New to cruising

Old Jan 13th, 2011, 01:50 PM
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New to cruising

I am trying to plan a cruise vacation in late May or early June, and I have never been on a cruise before. I am looking for a 5-7 night cruise that offers unique and exciting excursions. I am also looking for a great deal. Any suggestions???
clshelton2222 is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2011, 02:27 PM
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I think you might need to give a little more information. What age range are you in, what type of activities to you like, what price range are you thinking?
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Old Jan 13th, 2011, 03:20 PM
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My husband and I are 25, we love adventurous activities like zip lines, tubing, ATV rides, hiking, etc. We would like to keep the total cruise price under 2000 dollars, after tax, etc. I found a 7 night Carnival Legend cruise that goes to Cozumel, Belize, Grand Cayman, and Roatan, Honduras. I liked the excursions on this cruise. Has anybody been on this cruise or a similar cruise? Any recommendations or suggestions? Also, should I book through a travel agent or through the cruise line? What's the best way to get the best deal?
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Old Jan 13th, 2011, 03:38 PM
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For a first cruise, I would pick a destination that has either activites you know you would enjoy or places you know you would like to visit. By exciting excursions, do you mean things like scuba diving, archeological sites, places to hike, cities of Art and culture or more exotic places like Africa or Egypt? Once we know more what you want in that respect, people can make recs for cruises.

Be sure to also consider the weather in different places at that time of year - could already be pretty warm in Southern areas. Do you mind flying someplace to catch a cruise or do you want to depart from the US?

Next, look for an itinerary that gives you long days on shore, not just a few hours. Days where the ship docks early in the morning, so you have 8-10 hours off the ship gives you more time to really explore the port. Three or four hours is not enough to do much in most places.

As far as the ship, look for one that has decent food and activities that appeal to you for the time you are not on shore.

At this time last year, I was in exactly your position. We choose the Caribbean for our first cruise destination because it was dirt cheap in a warm place. We had such a wonderful time, we came home and booked a two week TA for two weeks later. This fall we took a 12 day cruise to Greek Islands and Turkey. Each was fabulous in different ways.

I think we obtained absolutely great deals by looking at cruises a few months ahead, picking what we wanted and booking at the last minute on vacationstogo. Before I booked, I checked airfare to make sure we didn't spend what we saved on the last minute cruise on higher last minute airfare. The only drawback to this is you may have less choice of cabins.
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Old Jan 13th, 2011, 05:42 PM
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I would not use a travel agent/cruise agency UNLESS they can give you on-board credit. I've booked my cruises myself and prefer it that way since I do Carnival's early saver (WHICH cruise agencies are not allowed to give you on-board credit on) and I don't want to go through a middle-man to get the price adjusted if it lowers.

As for excursions, I'd suggest doing your own thing--cruise lines overcharge you and use the same operators on land. Check out cruise related boards like www.cruisecritic.com where you can poll others for what they've done independently--trust me it saves a LOT! However, if you want to ensure that you WON'T miss the ship...do the excursion through CCL.

As for your price--you may be able to get it for cheaper depending on whether you want an Inside/Outside/Balcony/Suite. I prefer an oceanview bc I travel with a finicky sister ;-) but I'm frugal, so I don't mind doing an interior.

Look at www.cruisecompete.com where cruise agencies compete for your business. Give the dates of your proposed cruise and agents will give you their prices. **Make sure you check to see if they charge a booking fee. I wouldn't book with an agency unless they didn't charge one and gave me some sort of incentive..(on board credit). But by all means go with the cruise line if you feel ambivalent--I do it that way b/c I like to be in control of my cruises when they're early saver. If it wasn't an early saver, I'd gladly go through an agency to get the free moolah!

And vacationstogo.com is a GREAT site...I'm stalking it for my next cruise. Happy Cruisin!
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Old Jan 15th, 2011, 09:13 PM
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7 nights western Caribbean crusie is a good starting point for most first timers. And your age group fits nicely into the Carnival's profile. You will ahve a load of fun and fully enjoyed it.

There are a few "hidden" expenses that you have to be aware of: tips, drinks etc are not included and every time you show your cruise card to someone, it usualy cost you some money (exception: security check).

A lot of the first time cruiser over spent due to the fact that the ship makes it so easy for you to spend money.
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Old Jan 17th, 2011, 11:00 AM
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As butterfly said, excursions booked through the cruiseline are more expensive; the only advantages to booking through them is if something happens (cancellation of the cruise due to weather, port diversions,etc), it might be easier to get a refund, AND that if you are late returning from a ship-booked excursion they will often wait. Book it yourself, and you may be left in port. Many excursions you book yourself will offer your money back for cancellations~make sure what you book does!

As Eschew pointed out, "tips" are hidden and can be an ugly surprise at disembarkation. The recent NCL cruise I took charged $12/day per person for tips, which meant an automatic $168. There was a also an 18% autogratuity charged for any drinks. Unless you drink more than a 6 pack of soda a day, the soda cards are not worth the money.

Many ships have "specialty" restaurants that charge above and beyond if you utilize them. NCL had a steakhouse ($20 per person), a sushi place ($20 per person) and an Italian restaurant. My family and I found the food to be good in the main dining rooms and didn't feel we needed to spend the extra money.

Rely on how terrific an excursion is by checking out cruisecritic.com, tripadvisor.com, and by asking questions here at Fodor's, where people will be very vocal about what they liked and didn't like. The excursion I recently booked in Costa Maya was a bit disappointing, but I only read the comments on their website (most likely reviews written by the owners) and didn't do my homework!
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Old Jan 17th, 2011, 06:32 PM
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Late May will get you better rates than early June (once school is out, prices go up and some schools let out in June). Seven nights is a better value than five, and you'll get to some more interesting places. I also find that the further south you start, the more interesting places you get to. (There are often some great cruise deals out of San Juan if you can frequent-flier the airfare).

Second vote for http://www.cruisecompete.com for best rates. They also have a little video library with cruise tips that you might find helpful. It's a little basic for the hard-cores you find on this board, but nice for a first-timer to get oriented.

Good luck!
triathlete is offline  
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