Tentatively planning on a Carribean cruise this X-mas break. Never been on a cruise before, any tips on where to go, what cruise line is good, whether to use an agent or just go through Orbitz, etc would be much appreciated. Thanks.
I don't know what your preferences are, but we took a cruise last Feb on the Windjammer line to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. We loved it. Totally laid back, completely casual, very relaxing. if you wanna see some of the pix go to:
Typically, the cruise ships can rape you pretty good on the "shore excursions". If it's something simple like snorkeling or scuba diving, research places on the internet that aren't affiliated with the cruise company. Most places not affiliated with the cruise ships will still pick you up at the docks. The cruise directors talk some of their packages up like it's the only way to go. Sometimes they're right (i.e. Jamaica), but most other times there are better and less expensive ways to see the countryside.
Also, if you aren't committed to a specific place or date, book at the last possible minute. Usually the cruise company's will offer significant discounts a few weeks before departure on any vacant rooms. As an example, I purchased a 7 day Western Carribean (boring... go to the Eastern Carribean) cruise that was normally priced at $899 for a whopping $399. However, I booked the trip three days before the boat left.
Also, look at finding a cruise that leaves from a continental U.S. based port (i.e. Miami, New Orleans, etc...) Domestic flights are always cheaper... and if you can't find a last minutes flight, you can always drive!
Just my $0.02
Of course, nothing beats a cruise across Lake St. Clair at 90+ mph
I Took a cruise a couple years back with Sandy and my parents and would recommend it to anyone. We used Royal Carribean. The food and service was top notch. The shore excurions are expensive as mentioned in a earlier post. Take advantage of one or two excurions and leave it at that. Save the money for the drinks you'll have to pay for! If you like the water, then you'll enjoy a cruise.
I've been on 2 Carnival Cruises. Both in the Eastern Carribean. Its been quite a few years. (5 and 10..)
Great food, and lots of it on Carnival. Really fun too.. Beer slamming contests on deck and other fun stuff! I didn't do too good against the beer slamming competition but I got a free beer out of it!!
drinks are fairly expensive, and easy to run a tab since they give you a card that will end up billing you in the end. hey, but you're on vacation!
We bought a bottle of 151 at a port for $7, kept it in our room (you're supposed to check in all booze from shore..) and would buy a Pina Colada on deck, go back to room and "supercharge" it with a little extra rum.
I really like Dominique and Barbados. Dominique, we took a nice trip and hike in a real rain forest, and Barbados we wandered into the real part of town and drank some beers with the locals. really cool.
Good advice about the cruise directors, Baley. They try and sell you on their packages and get your money long before you get to port. The packages are usually decent, but may not be the best or economical, buts its sometimes hard to tell until you get to port.
*****I mean this! The portions are small and sometimes a little yuckie, but worth one bite.....duck alaorange~~sounded really good on the menu
The staff are happy to bring you everthing
Booze you say.....I'm told the Giant Head & Shoulders bottle works great
They kinda force you to tip the staff 3.50 per dinner meal 3.50 per cabin clean-up guy, kinda thing....do it up front.......your royalty! (You get the same waiter everytime)
The shore trips may cost more on the boat. but it is first class. You get off the boat first.....Big thing when your in port only a few hours, or your stuck in a hallway waiting to get off. Once they sold out of the trip I wanted......Took forever to get off the boat, had to get in a hot shabby bus and taken to a chezzy outfit. BUT!!!! You all end up in the same place. (10.00 discount <_< )
Some tours pick right up off the boat~special
Last thing, pop for the extra day and stay in South Beach the day before you leave......short cab ride to the boats....and no rushing the day of the cruise.
Carnival has a better room service (food) than Royal.
i say don't worry about what type of room you have, you are in it to sleep only, we went on two cruises and got the cheapest rooms, i dont care if i have a 2 foot porthole to look at the ocean horizon, with the cheapest room you still have the same amenities as the most expensive rooms, you eat the same food and swim in the same pools, and sit on the same decks
i didnt do any excursians,, amy and I did our own thing, local little pubs or just hang on the local beaches drinking coronas, most of the excursians are just touristy bs anyway,
also, carnival seems like the most fun, always a party atmosphere, younger crowd, although there is some cheeze, but with that many people im sure that happens every cruise except for the most expensive
the days of initial departure and returning to port are hectic.
its kind of a zoo while getting on and off. you will feel like cattle.
everything is totally awesome once you get a drink in your hand.
for departure, you can't totally relax until you're in your cabin and they've done the life boat drill.
Tipping is pretty much mandatory. I always had great service though. If I had crappy service, I would stiff them on the tip though. I don't think I tipped the MatreDe (spelling!!) like they suggested.. all he did was come around to our table a couple times and ask if things were ok.
oh yeah, the other thing that many non-cruisers don't know.. the pool is salt water. that was a shock the first time I jumped in!
4 Carnival cruises, 1 Princess and 2 Royal caribbean.
Carnival is a party ship with a lot of younger persons on board..
Princess was a little more costly but my wife enjoyed it more then carnival. I like Carnival the best. I enjoy the party atmosphere..
Rpyal Caribbean ships were really nice but there was nothing going on in the evenings at the disco etc.. A very old crowd...
We have always booked right through the cruise lines probably not the best way... But, we needed exact dates for a cruise and not a last minute cruise.
All of the food on board was good.. You always have to tip at the end of the cruise. Some leave envelopes on your bed and some take it right out of your master card..
We usually always do the Southern Caribbean.. WE try to do the most islands we can in one week leaving maybe only 1 day for cruising..
We usually always fly out of san Juan for the southern caribbean..
The eastern and western is out of Miami, and the flights there are cheeper..
Some islands we take tours while others we explore on our own.. Research what you want to do on the islands.
Some islands are very hilly while Aruba is prety flat..
Have fun whenever you depart...
Oh yeah, get ready for a lot of pictures being taken of you when your on ship...
When on Carnival I always try to win myself a gold coated plastic Ship Trophy playing some sort of a game...
And if you win a bottle of Champagne from a cruise ship .. Don't drink it... The employees on the ship have told me that it gives you a terrible headache and they won't ever take a bottle if you give it to them..
We just went on our first cruise, Royal Carribbean, Brilliance of the Seas, we did the 12 night Western Mediterranean and all I can say is AWESOME!!
The boat was just gorgeous, the service was great, I didn't think the excursions were too badly priced, but I did hear about a website, I think shoreexcursions.com or net...just do a search, I hear you can get really cheap tour guides.
If I were going on a caribbean cruise, I would make sure there were lots of stops and not alot of days at sea. We only had 3 days at sea and we were tired from touring europe, where if you are just on islands everyday, you won't be so tired and will probably get bored.
Tipping was optional onboard, they did recommend certain amounts though.
Taxman is right, order everything, they don't care at all.