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Prep for First Cruise-- August 2014

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So my 50th is coming up next August... and my husband and I are considering our first cruise, with another couple! This is totally foreign territory for me, and I'm an over-planner, so I'm starting the obsessive planning now. Are there pills for this...?

Anyway, I have a few questions:

1. When should I expect the cruise lines to post their August 2014 cruise schedules?

2. We are specifically thinking about the Caribbean. Does any cruise line stand out as far as great ships, great activities & entertainment, cool clientèle (especially because we're two gay couples, and we do NOT want to do a "gay cruise" under any circumstances), great food, etc., etc., etc. for Caribbean cruising?

3. I'm really naïve about the experience. I assume food is included, but am I right in assuming that we will be paying for alcoholic drinks? And is it pay-as-you-go, cash-bar transactions, or do we run up a tab and settle the last day? Do we tip the crew, servers, etc.?

4. I've heard that some ships/cruise lines have formal nights, costume parties, etc. Is participation mandatory? I don't want to have to bring special outfits on a vacation that's supposed to be relaxing. I'm turning 50, not going out for Trick or Treat.

Any feedback will be, as always, greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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