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Old 05-14-2012, 12:18 PM
Location: southwest TN
8,225 posts, read 14,932,096 times
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We've been on 10 cruises so far and are planning our next. 8 of those cruises were on Carnival - and it's my preferred. The other 2 lines were Royal and Norwegian and we don't plan to return to either. The food is average, nothing to write home about. I tend to be a bit fussy about food but have had fewer problems finding something I like on Carnival than on the other two lines. On both Royal and Norwegian, there IS a charge for room service during some hours of the night, not so on Carnival which truly offers 24/7 food.

The cabin size on Norwegian - which just may be the smallest cabins in the industry are not even large enough to move the beds together without one person having to climb over the other bed - and at our age, that is totally unsatisfactory. I hated spending the week cruise separate from my husband. The cabins on Royal weren't much better. We are just fine with the inside cabins on Carnival, plenty of room, storage, and even the bathrooms are fine.

Carnival has a standard tip they add to your bill, so much per day per person and generally, you'd be tipping much higher individually, so we just go with it. We like having a breakfast of fruit, pastry, coffee and juice delivered to our cabin at 6 am and there's no problem on Carnival - for no extra charge. Unfortunately, that is not industry-wide.

Be ware of the cruiselines that permit any number of underage children to sail free. OMG, the people that bring their children for free also are the ones who have no control over them or seem to think that everyone wants to hear their screaming child scream for 1/2 hour or more.

Cruisecritic and cruisemates are wonderful sources of information, including on specific ships and destinations.

Have fun. Cruising is fantastic and inexpensive, generally.
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Old 05-17-2012, 09:03 PM
Location: On the Edge of the Fringe
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I always opt for prepaid gratuities and both Carnival and ROyal Caribbean allow this. That way, when I pay for the cruise, the tips are paid as well.
Last summer we had a liquor bill of about 300 (two adults) but since we had the kids with us, we needed to drink a lot more.
As for excursions, they an be very expensive if bought onboard, but in certain ports, like Belize and Jamaica, I would not recommend going out and buying an excursion at the port. St Thomas and Grand Caymen and even Cozumel are ok for that, and often cheaper than on the ship.

I also do not like to shop, but for those who do there are an aundance of sales on the ship stores, my advice would be that if you want to buy something, wait a few days and chances are a BIG SALE will happen and you will get the same item cheaper.
I only buy booze and rum cakes on the ship, and the former can cost 5 each, and wine with dinner is always extra too and not cheap.
Since it is not allowed to bring your own booze, do what some other cruisers did, buy scope mouthwash, pour it out, then fill the scope bottles with vodka (color it green if ya want) and place it in your bag, it eill be in your room waiting for you. Just pour it into the cokes they sell (2.50 each) or even better, we brought our own coke 6 pack and they let us bring it on.
One thng about tipping. Some employees, such as those at the pool, if you give them a tip on the bill (Which you do not have to do because it is factored in to the price already) Well they have to share all those tips. IF you hand him a few dollars, however, he gets to keep it, and he will remember your name, your brand, and you will be well taken care of for the cruise. '
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Old 05-18-2012, 09:37 AM
Location: southwest TN
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All the ship arranged excursions are available online prior to the cruise. We generally make our decision at home whether to take the ship tours or go on our own. And we always check cruisecritic and cruisemates for others' opinions. Sometimes there are good reasons for avoiding private trips, like taxis, etc., especially if time is limited in port. The nice thing about the ship excursions is you get a chance to meet other cruisers, and we have made some wonderful friends that way that we still keep in touch with. Going on your own is nice, especially when you're travelling with others.

But do keep in mind, if you choose to go on your own, you are ON YOUR OWN if you miss the ship.

I am so glad we opted for the ship excursions on our Med cruise. We had some of the most incredible tour guides - one was an American professor living and researching in Naples. He made Herculaneum pop for us. His passion for the topic brought it alive.

BTW, do you know why all the female babies in Pisa are named Ilene?
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Old 05-18-2012, 08:24 PM
Location: Somerville, MA
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If you want to bring your own liquor, here's a good video on how to "sneak" it onto a cruise. A little work, but it can save you some money if you're really thrifty. Keep in mind, that if you're caught, there may be consequences. However, I HAVE used this method at a concert. Great success.

How to put liquor in sealed water bottles for cruises and sporting events - YouTube
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Old 05-18-2012, 09:33 PM
Location: SW MO
1,238 posts, read 4,040,097 times
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A few observations about inside vs. outside cabins. We have had each, and I MUCH prefer the one with a window. I'm not claustrophobic, but found the lack of sunshine to be confusing. We slept a lot more, because the room is EXTREMELY dark with no window. I also like to look at the water, for flying fish or dolphins, at other boats we pass by etc. while waiting for my husband to get organized for the day. I actually sit in the window if it is big enough to read or just stare at the water. Also, I enjoy throwing open the curtains in the morning, for the first sight of our port of call. One morning there was a waterspout, and we got pictures! I will gladly pay the extra for a window. I'm sure I would love a balconey too, but that is usually out of our price range...
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Old 05-19-2012, 06:39 AM
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A few comments on excursions.

There are really three options and the choice of option will depend on the port.

- ship arranged
- bought locally at the port
- do your own thing

We use ship arranged tours for historic sites (Herculaneum, Ephesus, etc.) where we are really buying the trained guide or when we are in ports where we do not have a lot of trust in the locals (usually 3rd world ports).

We have used locally bought tours in a number of places and have been very happy with them. We have never had a bad experience but it is worth making sure of what you are getting before signing up. They are usually a lot cheaper than ship tours and can be very good. In many places, local taxis will do tours for you at a set price. If you split that price between 4 people it can be very good value and you get a personalized service. We have done that in St. Barts, Lipari Island (Italy) and Noumea (New Caledonia).

In a lot of ports you really do not need to pay for a tour. You can get cruise books in Barnes & Noble (or other booksellers) which give you an overview of most of the ports and tell you what there is to see as well as other useful information. The books cost around $35 (I think) and are well worth it. Thus, for example, in Malta we used the public buses to get to Medina rather than a tour. The round trip on the bus cost a Euro each rather than paying $150 for the tour. The buses were old but clean, safe and reliable. In many ports you do not even need transport and you can walk to most sites.
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Old 05-20-2012, 09:34 PM
Location: Toronto, Ottawa Valley & Dunedin FL
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To the OP, let us know which cruiselines you are considering. And if you don't know that, go study up on Cruise Critic.
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Old 05-22-2012, 02:31 PM
Location: Whittier, CA
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I am considering Princess or Royal Caribbean from Vancouver to Alaska...which is the best place to shop for a cruise?
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Old 05-22-2012, 06:04 PM
Location: southwest TN
8,225 posts, read 14,932,096 times
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I like cruise411.com for researching cruises and comparing; we also check out cruisecritic and cruisemates for information about a specific ship, including deck plans and cabin sizes; however, we generally go to the cruise line's website directly to book.

I don't know about Princess, but I will tell you that RC's cabins are much smaller than Carnival's. That information (cabin size) can be found at the cruise line website or at cruisecritic.com.
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Old 05-22-2012, 07:44 PM
Location: Out West
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I've worked for two cruise lines in the past so I'm going to ask you first, what are you looking for onboard?

Some cruises cater to all ages while some cater to older guests. If you have kids, some cruises do not have a program for them. If you are looking to get away from kids and crowds, you may wish to consider your cruise lines carefully.

Some cruise lines have gratuities included, some do not. Keep that in mind when looking at fares.

Some cruises have not just a cruise but land packages in Alaska, as well. Totally worth it if you have that much time and can afford it.

On almost any cruise, alcohol will cost you. SOME cruise lines will let you bring your own drinks, they do not have an issue with it. Some cruise lines will not. It's best to ask in advance. If you think you can "sneak" it on there, you're in for a big surprise. Just ask!

Excursions...it may have changed now that all will let you book in advance, it used to be, some did not. Double check that. If you can book in advance, do it.

You may be able to find the exact same excursion on shore for much cheaper but, as was pointed out, if you miss the ship, it is at your expense and you will NOT get a refund for any missed portion of the cruise. I will never forget the day we pulled out of port in Vancouver. We were barely out of port when we saw a boat flying towards us. Two guests had missed the ship. They hired a boat to bring them to the ship, the cruise line I worked for, the captain of the ship was kind enough to allow them onboard but it cost them a pretty penny. Do NOT miss the ship!

Other pointers: Get a different credit card. Put money on it that is for this cruise only and leave your other credit card in the safe, in your room. Do NOT travel off the ship with the card that is linked to your bank account in any way, shape or form. Get one that you use when you leave the ship. If it is stolen, you will not be wiped out.

Internet on the ship: People LOVE to complain about this. "It costs way too much!!!" Best thing to do is, if you must use email, keep it short, sweet and to the point. You can be charged over a dollar a minute on some cruise lines. That adds up quick if you're trying to write a long letter to people. Postcards are still pretty cheap.

Insurance: If anything happens to you or your family/friends on that cruise, you are going to wish you had it. Discuss your options with a travel agent, I'm serious about this.

Airfare: If you need to fly, the BEST thing to do is get that through the cruise lines. If you buy on your own, sure, you may get it cheaper but you don't have the safety net from the cruise lines. With missed flights, delayed flights, issues at airports, why take the risk? Spend a few extra bucks and get it through the cruise lines. If you are for some reason delayed or miss a flight and you miss your initial point of embarkation? There goes your cruise. No refunds.

Back to shore excursions: I am telling you right now, if you are doing the typical 7 day Inside Passage to Alaska, you are going to want shore excursions. You can waste a little time in places like Sitka or Ketchikan but you will be bored for the rest of the day. Save money now for those excursions.

Do NOT book your Alaska cruise for late June through July unless you enjoy being eaten alive by black flies. Go in early or wait till a little later. Fares are better earlier and later. Height of season is black fly season. Have you experienced black flies? You do not want to experience black flies.

Make sure you know about the dress requirements for dinner. On some cruise lines, you will be asked to dress formally for dinner at least one night. Do you have those kind of clothes? If not, save up to get them.

Inside state rooms: Do you plan on spending a lot of time in your state room or do you plan on being out and about? Even if you have a day at sea, there's TONS to do on board. Some will set up games for people to play and while it seems silly at first, it can actually turn out to be a lot of fun. So unless you are spending most of your time in a stateroom, inside is not a bad deal. They put curtains on the wall anyway to make you believe you have a window. As long as you don't look behind the curtains, you'll never know.

On some, size wise, the inside and outside are the same size. You want to pay that much extra for a window or porthole you may or may not even look out?

WHERE will you be on the ship? Do you get seasick or motion sickness? Do not be forward, do not be aft. You'll find that most often, the center rooms are the ones that sell first. There's a reason for that. However, if you do not have any sort of motion sickness issues, you'll feel more but it shouldn't bother you too much. Also, keep in mind where some of those inside staterooms are...what are they ABOVE? Do you want to hear a lot of racket at night? Be aware of what is below your stateroom. Be aware, as well, where the infirmary is located or even the laundry. Do you want to listen to people coming in and out of those locations all day and night? Then don't book next to them. If you don't care, book where you want.

If you DO have issues with motion sickness, as I do, the absolute best, BEST BEST!!! remedy is thus:

Eat a green apple and drink a bowl of beef broth 1/2 hour before embarking. OR, 1/2 hour after ship sets sail from their "under the weather" menu.

Forget all those pills and bands and patches. Green apple and a bowl of beef broth, I'm telling you, it WORKS!

If you have any specific questions, I am more than happy to answer them. I will not disclose, publicly, which cruise lines I worked for. I will inform in a direct message but not on here, in the public eye. I no longer represent those cruise lines. I think they are fabulous lines but what I say in some threads on this forum should not be in any way, shape or form, connected to those cruise lines even the slightest. They are, as I said, fantastic lines and I have been known to hold strong opinions in some forums here.

Cruise Critic is THE best place to go for all kinds of questions but if you want to narrow a few of them down, DM me.
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