Planning a cruise for April

Old Nov 19th, 2011, 02:01 PM
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Planning a cruise for April

Hi,
My husband and I are planning on booking a cruise in April 2012 and are trying to decide which area to go to and which cruise ship to book.
We both like snorkeling and hiking. I am also into photography, but realize that this will be a secondary activity to us just enjoying ourselves.
I have read that the Grand Cayman is good for snorkeling.
We have never been to the Caribbean and I want to make sure we pick a good one!
Also, which cruise line is the best? We have only used Norwegian in the past and enjoyed it.
As a side note, we are not into shopping, historical, or night life partying.
Any advice would be much appreciated!
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Old Nov 19th, 2011, 03:05 PM
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First off, any Caribbean cruise will stop at several different destinations so you'll be able to do some hiking, snorkeling, photography and partake of plenty of other activities that may interest you. that's the beauty of a cruise - theres usually something for everybody.

Also, which cruise line is "best" depends on your definition of "best". You have to do a little research to determine which might be "best" for you. There are cruise lines with small ships (around 100 passengers, medium size ships (500 to 700 passengers) and large ships (1,500 to 3,000 passengers) and a few mega-ships (upwards of 5,000+ passengers). There also are cruise lines to fit many different budgets and within those different categories you'll find a fairly wide range of stateroom prices on each ship. So that opens up a lot more choices. Amenities on ships vary greatly so you have to factor that into your decision. We like medium size ships, some people like small ships and others like large ships. Pick what YOU like.

Cruise itineraries also vary and one itinerary is not necessarily better than another - they are just different. Some itineraries visit islands in the Eastern Caribbean while others concentrate on the western islands. Still others combine parts of either eastern or western islands with stops in either the Bahamas or Mexico and Central America.

You should do some basic research to determine which cruise line or lines most appeal to you and then choose an itinerary that interests you. Don't worry about "not seeing every island" islands you don't see on this trip can be visited on your next cruise.
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Old Nov 19th, 2011, 03:27 PM
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Thanks for the info. I am not sure that we will pick the Caribbean for a destination more than once, so that is why I am trying to make the best choice possible. We have other destinations around the world that we want to hit so I am always looking for the best choice.
We have already snorkeled Maui, Hanauma Bay, and the Great Barrier Reef. Except for Green Island, all were great experiences. Stingrays appeal to me, but not if it's going to be so crowded that we can't enjoy ourselves. I'm always looking for unique experiences, but also try to stay away from too touristy type areas. We like to do our own thing and stay away from group activities.
We have been doing lots of research and have read all sorts of information, but it's always nice to get specific recommendations from people who have already gone there. Books and websites don't always have the best recommendations because they have ulterior motives.
As for ships, our only experience was on the Norwegian Star. We enjoyed the ship and the freestyle dining. We did the cruise to Acapulco, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Puerta Vallarta, and Cabo (no snorkeling on that trip).
Currently, we are mainly considering a cruise on the Caribbean Princess from Puerto Rico to St Thomas, Tortola, St. John, Dominica, and Barbados. However, I'm wondering if Bermuda, Honduras, Belize, or Grand Cayman would be better.
I know that I need to choose what is best for me, but when you've never been somewhere, you don't know for sure what would be best and would appreciate some specific advice.
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Old Nov 19th, 2011, 04:31 PM
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The most popular cruises are from Ft. Lauderdale going to the Western Caribbean; Cozumel, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and one of the private Islands in the Bahamas. Cozumel, Grand Cayman and the Bahamas are good for snorkeling. Jamaica is good for sightseeing and hiking.

I have been on 2 Carnival Cruises in the Caribbean and Princess once for the Caribbean and once for Alaska. Have also been to several Caribbean Islands on land vacations. I really liked Princess and would choose them again. I would like to try Celebrity though as they are now offering an pre-pay alcohol plan. I would never sail with Carnival again as it it too party-ish and full of kids. I wouldn't mind trying NCL, but they never seem to have the iteniary that we are looking for, but their anytime dining concept is something I would like. Princess and Celebrity both have anytime and traditional dining. Have done their anytime dining and really enjoyed it.

I find it very difficult to recommend a specific iteniary not really knowing what you like and are looking for in a cruise experience. I can tell you though I did not like St. Thomas or St. John, and I personally would want a cruise without that stop, but many people adore St. John and feel it has great snorkeling.

I think leaving from PR vs. Florida will give you a better variety of Islands to choose from. There are also cruises the depart Barbados.

I usually try to pick an itiniary that has the longest port times and the fewest sea days. Cruises that are longer than 7 days leaving out of PR or Barbados will give you more Island stops than departing from Florida.

The way I choose my itinaries, besides price, was doing research on each Island and finding something I really wanted to see or do and make sure that Island was in our itiniary. There are compromises with that plan though. If you really want to swim with the Stings Rays in Grand Cayman (which was awesome) go with an iteniary that includes that. Just pick an independant operator and not a cruise ship excursion and it ahouldn't be crowded. Be aware though that GC is a tender port, so it can take up to 2 hours to get off the ship. That will determine what time to set your tour for.
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Old Nov 19th, 2011, 05:16 PM
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if you want a unique experience, check out www.islandwindjammers.com It's ship that only holds 12 passengers and sails in the Caribbean....
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Old Nov 19th, 2011, 05:24 PM
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To add on to the above...they sail from Grenada and go to smaller islands, Mayreau, Bequia, Tobago Cays.....if that is too small, check out the Star Clippers....www.starclippers.com you can find reviews on www.cruisecritic.com
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Old Nov 19th, 2011, 05:44 PM
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Thank you, KVR, for a very helpful reply!
Our vacation is just going to be for one week....I have such a hard time getting two weeks at a time.
A second choice we are considering is the Norwegian Pearl, which will go from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, George Town, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico.
I will start checking out all the stops and compare them to the other cruise we are considering and see which one appeals to us the most.
I have been watching snorkeling videos on YouTube trying to see what the spots look like. So far it's very different from Maui and the Great Barrier Reef.....more sand and less coral....and I wasn't impressed by St. John at all.
My husband wants to make sure we get to see some really "Caribbean"-feeling places...the white sand, clear water, etc.
Again, thanks for your help....very good info!
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Old Nov 19th, 2011, 06:53 PM
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BellaClaire - that is much too small for what I was thinking. I need a big ship to keep from getting sea sick. I had to take pills when we rode the boats out to the Great Barrier Reef and I still felt ill. The big cruise ships, however, don't seem to affect me at all. But thanks so much for the info!
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Old Nov 19th, 2011, 07:04 PM
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Okay, out of the big ships, I like Princess. They have these great movie screens you can watch outside....the pools are fresh water.. and they have these minisuites which I highly suggest...Royal Caribbean has beautiful ships...Carnival is good for entertainment and good value...they have nice sized ocean suites and they offer these chef tours of which only 12 people attend, I'd highly suggest that if you go on Carnival....all that said...I'd love to try Celebrity next.....
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Old Nov 19th, 2011, 07:08 PM
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As for itineraries, I prefer Eastern Caribbean or Southern Caribbean routes....if you leave out of south Florida, you'll stop at roughly 3 ports....if you go out of San Juan - you'll go to as many as 6 ports....They both have pros and cons...3 ports - you have some days at sea to simply enjoy the sea and relax....6 ports - you get to see a variety of islands! Good luck choosing, there sure is an ample supply out there!
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Old Nov 19th, 2011, 08:10 PM
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BellaClaire - yes, my brain is starting to hurt from all this researching of islands! lol! The cruise to the western caribbean leaves from Florida and the flight is much more for us than the one to Puerto Rico, so we are leaning towards that one. There are about 5 different cruises that we have been looking at that are all on the eastern side. One has St. Thomas, Tortola, St. John, Dominica, and Barbados....another has St Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitt, and St. Martin. I really like the looks of Dominica for all the hiking possibilities so I'm kinda leaning towards that itinerary. It's on Princess.
One excursion I'm considering is horseback riding, but I would only do it if I could ride in the ocean water....it's on my bucket list.
The cave in Barbados also looks interesting.
But we also want some white beach/palm tree stereotypical Caribbean-relaxing as well.
Thanks for all the info....very helpful!
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Old Nov 20th, 2011, 03:56 AM
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The Princess San Juan-Barbados cruise is exactly the one we are taking next Sunday. Leaving from SJU gets you more islands in 7 days than leaving from So.FL. You can't pick a better one for what you want. These islands blow away anywhere you can go in the western Caribbean, except for Jamaica. Even tho the Caribbean Princess is a large ship, there are so many spaces that it doesn't seem crowded. Beacuse of the weather and visuals, I suggest a balcony cabin--this ship has so many that the prices are good. As for your stops, you can ferry from STT to St.John which has georgeous beaches on the north shore with excellent wade-in snorkeling. Hawksnest Beach is one of the best. Tortola will give you hiking or a ship's boat tour to a couple spots in the BVI for snorkeling. St.J and BVI will provide the best snorkeling on the trip. Antigua has a place very similar to Stingray City on Grand Cayman. It may be on a ship's tour. Dominica is all about nature, with hiking, hot springs, etc. And Barbados is a special island; we are getting off and staying beachfront on the island for a few days. If you hire a taxi, you can cover some highlights in one day, all in the same part of the island. Harrison's Cave, Flower Forest (a visitor once wrote in their guest book, "If I owned Paradise and Flower Forest, I'd live in Flower Forest and rent out Paradise."), St. Nicholas Abbey, and the Nature Preserve where the animals run free. See www.barbados.org
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Old Nov 20th, 2011, 05:35 AM
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watermelongirl, so glad I finally found someone else that didn't care for St. John either. I knew I couldn't be the only one.

After going to Mexico and the Caribbean, I was highly disappointed in Hawaii. The water clarity, beaches and snorkeling are just so sub-par in comparison.

I have done the Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, George Town, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico on The Star Princess in April, 2007. The weather wasn't all that great that week and we missed Jamaica. Having already done those Islands, I would chose the itiniary going out of PR instead of Florida. More port stops and less sea days, plus PR is a really good destination to do a pre/post cruise stay.

I don't think you could miss with any of the port stops. They all have their own specific attractions. I would go with the one that gives you the most ports so that you can get a really good overview.

xkenx, I would be interested in your experiences in Barbados. Food, attractions, costs, etc. I'm looking for a land vacation for July, but from research, the expense may be more than what we are wanting.

I would love to do the 14 day Princess cruise out of PR. It's on my list, but aggravated that they don't go in the summer months so having a hard time trying to fit it in my schedule.
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Old Nov 20th, 2011, 06:44 AM
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KVR, Barbados is a wonderfully varied island. If you'd like to contact me separately, I'll be happy to chat. This will be my 5th time staying on the island over the years....Ken
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Old Nov 20th, 2011, 08:26 AM
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xkenx, that would be great. Would love all information. My e-mail address is in my profile. Thanks.
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Old Nov 20th, 2011, 09:00 AM
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KVR, for starters take a look at www.barbados.org and www.innsandoutsofbarbados.com
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Old Nov 20th, 2011, 01:48 PM
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Thanks to everyone and their replies. It really helped. We finally decided on the Princess Caribbean cruise going from Puerto Rico to St Thomas, Tortola, Antigua, Dominica, and Barbados.
I still have to research our excursions, but currently am thinking:
St. Thomas: Turtle Cove near Buck Island for snorkeling with turtles
Tortola: Dolphin Discovery or just hanging on a nice beach
Antigua: Stingray City
Dominica: Canyoning Adventure
Barbados: Ziplines or Harrisons Cave

Has anyone done any of the zipline tours? We did one in Maui (Flyin Hawaiian) and one in Cabo (Monster Zipline) and both were really good, but I'd like to do one that is in the forest, not above everything.
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Old Nov 20th, 2011, 02:52 PM
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I loved the Caribbean Princess. and your itinerary is spectacular! If they offer a trip to the Baths when you go to Tortola (even though it's on Virgin Gorda)...do it! I didn't think Barbados was hilly enough for Ziplines....I've heard Dominica is wonderful/beautiful....Antigua has 365 beaches (one for every day of the year)...remember to get Mini Suites! They are worth it! I think deck 9 is out in the open - i.e. no covering overhead....some people didn't like that....for us, we LOVED it. We were also toward the back of the ship, our balcony was huge (it was a handicapped accessible room) and we open the balconies to our adjoining cabins.....stay on the Port side and you will be seeing the islands at every port - which is fun - vs the other side where you see the ocean - which obviously is beautiful - but seeing the islands is fun!
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