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PaulLanders Jan 9th, 2014 05:19 AM

Newbie needs advice
So my wife and I are growing older, and we have come to a point where we really want to experience more. I have seen commercials on television about some cruise line that does tour cruises throughout various major attractions in Europe. This had me thinking about the fact that I have never been on a cruise ship. So this year I figured this was something we could do. The cost of taking a cruise has become significantly more affordable, and the options of the places we could visit are nearly endless.

So I went to the computer like so many of us do, and I began my search on the internet for information about cruises. I looked all over the place and found everything from travel advice to websites that offered cruises for sale. I eventually ended up on, the free encyclopedia which has a list of a huge number of cruise companies. I thought this was pretty cool because there is a list of operating companies, as well as companies that have failed. I never realized that there were so many companies that failed and folded. I came across a website that I found incredibly useful. At I found a ton of information about choosing cruises. So I have gotten to the point where I need to make a few decisions in order to move forward.

I was curious about different cruise experiences many of you have had. There was the story of the cruise ship that got stuck during new years 2013 in the Antarctic. There are obviously cruises all around the Caribbean. I have seen commercials fro cruises throughout Europe. There are cruises that go to Alaska. There have to be other cruises that I don't even know about yet. Share some your experiences on different cruises so I can get a feel about which direction I would like to look.

I would like to purchase our package within the next few months, but I want to gather my information before I make any decisions. I was hoping that getting some experiences that other people have had would help me to choose not only a location, but the cruise line I want to go on.

doug_stallings Jan 9th, 2014 05:27 AM

Unless you have specific questions that we can answer for you (i.e., if you have already done some of your homework), I'm not sure a forum like this is going to help you much. What I'd suggest is that you go on Cruise Critic, which is a site where people post every review of every ship sailing and which has a huge library of pre-existing information.

You can also read all about cruising and cruise lines and ships here on in the cruise information section of our site. That's the best place to do general research. But I don't think 10 or 12 completely random comments about cruises is going to help you narrow down your choices much.

Sassafrass Jan 9th, 2014 06:58 AM

Paul, hope you saw my response to you on my post about a cruise with my 4&1/2 year old GD.
My rec for a first cruise with a little one was the Caribbean because flights to catch the cruise are shorter, you have lots of choices and the area is beautiful, in some ways reminding me of the Greek Islands. I also think it would be more enjoyable with a little one than many of the stops in the med. It is such an easy intro to cruising. It is lots cheaper and you would know what to expect on longer trips.

The Med is absolutely gorgeous though and there are many great things to see there, but touring days can be long, even for adults. An example is Ephesus - a van ride and two to three hours of walking on hard surfaces outside could be wearing on a child, and I honestly can't see little ones enjoying trekking around Santorini for a day. In fairness, it might have just been the wrong time of year for people to travel with kids, but on our two cruises in the med, we saw teens on the Greek Island cruise, and actually do not remember any little ones on the Istanbul, Israel, Ephesus, Athens, Istanbul cruise. That being said, people who have done it with little ones could give you ideas on how to make it work and which itineraries would work; perhaps a shorter cruise in good weather, that departs Venice and stops in places where a child can play and run a bit and have good snacks. Look at cruises that stop where there are things of interest close by and you do not have a long trip by car or bus to see anything.

Doug's rec of is really good. You can read hundreds of reviews for any ship or itinerary you are interested in. Besides a suitable itinerary, some ships are more child friendly. Look on Cruisecritic at reviews written by people who traveled with children on the exact ships and itineraries in which you are interested. After you do pick a cruise, you can go to cruisecritic and join the roll call for your cruise to meet up with other people on the ship and do tours together rather than taking the expensive ship's tours. You could also find others with a child your age to play with.

Oh, a BTW, even in winter, there were plenty of families with kids on the Caribbean cruise we were on, and it was not even one of the "fun" ships. Know it sounds like I am pushing that, it is just that we loved it so much, we came home and booked two more cruises for the same year, one two weeks later and one six months later.

Another good place to look is Don't just check their 90 day sticker. Plug in specific ships and itineraries to find everything available that might be of interest to you. Hope this is helpful and you have fun planning.

di2315 Jan 10th, 2014 01:01 AM

Hi Paul

We went on our first cruise last September, and like you, were unsure of what to expect, which cruise line to choose, etc.

We decided to take a cruise that friends had travelled on a couple of years ago, and enjoyed thoroughly. They are the same age as us, and the cruise fitted in with our other travel plans to Europe at that time, so we thought that preferable to taking a random choice.

I did look a lot at cruise critic - trolling through hundreds of comments from people who weren't necessary the same age or interests seemed to me be very time consuming and a bit pointless.

Vacations To Go offer excellent prices, and their staff on the end of the phone are very helpful. We ended up booking with a local agent because we got a couple of extra benefits that way.

We also kept tabs on price movements for about 12 months prior to booking; the advice that the best price is available is usually around 90 days from sailing date didn't apply at all in our case - earlier bookings offered better price and more add-on benefits like on board credit.

We were very happy with Norwegian Cruises, and for preference would travel with them again.

If you click on my blue fodors name at the top of this message, you can see details of our travels. We chose this cruise because it took us to countries we were interested in seeing, but didn't want to travel through independently (our usual choice) because we had no local language skills, and just wanted a 'look see' rather than an extended stay.

Hope this helps, Di

Reme Jan 10th, 2014 01:27 PM

As you know there is a lot of info - too much actually. I think that you need to understand what you want. If you want sightseeing - visiting new places - cruising is great. Just choose a cruise that goes there. If a week of partying and boozing is for you then a Caribbean trip on a party boat is just the thing. We started cruising in our mid 60's and are now in our late 70's-80's. We have been on RCI, Celebrity, Holland America and Viking. We prefer HAL as the ships are good and not too rowdy. We have been on European cruises 3 times, Alaska and Bermuda once and the Caribbean twice. We enjoyed them all but the second Caribbean which was a bit too much of the islands. Also consider a river cruise. We did one on Viking and it was great.
We have always used a local travel agent. I like to have someone that I can see and who has my interests in mind. Maybe (maybe) you can save a few dollars with an internet outfit, but when I spend a lot on a trip, I think a bit of security is nice. Also look at all the pitfalls of cruising. I think they are ok, but realize that cruise lines are there to make money. So once you sign on the dotted line, the relationship changes - also a good reason to have a good TA. You can save a lot and have a good experience by arranging your own tours and avoiding a lot of alcohol on board. Do read these pages. There is a lot of info.

Eschew Jan 10th, 2014 03:15 PM

#Doug: I am surprised that you recommend members here to go to CC for reviews .... are they associated with Fodors here? Although I sue them as well, but I am reluctant to recommend people to go there and take traffic from here

#Sass: I have a hunch that Paul is from UK so a Caribbean cruise would be an expensive adventure. For someone new to cruising in Europe, most would have chosen a Med cruise. I would probably suggest something different: like a Baltic or Norway Fjord cruise in the summer months.

#Paul: In order for us to help you with recommendation to finalise a location, you have to share your likes and dislikes. Beaches? Natural wonders? Man made wonders? History? Ruins? Old Town? New Town? Exotic? Engineering marvels? Is there any mobility issues? Age group? How about budgets? Do you prefer a quiet resort setting or more sociable setting? Any type of personal preference would help.

Personally, we love hiking, ancient ruins, old medieval towns etc. so visited a lot of ancient ruins from Greek to Romans to Mayan to Aztec, none most are really wheelchair accessible and most requires a fair amount of physical activities. We like to relax on board and occasionally take part (as in watch from a distance) pool party etc. We love to catch all the entertainments including fellow passengers participating on "game shows" and competition alike. With all the different cruise lines and size of ships, they cater to all taste.

Sassafrass Jan 10th, 2014 06:41 PM

Right, Eschew, if Paul is in England, the Caribbean would be an expensive haul. I did see he was looking at a UK website, but it just didn't register with me.

I was thinking of his comment on my thread about cruising with a 4&1/2 year old. He was concerned about a week on a ship with his little girl, age 5. He could probably make most any cruise work, but my recs were really considering cruising with a little one. He did not mention that on this thread and, as you told him, age of travelers is important in choosing a ship and itinerary.

Reme, perhaps our cruise was not usual, and I've heard some stories about the party ships, but think it depends on the ship, the dates, and the itinerary. If you make sure not to go during college spring break times, pick islands with great sightseeing, and pick a ship that caters to slightly more mature cruisers, it is great. Our 7 night cruise on Princess to the Southern Caribbean was certainly not a booze cruise - not even close! It was rather sedate, as a matter of fact. I think everybody was either too old, had small children to get into bed or too tired after a day of swimming, zip-lining, etc. to stay up very late and party. I am a little nervous about Carnival, but plan to try it soon anyway.

Eschew Jan 11th, 2014 04:54 PM

Sass, all the cruise lines have what I call sterotype. Fortunately or unfortuantely, the sterotype sticks: such as Carnival being party (they call themselves the fun boat), HAL being "old" and Princess still has that romantic love boat reputation from the old TV series. Those seterotype, can be deserving at times.

We have been on sedate carnival cruise, no party, no loud mouths, and we have been on HAL ships seeing young children. On one particular Celebrity cruise, we were surprised to hear that there were 600 children on board out of 2200 total passenegers. We hardy noticed any kids at all during the cruise, until the children's talent show.

The Caribbean party cruises are usally much shorter in length (3 to 4 nights) and usually on the older ships. Reason is simple: why get a nice new ship wrecked by the drunks? You will be perfectly happy on your Carnival cruise.

For the past 5 years, we have been on Princess ships the most, Celebrity second, and RCL third. And on HAL, Carnival and NCL only once each. DW loves the "familairity" of the Princess ships. I hate ship board PA's and they seem to be more restraint than others.

What strikes me with Princess ships is that there are not too many surprises: good bad or otherwise. They are not #1 in any category. They don't do anything particularly well but they don't do anything particular bad. It's just like that old comfortable sweater that you keep going back to. One thing that sticks on my mind was their repeat business. On one particular cruise last year, out of nearly 3,000 passenegers, over 2000 are repeat customers. I heard the stats at the captain's reception that 1400+ were gold and emerald (2 to 5 crusies), 600+ were platinum (5+) and elite (15+). They honor the the top 3 couples with the most cruise days. The top 2 winners both had more than 1000 days of cruising with them. That speaks volume.

jacketwatch Jan 11th, 2014 06:54 PM

Well Paul that's a tough question as there are many cruise routes and many cruise lines. Try to ask yourself a few questions.
1. Do you like port stops that offer more casual attractions or ones that go to larger cities which offer more attractions or as we say are port intensive.
2. Do you prefer ships which are more casual or perhaps more traditional like formal nights. NCL in particular has no formal nights. It's all smart casual.
3. Do you want a ship that shuttles you to port stops or do you want that AND better service.

To specifically answer your question the most remarkable cruises for us were the Holy land and the Med/Geek islands and any one with stops in Istanbul and Kusadasi.

We have take other cruises as well all had their merits. Another great one was the Baltic in the month of June to experience white nights.

Alaska was fab too as was Tahiti.

So Paul what do you think appeals to you?

Larry. :)

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