Lucia or St. Kitts try to do an excursion which gets you into the rainforest. Wonderful hikes and scenery. All excursions will have a bus driver and someone on a microphone talking to you about their country. These people expect be tipped a few bucks as well.

    So, extra cost during the week. Pop and alcohol is REALLY expensive. Can you without that for a week? You will save a lot of money. Shore excursions are not a requirement. You don't even have to leave the ship if you don't want to. But they will run anywhere from $60 to $150 per person, depending on what you do. Food is plentiful, delicious, and free. On your last day, envelopes will be left in your state room (or you may possibly be able to do this when signing for a final bill), you can decide who/how much to tip. Stewards, bartenders, formal dining room waiters, etc. I think the general tip for the steward is about $50 for the week. All games, activities, trivia contests, evening shows are free.
     
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  9. JosieCat

    JosieCat VIP Whale

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    I actually just booked my comp M Life Cruise as I am pretty sure this will be the last year I can maintain Platinum. I actually picked the dates of my cruise because the cruise I wanted goes out of Miami and Sun Country only goes from MSP to MIA from November through about Mid April. $164 round trip. Just booked it this morning. Flying in on Sunday 4/16, cruising Monday through Friday - Nassau, Coco Cay and Key West. Keep us posted on what you decide.
     
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  10. marham

    marham Tourist

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    We went on Allure of the Seas, it was fantastic, 7 days western Caribbean, we had a balcony. We only paid for 1 restaurant, we just ate at the ones included and they were very good. I am more than ready to go again, one of these days we will, just got to save up the money. Go and enjoy.
     
  11. nostresshere

    nostresshere Mr. Anti Debit Card

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    And outstanding and detailed response. I have added a few notes.


    Great overview by Trigger.

    A few notes:

    - this is about CARNIVAL. Each cruiseline has it's own quirks.

    - drinks, even water taken aboard has become a big issue with some of them. Do your research in advance vs having them take your booze, water, etc.

    - Tipping is a sore point with some. Many lines now do a mandatory daily "service charge". Yea, you can often adjust and please don't start the argument here. Each cruiseline at cruise critic has thousands of threads beating that horse to death.
     
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  12. Geogran

    Geogran Whooo. Whooo.

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    @Danny61231

    definitely do at least an ocean view, if you do one 'splurge', I'd strongly recommend a balcony cabin - your wife will thank you!!


    Definitely fly in the day before your cruise!

    We like Ft Lauderdale - good rates and options on SWA for us
    (Galveston,Tx has some great Caribbean cruises Royal Caribbean/Carnival/etc) prices a bit more reasonable than Florida)

    Drink packages (Soft drinks and alcohol) and individual drinks can be very happy expensive - research.
    RC allows you to bring 2 bottles of wine on board free - some lines charge corkage fees.

    (Free soft drinks in buffet)
    coffee and tea are free in restaurants.

    Shore excursions cost extra, transportation to/from port, specialty restaurants on board cost extra, gratuity requirements, soft drinks, alcohol.

    Small but adequate casino and they do have penny slots

    Really no reason to not take full advantage of the free and good to excellent dining options in all main dining rooms, buffet, cafes,others. Specialty dining restaurants, Starbucks, some others have fees.

    You need to decide on an Eastern or Western Caribbean itinerary - base on which ports you prefer.
    We like Cozumel - beach resort day, also St Maarten - beach resort day - we don't do a lot on shore..
    All shows were Included per my experience, don't know if all cruise lines are free.

    Favorites: Royal Caribbean - Allure and Oasis of the Seas
    NCL Norwegian
    Not fans of Carnival (personal opinion only).


    recommend cruise critic for info and to answer all questions - happy sailing!!!
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
  13. Candy Apple

    Candy Apple VIP Whale

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    Visit the cruisecritic.com message boards. Very helpful.
     
  14. Jerseyguy

    Jerseyguy VIP Whale

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    Very good tips ,theres a ton of ships out there in the mid-range area,you can put a small deposit on a cabin way in advance and cancell up to a certain point without penalty. Also within this time frame you may see your cabin on sale and call the cruise line and get the fare adjusted accordingly. Read the cruise contract as to what the cancellation penalties are in a given time frame. So you definitely want to take travel insurance I cant stress this enough. I was in the travel biz years ago and I know it has changed drastically in the last ten years but for your first cruise I would tell you to at least talk to a seasoned travel pro. Prices can vary wildly depending on how popular a given cruise is ,ship,time of year, destination etc. Theres web sites similar to this that people give reports on different ships ,sailings destinations. I used to look at one called Cruise Critic(if it's still running) Cozumel is normally on the Western Caribbean sailings but the ports vary a lot also from ship to ship so get some cruise brochures or look on line and narrow it down. Do your homework and deal with someone reputable or the Cruise Line directly. Good Luck.
     
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  15. nostresshere

    nostresshere Mr. Anti Debit Card

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    I really do not want to open up this LONG and OFTEN DEBATED discussion here, but not everyone things this is a must. Again, cruisecritic will offer some good advice along these lines. (okay, I will add just a little - there are MANY different types of insurance - they are far from standard).
     
  16. GamblingGolfer

    GamblingGolfer High-Roller

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    Find your Roll Call on Cruise Critic, then join up with fellow travellers to book group excursions. Usually somebody will organise and it's an easy way to find/sign up for shore excursions.

    GG
     
  17. BlueBellThunder

    BlueBellThunder VIP Whale

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    All this cruise talk make me want to go on one. To the OP, you can't go wrong with cruising. It's usually the best bang for the buck in the vacation industry.
     
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  18. mdee

    mdee VIP Whale

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    Some Advice...

    If you've never been on a Cruise before you should have your Doctor prescribe you some Motion Sickness patches.
    It's like a little round band-aid that you place behind your ear. It's good for about 3 days. Get extras in case it washes off.

    We're going on a Rock & Roll Cruise in a few weeks. We went last year and Peter Frampton was sick as a dog...
    It was his 1st ever cruise and he announced from the stage never again haha!

    GET THE PATCHES!!!!
    Transderm-Scop 1.5 MG/3Day -
    Instructions; 1 patch every 72 Hours
     
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  19. Jerseyguy

    Jerseyguy VIP Whale

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    The insurance thing is one reason I reccomend talking to a pro. One company I used all the time would cover pre-existing if you bought insurance within 14 days of giving a deposit.
     
  20. Jaygee77

    Jaygee77 Low-Roller

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    One other cost savings note, specific to Royal Caribbean but possibly elsewhere.

    Once you book ahead, if it's still before the final payment date, and the price of your cruise decreases, you can call up and have the difference refunded to you. I have successfully been able to get rebates in the range of $100 or so this way. You're essentially canceling with no penalty, and rebooking at the lower price. Royal Caribbean will frequently offer on board credit as part of (or in place of) a sale, so make sure to think of things in terms of total cost.

    Once final payment occurs, typically 75 days ahead of the sailing, you won't be able to take advantage of the lower rates. That allows the cruise line to deeply discount unfilled cabins at the last minute, which is understandable.
     
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