Cruise Advice

Discussion in 'Life After Brown' started by scratch, Sep 21, 2007.

  1. scratch

    scratch Least Best Moderator Staff Member

    I am looking for a Cruise Line recommendation from any of you who have a lot of knowledge. Next June will be our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and I want to take my wife on a week long East Caribbean cruise and get a balcony stateroom. I am currently looking at trips on a NCL ship. I have heard a lot of people complain about Carnival ships.

    I have been on five with my parents when I was growing up. I can still remember that Nassau was a ripoff, St. Thomas was beautiful, Haiti was poor, and the "Yankee go home" signs in San Juan. The "Windjammer Barefoot Cruise" was neat, they are currently having financial problems. My wife has never been on one and is excited about finally getting to go. I was hoping to go back to Yellowstone myself, maybe next year.
     
  2. moreluck

    moreluck golden ticket member

    Our one & only cruise was on Carnival. I had no complaints about the line. We just aren't cruise people.

    St Thomas & Aruba are good stops. The other stops were Grenada, San Juan, Carracas, Guadalupe.

    We were in San Juan a day after a hurricane hit.....no electricity there. That was odd. The other stops there was so much poverty that it made us feel guilty about the money spent on a luxury cruise.

    The ship, itself and all the food was great.

    There is some cruise line that offers free-style cruising, but be aware that you have to make dinner reservation every night yourself.

    I liked St. Thomas and in the future, if I want to go there, I will make it my destination.

    Good luck with the cruise shopping! I'd vote for Yellowstone!
     
  3. UPS Lifer

    UPS Lifer Well-Known Member

    Scratch,
    It depends on what you are looking for. Carnival is considered a party line...so you get the party animals. There is nothing wrong with that if that is what you like. It is like giong to Vegas. There are hotels that cater to the younger crowd like the Palms and there are those that cater to privacy and quiet and luxury like the 4 Seasons.

    I have done 8 cruises on the Princess line ranging over a period of 15 years. I am extremely happy with the service, food and staff. Each cruise has been consistently better. The line was bought by Carnival and has remained the same. Nothing has been compromised. I highly recommend the Princess Line you will not be disappointed.

    Now - be careful of hurricane season....It starts around June. Last year a Princess Ship got caught between two hurricanes and missed every port because of weather. Believe it or not...I have been told by an officer of the bridge that the safest place to be in a hurricane is on a cruise ship. They will avoid the weather at all costs.

    I just made a post on "Life after UPS" on a Med Cruise I just finished. it was far better than the two Carribean Cruises i took. The Panama Canal cruise is also a fantastic cruise. My wife and I just celebrated our 35 anniversary in August, and she wanted to go to the Med. We waited a month until the weather was milder and just came back Monday. Each destination had some romance and history to it. It is the perfect anniversary cruise. Check out the ports we visited on the other site. Also we cruised the Tahitian Islands in February. This was another favorite of mine. If you go in June, you will be going in their winter which means there will be less humidlty. It is like going to Maui in February to see the whales migrate. You can't find a better time to visit the islands than winter.

    Sorry to throw a couple of wrenches into the works but if you are going to spend the money please consider one of the options I mentioned. You won't go wrong with any of them!
     
  4. cheryl

    cheryl I started this. Staff Member

    I love to travel and cruises are a great way to do it. You can see lots amazing things in great comfort because your hotel is moving with you. When you travel by land you have to pack and unpack as you move from hotel to hotel and I sure don't miss doing that when I'm on a cruise. It's also usually a much better value than land travel as long as you keep your bar tab and excursion expenses under control.

    If I remember correctly we've been on 10 cruises. Six times on Celebrity: Alaska, Baltic, Caribbean, Europe, Mexico and Panama Canal. Twice on Carnival: Mexico and Alaska. Twice on RCCL: both in the Mediterranean.

    Of those 3 lines my favorite by far is Celebrity. Their ships are beautiful, their service is excellent and their prices are in line with the "value" cruiselines rather than with the Crystal and Cunard level of extreme extravagance. Celebrity also keeps their ship wide announcements to a minimum so you don't have to continuously hear over hyped announcements about their latest swimming pool games or the drink of the day like you do on the "fun ships."

    Our favorite thing about Celebrity is their food which we found to be much much better than either Carnival or RCCL. One thing to be aware of is that on our last cruise with them in April (for our 25th anniversary) we learned that they lost chef Michel Roux as the head of their food service and as a result they were preparing to overhaul their entire food service department. Hopefully the quality will not suffer...

    Overall Carnival is my least favorite. It was just too much of a party ship for me. My favorite thing about their service was that the room steward left cute towel animals on our bed every night. I think they do this because they are hopeful that you will be so impressed with their towel folding abilities that you won't mind stepping over the inebriated passengers that you occasionally find passed out in the hall.

    I've heard good things about Princess and good and bad things about Holland America but haven't traveled with either one myself.

    These are this years 10 best cruise lines as rated by Travel and Leisure. Last year Celebrity was number 4 so it's ratings have slipped a little but it's still rated slightly above other cruiselines in it's price range:
    1. Crystal Cruises
    2. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
    3. Oceania Cruises
    4. Disney Cruise Line
    5. Cunard Line
    6. Celebrity Cruises
    7. Holland America Line
    8. Orient Lines
    9. Princess Cruises
    10. Royal Caribbean International
    Crystal, Regent and Cunard are far more expensive than any of the lines that we have traveled on. My mother and her friend returned last week from a cruise on a line of that type and complained that the other travelers were doddering and too old to be traveling. My mom and her friend are in their 70's and they said that they were by far the youngest passengers on the ship and that they worried that some of the other passengers wouldn't live through the trip.

    One of our very well traveled neighbors really likes Oceania. That line attracts a younger demographic than Crystal et al but they are also more expensive than Celebrity. There is a new line called Azamara which is supposed to be comparable to Oceania but at a better price point. I haven't yet read any of their passenger reviews but the idea sounds promising.

    As far as itineraries go for 7 days I think I like Alaska the best, we enjoyed that one so much we've done it twice. Our first European cruise was 7 days with 5 more days staying in a hotel in Paris. The cruise portion of that trip just wasn't long enough for the amount of places we tried to cram in to the limited time available, we were totally exhausted when we got off the ship. I much prefer 14 day cruises with a couple of days at sea so you can relax. Both of the European itineraries we did have been great and have been some of the best vacations we've ever taken. The Baltic cruise was really good too, Russia and Estonia were so interesting. We had some amazing experiences there. Panama Canal was also a good cruise, I loved taking a small boat through the mangrove jungle in Costa Rica. The extreme heat and humidity was the only downside to that trip.

    You asked about the Caribbean and the following describes my only experience there. We combined a 7 day Caribbean cruise with several days in Florida. It was July and super hot and humid and there were short thunder storms every afternoon. We were traveling with my sister and her kids and the kids actually cried when we left the air conditioned hotel because the weather was so miserable. Once we boarded the ship and got away from Florida the weather became more pleasant, so did the kids.

    Our cruise itinerary was:
    Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Key West with 2 days at sea.

    Jamaica was beautiful and has an interesting culture. You could spend at least a few days there if you had the time. In Grand Cayman we took a boat and went snorkeling in a few different spots, one with hundreds of completely tame stingrays. We've snorkeled in lots of different places but never have never encountered anything like that anywhere else. The whole day we were in Cozumel we were snorkeling too so I don't know anything about what they offer on land. The snorkeling in Cozumel was fantastic.

    My favorite cruise tips:
    1. Always try get a balcony, if possible. Some ships have lots of them and on that type of ship balconies don't cost much more than an ocean view. There is nothing as relaxing as an afternoon at sea napping on your balcony out on the open ocean.
    2. Avoid the buffet where food sits out in trays. There is better food at the grill or in the spa. Look for places with no steam tables where they cook the food after you order it.
    3. Ask the waiters and bar servers where they like to go in each port. Most of them will be clueless but some of them know some great local places.
    4. Find a sidewalk café in every port and drink the local beer.
    5. Try the free specialty restaurants on the ship, the pizza and burgers are usually good but try the ones that don't sound as good, like the "healthy" one in the spa. The spa turned out to be our favorite for lunch on the Constellation.
    6. The shows: single performers (comedians, magicians etc.) are often entertaining but the musical extravaganzas can be so poorly produced that they're painful to watch.
    7. Ask the concierge for a galley or bridge tour. They used to offer tours more often than they do now but it's still worth it to ask.
    8. You can order whatever you want at dinner, you don't have to stick to the menu they hand you. Get 2 appetizers and skip the soup or ask for fresh berries for dessert even if they're not on the menu. Once Tony even ordered a second lobster.
    9. Late seating for dinner just works out better. Early seating sometimes conflicts with excursions.
    10. Get the best currency exchange rate by using your ATM card at an ATM on shore instead of exchanging currency on the ship.
    11. You can usually find local operators waiting on shore at ports that offer local tours and transportation for less than it costs to book excursions through the ship.
    12. Room service is free (don't forget to tip though). It's always nice to place your breakfast order the night before and have it delivered to your room in the morning when you have an early excursion.
     
  5. traveler

    traveler Where next? Venice

    Hello Scratch and welcome to the world of cruising.

    We are in Vancouver, BC right now and our 59th cruise will leave on Sunday for Hawaii, the South Seas Islands and New Zealand. This cruise and many of ours have been on Holland America. The only bad experience with that line was on the ms Amsterdam. I would suggest you avoid that ship.

    Princess line is a very good line also. We have had good food and without a doubt the some of the best evening entertainment on their ships.

    Carnival, particularly on Caribbean cruises tends to be a party ship with alot of younger passengers. I would not pick Carnival for your celebration.

    The above three lines are owned by Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL)

    Celebrity has been good for us too. The steaks and all beef has been some of the best around. This from a person who prefers fish to beef.

    Royal Carribbean Lines is reasonably good too. They own Celebrity Line.

    Norwegian (IMHO) would be my last choice. They are probably the least expensive if you watch the sales out there. We are booked in a month from now on an NCL subsidiary from Barcelona to Rio at the small price of about $35 per day, per person. A real steal, but you do get what you pay for.

    Most of the other lines we have sailed are out of business so no sense going over their attributes.

    Now, a few generalities:

    Big ships (1500 to 3000 passengers) = generally better entertainment due to a larger stage for production shows, but long waits for tenders in ports where you don't dock. If you are on a 3000 passenger ship it will even take a while to disembark and reboard even when docked. A little bit cold since you walk past so many people and meet and get to know just a few. Generally harder to find a lounge chair by the pool and most things seem crowded. The one exception was the Queen Mary II. Very well laid out for a super large ship but you don't want to return to the ship when the tours come back... lines to get on are huge.

    Food - I feel that generally, Holland America has the best food but I have found none to be unacceptable.. I would suggest you not waste the extra for any specialty restaurant. Yes, the food and service are generally a bit better but unless you have a special celebration, save your money. If you do want to eat a one of them, make reservations as soon as you get on the ship. Particularly if you want to visit that restaurant on a sea day (not in port). If you are on a ship with set seating, check you dinner time and table asap and if it is not to your liking, see the maitre d' immediately. His hours and location will be located on your daily info sheet in your cabin.

    As to shore excursions, if you are sure of what you want, reserve on their web site before you even get on the ship. Some lines now charge a cancellation fee so make sure you pick well. I say this because you will be a bit confused when you board and the experienced cruisers will be lined up and book all the good tours up quickly. As an experienced cruiser, we often do tours on our own. The exceptions are dangerous ports (middle east countries) and where it is difficult to duplicate their itinerary. Examples, we have a car rented in two Hawaiian ports this time and will venture out on our own, saving 50% of what the ship charge is for the same tours. If we meet another compatible couple, we will save even more. In some ports we will take a taxi and still save $. In Wellington NZ the ship has booked the entire tour company we were going to go with for one tour so we had to book through the ship at near double their regular rate.

    Daily life at sea - Don't hold back on trying new things. You will find that many are novices at the activities, just like you.

    Weather - In the Caribbean, avoid September and October in particular. That's the worst of hurricane season.

    Prices - Shop around! Watch the sales! No two people on a cruise ever seem to pay the same for similar rooms! Shop, shop, shop! One of the better agents I have found is Cruises 'n More. If you e-mail me I will give you my agents name. It is best if you already have found the cruise you want then shop the price. Perks are coupon books (mostly useless) and cabin credits (good as cash). Also, most lines give extra cabin credits if you own 100 or more shares of their stock. A good investment for frequent cruisers.

    If you have questions on anything I may have missed, just post a note.
     
  6. moreluck

    moreluck golden ticket member

    OK, I don't recall anyone mentioning the most important part of the BOAT !! THE CASINO !!!!!!!!!!

    If the entertainment sucks, while everyone is at the theater, go to the casino instead and get a good machine.

    I only did the entertainment for one night........I was hooked on the machines the rest of the nights. Two other couples went with us and they all went to the theater and I said, "See ya in a couple hours." :)
     
  7. traveler

    traveler Where next? Venice

    Moreluck, You and my wife would do well together. She loves the slots. From what I have observed, the % return is worse that most Las Vegas casinos so I look at it as a cost of entertainment. The crazy part of this is the number of $1.00 slots on board most ships that just sit there unused while the 5 cent and the 1 cent always have players and at times it is impossible to play those machines. A bit nutty since you are playing almost as much on the nickel slots due to the number of lines played. I prefer the table games where the odds, though always in the house's favor, are the same in all casinos.
     
  8. over9five

    over9five Moderator Staff Member

    We've been on several cruises, mostly Carnival. It is a loud, party atmosphere on a Carnival ship, but we love that. (We were the ones you tripped over, Cheryl!)

    BUT....... my favorite cruise was on the Disney Magic. The staff were awesome, so professional. My kids were the perfect age (11 and 13). Our waiter knew all our names the first night! Disneys private island, Castaway Cay is just incredible. That day was ..... incredible!
    I wore my Ecstacy hat (Carnival), while on board, and MANY crew members came up to talk to me about Carnival. Seems they contract for 6 months at a time, and change Lines often.
    Scratch, I do NOT recommend Disney if you're not bringing kids! I plan on going back with the grandkids...... Planning way ahead, don't have any yet!

    I also HIGHLY recommend a balcony. I wouldn't cruise without one.
     
  9. DS

    DS Fenderbender

    First of all,I don't know why this thread couldn't just fall under my thread "around the world with traveler"but anyways,59 cruises? Man,
    thats a lot of money.Our idea of a cruise is a long drive in the country.
    I do love reading about it though.Anyone ever take the orient express?
    I remember taking the train from London to the Kyle of Lochalsh in northern Scotland...forget about sleep.We camped in a cloud.
    Woke up drenched.
    Has anyone ever gone a safari?
    I'd love to see that mayan temple picchu picchu.
    I fell asleep at stonehenge.
     
  10. traveler

    traveler Where next? Venice

    Been on a safari in Kenya. Really enjoyed it and we saw quite a bit of game. Many giraffes, monkeys, lions, elephants, etc. We rode around the preserve in an open top van. Funniest part was the trip from Mombasa to the preserve. Much of the road is new and well paved. The Chinese are doing the work and it seems they have to negotiate with the local chiefs to gain the right to pave. Some of these chiefs have gone nuts with their demands, millions of dollars to allow the work to take place. So, the road has not been paved for many, many years in one stretch of about 10 miles and this is the main and only road between Mombasa and Nairobi with loads of 18 wheelers bringing good inland. Well, I have never seen in the worst war movie a more "bombed out" road. The van we traveled in with four other folks carries extra fan belts, two spares (both of which we used on the trip) and even a spare leaf spring. We were more often off the road than on it. There were potholes bigger and taller than the van itself! A totally unbelievable experience.

    Being at Machu Pichu is a great experience. If you plan a trip there make sure you have an overnight in the town below the mountain. Otherwise you will only spend a few hours at the sight with little or no time to do more exploration. There is a train that takes you from Quito to the sight. When you start up the mountain at the beginning the train proceeded forward for a while, the backs up for a while and repeats that procedure over and over on the switchback's to climb the first mountain. An experience in itself.

    Stonehenge was a disappointment, I agree. The best view is as the vehicle approaches on the highway. Once you get there you are kept away from the stones by a guide path. Uninspiring.

    Time to get out and see some of Vancouver since the rain has not come today.
     
  11. scratch

    scratch Least Best Moderator Staff Member

    Wow! Thanks for all the replies, lots of great advice. I hope to someday do an Alaskan and Mediterranean cruise, but that will come later. We got to see whales, mantas, and sea turtles from our condo balcony in Hawaii in July, they were an awesome sight.

    I'm going to look into Celebrity and the Princess lines. Our two sons are grown and out of the house, we feel a little guilty with not taking them. Unfortunately, my wife is pretty much a non-drinker, so I don't want to do Carnival. The balcony stateroom seems to be the way to go, I don't mind paying a little extra for the view and privacy. I'm looking for food and activities as an important part of my decision, plus all those hidden charges and tips you have to pay. Thanks for everyone's feedback, I knew that a few of you were cruisers and would have some good tips. By the time you pay for hotel rooms and restaurant meals, cruises are a lot better of a bargain than a lot of people think.
     
  12. traveler

    traveler Where next? Venice

    Scratch,

    Just one more note on Alaskan cruises. Most are one way either going north to end in Alaska or south ending in Vancouver or Seattle, etc. If you chose one of these, it is far better to start in Alaska. Why? The airport there is small and flights are sometimes canceled before departure. If your flight is canceled it is on you to find a hotel and provide meals, even if the cruise line arranged the flights. Also, hotels and meals are much more expensive than one would think in Alaska. If you sail south, that problem doesn't exist with flights as a rule. The other option is to find a round trip sailing from the south. These are becoming more popular lately.

    :wink:
     
  13. jlphotog

    jlphotog Member

    I worked on Cruise ships for six years before dressing in brown. I was on 13 different ships in 6 different cruise lines all over the world. I worked for a concession not the cruise lines themselves.

    One thing i did learn while working in that industry was your age has a lot to do with which cruise line you should go on. Somebody above mentioned Holland America. If you are under the age of 55 I would not recommend it. Princess basically caters to those in their 40's and Carnival to those in their 20's. Those are not rules but that seems to be the way it goes. If you are in your 30's or 40's you are not going to want to spend a weak with people who are generally double your age.

    I worked on Holland America and every week there would be a younger family or two and most of the time they were miserable.

    NCL is a good cruise line. At least they were when I sailed. Since then they have been bought out by Star Cruises. A very wealthy cruise line who put a lot of money into their ships. I haven't worked on NCL but I did work on Star. You wont go wrong with NCL.

    One thing I would recommend since your wife has not been on a cruise. If at all possible find one of the 2-3 day weekend cruises and take that first. That way if she absolutely hates it once there, it's over in a couple of days. If she loves it then book your week long cruise. Some people are a lot more apt to feel motion sickness then they think they are. Nothing will ruin your 25th anniversary faster than having her head over the toilet for a week.
     
  14. over9five

    over9five Moderator Staff Member

    "Nothing will ruin your 25th anniversary faster than having her head over the toilet for a week."

    Forget that! Thank goodness someone gave my daughter a sea sickness patch last cruise. Stuck it behind her ear, and she was fine!
     
  15. moreluck

    moreluck golden ticket member

    I was one of those people who really felt the motion. I didn't get sick, but I felt a kind of dizziness when it swayed.......and it was a BIG ship.:blush:
     
  16. DS

    DS Fenderbender

    Who needs a cruise ship...you can get that at home a lot cheaper
     
  17. area43

    area43 New Member

    Hey DS, was it because you had a hard night of boozing and had a hang over. LOL
     
  18. area43

    area43 New Member

    Cheryl, I love you. LOL Anyhow, great post. We've been on 2 cruises. First was with NCL, Norwiegn Cruise Line. The ship was called the Norway. It was a Big, long, and beautiful ship. Size does matter. LOL It was an older ship built I would say in the 60's perphaps. The back wasn't chopped off like the other cruise ships. The ship was originally owned and built by the French. It had a very European touch. We really loved it. It was a deep hulled vessel so all trips to the shore was done by tenders(smaller boats to shuttle you to shore). A little more time consuming but that was OK. We also liked how the staff consisted of people from all over the world. Truely International. Great ports. Great everything. I read a couple of years ago the ship caught fire. Being an older ship they decided to cut it up and sell the metal. Too, costly and out dated to fix. It was kind of sad.

    The second cruise was on Carnival. I'm with you Cheryl on this one. The ship had very little character. It seemed like a old worn out shoe. One big floating Pigs trough. Eat, eat, eat , eat, and eat. Anyhow, good thing they had a track up on the top deck. I would run my ass off. About 5 miles a day. The track was small. Almost get dizzy, going around in circles so much. About fell off the ship. Don't worry, just kidding. LOL I couldn't let that happen. Old Brown needs me. Cheryl, I do remember the animal towels. Its hard to dry yourself off. We didn't want to hurt the poor little animals by getting them unraveled.

    In closing, Scratch, Cheryl's right about the tips. If you tip by the ships guidelines, it could be an additional $300. I also was surprised by the turnaround. The ship would come in on sunday. Reload and logistics took only about 4 or 5 hours.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2007
  19. area43

    area43 New Member

    Cheryl, I love you. LOL Anyhow, great post. We've been on 2 cruises. First was with NCL, Norwiegn Cruise Line. The ship was called the Norway. It was a Big, long, and beautiful ship. Size does matter. LOL

    Hey Cafers, I wrote this post above about 3 am.(eastern). I woke up this morning around 830 am(eastern). I thought to my self some might take the above paragraph the wrong way. Let me rephrase that. My Lovely wife and the ladies on board made the comment when it come to the size of the cruise ship they preferred the Big and Long ships. Instead of the short and stubby ones. I hope I cleared up any misunderstandings.

    Anyhow, the NCL cruise was a western I guess caribean cruise. St Thomas, St Martin and I believe just the little private NCL island. Carnival was comazel, Belieze, Coasta Maya, Grand Cayman and the small private Carnival Island. My son went with us . We all had a great time. Scratch, it appears the Cruise lines buys an island for their Cruisers. Oh, one other thing about Carnival. At times I felt like I was a cat in a cage. I just had to get off the ship. LOL It seems also that when you go a shore its kind of a tourist trap. The Cruise lines know that your walking coffers of cash and they are stingy. I remember one excursion was to Tulum a famous coast line Mayan ruin. Tulum is where the hot steamy love scene was filmed in the movie "Against all odds". can't remember the actor. Phil Collins sang the theme song- Against the odds, I believe. Well, when we went to Tulum(alot of cruisers went to Tulum) there was this huge outdoor shopping center. Lots of neat stuff. But Wait. The cruise line people lined us up like a Japanesse Batan Death march and marched us right through the middle of it. Non shop. LOL Thats OK with me. The wife was disappointed. We were paraded thru like a bunch of freaks. The store owners would just look at the big line of pervibial cash walk on buy onward to the busses where they would take us to Tulum. Cruise line people are very protective of their assets.
     
  20. over9five

    over9five Moderator Staff Member

    "The ship was called the Norway."

    Funny Norway story. We were on the Disney Magic leaving St. Maarten, the Magic having been at a dock. We were cruising toward the Norway, which as Area43 says, was being tendered offshore. As a ship passes a moored ship, it has to blast its horns. Well, the Magics horn is the toon of "When you wish upon a star". The best part was the Norway answering with their horn while trying to play "When you wish"!! We were in hysterics!