Prep for First Cruise-- August 2014

Jun 19th, 2013, 08:40 AM
  #1  
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Prep for First Cruise-- August 2014

So my 50th is coming up next August... and my husband and I are considering our first cruise, with another couple! This is totally foreign territory for me, and I'm an over-planner, so I'm starting the obsessive planning now. Are there pills for this...?

Anyway, I have a few questions:

1. When should I expect the cruise lines to post their August 2014 cruise schedules?

2. We are specifically thinking about the Caribbean. Does any cruise line stand out as far as great ships, great activities & entertainment, cool clientèle (especially because we're two gay couples, and we do NOT want to do a "gay cruise" under any circumstances), great food, etc., etc., etc. for Caribbean cruising?

3. I'm really naïve about the experience. I assume food is included, but am I right in assuming that we will be paying for alcoholic drinks? And is it pay-as-you-go, cash-bar transactions, or do we run up a tab and settle the last day? Do we tip the crew, servers, etc.?

4. I've heard that some ships/cruise lines have formal nights, costume parties, etc. Is participation mandatory? I don't want to have to bring special outfits on a vacation that's supposed to be relaxing. I'm turning 50, not going out for Trick or Treat.

Any feedback will be, as always, greatly appreciated. Thanks!
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Jun 19th, 2013, 09:40 AM
  #2  
 
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1. Now. It should be no problem getting or booking a year ahead. Cruise lines love it.
2. The Caribbean is OK. Each cruise line is different and emphasizes a different aspect of cruising. Fodors has I think, guides that describe the character of each line. Also, cruise critic has descriptions of the lines and ships.
3. Food is included, unless you want to dine in the upscale restaurants which are becoming popular, and expensive. But the dining room food has become of lower quality lately. You can buy booze packages for different levels of quality. They are pretty expensive, but do allow you to drink freely. And you bet you tip - everyone in sight. But don't worry, the ship will make sure you are fully educated in the art of tipping.
4. Formal nights are becoming much less formal. On the more party ships, I think you can wear what you want. As far as participation, do what you want.
Reme is offline  
Jun 19th, 2013, 09:54 AM
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1. I would think those schedules are out now.
2. Though the ships with the most pizazz are the oasis and Allure of the Seas from Royal I am not crazy about their ports. For me I luv the southern Caribbean route which usually leaves out of San Juan which is very cool for a pre or post cruise stay. As for cool ships with a lot to do I am a big fan of Royals Voyager class ship of which there are 5 or better yet their Freedom class ships. There are 3 of them and they are very cool.

I would see if you can get one of Celebrities Solstive class ships too. We were on one, the Equinox and it was the nicest ship we have ever been on.

The newer Carnival ships have very nice too so lk into it and see what you like. Go to their websites and peruse these ships to get a better idea.

3. Food is included as is coffee (not the speciality coffees), juice and lemonade. You can get a soft drink card or now most cruise lines have a daily fee for booze so if drink a fair amt. its cheaper to do it this way. On a cruise nothing is paid by cash as you go. You use you cruise issued id card which I suggest you don't lose to pay for every thing and you will need ot to get off and back on the ship. You can as most do put a CC on file to cover your expenses. Most cruise lines allow you to pull up your bill on your in cabin TV screen. The last night of the cruise there will be a bill slipped under your door.
Most cruise lines now auto tip so that means basically you will pay as added to you bill about $11.00 per person per cabin per day. You can have it deleted if you wish and apt at the end but most folks just leave it. I usually personally give some extra cash on top iof this as normally the service is very good.
5. Formal night are not mandatory and if you crise NCL there are none. You will find that on formal nights these days the dress code is very relaxed.You can probably get away with a nice pair of slacks and a polo really, esp. for the Caribbean. You can always use the buffet restaurant on these nights or room service.

My best sugestion is to first find a ship and an itinerary that you like. Get a ship with some WOW! appeal and get ports that will be fun. This is why I like the so. Caribbean b/c of the ports that may include Aruba, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, Curacao, Dominca, etc. These are cool ports, esp. St. Maarten.

BTW its a breeze and much cheaper to do port excursions on your own. Most savvy cruisers do this but first decide on the ship and the ports. I knw some cool private operators which I have used on a few of these islands.

Well go some homework to do I guess.

Ask away as you please, Larry
jacketwatch is offline  
Jun 20th, 2013, 03:57 AM
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My first cruise was perfect. Now it is like addiction. I have been in a cruise last vacation. We went to Caribbean islands. Iam a big fan of river cruising because, I can eat great meals. Do power walking, sit on my balcony and do almost everything. In our group a disabled person was there. She was provided with specially designed cabins. We took a wheel chair and electric bed with us. Altogether it was wonderful cruise vacation http://blountsmallshipadventures.com...of-innovation/ River cruising was hilarious. All my expectations were exceeded and I will never ever forget this experience. Really loved the whole experience and looking forward for doing another cruise adventure trip in future.
Nikkey is offline  
Jun 20th, 2013, 07:40 AM
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You have received some good answers, but no one mentioned weather in the Caribbean in August - HOT, HUMID, and HURRICANE SEASON UNTIL END OF OCTOBER. Many excellent ships are in Europe at that time of year so there is less to choose from. You couldn't pay me to go there in August, but everyone has their own agenda and preferences. I hope you have a wonderful time whatever you choose. Cruising is a wonderful way to see a little bit of a lot of things.
charli is offline  
Jun 20th, 2013, 08:45 AM
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charli: I know about those issues. I used to live in Puerto Rico. The hurricanes give me a bit of trepidation, but hey-- I survived Key West last year with the worst thing being mosquito bites and (of course) a daily hangover. We'll buy a little travel insurance, just in case. Thanks for the reminder.
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Jun 20th, 2013, 01:01 PM
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Check out the forums on Cruise Critic. Anything you want to know about every cruiseline from ships to cabin reviews and food porn is there.

We leave on the Carnival Breeze this Saturday for an 8 night and I am chomping at the bit.
trvlgirlmq is offline  
Jun 20th, 2013, 02:32 PM
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Checking if the triangle works.

By the way, nothing electric is allowed, so that new poster just typing to camouflage his/her commercial link.
Dayenu is offline  
Jun 20th, 2013, 03:25 PM
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I think so too. At least he could have posted this in a thread inre to river cruises.
jacketwatch is offline  
Jun 20th, 2013, 06:00 PM
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I don't see the "like" button that I am used to on Facebook
Dayenu is offline  
Jun 21st, 2013, 01:36 PM
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We do lots of cruises now and have booked one for March 2014 Caribbean on RCCL Navigator and 18 night NCL Jade in October 2014. We got great deals on all our cruises as we book early.
jan47ete is offline  
Jun 27th, 2013, 09:50 AM
  #12  
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Just topping this post to see if I get some more ideas....

Eastern Caribbean is sounding like the winning area (no interest in Alaska)-- so any consensus on the best line/ships? I think Norwegian is bringing a new ship online-- is it wise to choose a ship in its first year as they work out kinks/bugs/put out engine fires and wash down the halls after sewage line failures (oh wait, that's Carnival! LOL)? Is Norwegian good in general?
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Jun 27th, 2013, 03:17 PM
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NCL is inconsistent, and fairly casual. And there are lots of extra charges.

I would suggest Celebrity or Princess for your age group. We were on Princes last month and they updated their entertainment somewhat (now playing music from the 70s instead of the 50's and 60's!)
Eschew is offline  
Jun 28th, 2013, 04:41 PM
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We've done RCCL, NCL and Carnival. Took a great 16 night Med cruise on NCL and are scheduled to take a 18night Adriatic/Med cruise Oct 14. Extra charges: they all provide you opportunities with extra charges, so I don't think that can be applied soley to NCL. Go to cruisecritic.com and then determine which is best for you to match your questions/criteria.
jan47ete is offline  
Jun 29th, 2013, 04:25 AM
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jan47ete, you are correct in that almost all mass market lines have extra charges. It is just that NCL has the highest extra charges, plus more items are "extra charge" where they are "icluded" on our cruise lines.
Eschew is offline  
Jul 31st, 2013, 02:55 PM
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I have done Caribbean and Med. . cruises and enjoyed Europe so much more for the money of a cruise. I felt the ports at the Caribbean were boring and only 2 with nice beach excursions- ones I would rather find a nice resort -fly there and stay put. The European one took me to places I would have never seen in my lifetime. I used RC each time Liberty of the seas) and enjoyed the ship.
teachandtravel is offline  
Jul 31st, 2013, 06:31 PM
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In general, the shorter the cruise, the greater percentage of obnoxious drunks. Our first cruise was a 3 night RCCL cruise (went for free - husband was speaking to group holding annual meeting on board). We vowed never to cruise again - everyone seemed about 21 + 2 days, drank everything in sight and had no manners.

Since then have been on several cruises on major lines - and found experience to be very enjoyable. If you can afford it, get a balcony cabin. It is really nice to be able to just sit and watch the water, have a glass of wine or room service breakfast in solitude.

Ignore the photos in brochure and on-line about how people dress. They are models. While the cruiseline would like you to think everyone wears a gown or tux on formal night - they lie. Business dress, or just a bit more than regular dinner attire is fine. We have been on cruises that had other specialty dress notes - and a strong percentage of passengers did not participate in playing dress-up.

Best cruise advice we ever got (here) was to tip the cabin steward after the first nite - $5-10 is fine - and make any special requests then (like extra blanket or pillow). Just that little gesture will get you upgraded service. Same for waitstaff if you are on a cruise where you have same table/waitstaff each nite. After doing that, we found they would gently tell us which menu items each nite to avoid. Other than that, most lines have semi-mandatory tipping added to your bill which is settled at end of cruise on your credit card. Your room key acts as on-board charge card and room key. Cruise is 100% cashless on board.

I would pick Celebrity or Princess and avoid major school vacations.
gail is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2013, 09:04 PM
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I took Celebrity Summit out of San Juan about a year and a half ago and Norwegian Epic out of Miami in February. Both were excellent. Epic is much newer, has more of a wow factor and better entertainment. Summit was an older crowd and an older ship, although it had just been renovated and looked great. I'd also give it a slight edge in food, at least in the main dining room, but I got a balcony on Epic for the price of a window room on Summit. The itineries were excellent on both (St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Grenada, St. Croix and Dominica; and St. Thomas, St. Martin and Nassau on Epic).
andrews98682 is offline  

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