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Take my daughter on a one week cruise in March

Take my daughter on a one week cruise in March

Jan 15th, 2015, 03:54 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 70
Take my daughter on a one week cruise in March

I am looking for cruise recommendations for a warm location. Caribbean?
- travel between late February and end of March
- Two people, adult male and my adult daughter
- ship must be handicapped accessible for my daughter
- trip should take about 6-7 days
- itinerary should include 2 or more ports for her to explore

The trip objective is to give my homebound daughter a break from winter in Maine. Neither of us have ever been on a cruise - unless the Staten Island ferry counts - and haven’t a clue where to begin our search.We are not looking for a luxury cruise, just some activities on board, good food, and hopefully some warm weather.

Sadly we are in need of a primer on how to go about planning this trip. What cruise lines do we consider? How does one hunt down bargains. What to avoid and what to look for. Are package deals available including airfare and transportation? Is it necessary to go through a travel agent like AAA?

Thank you for any and all assistance you can provide.

jjtravel is offline  
Jan 15th, 2015, 04:38 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 8,201
www.cruisecritic.com is a great website for learning about cruises.
You may also want to meet with a local travel agent who specializes in cruises.
abram is offline  
Jan 15th, 2015, 05:46 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,303
OK, this will be long, because you said you needed a primer and I remember feeling lost the first time.

There are several real experts on here. They always give me good advice, and were wonderful and supportive when I was looking to take our first cruise. We are all new at some point. Actually, I did not expect to like it, but wanted to give it a chance. The only thing I knew was I did not want a party ship and wanted to stop as many places as possible. Knowing nothing about ships, I lucked out with a nearly new, gorgeous ship with great service, etc.

I think and hope you will enjoy it. We enjoyed the first one so much, we booked a second, longer one for two weeks later, and another for six months later. It is a great way to easily get from place to place. In most ports, you could take some kind of tour.

Is your DD in a wheelchair? If so, there are always cabins available for that, but I do not know about cost.

No, you do not need a travel agent, but once you decide, you could take your price quotes and see a local agent. I book with an online agent or the cruise line's agent directly.

I have not booked transport packages, because for US travel, It is easy to do, and I did not want to be tied to their times or choices. I hate early morning or late night flights, sometimes choose one airport over another and have preferred airlines. I also like to use Priceline to bid on some hotels, but for SJ, stay in city center for convenience.

Here are some websites for you to start exploring:
They have a 90 day sticker showing many upcoming cruises and basic costs. You can see photos of the ship and read descriptions of the ship and the ports of call. You can also put in specific dates or itineraries or ships to see a bigger range. It is very easy to use and a quick way to do comparisons and overviews.
You can book with them, but know exactly what you want first. They can give some advice, but not lots.

This shows cruises And itineraries, but the most value is:
Reviews of every ship, every itinerary, every port, etc.
After booking, you can join the roll call for your cruise and join up with other people to do tours, etc. saving money over the cost of ship's tours.
You can also ask questions and get answers from people who have taken hundreds of cruises.

Another good site to see the latest bargains for price comparison

Posts what they consider the best last minute buys.

Some sites include taxes and port charges. Some do not. Be sure to look carefully for everything when comparing.
Also, none of them include tips to service people. That is $12.00 to $15.00 per day, per person, depending the your cabin or suite could be more, and is added at the end of the cruise.

March is great for the Caribbean! 7 days is perfect! Not short enough to be a party cruise, not so long to be an old person (which I am) cruise.

Are you limited by dates? If so, start looking at what is available then.
Always fly into the port city one day before the cruise, just in case of delays and to be rested to enjoy the cruise right from the minute you arrive. Board the ship as early as possible. Do not bother to explore, have lunch first.

I like departing from San Juan because cruises from there go to more islands and there are many options. Miami and FT Lauderdale work too, but your day there won't be as warm as SJ.

For recent weather reasons, I have not opted for departing from W. Florida, NO, or Texas.

Read about some of the ports to see what might appeal to you.

Some ships are huge, but may not seem as big as others. Just because they have tons of passengers does not mean they have more public spaces. Epic is an example. Large kids area, but not huge pool/hot tub area. The Princess ships I have been on had a large ratio of public space and nice adult pools.

Food can be anything from average to great and things change. Read recent reviews, but take with a grain of salt. I have never been unhappy, but had the best food this year on Epic. Most drinks, except for tea and coffee, are not included. Most ships have one to several specialty restaurants that will cost extra. I have not found them to be much better than the traditional dinning rooms, but more private. Some ships have anytime dining. Smaller and more traditional ships have set dining times, but all have buffets open most of the time. You can sit by yourselves or join tables of six to eight.

How important is entertainment? I always find one or two things to enjoy, unless it is terribly loud. Some entertainment, like Cirque dreams on Epic is extra, but IMHO, fabulous and worth every penny for ringside seats and a nice meal.

Do a bit of fun research. Choices may become limited, but you have a little time. Do not recommend waiting so late, but we booked yesterday for a cruise leaving Miami in 11 days.

Whatever you do, please come back afterwards and let us know.
Sassafrass is offline  
Jan 15th, 2015, 09:56 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 1,049
What a wonderful experience you're planning, jj!

I've only been on one cruise - with Norwegian Jade - but I really noticed how easy it was for anyone with a disability to get around the ship. If they needed to get to one particular dining room that had a short flight of stairs for access, they were able to use a staff only lift. The staff on board always seemed to go out of their way to assist these passengers.

There was one young family with two toddlers in a double stroller and dad in a wheelchair; when I saw how they were being looked after I thought cruising was probably the easiest holiday option for them!

The ships with special disabled access only have a few of those cabins on board, so the sooner you book the better your chance of getting one, I should think.

I too look forward to hearing about your adventure, Di
di2315 is offline  
Jan 15th, 2015, 10:51 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,723
Sass! I am impressed. Great primer!
To JJtravel, What type of activity she likes? That would be helpful. How much mobility does she have? Wheelchair required?

When you book the cabin, make sure you specify that she needs the accessible cabin. The cabin door is wider and there is no steps to the bathroom. Almost all mass market ships has wheelchair accessible cabins. However, there are very few of them so you must book early.

If you have never cruise before, this is important, especially for accessibility with wheelchair. Cabin is small, no tub, shower only. Imagine the smallest room in your house, say the baby's room. The cabin is smaller than that. Typically 180 sq ft. (say 18 by 10) including the bathroom. There are lots of elevators so moving about on board is no issue. However, embarking and disembark could be challenging on some ports, especially for the tender ports (meaning you get off the ship via a motor transport as the ship is not docked).

I think this is a wonderful idea and is a great thing that you are doing. Don;t be afraid to talk to the guest service as soon as you get there and ask about all the things that they do for accessibility challenged passengers. They reserve seats at theater for the show, special access, some may offer to carry / assist on embarking/disembarking the tender. It all depends on how comfort she is on being "handled".

If She has medical needs, make sure you have sufficient travel insurance. There is staff doctor on board if needed but they don't come cheap.

Feel free to ask more questions and I am sure people here will answer them.
Eschew is offline  
Jan 15th, 2015, 11:55 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,303
I will never forget all your reassuring advice before our first cruise, and especially your saying, "We're a friendly bunch." So true!
Sassafrass is offline  
Jan 16th, 2015, 12:47 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,912
You have been given excellent advice by the above posters.

This is wave season so if you are planning on March 2015
you best get busy fast as I booked a cabin on NCL departing
3/9/15 for a friend and there weren't many left at this
point...and ships have minimal handicapped accessible cabins.

I use vacations to go myself.

let us know how you fare
Rhea58 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2015, 04:16 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 181
When we first started cruising we booked online ourselves, but now use a local travel agent at AAA. I suggest you use AAA especially if you need an accessible cabin. Many times we have received on board credit ($ to spend on board) from AAA. We are taking our family on a cruise in a few weeks and needed an accessible cabin for someone who is not mobile at all. Our agent spent a lot of time making arrangements. Leaving from Ft Lauderdale, Miami or San Juan will give you warmer weather. Cruises from San Juan usually stop at more ports with less sea days. If your daughter is wheelchair bound you will not be able to get off the ship at tender ports which will give you a nice uncrowded day on board. Enjoy your cruise!
annieO is offline  
Jan 16th, 2015, 05:46 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 1,754
Some great advice. I urge you to call the cruise line to book so you make sure you get the HA cabin or use a travel agent who can assist.

If your daughter is in a wheelchair and not mobile at all I would also make sure you do not book a cruise with tender ports. Many of the tender boats are not able to take a wheelchair and that would you leave you on the ship and missing the port. Some tender ports are Grand Cayman, Roatan, Honduras and the cruise lines private islands with the exception of Castaway Cay for Disney.

I think any of the main lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Norwegian would fit your needs.
trvlgirlmq is offline  
Jan 17th, 2015, 11:26 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 70
Wow. Thank you all for quick and detailed feedback, especially the primer. I am impressed. You have compressed my learning curve.

In response to your questions:
- My daughter is not confined by a wheelchair most of the time. We will be taking a transit chair (smaller and lighter) with us. Hope for the best and plan for the worst. She would be OK in a standard cabin and likely could handle the tender transport.

- She enjoys shows, meeting new people, and seeing new places. The Boston Harbor duck boat is her only cruise to date.

We will report on our journey.

Much appreciation.

jjtravel is offline  
Jan 17th, 2015, 04:50 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 495
Hi Jeff and daughter! My husband and I cruise all the time and like everyone else tells you, planning a first cruise can be very intimidating! A first cruise in the Caribbean is a good place to start as the waters are most often calmer than the Atlantic, etc.

I prefer the smaller cruise ships vs the mega ships but it's a matter of preference. We were just on Princess Royal Princess this past April and that had 3600 passengers. I would suggest Princess, Celebrity, or Royal Caribbean. Carnival is more a party ship atmosphere so may not be something you like for a first cruise.

I have a couple of names of very reliable online travel agents that I could give you. I am not a big fan of booking with AAA and especially for your first cruise.

Cruise lines do a wonderful job accommodating those cruisers w/ disabilities. If you needed to you can get a handicap accessible cabin (they are larger to accommodate wheel chairs). I would also suggest that you book a cabin that is in a mid ship location as you do not feel the movement as much. If you want to book a balcony this will give you more freedom to sit and enjoy the cruise and see the ports you are entering as well. Again, mid ship would be better and I also like being near an elevator for accessibility.

Ports - I think that you should do an Eastern or Western Caribbean cruise for your first cruise. Here is a nice one on Princess:


I use Vacations to Go for comparisons. This cruise departs March 1st from Ft. Lauderdale and goes to: 1) Princess Cays, Bahamas (this would be a tender port meaning you are taken in large lifeboats to the island) and can spend the day there. We have done this and it is a nice relaxing day. Lunch is served out on the island also. It goes to St. Martin and St. Thomas and ends back in Ft. Lauderdale. It is on the brand new Regal Princess ship so would have a lot of nice amenities. It has 3600 passengers so is a large ship. We were just on the sister ship Royal Princess this past April and really did enjoy the ship. Balconies are smaller on Regal and Royal Princess tho. We were fine and did not mind this. There are many other similar cruises and itineraries such as this one for you to choose from. If you don't care I probably would aim for March so you have time to prepare.

You probably would need to get passports if you don't have them. I believe that you need one for St. Martin. We always travel w/ our passports so not sure about this.

I think that this is a wonderful undertaking on your part to take your daughter on her first cruise. Kudos to you!

Feel free to get back to us w/ any questions.

Luv2travel15 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2015, 08:19 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,723
Jeff. Ask for the accessible cabin even if she can handle it. The cabin layout is better. Even with a transit chair, the extra space will help, so will the larger door and no steps to the bathroom.

I won't call a duck tour a cruise, LOL. You are going on a small floating city with 3000 passengers and 2000 crew on board.

There will be plenty of new people to meet, and she will look the production shows and even watching fellow passengers making themselves look silly on the party and pool games.

You did not mention her age as it might help with choosing the cruise line. There are certain cruise line cater to people who likes really OLD music (50's 60's) and some to more modern (70's 80's) and younger age group.

When you first get on board, take time to explore the ship. Her being on a wheel chair will get you priority boarding. Take advantage of it.

Once you are getting to book or after you book, post more questions here and you will get more answers. The more information you share, the better the answers will be.
Eschew is offline  
Jan 17th, 2015, 09:46 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,303
On a closed circuit cruise departing from and returning to a port in the US, you will not need a passport. I traveled last Spring with family members who never got around to getting one.
You will need an original birth certificate and one other form of legal id to prove you are a US citIzen.

It is, however, strongly recommended that you have a passport, makes life a lot easier and, in case you needed, for any reason, to fly home from one of the islands, you would have no problems.
Sassafrass is offline  
Jan 17th, 2015, 10:54 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,723
Sass, there really isn't many close circuit cruise anymore except for the NCL Pride of America Hawaiian cruise. All other cruises make at least one stop on a foreign port. Without a passport, they may not let you board the ship, so I wouldn't take a chance. This would apply to Alaskan cruises with the one stop in Canada.

Before 911, passport is not required. Now, you will need some sort of accepted travel document. Some countries may accept the "enhanced" drivers license, but on the safe side, get a passport and I wouldn't recommend anyone travel without one.
Eschew is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 09:34 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 495
Here is the info on passports and closed circuit cruises if you depart and return to a USA port. However, it does state that while customs does not require a passport doing this loop and entering a foreign port that country may require passports.


I do think that in today's world it is safer to travel w/ passports but everyone is different. St. Martin does require passports:

All U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport for all air travel, including to and from Sint Maarten. All sea travelers must also now have a passport or passport card. We strongly encourage all U.S. citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport or passport card well in advance of anticipated travel. U.S. citizens can call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.

So Jeff and daughter would need to obtain passports before they cruise and it can take up to 6 weeks to do this. We just renewed our passports and had them back in about 2 weeks but we were renewing. You can download passport applications from the internet or go to your local town or city hall (Town Clerk) and obtain an application also.

The OP could obtain passport cards and would be cheaper than passports but are not valid for international air travel. If they are not planning to do a lot of international travelling then this option would suffice.


(where to find a local agency in town or state)

I am just providing this info in case Jeff wants to expedite getting passports or passport cards. Hopefully, they would be back in time for a March cruise.

Hope this helps! I love these forums because you can always learn something new on them.
Luv2travel15 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 10:01 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 1,754
Carnival is NOT a party cruise line any more than NCL or Royal. The newer ships have many activities to offer and great itineraries.

Whatever you choose I am sure you will have a wonderful vacation together.
trvlgirlmq is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 10:50 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,303
Most cruises to the Caribbean from the US are closed Loop, meaning they start and end at exactly the same US port, does not matter where they stop along the way.

Passports are not required for passengers on those cruises, only valid, original birth certificates with one oth
Sassafrass is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 11:48 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,303
With one other form of id. That is the US rule for US citizens to depart and return to the same port. It does not apply to citizens from other countries.

Many Caribbean countries make the same exception for passengers on cruises who are stopping for a day.

There are a few Caribbean countries that do now allow the exception, and that may or do require passports, even for cruise passengers. Currently, they are Guadeloupe, Barbados, St Maartin, St Barts, Trinidad/Tobago, perhaps Haiti (not sure about that one).

We recently did a closed loop cruise from Miami on Norwegian Epic. with DD and GD to Mexico and Jamaica. They had only birth certificates, they did NOT have passports.

I was not happy that DD did not get them. It is always best to have them in case you need to fly, but the fact is, they were allowed to cruise and make stops without them. We will likely do it again soon and they still do not have passports.

So, if OP does not have passports and not time to get them, just choose a closed loop cruise where none of the ports require him to have a passport, and double check with the cruise line.
Sassafrass is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 09:26 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,723
That's pretty "gutsy" to be out of the country without a passport in this day and age ... all I am saying is you really should have it and I wouldn't advise anyone to travel without one. Below is a link to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection web page re closed loop cruises.


Here is an excerpt from the site: "it is possible that one or more of the Caribbean Islands on your itinerary, does require you to have a passport to enter their country. In that case, it is very possible that the cruise line will require you to have a passport to board, even if it is not a U.S. requirement."
Eschew is offline  
Jan 19th, 2015, 07:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,334
Handicapped cabins are hard to come by…they are wheel chair accessible and the bathrooms and showers are huge. Don't know if it was a coincidence or not but we discovered that the closet has two levels for hanging clothes. Also, there are ramps to wheel out onto a balcony and if I remember right a ramp at the door. On the Celebrity ships we discovered a secret elevator that took us down to the main level of the theatre that we could operate ourselves instead of seeing the shows (which we loved) from the very top of the balcony. There is no doubt that the staff was always there when we came back to the ship to help get back on the ramps. If your living in Maine…I understand what you are going through..it's been a bitter cold winter so far. There are also at the pools and jacuzzi we found aids to (like a canvas lift) which she will enjoy. Don't make the cruise too port intensive as y ou will enjoy the days at see by the pool and people watching…not to mention many activities.
ParrotMom is offline  

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