Need advice for first time cruise?

Old May 7th, 2020, 02:35 AM
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Need advice for first time cruise?

We have never cruised before. We want to go to Cuba in September. Can anyone advise how the month of September is, at sea? Also, we are looking into NCL as they offer open bar. Is that a benefit worth messing with vs paying for drinks on ship? Is it best to book online or speak with an agent? As we will need to purchase airfare to Florida. Open to any advice for first timers!! Thank you!
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Old May 7th, 2020, 06:58 AM
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I'll try to answer some of your questions:

1) September is the peak of the Hurricane Season in the Caribbean so that's something you should take into consideration. If you are unlucky enough encounter a major storm in the area where you will be cruising you could be in for several days of unsettled weather and very rough seas. If that happens your cruise line could alter you itinerary to avoid the brunt of the storm. This alteration could include eliminating or changing certain Ports of Call. On the other hand if there are no storms brewing in the area the weather in September can be quite nice and the seas could be calm. No one can predict now with any accuracy if or when a major stop will develop and whether or not it will affect your cruising location. Your guess is as good as anyone's. If you decide to travel at that time of year you'd be wise to consider purchasing Trip Cancellation Insurance.

2) Deciding whether a cruise with an "open bar" is purely a personal decision and depends, to some extent on how much you anticipate drinking while aboard ship. Many cruise lines offer an optional drink package so you really have to compare prices and, of course, itineraries and what other amenities are available on the different cruise ships and cruise lines to determine which YOU perceive as the best way to spend your money. In my experience it usually boils down to you can either "pay the man now or pay the man later.

3) If you haven't already done so you should go to cruisecritic.com - it's a website dedicated to all aspects of cruising. You can compare cruise lines, cruise itineraries and read hundreds upon hundred of reviews of NCL and all the cruise lines. You'll find discussions about drink plans, activities, shore excursions, etc., etc. It's a great source of information for first time and well seasoned cruisers and will help you with the decision process.

4) After doing your basic research you should speak directly with the cruise line you select. They will answer any other questions you may have and assist you with the booking process. They can also assist you with air travel reservations and pre-cruise or post cruise hotel accommodations (if needed). Sometimes they offer special packages which can save you some money on airfare. If you prefer you can book the cruise directly with the cruise line and book your airfare separately on your airline of choice's website.

Hope this helps.
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Old May 7th, 2020, 08:33 AM
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I thought cruise ships didn't go to Cuba any longer. https://www.ncl.com/cubaupdate
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Old May 7th, 2020, 10:01 AM
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Cruising anywhere in September is unlikely, Princess, for example, cancelled another bunch of cruises yesterday. Whether NHL is still a going concern then is also not certain. Short cruises in the Caribbean might occur, Hurtigruten may have opened up in Norway, but otherwise... Also, people on cruisecritic are reporting a lot of trouble getting refunds for cancelled cruises, so you might not want to send NHL any money you're not willing to lose.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2020, 06:13 AM
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I know, cruises are all-inclusive and you want to do the least amount of planning you can before your trip. However, you should research and find a cruise that will work best for you. Read as much as you can about your ship and excursions before your cruise. Otherwise, you can end up in a small port without the slightest clue of what to do for the next eight hours. In terms of port info, cruise lines rarely give enough information apart from the cruise excursions.

On our recent trip to Ocho Rios, we didn’t have any excursions planned. And when we arrived, we didn’t know where to go. There were already a lot of people on the island and we didn’t feel very safe just walking around on our own. We made the most out of this experience, but I do wish we had booked an excursion in advance or planned that stop better.

Even though we had a snorkeling adventure planned in Costa Maya, the excursion got canceled and I had to pick out a new one on the spot! I wish I had done some more research!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2020, 06:22 AM
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As of this week, the cruise ships are not going anywhere till fall and no Cuba cruises from US ports. The hurricane season is so iffy, you just never know. You have to throw back a lot of drinks to make that drink package worth it.

Last edited by Moderator1; Jun 22nd, 2020 at 07:49 AM. Reason: deleted political comment
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Old Jun 23rd, 2020, 11:51 AM
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Just addressing the drink package question. If you drink soda, as well as alcoholic drinks, it might be worthwhile to get the package for FREE (you still have to pay the mandatory gratuities of about $20 per day.). I personally don't drink much (at most one drink a day, and no soda) and even if I did I wouldn't PAY for the drink package, but for a short cruise, it might be worthwhile to get the FREE package. You would have to drink a LOT to make it worthwhile to BUY the drink package. Note that you can bring bottles of wine onboard for a corkage fee of $15 per bottle, with no limit. I can barely finish a bottle in two days on my own.

Free at Sea is often not available on the guaranteed cabin "Sail Away" categories, which means you may paying several hundred more just to be eligible for the Free at Sea promo, on top of the charge.

On some promo deals you have to take ALL of the Free at Sea options, or sometimes you can pick and chose.

This link may be current

https://www.ncl.com/termsandconditions/promotions



Last edited by mlgb; Jun 23rd, 2020 at 11:56 AM.
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Old Jun 25th, 2020, 10:56 AM
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Don’t ever travel to the Caribbean in hurricane season!
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Old Jun 25th, 2020, 03:14 PM
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The probability of any cruise in this Fall is fairly remote. Save your questions for next year.
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Old Jun 25th, 2020, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Macross View Post
As of this week, the cruise ships are not going anywhere till fall and no Cuba cruises from US ports. The hurricane season is so iffy, you just never know. You have to throw back a lot of drinks to make that drink package worth it.
That wasn't political. It was a fact. Cuba travel will open once again under a new administration. When the current administration stopped cruise ships from going to Cuba it hit the business hard here in Fl. We knew many that cruised only to go there and now that the business is suffering so much they will revisit this and open it back up. The op wants to go there along with thousands of others. I live so close to Cuba and want to go once in my life. My husband was stationed in KW during the Mariel boat lift, so many great people came on those boats. Our local ER doctor was one.

Last edited by Macross; Jun 25th, 2020 at 03:35 PM.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2020, 03:36 PM
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Do not schedule for this year! Where are you travelling from that you would even consider this??
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Old Jul 3rd, 2020, 07:13 PM
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The OP posted once two months ago and has not been seen/heard from since . . . .
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Old Jul 4th, 2020, 06:08 AM
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Probably because NCL cancelled their cruise. On June 4, 2019, the United States government announced new and immediate travel restrictions to Cuba. As a result, we have ceased all calls to the country and are modifying previously scheduled sailings as appropriate. We share your disappointment and frustration caused by this unexpected change. Like you, we were surprised by this sudden modification to policy. We thank you for your patience and continued support as we navigate through this recent development. Guests who booked Cuba sailings with us will be contacted very shortly with a detailed communication. Please bear with us as we carefully work through each sailing.
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