Cruise Line Advice

Old Mar 6th, 2021, 04:43 AM
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Cruise Line Advice

Hello all,
We shoved our son out the door and off to college last fall. We planned a November “Empty Nest Moon” to celebrate, but, we all know how that ended.
I am starting to plan a do over for next Spring.
We have done several Carnival cruises, and I’m not going to knock them, they are great for families, and I honestly have never had a bad time.
But I’m ready for something else. A grown up cruise. And I would love suggestions. We love good food, but don’t want to put on a tuxedo and evening gown to eat it. We are civilized, but not stuffy. We like to drink, but we start early and end early, so a booming night life is not really that important to us. Also, I’m not sure a destination is that important either.
Who should we try? MSC? NCL? I really appreciate your expert advice.
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Old Mar 6th, 2021, 12:06 PM
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After 50 cruises on many different cruise lines, the destination, time of year, length of cruise and the cruise line does make a difference in the overall ambience of the cruise. MSC is Italian owned. It tends to have a much more European feel to it. While they are trying to cater to more Americans, I was not all that enamored with the cruise. NCL is OK. Never had a bad time, but I have moved on. Some of my favorite cruise lines are Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean. I like to find a sale that at least includes drinks, wifi, gratuities. Makes the cruise so much more relaxed.

Most of the cruises no longer require a tux or formal gown for formal night. The dress code has been relaxed on all the cruises I have been on in the past 5 or so years.

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Old Mar 6th, 2021, 12:34 PM
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With all the changes because of Covid and all the wonderful ships that have had to be scrapped because of economics, any specific recommendation may not apply by next year. I will give some general and some specific thoughts anyway. This may be long, but here goes.

We like cruising in general and find good things on each. Our family has also enjoyed several Carnival cruises. We have a young Granddaughter who has been with us on a half dozen cruises, so her needs were sometimes a consideration in choices, but she has enjoyed all of them for different experiences. You are going alone, so I will make only a few comments about children on the ships.
Although each line has their own style of service, food, etc., IME, ship design is also really important and now influences my choice. For example, We love Norwegian Epic, but hated the Escape. On the Escape, they put all the active things like pools adjacent to each other. With the noise of both kids and adult pools, music, dance floor and sports all together, it was deafening and busy. Just walking through it was bad. There was no quiet pool area. There were quiet areas, but they were ultra quiet. Nice, but nothing in between. What the ship has for teens and young adults will also affect you, so, consider ship layout as well as cruise line.

Destination or itinerary might not be important to you, but it often determines the passengers on that cruise. Spring break times, many cruises to the Caribbean have younger people, more families, more children, more partying, etc. That does not bother me if there are some quiet areas or a separate adult pool area, just something to be aware of when choosing dates. On cruises that are heavy into sight seeing or longer cruises in Europe, passengers tend to be older and it is generally quieter late in the evening. There are also some itineraries that have great beaches or islands with pools, but some that are crummy, so it might be more important than you think when you are actually there.

Specific Cruises lines - my take, based on my limited experiences.

Carnival: You already have that. We always have fun. Super casual, good food, wonderful staff, well organized. Experience also depends on the ship and itinerary.

Holland America: Lovely, traditional ships, good food and service, rather quiet. Things wind down early. My favorite things on their ships are art work and fresh flowers. They have florist designers who come on the ships and do fantastic arrangements of exotic flowers. They are amazing, like being in a garden. The art work that is actually the ship’s collection is really fine! If you are into art, it is museum quality with bronzes and glass as well as paintings and drawings. Normally, I do not drink at all, but did try some of their wines and actually liked them so much, I was tempted to buy some. Definitely, not for children, not even for young people unless the itinerary appeals to you. Bring things to read or something to do, or check out what is available on board to see if you would like it. We might do another HAL, but never with a child unless she took a friend and the itinerary was really interesting. Not stuffy, but an older crowd so most people seem to dress up a bit for dinner. It is not exciting even for a real oldie like me, so might be too “old age” a cruise for you, but Good if there is a great itinerary or simply to relax.

Celebrity: Very nice, traditional, somewhat formal at evening meals, considered upscale, but IMHO, not really better than Princess or RCCL. People raved about the food. It was interesting and OK, and only my opinion, but I did not think it deserved the reputation. I am a better cook. Entertainment was good, service very good, etc. Where it excels is itineraries to amazing places like Ephesus, Israel, etc. That, cost and length of cruise appealed to a slightly older group. I would do another if it were affordable. It probably has a different vibe at different times. People have great loyalty to particular Celebrity ships. Really adult cruises unless you are wanting an educational tour for your child. Might be a bit too fussy, formal for you, but might be fine.

Princess: Very nice for adults, OK for children. All of their ships are beautiful, elegant, fairly traditional. This was once our favorite cruise line. The last cruise was really too sedate for me, probably just time of year and price. The new ships like Regal, are really nice, but I prefer the slightly older Crown Princess, Caribbean Princess, etc. I like a lot of outdoor spaces (all about the sea) and I love the wide promenades that go almost all the way around the older ships. Newer ships are more indoor oriented. I liked the layout of the older ships better overall, loved the adult pool area! Food is still good but varies. Entertainment is less of the old song and dance shows and more things like “The Voice.” I prefer the old style, but passengers seem happier with the newer stuff. I would choose Princess for any itinerary on an older preferred ship, or a newer ship for a great itinerary, or a good price offer as a past cruiser just to relax. Either could be just right for you.

Royal Caribbean: Predictably excellent and reliable. The newer ships have some nice innovations in design, but all the ships, even the really old ones, are traditional and beautiful. Some have real followings of people attached to a particular ship. Because of client loyalty, RCCL has kept some small, older ships, renovating and make the cruises shorter on those ships. If people love newer ships with lots of activities and all the bells and whistles, they will not enjoy these, but I
like them a lot. Proportionate to people, pools are larger, outdoor space is great and so less noisy. Entertainment is often by a younger group and they work really hard to give good shows. Food is good on the older ships, very good on the newer, bigger ships. Service is excellent. Entertainment is varied with some really superb shows on the larger ships. On all the cruises I have taken with RCCL, the adult pool areas are the best! They are spacious, quiet and beautiful. Keeping in mind, the older ships may be pretty worn and not look spiffy, I would still do a cruise on any RCCL ship. For you, perhaps one of the newer ships and an interesting itinerary, might be just right..

Norwegian: To me, this line has a fun vibe. It has more families than Princess, but generally polite and well behaved. For anyone with children, this line is amazing! Like Princess, I like the layout of their older ships like Epic. All of their ships have some quirks as they have tried new things. Those quirks may or may not make a difference to you, but good to know about them on each ship before you book. The cabins on the Epic have curvy walls and smaller bathrooms, but they offer a great variety of entertainment and super, super talent and wonderful pools! Food is very good in general. The staff is well organized and service is great. See my notes about the Escape above as it is a very different ship than Epic. I would certainly do Epic again, probably not The Escape unless the itinerary was great. Busier than the other lines, but choose the ship carefully and, without kids, you will still find it fun.

MSC: Boy, this is a love-hate relationship for me.
The good: Absolutely gorgeous and elegant ships. Wonderful food, Impeccable service. Hands down, the most talented and varied entertainment on any cruise! Lovely pools, good layout. Nice secluded areas. Fantastic kids’s staff, Just incredible!
The bad. The passengers. This may not happen on all of their cruises, but sometimes they give huge discounts to Italian families to fly to the Caribbean, with all kids free with two adults. Many things were a disorganized mess? Chaos reigned. The poor staff is not prepared to handle a thousand kids running out of control. (Yes, there were over a thousand kids on our cruise) Parents were on vacation and kids were let loose, even toddlers. It was an absolute madhouse. Kids and babies in diapers in the adult only pools and hot tubs, no one seeming to notice floating “debris.” Kids in the adult shows at night. Kids at dinner sliding to the floor. Adults pushed and shoved their way to the front of everything including snatching things at children’s events, in shops, shows, water taxis, buffet. No lines.
It is sad to say, I would love to cruise MSC again, but only when I could be sure it was not a child dominated cruise with adults showing no respect for others. I don’t recommend it without that info.

We enjoyed a TA cruise in late Spring that stopped at ports in Spain and France. You do miss evenings in those places, but the TA part of the cruise is pure relaxation.
I would not do another Greek Island cruise because I wanted to just stay and soak up the beauty of the islands and enjoy the evenings on the islands.
I also would not do a cruise that focused on Italy because you really miss out on actually being in Italy, especially for those important long evenings.

I hope this is helpful. There are some much more experienced cruisers on here, who will also give you their opinions.

Have you gone on other cruise sites like cruisecritic.com? There are so many.
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Old Mar 6th, 2021, 02:42 PM
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silly site I posted but it didn't go to moderation (at least I didn't get that message) and it didn't post. Weird - its out there in the either someplace. Will try again.

That is a great post Sassafrass. So much information. I've only taken one ocean cruise (also one river cruise for Germany Christmas markets) Vancouver > Inside Passage on NCL. Not that many children but it was the last sailing of the season so probably most kids were back in school. Loved it. I'll save your post for reference when/if I decide to rake another cruise.
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Old Mar 6th, 2021, 05:22 PM
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I'm partial to Holland America for grown up cruising.

I don't hate NCL either. I've been on a small older ship with them (Sun) and a mega ship (Bliss). There was some very inconsistent wait service on Bliss in the MDR, but not as bad as one my one and only Royal Caribbean cruise. If you like Broadway type shows, we enjoyed the NCL version of Jersey Boys on Bliss.

Princess, don't care for their food. Depends on your taste. Boring with not much variety in the MDR.

I find the itinerary and the particular ship layout as important as the brand. Many of the "floor plans" have been remuddled by putting private lounge areas at the end of the walking track. A lot of ships have whittled down the libaries also.

I think it's worth reading comments on Cruise Critic. Also if you plan on using room service, read up on charges and what is limited as free room service. If food is important, often you can find sample menus on line.

Friends really like Viking River Cruises.

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 6th, 2021 at 05:24 PM.
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Old Mar 6th, 2021, 07:25 PM
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Fantastic reply Sassafrass!

You are spot on with MSC. One had to move out of the way of the strollers in the hallways, lest you get runover! The ship I was on did not have US compatible electrical plugs. I had to use adapters on my dual voltage appliances.
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Old Mar 7th, 2021, 06:20 AM
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Look into Oceania Cruise Line. Upscale, smaller ships, GREAT food, and no need for tuxedos or gowns. Very few (if any) children on board since they don't provide activities for them like the BIG ships do.
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Old Mar 8th, 2021, 08:02 AM
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Very few cruise lines mandate formal wear anymore.

Also with COVID changes, some things (like libraries) may be limited. When I've been on a ship with an "outbreak" they always closed down the libraries. It is likely the buffets will be modified significantly, too. For sure, no serving yourself.

Oceania is part of the NCL group, by the way. The thing I like about NCL is that they always had a lot of small tables available. I would think sharing big tables with strangers is going to be a nono.
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Old Mar 9th, 2021, 08:35 PM
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We loved Oceania Cruise Lines. Everything was great, I don't remember seeing any children on our last cruise with them. Food was really great too!!
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Old Mar 13th, 2021, 01:11 PM
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Sassafrass has given great answers. Thank you.

if you want "grown up but not stuffy" think of the time of year in that for a cruise to be mostly adults it would have to be when children are in school.

You will find that formal night attire is very loosely enforced these days and NCL does not have it at all.

That being said I looked ahead to Princess itineraries for spring 2022 and found quite a few you may enjoy.

One is 3//22 16 days to Asia and Australia.

Another is 3/22 14 days Ft. Lauderdale to Barcelona.

There are many more too. This is one idea.

I would look to what the cruise lines offer for the time frame you want and see what sort of jumps out at you.

As for the specific lines I would go with either Princess, RCI, NCL, HAL or Celebrity. I am quite partial to RCI for their designs, especially their newer ships. To me they have been ahead of the curve for sometime.

Oceania is great but bear in mind its quite a bit more.

And yes I agree avoid MSC and Costa.

River cruises are quite popular but to compare them to Ocean cruises is like comparing apples to oranges. The experience is far different. One problem with river cruises is low water levels which have resulted in bus rides to the next destination.

The fun begins with the planning

Larry. .




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Old Mar 13th, 2021, 02:25 PM
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Larry, so nice to see you post. Do you have anything booked yet?
The OP is getting info from such a good variety of experiences. Hope the OP comes back and lets us know what they choose.
I am finally looking at cruises again, with our Granddaughter for some easy, stress free vacations. She is 11 now, and easy to please, any ship, any itinerary. She is happy if they have soft serve machines. 😻 Her dream is to do a back to back so she will be really familiar with everything on the second trip.
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Old Mar 13th, 2021, 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Sassafrass View Post
Larry, so nice to see you post. Do you have anything booked yet?
The OP is getting info from such a good variety of experiences. Hope the OP comes back and lets us know what they choose.
I am finally looking at cruises again, with our Granddaughter for some easy, stress free vacations. She is 11 now, and easy to please, any ship, any itinerary. She is happy if they have soft serve machines. 😻 Her dream is to do a back to back so she will be really familiar with everything on the second trip.
Hi there! Actually we met Sass in 2011 on the X Constellation. We had dinner with her, her hubby and our unforgettable Fodorite the late, great the one and only the Dogster. Thats was a fun night for sure.

We have a cruise planned for 9/2021 but most likely will cancel die to covid concerns. We want to be 100% sure that when we go its all good.

We also have a beaut planned for 6/2022 on NCL out of Iceland with stops there and in Belfast, Ireland and England ending in Southhampton. it like 11 days and our TA got us a great deal using a group booking. That one I hope will be go. We are fully vaccinated BTW. Our 2nd Pfizer shot was too weeks ago so we are set for the foreseeable future.

We have never done a back to back or a trans Atlantic so maybe one day we can try this.

Take care and be safe. I do believe we will turn the corner!
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Old Mar 13th, 2021, 05:55 PM
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Mike and I have both of our shots too. Now, I remember you mentioning that cruise for next year that stops in Ireland. Summer will be a perfect time for that. I feel sure by next year, things will be at least OK to travel. Save the TA cruise for when you no longer have energy to explore places or really need a rest. Meeting The Dogster in person certainly was a memory to treasure. At the time, I had no idea who he was. Guess it was better that way. Your kindness and help to me later, I will also never forget. I can never remember who said it, or their exact words, but years ago, someone on Fodors said something to the effect that cruisers are a helpful, friendly lot.
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Old Mar 13th, 2021, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Sassafrass View Post
Mike and I have both of our shots too. Now, I remember you mentioning that cruise for next year that stops in Ireland. Summer will be a perfect time for that. I feel sure by next year, things will be at least OK to travel. Save the TA cruise for when you no longer have energy to explore places or really need a rest. Meeting The Dogster in person certainly was a memory to treasure. At the time, I had no idea who he was. Guess it was better that way. Your kindness and help to me later, I will also never forget. I can never remember who said it, or their exact words, but years ago, someone on Fodors said something to the effect that cruisers are a helpful, friendly lot.
Such was my pleasure and happy all turned out well. Thank you for your kind words.

The Dogster was quite an accomplished man in his field. He designed the closing act of the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics which was a take off on his play “Tap Dogs.” See the link below to read about him,. He left us much too soon.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigel_Triffitt
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Old Apr 6th, 2021, 07:40 AM
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NCL has started posting about cruises this year. Their generous cancellation policy will expire for cruises sailing through October of 2021.

On a positive note, they did extend my cruise credit for two more years.
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Old Apr 6th, 2021, 05:41 PM
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We are trying to plan a family cruise for August 2022 for us our DD, SIL and 2 grands, our DS, DIL and 2 grands. One lot will be coming from Europe, so no Mediterranean cruises. Caribbean, not Mexico or Jamaica, for about 7 days. The children will range from almost 3 to 12, so a decent children's area and activities would be good, but not Disney as the older children would not enjoy that, and too expensive. We, us two have been on two RCL cruises, and the first one was great, the second, good, but they have gone down a little bit, this one will be the first for the others. Ports, food and itinerary are fairly important, as well as activities on board, but we are a fairly quiet crowd. We are open to different cruise lines, and would prefer a more medium to larger ship.
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Old Apr 6th, 2021, 08:28 PM
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What are you looking for in ports? Beaches and pools, history or nature tours, Zip lining, scuba, snorkeling, sailing, shopping, ocean adventures, etc? People can offer specific advice on those things.

Do you have particular departure ports in mind?

It can be super hot in August and not always pleasant to walk a lot or sit on a beach. Will that bother you? It is also hurricane season. Do you mind that risk? If you do, you might consider a cruise to New England or Alaska.

There is a lot of info about cruise lines above. That might help, but you do have a lot to consider. I go through that every time we take any family with us, especially children, which reminds me. Unless a child is one hundred percent potty trained, they are not allowed in pools or hot tubs on most ships, no swim diapers allowed. You might want to check that or get the little one trained by then.

With COVID, things have changed so much: favorite ships scrapped, newer bigger ships (many I do not care for), different itineraries (which I do not like either), but You have plenty of time to gather info. Look at Norwegian. That might work for everyone. GD loved Epic when she was little. She loves the pools and eating in main dining rooms with the adults. Personally, I feel food quality has gone down some on all lines, but RCCL was better than average on our last cruise with them. We all enjoy the huge pools on private islands.
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Old Apr 9th, 2021, 08:17 AM
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Would you consider a US river cruise? August is not the best time to be in the Caribbean. Cruises around New England, St. Lawrence sea way or even the great lakes would be a option.
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Old Apr 9th, 2021, 03:49 PM
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Joto, you might want to start a separate thread with your question because your needs are very different than the OP’s, and people who read the first post may not see yours, so not give advice even if they have something to offer.
For now, you will have fewer choices in August because some ships that winter in the Caribbean go to the Med or Europe in Summer. However, there are still some good choices, depending on what you want.
I suggest you go to vacationstogo.com (there are other good websites, but that one is so easy to navigate, it is my favorite), plug in your dates and destination and see what is available. Decide on a few islands you really want to see or a couple of ships you really like and see what best matches up. We always get most of what we want but never all. Sometimes a ship I love just does not work for teens and kids or one I like for the kids does not go to islands I like, or departs from a port I do not like. Ships that depart from ports close to me do not have itineraries I like. So, you have these things to focus on: Date, Good ship for the kids (but also with good food for adults), Great islands to visit (will require some research), Good departure port (perhaps with something to do before or after cruise, like Port Canaveral), cost, ease of getting to port. Pay attention to how long the ships are in port and the distance to excursions. At least in August, prices are good.
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