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1st time Cruiser feeling overwhelmed

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Hi Everyone

Need some advice im going on a cruise april of 2012 in middle of week to cut down on possibility of families, using carnival cruise lines going to caribean islands, also getting a balcony room ;however I have serveral questions....
1. should I hire a travel agent?
2. Is there a cruise ship that doesn't have to many families?
3. Is there a way to figure out the total cost of airfare plus the cruise?
4. What are some of the hidden taxes and fees?
5. When I book are all the taxes and fees included or will i be surprised?
6. any other suggestions or help would be most appreciated :)

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    2. The more expensive the cruise, in general, the less likely you will have families with kids. Certain destinations - like Alaska - have fewer kids. Middle of the week in April will not cut down on families - April is a popular school vacation time month, but different regions and schools have vacations from mid-Feb thru mid-April. It also depends on when Easter is next year. I have never had difficulty avoiding kids on a cruise - eat later, lots of decks you can hide out on.

    3. Do not book airfare thru the cruiseline. So yes - just add the 2 numbers.

    4. The cost is the cost quoted - BUT - you could easily double the cost of your cruise with add-ons. The only one not optional is tips - and most often these are added on to your cruise account that you pay/gets charged to a credit card when you get off the ship. Anything you drink other than tap water, coffee/tea with meals, and often some sort of lemonade/fruit punch/coffee available on a deck is an extra charge. That means soda, iced tea - not just alcohol. All food and entertainment on board is included. There are often specialty restaurants that cost extra - but these are optional. Any time you get off the ship you pay for something - even just a cab to a beach or downtown, although some ports have something within walking distance. Charges can add up - but it is possible if you are not a heavy drinker to not pay a lot additional. Cruiseships are cash-less. Your cruisecare/room keycard acts as a charge card.

    6. Cruisecritic.com has lots of info, although sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming.

    1. Your choice about a travel agent - considering all of the above. I never have, others swear by it. Cruisecompete.com is something to consider using after you decide on a specific cruise - they will send you quotes from various sources - usually on-line travel agencies. Be careful when you compare them that they include all fees/taxes in first line - they are not "hidden" as they are all there - you just need to read them carefully.

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    1. Agents can be helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed but
    getting my best deals on priceline.com nice agents there
    easy to book online $400 pp balcony Legend cruise Carib
    last.

    2. Holland America more formal RCL more couples party.

    3. You can get quoted air/cruise package but almost always
    cheaper for me to book separately...

    4. No true hidden fees tipping will run an extra $20-30/da
    Port taxes can be very high usually included.Try to
    pack refreshments booze especially is sky high.

    5. Be very careful with card they issue you costs mount
    quickly spas and casinos tours can easily triple your
    base price.

    Cruisecritic.com best ship reviews/tips

    Relax and happy planning always tonnes of fun!

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    Carnival is very easy to book through, but it is a popular line with families, due to price and the quality of kid's programming. They have their own travel agents-"personal vacation planners"-if you want some guidance.

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    Hi Jjaamiee,

    While looking for some arrangements for our next cruise the end of this month, I saw your post. I normally do not respond to these but...here I am all signed up to post for you.
    Here are some of my thoughts:
    1. should I hire a travel agent?

    If you have already decided on the cruise line, and date then you have done most of the work. On my first couple of cruises I did use a travel agent and she did get me a couple of good deals, but I still made all the additional arrangements, hotel, cab/shuttle. etc...

    2. Is there a cruise ship that doesn't have to many families?

    Acutally, I went on an April cruise once and as someone else pointed out it is Spring break and there were alot of not only kids ...but college age partiers. Still there is plenty of room to avoid areas and or types of people you don't want to be around. but...do count on some of that on Carnival anyway since it is one of the cheapest.

    3. Is there a way to figure out the total cost of airfare plus the cruise?

    I have only booked air through the cruise line on one of the 9 cruises (7 Carnival and 2 NCL)and we missed the cruise...Carnival gave us a voucher for another cruise at a later date...but what a waste, time off, disappointment, etc. Now I always go in the night before. It is worth one nights stay to do that to me. Most cruise lines have hotels that they work with (higher end of course...and many of them they will shuttle you from the hotel to the cruise port) You did not say where you were flying from and cruising out of? If you do chances are I can tell you some tips...

    4. What are some of the hidden taxes and fees? When you book online it will give you the total with taxes and fees. The cost (they tell you but you need to keep in mind) is normally around $10.00 per person in tips per day...you will set up an onboard account and everything will be charged to that. Of course all meals are included. You can really spend as little or as much as you want. I went on one cruise and spent less than $200.00, and one more than $2000.00. That depends on what you do outside of what is included: here is some of the things you need to budget for:

    Air
    Hotel (if you arrive one day earlier)
    cab or shuttle to hotel (I always pick one that has this for free)
    cab/shuttle to port (Carnival offers this from the airport) Normally around $30.00 per person

    Tips for drivers, tips for baggage handlers

    On Board extras: all alcohol, all tours, spa, gambeling, sodas are not included (you can buy a card for the whole cruise...if you drink alot of sodas it is worth it).

    There are a couple of Resturants that IF you want to go to them they charge extra...this is kinda new...I've never seen the need....there are way too many free eating choices.

    I tip when I use room service

    Tips for Baggage handlers when you depart
    Cab/shuttle when you depart
    tips for cab/shuttle driver when you depart.

    Dont forget to budget/save money for your car if you parked at the airport.

    5. When I book are all the taxes and fees included or will i be surprised? the are included except for the tips they will charge to you at $10.00 per person per day...( you can dispute or ask them to remove it but I do not)

    6. any other suggestions or help would be most appreciated.

    I can give you some specifics of things I have done/used depending on where you are leaving from, and if you have ever been to the city etc. for pre/post cruise.

    I am guessing that if you respond it will go to me at my email.

    Hope that was helpful.

    P.S. You should budget for at least one picture. $15.00-$30.00...they take lots and they also will have a night that they will have photographers set up ..it is worth it to get one especially a formal one.

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    Hire a travel agent. They work for you, are available to help if you have abig problem while cruising and they know a lot more than you do. There is a lopt more involved than price also. Usually price is largley fixed. Unless you consider a $100 saving on a $5000 trip a big advantage.
    2 A TA might help here. Actually the more expensive the cruise the smaller the groups. On most ships, there are enough passengers that individuals don't stand out.
    3 The price quoted is usually the price. If you add a lot of drinks and tours it will add up, but those are your options.
    4. Tips, add ons. Good question for the travel agent.
    6. Watch the extras, esp excursions. You don't say where you are going, but get a good ports of call book for your region and investigate your ports. See if you can see enough there are your own. If not try to find private guides - they are often cheaper, and less likey to hold you captive at a T-shirt shop.

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    If trying to avoid kids, I might suggest Celebrity as a better option.

    April is a HUGE time for Spring Breaks. Midweek won't matter.

    Celebrity does have kids programs, but probably not the first line families might look think of.

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    We have cruised on HAL and Celebrity and the number of kids is small, but they are there. On the over all, though, kids tend to keep to themselves. They want to avoid adults as much as they can, so you don't wee them. Actually, I think that young people dislike cruises. When my kids were teenage, nothing but a trip to the beach or ski slopes would please them.

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    1. I've used vacationstogo.com. It's an online agent, they're prices are the same as all the other online agents but they were easier to search and I've never had a problem with something booked through them.

    2. As cruises get longer the crowd gets older. Time of year might also make a difference; cruise when school is in.

    3. I buy my airfare seperately, know your cruise price options but book your flight first then immediately book your cruise.

    4. Lines are a little different but, basically, your room and food are included, almost all entertainment is included - if they ask for your room key, assume it's not free. You will pay for most drinks. Excursions can add up. We always go independently or book an independent excursion through a local guide.

    5. Vacationstogo.com prices are the price you pay. There may be fuel surcharges because of the price of gas but those should be disclosed before you book.

    6. Cruisecritic.com is a great place for ship reviews, itineraries, excursions, boards for people who will be on the same cruise, etc.

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    Hi Jjaamiee!

    I've cruised with Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Holland America.

    I've only booked through a travel agent one time, and it didn't benefit me in any particular way. In fact, I've found that I've been able to pay a smaller deposit when working directly with the cruise line. That might be something you want to find out: deposit amount, is it refundable/changeable, and when is final payment due. Those things can often vary and help you decide between cruise line and travel agent. Also, regarding booking through a random online cruise site versus the actual cruise line itself, the line normally will charge a lesser deposit and they almost always match if you find the cruise fare cheaper elsewhere. They will also be willing to work with you if their own fare drops after you've booked at a higher price. You are also assured of knowing exactly what category of stateroom you will get (usually the room number itself), the features therein, and all the details you need or want to know. Also, it is immensely convenient to be able to access the cruise line's online itinerary specifically designed for you. That helps tremendously when making all plans, understanding that particular line's ins-and-outs, booking excursions, and getting general travel/cruise helpful hints.

    Regarding excursions, you can always get them cheaper outside of the ship, from any one of the vendors on the street, however the benefit of booking and paying on the ship is the guarantee that the ship will wait for you if you're late returning due to the excursion. To me, it's worth it to pay extra for that assurance.

    In general, I believe Caribbean and Mexico cruises have more small children and more college kids, not so much because of cruise line, but simply because those destinations are less expensive across the board. Alaska is more kid-less but you probably won't find an Alaska cruise until May. But it's also considerably more expensive. (Lots more to see, though! I recommend it if you can swing it.)

    As the others have mentioned, taxes and fees are included up front. Also, the cruise lines will tell you (or you can find it on their website) what the automatic tip charge will be to your account. I just cruised with Holland America last week and it was eleven dollars per person per day. If you want to change that, either increase it or decrease it, they will allow you to do so, you just have to arrange it with the front desk on the ship. I usually leave the automatic tips the way they are and tip those I want to tip extra in cash, which they are happy to receive, but that's not "required."

    It is almost certainly more expensive to book your airfare with the cruise line, however the convenient side to that is that it's included in your overall trip cost so you know exactly how much you're paying for the whole trip. But the other benefit is that you then have the convenience of paying off the total trip amount in any increment and frequency you like, interest-free, up until the final payment due date (versus having to pay the whole airfare at time of booking if you do it yourself). As someone else mentioned they missed getting on the cruise when on a flight arranged through the cruise line, but that wouldn't have been the cruise line's fault. Either they took a flight that was cutting it too close, weather was a problem, they didn't allow time for transfers from airport to ship terminal, or something like that. If you fly early in the day on the sail date, you're probably okay. If you can afford the day before and a hotel stay for one night, that's safer. But I've never had a problem flying and sailing on the same day. You just need to get the right flight and give yourself a time cushion. And remember that there will be baggage check and claim for both the flight and the cruise. You just need to give yourself plenty of time for that.

    Charges to expect on the ship: tips, any souvenirs or shore excursions you book through the ship, some of the alternate dining areas (totally not necessary), room phone usage, spa/salon treatments, and any drinks or snacks that are in your stateroom not marked "complimentary." Those are the most common and obvious. At meals, coffee, tea (hot and iced), water from the pitcher, milk, and some juices - these are all included. Soft drinks, alcohol, bottled water, and specialty coffees are extra. They pretty much always add a gratuity to all bar drinks from what I understand.

    One other thing, if you're not used to cruising, or if you're prone to any kind of motion sickness -- preventative measures are the way to go! The front desk of all ships have free motion sickness tablets that they hand out as often as you need them. Usually they are chewable and come in two-packs. Best thing to do, take one in the morning, one at night. If you take too many at once you may get drowsy. But it's best to do this as a precaution even if you don't think you need it. Even the most seasoned ship captains experience motion sickness at one time or another. The listing won't bother you a bit this way. But if you wait 'til you're already sick, then it's too late for the medicine to help you and you'll be completely miserable for a day or two. Really puts a damper on everything.

    Have a great trip. If you can avoid Easter break completely, that would be best. Easter Sunday is on April 8 next year.

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    Jjaamiee:

    Please relax. This will be fun!

    1. should I hire a travel agent?

    Travel agents aren't really "hired"--you just pick the best deal and book with whomever is offering it. That is never the cruise line and will always be a travel agent. Second vote here for http://www.cruisecompete.com. On this site you pick the cruise you want, then let agents compete to offer you the best deal. No cost to use this site to shop around.

    2. Is there a cruise ship that doesn't have to many families?

    Factors limiting kids include: higher-end cruise lines; longer cruises; cruises when kids are in school; cruises from more remote ports (eg., San Juan) where flights are longer and airfare is more expensive.

    3. Is there a way to figure out the total cost of airfare plus the cruise?

    Book airfare separately from the cruise. I suggest http://www.kayak.com for finding flights. Then you just add them together...

    4. What are some of the hidden taxes and fees? 5. When I book are all the taxes and fees included or will i be surprised?

    Some web sites (including the cruise line web sites) don't show you all costs/fees until the final booking screen, so when comparing prices make sure you go all the way through to the part where it asks for your credit card to see what the total charges are. Total costs should be displayed in CruiseCompete bids, though, to make comparisons easier.

    As far as other onboard spends go, this short (3 min) video on Youtube has some good thoughts:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qhqy-unA1JQ

    Tipping is another cost you have to budget for. Here's another short (2 min) video that explains the basics:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPkwsEuAXUI


    Good luck, have a great cruise, and make you you come back and tell us all about it when you get home.

    Enjoy!

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    A lot of people have given you some great advise. I have taken around 15 cruises. All have been either booked on line or directly through the cruise line.

    These are a couple of things that we have learned:

    You can always upgrade. I would suggest booking an outside ocean view room, and watch the balcony prices for awhile to see if they drop down. We have saved hundreds of dollars this way.

    Carry on a small bag packed with enough clothes, bathing suits, sunscreen, etc. so that as soon as you get in your room, you can be ready to hit the pool and deck action. Sometimes it takes them awhile to get your luggage to your room.

    I agree with booking your own flights. Fly in a day early. The only time that we every booked flights through the cruise line they put us on flights that had too many long layovers when more direct flights were available. It took us twice as long to get to our destination than it should have been. Our vacation time is much too precious for this.

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