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first time carribean cruise - any initial advice?

first time carribean cruise - any initial advice?

Old Apr 19th, 2011, 08:31 AM
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first time carribean cruise - any initial advice?

Hello.
I am hoping to plan my very first Carribean cruise for next year. Im a little ambivalent about it (I dont do too POSH) but my partner is very excited. I am more interested in the week in Florida immediately prior to a cruise. Can you help? Which Cruise for 7 days and with which company (please not too formal) and from which Florida Port..... we like nature, variety, people, food and sun? Any top tips for making this a trip that we will both enjoy?
Many thanks for your help.
Steve
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Old Apr 19th, 2011, 11:28 AM
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Just need a few more details - time of year? (Spring break and holidays can affect your budget, not to mention a lot of kids), things you like to do, what ports to visit, etc. to help narrow your choices down.

Do you need to fly to departure port? Some things to keep in mind, for example, if you cruise out of Miami or Ft. Lauderdale - check airfare for both airports. They are only 45 min. apart, and ground transportation is not very expensive.

Not too formal would probably be Royal Caribbean or Carnival. Have never sailed Princess so can't comment on that line.

It looks like you are in Florida the week before the cruise which is good, because most people like to fly in the day before their ship departs. Flying in the day of can run into too many problems and a stressful start to the trip and possibly missing the ship - mechanical delays, lost luggage, weather. Want to start the cruise off rested.

Highly recommend checking out http://boards.cruisecritic.com/ for more information than you could possibly need.
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Old Apr 19th, 2011, 12:00 PM
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Thank you for the quick response. When is the best time to go? I wondered about early June? I was hoping people could give me a lead on which route to take - we like nature, good food and people but I guess we would also like to see some dream beaches. Any suggestions as to which route may meet our needs.
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Old Apr 19th, 2011, 06:06 PM
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Excellent advice from cruisin_tiger, especially about getting there the night before and going to cruisecritic.com.

We went to the Caribbean last year, early April. It was plenty warm already, actually really hot on the beaches, and we were pretty hot walking around in towns. Being islands, I don't know if breezes help keep them from getting much hotter in summer, but I would check that out, unless you don't mind it really hot. If you are from somewhere cold, you could get away from the cold with a late winter/early Spring cruise. I would like to go in Feb/Mar.

If you depart from Florida, you may have more days at sea, so more days on the ship and fewer days visiting the islands rather than if you depart from San Juan. Consider a week in San Juan instead of Florida before the cruise. Just a thought. Do you want to do water sport stuff or more sight seeing? Choose your itinerary (and departure port) based on what you want to see/do.

Princess, Caribbean Princess is what we sailed on and loved it: lots of pools, outdoor movies, etc. Two formal nights, but you really did not have to dress up, plus there is a big buffet with outdoor seating and eating areas around the pool, plus other bars and restaurants, if you don't want to eat in the dining room on formal night.

Princess has a reputation for being a more sedate than Disney or Carnival, but that also depends on the itinerary and time of year. We did a May TA and a November Greek Island/Turkey tour. There were a variety of people on both, but on average, older than the Caribbean.

The Caribbean cruise had a big variety of people, young couples, lots of families, even some pretty young children, and the ship was lively all the time. With all those families, all the swimming, etc. it was also very casual - think laid back tropical resort with good food, music & dancing.

It was our first cruise. We liked it so much, we came home and booked the TA for two weeks later; had such a good time on the TA, we came home and booked the winter cruise. The only reason we are not on one to the Caribbean right now is family stuff we had to attend.

Some people like smaller ships, but we never felt crowded on the CP and it was always easy getting on and off. I did not like St. Thomas, but there were beautiful beaches everywhere. Look at vacationstogo.com to see a lots of what is available. Hope this helps.
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Old Apr 19th, 2011, 06:36 PM
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The "Too posh" aversion. Have no fear. The cruise ads and brochures lie. People dress and look like a normal variety of people. Few are dressed in ball gowns and jewels, even on formal nights. Service is nice, but not fit for royalty. If you are comfortable at a mid-priced hotel, you will fell fine and fit right in on a cruise.
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Old Apr 19th, 2011, 10:26 PM
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Again thanks for all the replies, all very helpful and I will take sometime over Easter looking at the various websites. I need to read about San Juan as I have never heard of it ie I dont yet know where it is. Supposing I widened my starting departure, are there any routes that are considered the best for variety or most scenic (in your opinion)? Are there any particular books that I may buy that are considered very informative and which will help me decide? Thanks once more.
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 05:15 AM
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If you want more interesting scenery, you want to go on a Southern Caribbean cruise that stops in St. Lucia and Dominica. It will also include stops at islands with beautiful beaches.

But if you don't want to take that kind of cruise, which may be more expensive or longer (or leave from San Juan), then you can certainly find nature in the typical cruise ports like St. Thomas and St. Maarten. From St. Thomas, take a trip over to St. John for both natural beauty and great beaches. In St. Maarten, go to Loterie Farm. I think you'll like it.

Both Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line are pretty casual (it's actually the motto for NCL, where there are no dress codes of any kind). Depending on where you're going o be in Florida, you can take a cruise from almost anywhere ... Port Canaveral, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami. I'd avoid cruising from Jacksonville because those cruises are usually shorter and don't go to very interesting ports.
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Old Apr 21st, 2011, 10:12 AM
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>

Fodor's actually has a good Caribbean Ports guidebook. A little bit of information on every port and the cruise lines. Might help you narrow down what you want and then you can do more extensive research on the cruise you pick.

(And the fact that I was quoted in the 2011 edition has nothing to do with my recommendation. )
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Old Apr 21st, 2011, 12:35 PM
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I went on Princess Emerald in March to the Caribbean. The islands we stopped at were Princess own Island ,St. Thomas, Dominica,and Grenada, and Aruba. The weather was great. I would advise on taking water shoes with you as the beaches tend to be a bit rocky. While in Aruba we took a taxi to a resort on the beach & used the beach there. All beaches are public property so no worries about being kicked out.
Princess Emerald was a good ship. Dont go for the anytime seating as we found out there was long line ups around 6:30.
There seemed to be alot of elderly people on the ship, but it really doesn't matter as there is so much to do. The entertainment was good, food was good, clean and comfortable rooms. Nothing to complain about on this ship.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2011, 05:33 AM
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I agree about going on the southern Caribbean route. The islands on this route are very nice IMHO. Also its easy to do excursions with a local guide. Ther will be plenty of them on the dock as you exit the ship. The prices are usually reasonable too. If you choose this route and happen to stop in Antigua, St. Lucia or St.Maarten I can recommend some great, local based tour guides if you are so inclined. Yah mon.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2011, 06:30 AM
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Hello,

I know that you could get some great rates and possibly on board credit on Carnival. We travel on them all the time and our agent always gets up free upgrades and on board credit.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2011, 12:48 PM
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Thank you for all your assistance, I am truly appreciative of all your help. I am thinking that I might take a low risk position and take a short trip from Florida in order to get a feel for cruises. I love Florida, so it makes sense to cruise from there as a starter, preceded by a holiday along the Keys.
Can I thank you once again.
Steve
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Old Apr 22nd, 2011, 06:08 PM
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Best Scuba stop: Bonaire
Cheapest souvenir stop: Aruba
Skip any stops in Jamica
Most over hyped: Cayman, Bahamas
Nature: depends. Greneda / Dominica for varied terrain
Mayan & culture: Cozumel
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Old Apr 27th, 2011, 10:16 AM
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We took our first cruise in June several years ago and there was quite a bit of rain. You should check to see when the rainy season begins and when hurricane season begins (earlier than you think) before you book. We love Royal Caribbean and as so many others have said, we fly to Puerto Rico because instead of two days of traveling, we often get to visit two extra islands compared to cruises out of Florida. We like to go in the winter when it is in the 80's in the Caribbean, and we too prefer the Southern Caribbean. We have spoken with many people who have cruised different lines and they seem to prefer Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, and Princess for many different reasons. Good luck!
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Old Apr 28th, 2011, 12:32 PM
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Thanks once again. Out of interest, Eschew, why avoid Jamaica and why do you think Cayman and Bahamas is over-rated?
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Old Apr 28th, 2011, 03:11 PM
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We had a port stop in Ocho Rios about 2 yrs. ago. We did get a bit of a hard sell from hawkers trying to sell tours though we ended up with a nice tour for a decent price. However I have heard and seen posts inre to this sort of thing, people selling drugs and so on. Too bad really as we had three nice vacations there some yrs. ago which is why we returned of course. JM2C.
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Old May 6th, 2011, 03:12 PM
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The infrastructure is crumbling (including giant potholes that can swallow a bus), vendors and hawkers are very agreesive. $$ for value not as good and they tend to charge you for eveything and try to collect money for things that should be free (example: little kids tryng to collect money before letting you going into a public washroom by blocking your way, either pay or you will have to run them over.) All in all, left bad taste as we had a number of bad experiences at different times in Ocho Rios. Our last time tehre a year ago was better as they have uniformed "tourist police" in certain places to make sure the non-licensed vendors are not there and the licensed one are not agressive.

Cayman and Bahamas are both relatively expensive in comparison to other islands. They are nice enough but they don't have the best beaches, the best snokeling, nor the best tourist attractions. Almost everyone goes to the same tourist traps so it could be very crowded if there are a few ships in port. They are popular because they are close to the US. Grand Cayman is a tendered port so you may not get ashore if the sea is rough although there is an alternate dock on the otehr side of the island but will cost you $5 to go downtown from there.

We just came back from the Southern Carribean with stops in St Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire and Aruba. Although we have been there before, we found something new to do, and able to get away from the crowd cheaply. Example: We took a cab at Bonaire and let the driver be our guide. $100 for 3 hours and toured at our lesiure, stopping at places where we wanted as long as we like rather than on a "fixed" schedule like the tours offered by the ship, and cheaper too.

Next time to Bonaire, we will rent a 4 wheel driver ahead of time to go to the Park.

Feel free to ask more questions and we will see if we can answer your questions.
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