First-time cruiser: WHICH LINE?

Jan 27th, 2008, 06:38 AM
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First-time cruiser: WHICH LINE?

I want to surprise my husband with a cruise for our next vacation in April '09. He has never been on one before, and it has been 20 years since I have cruised. I'm looking for a 5-7 day trip for about $5000 (incl. shor excursions) plus airfare. A balcony cabin would be wonderful!

Our priorities:
Caribbean ports, NOT just Mexico. We have no desire to visit Jamaica (long story).
As few children as possible since we have none.
Ship must have a good casino.
Ship with a cigar lounge for him would be great.
Mix of formal and casual dining, and I like the idea of freestyle dining options.

Suggestions of lines/ships/itineraries would be appreciated!!
ChristieP is offline  
Jan 27th, 2008, 11:38 AM
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Cruiselines are much different from 20 years ago.

To ensure you get the cruise that is right for YOU, I suggest you do some research. Go to Check on the "Boards" of the cruiselines you are thinking of (Carnival, NCI, Princess, HAL, RCI or whatever) and see what people who have sailed on these lines think of their cruises. Ask questions about the things you are interested in.

To just select a cruiseline without doing some research or talking to a KNOWLEDGEABLE CRUISE TA is just asking for trouble. Cruiselines are different. They are not all the same. They offer different passenger demographics, different activities, different service, etc.

Do you want a large ship with thousands of passengers, or a smaller one? It makes a great deal of difference. Do your research FIRST.
golfette is offline  
Jan 27th, 2008, 11:59 AM
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I agree....such a difference from 20 years ago. I think the first thing to decide is how many other passengers you want on your ship. Some people love the large ships with better onboard shopping opportunities, larger casinos, more Las Vegas type shows, rock walls to climb etc.

Others (including myself) much prefer smaller ships with fewer passengers, few if any children, better food and service, better standard cabins etc. I have actually cruised on more large ships than smaller (group cruises) but I really hate the waiting in lines and being nickeled and dimed every time I turn which is common on larger ships. I have cruised into Caribbean ports on large ships where there are more passengers in port than there are locals. Obviously, this doesn't bother others as the mega ships just keep filling up so I'm just sharing my own opinions.

You need to set your ship priorities first and your itinerary ports second within your budget. Whatever you decide, have a wonderful time. It's such a thoughtful surprise for your husband.
patsy120 is offline  
Jan 27th, 2008, 12:11 PM
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forgot to mention....I think all the ships have a smoking room for your husband's cigars. The ships that tried to go entirely non-smoking couldn't stay in business.
patsy120 is offline  
Jan 27th, 2008, 04:27 PM
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Thaks for the suggestions! Yes, things are a LOT different from when I cruised in the 1980's!

I have been looking at cruisecritic and have gotten some good information. I'd like a medium ship that still have lots of activities and things to do, but doesn't have the crowds that Patsy speaks of. We do qualify for the military discount that Carnival offers, so that is quite tempting.

Oh, hubby doesn't want a "smoking room" full of cigarette smokers. At home, he goes to a neighborhood cigar bar that he loves, and I'd like to find one with something similar onboard if I can...
ChristieP is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 04:22 AM
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Celebrity might be a good compromise. We were on Century last winter and they had a cigar bar (not being a cigar smoker, I have no idea of any of the specifics about it). Many schools have vacations any time between Feb-April - the later in the month of April you can go, the fewer kids you are likely to encounter.

Check out a Western Caribbena itinerary.
gail is online now  
Jan 28th, 2008, 07:15 AM
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I believe Celebrity got rid of their cigar bars. If you find the cruise diva website You get the up to date rules etc there on all of the cruise lines.
traveller69 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 11:19 AM
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Apparently a lot of cruiselines are getting rid of their smoking areas and cigar bars.

Even if a cigar bar is listed in the brochure or on the website, I wouldn't count on it. Things change on cruiseships faster than you can blink an eye.

Hopefully a cigar bar is not an absolute must for your cruise.
golfette is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 11:28 AM
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Check out Royal Carribbean Freedom of the Seas. Just did their Western Carribbean itinerary for my first cruise and loved it. The only problem I can see with Royal is that they do stop in Ocho wouldn't have to get off the boat if you don't want to. But if you do, there are plenty of excursions to choose from that might appeal to you even if you don't actively want to go to Jamaica.
beanweb24 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 12:38 PM
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Sorry If I've given incorrect information. I guess I don't know the difference between a smoking room and a cigar bar. I just thought he needed a room where he could smoke his cigar along with other passengers that would likely be smoking cigarettes. Those are the type rooms that ships have since some ships don't allow smoking in cabins or balconies.
patsy120 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 02:52 PM
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Look into a southern Caribbean route for starters. We will be on the Adventure of the Seas in May out of San Juan PR with stops in Barbados, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, St. Lucia and Antigua. It is an appealing ininerary.
jacketwatch is online now  
Jan 28th, 2008, 05:30 PM
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Thanks for all the advice! I've looked a lot at Carnival's Valor, and I like their Western Caribbean 7-day itinerary. I also liked the NCL Jewel and Gem...I'm still looking. If we did choose a cruise that stopped in Jamaica, we would stay on the boat, but I'd prefer to just not go there at all.

A cigar bar isn't a must, but it would definitely make him a little happier since doesn't get the chance to smoke a real Cuban cigar at home!
ChristieP is offline  
Jan 29th, 2008, 06:34 AM
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ChristieP...Friends of mine in Dallas on more than one occasion visited the cruise-only agency at the northwest corner of Frankford and the Tollway.They went to thers--AAA, American Express,one I cant remember--and the rates at this place were by far the best.From Grapevine head east on the GB, south on the Tollway, right on Frankford, its right there.Best of Luck!!
BeachBoi is offline  
Jan 29th, 2008, 09:06 AM
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I only know about Royal Caribbean but have been on 5 Caribbean cruises in 18 months, so here goes. To get to any kind of variety of destinations you will have to go for 7 days. Five days is just not enough time to get there and back. Look for an Eastern Caribbean schedule which will generally leave from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and you should get three or four stops, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Martin, Naussa are some of the most popular. If not look for Southern Caribbean. In April many of the Caribbean ships leave for the Med so I would look now because there are somewhat limited sailings.
To get almost everything you are looking for you will have to be on a large ship, for Royal Caribbean that would be Freedom,Voyager and Radiance class. Regarding children, you very rarely see them. They have their own programs and if you have late seating they will not be around. Casino has Vegas style machines and they still give you money not vouchers. From my experience the casino is never mobbed and you can generally get onto tables and slots almost at will.
Most of the larger ships have a "Cigar Club/Lounge". Have sat with my husband on many occasions, while he enjoys one with a cocktail late at night. Have never had a problem smoking on the balcony either. Just ask for an ashtray when you first see your stateroom attendant and they will take care of it.
Dining, where do I begin. RCL does not have freestyle dining options, however their are options, dining room, Windjammer Buffet, Chops and Portofins (additional $25/person and worth it in my opinion), plus 24 room service with a small menu. You can always find food.
I believe that Royal Caribbean has a military discount, as least they ask the question on their website when you book through them.
You should be able to get a balcony on your budget but probably not a suite. But I don't know what your discount might be. In any event you will have a nice room!
Have fun, whatever you choose!
floridakathleen is offline  
Jan 30th, 2008, 09:29 AM
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I used to cruise with RCI a lot but the size of the ships and the overwhelming number of unsupervised kids running amok means other choices these days.

I don't like massive ships, kids, crowds, so the bigger ships are not for me.

For more dining options, you need to look at Princess, HAL and NCL though I would not recommend NCL personally as I find their food and service are very basic, as are their cabins.

HAL and Princess offer anytime dining options as well as fixed seatings. And you will not find as many kids on HAL for sure.

Celebrity is another option for medium class ships offering good quality. The Summit is offering a southern route in April of 2009. And the new Solstice will be sailing then as well, but just in early April.
kfusto is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 09:29 AM
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Seabourn (all-inclusive, luxury, small ship)has a cigar lounge that looked to be one of the nicest places on board (and every place on S'bourn is "nice!") Just under 200 passengers; anytime dining; great cabins and service. Check the posts at cruise critic and the Seabourn website. If it's in your budget, you can't go wrong. Fabulous experience. Their demographic skews probably mid-40s to 80s (though maybe younger for the Caribbean - no experience there), but just about everyone on our voyage was cordial, friendly and interesting.

(b/t/w - we had to go to Jamaica for our daughter's wedding; share your feelings entirely!)
tuckerdc is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 01:22 PM
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While Seaborn is a good suggestion, I believe it is overbudget for the OP.
Personally, having done NCL & HAL
I really like HAL...better choice
of entertainment, food, etc. plus
the DO have designated cigar bars.
I believe it's the Ocean bar but
may vary from ship to ship.
You might post a query or two after
registering (free) on cruisecritic as these folks are die-hards & have a plethora of info to offer.
And do please report back on your decision.
Rhea58 is offline  
Feb 24th, 2008, 04:20 AM
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HAL no longer has cigar bars on their ships. One must smoke outside. This is a recent change in policy.

kfusto is offline  
Feb 24th, 2008, 08:58 AM
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Kfusto, how recent is your info?
I will be on the Noordam this Weds
& was told there IS a cigar bar.
Rhea58 is offline  
Feb 24th, 2008, 05:46 PM
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Carnival does allow you to smoke cigars on the top deck.
seauonboard is offline  

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