Cruise newbie

Old Apr 7th, 2023, 08:53 PM
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Cruise newbie

Cruise virgin here. Plenty of international air travel, just never did a cruise. Husband has developed some mobility issues, am thinking that a cruise could offer the benefit of not having to pack and unpack between cities. A couple friends with cruise experience have assured that there are plenty of folks with walkers, even wheelchairs onboard without problems, as there are elevators between decks. So I am starting to think about trying a cruise and have a couple basic questions.
1. I cannot fathom being on a ship with thousand of other pax. I do not wish to be on a Disney type cruise where there are kids all over the place. (Call me a curmudgeon, I've been called worse!) Any cruise lines or specific ships to prioritize/avoid?
2. Thinking about a cruise around the British Isles - Scotland and Ireland, at least. Any lines that do this route well?
3. Any tips on the best places to get the best prices, or other ways to maximize value?
4. What am I so green that I am not thinking to ask?
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Old Apr 8th, 2023, 12:16 AM
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Have you thought about a river cruise? Like the Danube or Rhine? I took one over Christmas for the Christmas Markets but a summer one might be even better. People of all ages and all mobility levels. Elevator between the 2 or 3 decks but in fact staying on the main deck the whole time is totally doable, Bar, main dining room, casual cafe, open decks, cruise director are all on the main deck. Only the spa/masseuse (if there is one) and a couple of other facilities are below. Total passengers 100-ish to 200 passengers depending on the ship. The cruise I took -- shore excursions where walking was involved were divided up by mobility. The more fit headed out at pace, the semi-fit took it easier, and the mobility challenged were handled appropriately - like having a private van to get them to the city center while the rest of us walked. People 'self-selected' which groups to join.

Food was good, tours were mostly great (1 or 2 duds) and local entertainers, artisans, wine makers/chefs came on board every afternoon or evening for programs. Staterooms were pretty much as large as on the massive sea going ships and every room had a balcony. For someone who wants to avoid the massive crowds on many ocean going ships - solves that issue

Re a sea cruise around the British Isles -- I've never taken one but often read itineraries . . . the poshest ones seem quite nice with special experiences like private tours of stately homes, distilleries, etc. The mass market cruises look more like glorified coach tours to me -- too much/too far/too rushed.

Last edited by janisj; Apr 8th, 2023 at 12:19 AM.
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Old Apr 8th, 2023, 04:56 AM
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I am not a cruise person, but if I were going to do an "ocean" (i.e. non-river) cruise I would probably choose Viking, I believe they don't allow kids and aren't into the amusement park stuff now perching on top of the behemoths. I wouldn't necessarily choose them for a river cruise, I would need to do more research.

I have thought of a river cruise when I get more decrepit, or Alaska. I am also getting brochures from the two companies who do river cruises in America, who definitely have smaller boats.

There are a lot of people with a lot of cruise experience on cruisecritic.com....

I have done two "cruises" recently. One was with Hurtigruten, up the Norwegian coast, which I highly recommend, but I don't remember whether they have elevators. Someone posted here very recently about a new competitor in that market. The other was up the Chilean coast but it was super bare bones, definitely a cargo ship.
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Old Apr 8th, 2023, 05:23 AM
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You don't have to be "on a ship with thousand of other pax" - there are numerous cruise lines with small ships (anywhere from 100 to say 750 pax). Every ship I've been on, including small river cruise vessels, have elevators so getting between decks isn't a problem for those with mobility. Same with getting on/off the ship - the crews are well versed in assisting those with mobility issues. Rest assured, there will be others with mobility issues on board any cruise you choose.

There are numerous cruise lines that offer itineraries around the British Isles, Scotland and Ireland. We've done a couple and really enjoyed them. Look at Regent Seven seas as they offer both that itinerary and have a fleet of smaller ships.

I second the prior response recommending you go to the CruiseCritic website - it's a great website that will tell you everything you'd ever want to know about cruising. It will give you detailed info about all the cruise lines and help you select the one that will most closely fit your travel style. You'll also find hundreds of reviews on each cruise line as well as the various itineraries. After studying the info you'll find on that website you'll be close to an expert on cruising even though you've yet to step on board a ship. Lastly, the website will give you pointers on how to get the best prices.

You should know that there are multiple "cabin/stateroom" categories on every ship each with a different price structure. This will allow you to choose a fare for a particular cruise that best fits your budget. The major difference is the size of the stateroom room and the amenities that particular stateroom has. Regardless of the room category you choose you'll still have access to all the ship's common amenities. You'll learn more about this on the CruiseCritic website.
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Old Apr 8th, 2023, 07:14 AM
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Look into Oceania Cruise Line. We just went on a cruise with them. They have smaller ships, GREAT service, and wonderful food. They cater to an older clientele. There were plenty of walkers and scooters aboard our cruise with them.
There was only one child on board and he must have been bored to pieces.
We described the cruise as very civilized.
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Old Apr 8th, 2023, 02:08 PM
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Seamus, we have been thinking about a possible cruise too for similar reasons and only will consider smaller ships. Viking Ocean ships are over 900 passengers so we are not considering even if our friends think they are small! Plus we had a bad experience on a Viking River Cruise.

For smaller cruises friends have recommended Ponant, Seabourn,
Silversea,WindStar, Lindblad, SeaDream, Sea Cloud. We have been researching some of these. We went to Alaska and also Baja California on Lindblad, 90 passengers, years ago. Both cruises with Lindblad were terrific!

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Old Apr 8th, 2023, 05:20 PM
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Thanks, folks, I knew i could count on fellow Fodorites for advice.I will hie on over to Cruise Critic.
Janis, river cruising on the Danube is on my bucket list, but DH wants to do Scotland/Ireland. I have heard similar good things from friends who have done European river cruises.
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Old Apr 8th, 2023, 09:20 PM
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While I also recommend cruisecritic, there are people on Fodors who have vast amounts of experience and knowledge especially about what to expect at different ports, websites about cabins on each ship, which bodies of water were most prone to delays, best times to go, etc.
Beware of generalizations. There are large ships that feel spacious, almost empty, and some that seem abuzz of activity. It has more to do with cruisers and ship design than with size. Princess ships seem quiet, sedate even. Norwegian ships seem busy, newer ones especially so because of design. Some small ships can feel crowded.
There are, of course, some lines that specifically cater to families. Some may have planned activities and dedicated spaces, but depending on the time of year (during school term) and the itinerary (longer cruises and those to more historic sights), may have few to no kids, especially if they do not offer much outdoor equipment.

We have found that what we thought we liked is not always what we end up liking and even one thing may tilt for or against a cruise line or ship. Unfortunately, cruise critic can’t relay that well.
Examples: DH and I are not partiers or drinkers, so for one anniversary, did a HAL cruise, smallish, very adult oriented, not a single child. The art and flower arrangements were gorgeous. Wine was great. Food was good. Everyone was nicely dressed and polite. By 9:00pm, the pianist stopped playing and people were falling asleep or talking in whispers in the lounges. It was absolutely boring.

By contrast, we took a Carnival cruise on a ship with the reputation of being a decorator’s nightmare, from a local port, and honestly, people looked as if they were home mowing the grass and just decided to come hop on a ship. We looked around and whispered to each other, “OMG, what is this?” Well, the other cruisers were the kindest bunch of people, offering to share seating, etc. and the late night pianist was so good, we closed every night with him and a small group of musicians who came to hang out.

There were children and they were so sweet and well behaved, we enjoyed them. There was a small group of blind students and their delight on water slides was a joy. So we discovered that even if we are quiet, we enjoy a bit more life.
We love Italy and knew MSC ships would be beautiful. They are, and could be perfect, but life on them is life run amuck, so much so that we have not been able to give them a second chance. I elaborated on that in previous posts.
The point is, you may not know what you like until you do it and one cruise may be very different from another.
For your first cruise, pick an itinerary that will be great regardless of anything else and choose the time of year that is best weather wise.

Last edited by Sassafrass; Apr 8th, 2023 at 09:26 PM.
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Old Apr 26th, 2023, 02:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Seamus
Cruise virgin here. Plenty of international air travel, just never did a cruise. Husband has developed some mobility issues, am thinking that a cruise could offer the benefit of not having to pack and unpack between cities. A couple friends with cruise experience have assured that there are plenty of folks with walkers, even wheelchairs onboard without problems, as there are elevators between decks. So I am starting to think about trying a cruise and have a couple basic questions.
1. I cannot fathom being on a ship with thousand of other pax. I do not wish to be on a Disney type cruise where there are kids all over the place. (Call me a curmudgeon, I've been called worse!) Any cruise lines or specific ships to prioritize/avoid?
2. Thinking about a cruise around the British Isles - Scotland and Ireland, at least. Any lines that do this route well?
3. Any tips on the best places to get the best prices, or other ways to maximize value?
4. What am I so green that I am not thinking to ask?
Thanks, Fodorites!
Hi Seamus! As you may have seen in FF we just got off an 11 day cruise from Athens to Athens (via Turkey/Istanbul) on Silversea Silver Spirit. This is our 3rd time on this ship (first two in 2019). Richard has similar mobility issues as your DH I think - he uses a walker for any distances but comfortable using a cane on the ship.

The Spirit is 600 passengers - that is a nice size I think. It can get into many smaller, less crowded ports. Also they minimize "tender" ports (a question to ask, which can be trickier for those using walkers if the sea is rough. We skipped one Turkey port (our only tender) as it was quite rough to make the transition from the ship to the tender for Richard.

The staff were excellent for embarkation and disembarkation. All, or none, of the help Richard needed was available. And in every port there were wheelchairs and pushers if the walk to the excursion vehicle was a little far. As someone mentioned the excursions are segmented by mobility needs, and I found them to be very accurately described. There were a couple of parts of some excursions Richard took a pass on (one palace with stairs for example) and the guides were quick to find a place for Richard to wait and very solicitous of his comfort and so I'd do the tour and rejoin him.

I believe Silversea has some nice British Isles itineraries - also Seabourne (similar line) IIRC.

Re best prices - Silversea doesn't discount a lot - you can get some on board credits at times. They don't seem to drop prices close to departure like bigger lines. Some fellow passengers swear by using their own TA/others use the Silversea trip planners and claim they get as good a price. All the suites are pretty much the same (most have balconies) and all the services are the same so not a lot of play in the upgrade area either. It's not cheap - but we've found decent value for our needs. We took their air from Toronto to Athens as it was a good value versus what I could have purchased (they would have given us a credit had we booked our own air).

In general for us it was a good way to do a destination we have long wanted to see. We twinned it with more independent travel at the beginning (5 nights in Athens) and at the end (6 nights in Nafplio).

But (and you probably sensed a but) we concluded that even small ship, quite customized travel isn't really our cup of tea. We boarded the cruise fully expecting to book a longer cruise to do Japan and Vietnam - I went to the Forward Cruise Manager's office the first day and received a couple of proposals (there's a discount for booking on board). By Day 7 I was cooling on that idea. It's hard to describe why - but it comes down to our long history of being independent travelers and not (yet) finding the value of being on the ship. While everything was lovely, and the food very good with plenty of choices, the experience became monotonous quickly. Our two independent destinations - even though we really scaled back how much touring around we did - were more typical of what we prefer. One thing I did at both ends (Athens and Nafplio) was hire private drivers (where in the past we would have rented a car). That was a excellent way to address Richard's mobility - I chose the people with care that they had experience with mobility issues. They were able to take us up close to sites - leave us and return when we were done. Not cheap but in aggregate cheaper than the day cost of the cruise. And bonus we really liked the drivers we met and they brought a lot to the experience.

(oh my this is long)

One other thing about the cruise and excursions - I guess we had both assumed that I would go along on some if they were either too challenging for Richard, or he wasn't having a great day (that happens). Or as mentioned on some of the excursions he didn't do all the stops. I learned that after traveling with the same person for 40+ years, wandering around on my own wasn't appealing. I have no doubt I have to figure out how to get over that - but I raise it as a consideration in case you have similar circumstances.

Still I would recommend you give it a go - I'd chose a shorter itinerary (7 nights) and look closely at the excursions for their mobility rating, and length. Some of ours were over 4 hours and that became tiring for Richard. One smart thing we did was hire a private car/driver inn Istanbul (through the ship) --- that was a great way for us to do the sights. Oh - Silversea includes many of the excursions but for us it was a better experience to do it alone.

Whoa - long!

Happy to answer any questions.





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Old Apr 26th, 2023, 08:20 AM
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Seamus - my BFF has been on at me to go on another cruise with her since I doubled for her DH a few years ago when they decided that his dementia made it impossible for him to accompany her. This was a Riviera river cruise on the Rhone and whether because of the high water or the way the itinerary was arranged anyway, we rarely got the chance to eat in the places at which we stopped which in France was a real drawback. Excursions were good and those with mobility problems were well catered for but I am not over keen to go again. Recently she has been trying to persuade me to do a cruise around the UK but for me that presents another problem in that I get very sea sick very easily. Is this a problem for either you or your DH? Sea conditions around the British Isles can be "challenging" to say the least and being prostrate with mal de mer is no fun I can tell you. Sorry to be a wet blanket and hopefully this will not be something that affects either of you.
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Old Apr 26th, 2023, 03:50 PM
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I get sea sick by looking at the boats For me, ginger capsules work (unless you are taking blood thinners). During 10+ of our sea cruises I got sick only once crossing the Polar Circle sailing along the Norway Coast. Bonine (Meclezine) helped.
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Old Apr 26th, 2023, 05:13 PM
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Good points to know by Annhig and Dayenu.
I do understand that sea sickness can strike even the most seasoned cruiser. We have, however, now been on 15 cruises (3 of them were 2 weeks long) and not a minute of seas sickness. DD & GD have been on 6 with us and no issues, did not take any precautions. That being said, we have cruised only to places during nice weather and with mostly relatively calm seas. That probably helped.

So, personally, I think weather is super important when choosing a cruise.
Rain is almost a given in Scotland and Ireland some months. Many cruises do not start there until April. Obviously, no guarantees, but look at weather trends from the past. For that area, I would definitely choose very late May through August, probably early August for the best chance of good weather and calmer seas.

Since you are thinking more in terms of seeing places, rather than being on a relaxing cruise, the ship is more of a floating hotel, so I would not worry too much about the ship as long as it was nice and the food was good. The itinerary seems more important. Look at vacationstogo.com for ships doing an itinerary you like in your time frame.

Look carefully at how long ships stay in port. It is not fun to have only a few hours in a port you want to explore. Also, look to see if you are docked so you can walk right off the ship, or have to use tenders.

https://www.vacationstogo.com/fastdeal.cfm?deal=11984
one to look at, no water slides on this ship.


Last edited by Sassafrass; Apr 26th, 2023 at 06:07 PM. Reason: Adding info
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Old Apr 26th, 2023, 07:52 PM
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https://www.vacationstogo.com/cruise..._Statendam.cfm

Another itinerary that looks interesting. This is a much smaller, very adult oriented ship.
Also, smaller ships that allow children, but do not have water activities for them, do not usually have many (if any) on longer cruises.
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Old Apr 29th, 2023, 07:40 AM
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https://cruisesinternational.com

My TA works out of this office. Her name is Kathy Biancalana and if you wish call her or any other TA specifically to see if you can get a group rate. We've benefitted from this with her several times and saved quite a bit.

You could also try Costco travel assuming you are a member.

HAL (Statendam) is a good choice as it's likely to have more adults though if you are cruising during the summer which is the season for the area you want to see its vacation time for children so consider that.

We have been on a few shall I say mega ships and honestly it never seems that crowded to us. The designs are well thought out so attractions are well spread out. However this is up to you. Ships of this type have features you wont believe. They are marvels really.

It's a good idea to get a cabin amidships to ease sensations of motion just in case someone gets seasick. We usually get an amidships balcony cabin though lower cabins w/o balconies are better for motion issues.

Good luck!

Larry

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Old Apr 29th, 2023, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by jacketwatch
https://cruisesinternational.com

My TA works out of this office. Her name is Kathy Biancalana and if you wish call her or any other TA specifically to see if you can get a group rate. We've benefitted from this with her several times and saved quite a bit.

You could also try Costco travel assuming you are a member.

Good luck!

Larry
Thanks for posting your TA. You have mentioned before how good she is.

Another thought. There are usually super nice adult only areas on ships, including pools with lounge areas and a cafe or snack bar. The solariums on Royal Caribbean are really nice. Some ships have quiet areas for reading or sun bathing. I used to love adult areas on some Carnival ships. They had pools, snacks, swings, canopied beds, huge hammocks, etc. Unfortunately, when they renovated, they took out the hammocks. Have to see what different ships have now.
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Old Apr 30th, 2023, 08:48 PM
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I recommend dipping into Gary Bembridge's Youtube channel, Tips for Travellers. This link may or may not post, if not look for

Too Many First-Time Cruisers Still Get This Wrong



I would try to stick with ships smaller than 2,000 passengers. I don't think it's necesary to go under 1000 passengers, but I'd avoid those with water slides etc.

I don't know if Virgin is right just because it is adult only. It is largish (2700 passengers) and with only two ships in service you may or may not find an itinerary you like.



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Old May 1st, 2023, 05:51 AM
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I like to use the cruise shop as a floating hotel and do my excursions independently. I plan same as for regular travel.

if possible to exit the port area easily, picking a line with packaged excursions in the fare might be a mistake for formerly independent travelers. Some ports are better set up for independent travel. In a few places there was little choice and I didn't enjoy the group experience much. However often there are options that basically dump you at a place where you are then on your own.

Don't count on the cruise line to manage all of your transfer needs on excursions. Having your own wheelchair or scooter might be advisable. Also be aware that room service can be problematic now that full ships are the norm.



Last edited by mlgb; May 1st, 2023 at 05:57 AM.
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Old May 3rd, 2023, 09:57 AM
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https://www.pocruises.com/find-a-cru...ag%7DthemeIds=

Since you mentioned the British isles I saw this while surfing. Perhaps you may like it.

Larry
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Old May 8th, 2023, 03:22 PM
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Look at Youtube channels TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS and EMMA CRUISES. Both are English and have weekly livestreams where you could ask a question. Emma did a British Island cruise in the past couple of years. Good information on handicapped cruisers at CRUISING WITH WHEELS on Youtube.
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Old May 12th, 2023, 09:21 PM
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Finishing up an Alaska cruise on an older Princess ship (Grand). Princess is NOT quiet even without water slides and other such things. The central atrium is a hub of loudness, the main dining rooms are noisy with clattering busing stations near all tables. I would rather be on the mega ship Norwegian Bliss (Haven maybe) with their quiet Observation Lounge and specialty dining restaurants such as Le Bistro. They did have some good Broadway productions the last time I was on Bliss (sails out of LA part of the year).

Holland America is a more refined experience with better service but might lack nightlife.

I haven't been on an Ultra Luxury line although my friend the cruise lecturer who we met on NCL says Oceania is good.



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