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Maggi Aug 17th, 2015 06:13 PM

Last minute cruise advice
I've posted this elsewhere on this site, but thought I would add it to the cruise forum as well: My husband is on a treatment break from his Chemo. The doc said this would be a good time to take him somewhere. I'm not thinking too straight and could use advice. I don't want to make it too hard on him, travel-wise, and am thinking a cruise. I heard there were places where you could find out about great prices on unsold cabins. But I haven't been able to locate these sites. I welcome any suggestions.

Sassafrass Aug 17th, 2015 10:20 PM

I don't know about "unsold" as in some discount days or hours before a cruise, though it can happen, but it is rare. I saw it happen once just the day before the ship was departing on the ship's own site.

Some brokers may also buy up a lot of cabins, then find them not selling well and at the last minute reduce them, but you won't know about it ahead of time. That is so difficult if you want to plan a trip.

All cabins are unsold until they are sold. They automatically go up and down in price depending on how they are selling. It is set that if by a certain date, the number of cabins sold in a particular category is more than a certain percentage, price will automatically go up. If they are not selling as well as they should, price will go down to generate more sales. We have often booked only a week or two before the cruise and gotten a great price. On the other hand, the cruise you want could sell out weeks before the cruise.

There are websites to help you see many cruises available and the costs.
My favorite is
You can also book through them, but they are a big cruise/vacation broker. If you know exactly what you want, cruise, which cabin, etc. it is fine. I have booked with them several times.

Another great website is
You can find reviews of every ship, every itinerary, etc. You can ask questions about cabins, excursions, etc. Once you have a cruise picked out, you can join the roll call for your cruise on this website to learn more and meet other people who will be on the cruise.

For more help and advice, you can work with your own travel agent or directly with the cruise lines. I liked working directly with the cruise line and got the same price.

There are lots of others and they are competitive.

A cruise will be really great, I think for you and your DH. They can be as active or relaxed as you like. I recommend a seven day cruise because shorter cruises hardly give you enough time to adjust and start to relax.

Have you been on a cruise before?
Where are you coming from?
You want to consider the cost of flights and flight times to get to the port.
Where would you like to go? Caribbean for beaches and sunshine, Alaska for more adventure, Hawaii for something more exotic, etc?
Do you hope to do excursions and sightseeing or relax on the ship? Different ships will give you different things, so that is a major consideration.

After you have a look at some of the websites, or even before, if you have other questions, just ask. There are a half dozen or so very experienced cruisers on this forum. I have taken only a few cruises. Some of them have taken dozens and dozens.

I know this is more than you asked for, and you may be an experienced cruiser already, really wanting just a simple direct answer. If so, just disregard my suggestions, but I hope it is of some use.

Rhea58 Aug 18th, 2015 02:07 AM

Above poster has given you some good advice. I also use
vacations to go for my cruises.
In giving your husband a break, a cruise is an excellent idea as he will be able to relax & partake of whatever appeals
to him or just lie on a chair poolside. Once you board & unpack it will be relaxing. A 7-dayer should do this nicely.

doug_stallings Aug 18th, 2015 05:22 AM

A cruise is a great idea, so I think you're on the right track. Just search online. There's no magical consolidator for unsold cruise cabins because (to be honest) very few go unsold these days and such a service isn't required.

So don't seek out huge discounts. Just find a cruise that works for you and offers the kind of vacation you're looking for.

1965 Aug 18th, 2015 06:48 AM

The above posts are filled with good info and good advice. We have used vacationstogo several times, and felt we got excellent service. Give them a call. If they are still operating as they did a few years ago, you'll get a personal agent who will help you with everything. Tell him/her your situation, and I bet you'll get exactly what you're looking for. Good luck, and many good wishes for your husband.

Maggi Aug 18th, 2015 12:30 PM

You guys are so nice - thank you so much. We have cruised twice before, once on the old Renaissance line back in 1999 and most recently on a Regent cruise Aus/New Zealand last year. We were spoiled forever on that one. A trip of a lifetime. I just got notice of a 7 night Celebrity Millennium cruise to Alaska (we live in Michigan), balcony cabin for $999. I don't know how to gauge how much money we will need above and beyond that, since Regent was all inclusive, including airfare. I do have miles I could use for the flight. We love tropical, but have always wanted to see Alaska. He would probably not do the excursions, but I probably would do some. I don't want to be away from him too much. Food is really important to him, as his tastebuds are just coming back from his last round of chemo. I am going to check vacationstogo with now. Thank you!

Sassafrass Aug 18th, 2015 12:52 PM

Know absolutely nothing about Alaska cruises, just throwing this out for thoughts. I know others on here have done Alaska cruises, and some have done the excursions cheaper on their own.

How are Alaska cruises if you can't do the excursions?
Is it worth the balcony, weatherwise?

Look at Princess cruises too.

If long flights are a problem, look at cruises out of the North East, NY etc. in summer when weather is still nice for days at sea.

doug_stallings Aug 19th, 2015 05:01 AM

Alaska is a bad idea for several reasons. The cruises don't generally offer very good weather for those who don't disembark. And scenic cruising is limited to the Inside Passage or a glacier-watching day ... usually one out of a week since most cruising is done at night.

But I do think that a balcony is a must. If he's having a bad day, you can just sit there and relax ... or at least have coffee and breakfast out there daily.

1965 Aug 19th, 2015 05:36 AM

On all 3 of our Alaska cruises we were blessed with good weather, really pretty wonderful weather. All 3 were in May. We had a rainy day on 2 of them in Ketchikan I believe it was. But I hear from friends that the weather can be unpleasant. It's the luck of the draw. Sometimes you just have to go for it and hope for the best. On our last Alaska cruise we also had a 3 day land tour. We got to see Mt. McKinley which makes us members of the 20% club. Only 20% of those who want to see McKinley actually get to see it due to weather and clouds. So Lady Luck does play a part in traveling. Wishing you a heavy dose of good luck.

Maggi Aug 19th, 2015 10:00 PM

Thank you! We do need it for sure. We have cruised twice and both times had a balcony. I spend most of my leisure time out there. I'd never cruise any other way. I wonder what month would be the higher chance of good weather. July? August? It seems most of the good cruises to Alaska are over or sold out for this year. I might have to pray really hard and try to go next summer.

1965 Aug 22nd, 2015 08:58 AM

We're retired teachers who loved kids when teaching them but try to avoid kids when traveling. On summer cruises you do encounter more children on board and in the ports. Some are very well behaved, some are not. On our May cruises in Alaska there were not nearly the crowds, few children, and most of the time we needed a jacket in the mornings and evenings, but often were in shirt sleeves during the day. We did have snow at the Princess Denali lodge one day, but we actually enjoyed it. Being from hot Texas we liked having a day of snow.

utahtea Aug 22nd, 2015 10:27 AM

The $999 for a balcony sounds great depending on the itinerary. If you're not going to do any excursions then the itinerary is going to be very important for an Alaska Cruise. You want one that either does Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier. Ones that only do Tracy Arm can be iffy if you get to the glacier or not.

I'd like to pick your brain on your Aus/New Zealand cruise! ;)


Sassafrass Aug 22nd, 2015 11:03 AM

Besides time of year, how many kids are on a cruise and their behavior depends on the ship, the itinerary, length of the cruise and the kids program. Some ships do a better job of controlling the kids too. That also depends on parents.

Longer, 12 & 13 day cruises,
TA cruise, Crown Princess - very few kids, maybe a half dozen
Greek Islands, Princess - a few more teens with families
Turkey and Israel, Celebrity - almost none.

7 day cruises to the Caribbean in Spring
Princess - quite a few, well behaved, hardly noticeable
NCL Epic - huge, family ship, tons of kids, especially at pools during the day, but great kids program, so you didn't see them in the evenings.
MSC Divina - Huge Italian ship, kids sailed free, poor kids programs, hundreds of kids running everywhere all the time!

Maggi Aug 23rd, 2015 08:55 PM

Thanks folks. As seniors, we do love kids, but would prefer mainly adult cruises.

Utahtea, pick away! [email protected]

We did Regent South Seas and it was the trip of a lifetime. Spoiled for any future cruises, that's for sure.

Eschew Aug 24th, 2015 08:16 PM

Best way to find last minute deals is a subscription to last minute deals via email from the cruise lines or travel agents.

scdreamer Aug 25th, 2015 10:50 AM

I have noticed that some last minute (two weeks away) river cruises seem to be at a great discount. Not sure if your husband is up to travel to Europe, but I saw some rather amazing deals for a trip in Provence.

scdreamer Aug 25th, 2015 10:54 AM

Hit the submit button before I should have: the river cruise I saw also included air fare from the east coast of the US. It was just under $2000 pp for 11 days. Seemed like a bargain to me.

mlgb Aug 25th, 2015 12:37 PM

I just signed up for a discounted HAL Alaska Cruise 8 days before departure. Their itinerary includes Glacier Bay, Inside Passage as well as Haines, Juneau, & Ketchikan.

Considering the price I paid ($449 to $479 pp) I doubt I'll be disappointed even if it isn't perfect. I think that is about half of the normal discount. Not sure how far ahead they offer those fares, since I am a cruise newbie.

Coming from the west coast I was able to get good one-way airfares on JetBlue, something important to consider.

Hope I like HAL better than RCI, similar class ship to the one we took thru the Panama Canal this spring. I wasn't sure I would do another cruise for a few years but this is cheaper than spending a week in a hotel and eating out.

utahtea Aug 25th, 2015 11:07 PM

mlgb, We love HAL but then it's the only cruise line we've been on. We've done two Alaska Cruises. What ship will you be on?


mlgb Aug 26th, 2015 08:34 AM

Ms Zaandam,utahtea. Fly to Anchorage this Saturday.

The menus are impressive.

mlgb Sep 7th, 2015 02:22 PM

Just returned, the weather was amazing from 8/30 to 9/4. Left from Anchorage, and Glacier Bay was the highlight. We had perfect weather, plus a dusting of "termination snow"> We were permitted to go up to Johns Hopkins glacier as well as watch quite a bit of calving at Margerie Glacier. Compared to all my friend's photos of overcast gloom, I felt extremely lucky.

Also liked Haines and Ketchikan.

Inside Passage day was gloomy, but Zaandam has the advantage of a covered walking deck. That was the day I saw a humpback whale flipper so no losses.

There was no need to take an excursion anywhere. Haines had a free shuttle if you didn't want to walk. Ketchican has free downtown shuttle as well as a $2 all day pass to go a bit farther out (eg to Totem Bight and adjacent Potlach Park). At Haines, there were bald eagles waiting for us at the harbor in the early am. Also had one circle over head at Totem Bight SP.

Talked to a guy who rented a car at Haines and asked around town where to go to watch bears. He saw 5 (tagged mother and two cubs (one is collared). Also on the other side, a male and another young bear catching salmon. So no need to go on that tour. I think car rentals were coming in around $100.

Re Juneau, after Glacier Bay I probably didn't need to go to Mendenhall Glacier but was a bit under the weather so just as happy to sit on the $20 bus and take a short walk to the viewpoint. BTW they now charge a few $$ to enter the visitor center.

I would say try not to miss Glacier Bay or some equivalent, not just Inside Passage viewing of mostly trees and water which looks the same as a lot of the Pacific NW.

Re "formal" nights on Zaandam, they weren't all that formal. Jackets supposedly but I saw two gals in jeans who weren't turned away, and their dad didn't wear a jacket. You could also order off the menu (I think before 6) and have room service. I did that my last night and food was better than waiting for dining room service.

For the most part the Lido buffet was gross, much worse than Royal Caribbean's Windjammer buffet on our Panama Canal cruise. I might rather eat at Hometown Buffet or the Sizzler than Lido (other than the desserts).

Although the food was better in the MDR, service could be slow if you got stuck at a table of 8. So try to reserve your own small table in advance (at least for dinner not sure if it's possible for B/L).

The afternoon teas were nothing special. Just go up to Lido and grab a cuppa tea and a bunch of desserts.

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