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Old 03-10-2010, 11:36 AM   #21
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On Carnival now you can have a set seating or do anytime dining which means you may it at a different table every night . We are opting for that as we hate to follow a schedule on vacation.
Doesn't Carnival have a dining option where you can come whenever you want ? Many of the other cruise lines have such an arrangement. It works much like the breakfast and lunch arrangement in the dining rooms.

We found that such an option suits us well.
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Old 03-10-2010, 11:37 AM   #22
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On Carnival now you can have a set seating or do anytime dining which means you may it at a different table every night . We are opting for that as we hate to follow a schedule on vacation.
Most cruise lines have this "flexible dining" option now. My problem with the fixed times (in addition to what you mentioned, doing stuff on a schedule is too much like w*rk) is that there are usually two times available: early seating (around 5:30, too early) and late seating (around 7:30, too late).

With the flexible option we can choose a "just right" option (for us, usually around 6:00 or 6:30).
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Old 03-10-2010, 11:47 AM   #23
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Doesn't Carnival have a dining option where you can come whenever you want ? Many of the other cruise lines have such an arrangement. It works much like the breakfast and lunch arrangement in the dining rooms.

We found that such an option suits us well.


Yes, It is called anytime dining !
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Old 03-10-2010, 12:34 PM   #24
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All of the cruise lines are stealing NCL's MyTime dining idea. They now all have it. We enjoyed our My Time on RCL. Met great people and didn't have to hurry around someone elses schedule.

The only time we had a bad experience with My Time was on Carnival. We always had to wait for a table. They gave us the standard restuarant beepers and told us to come back in 20 to 60 minutes.
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Old 03-10-2010, 01:40 PM   #25
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The only time we had a bad experience with My Time was on Carnival. We always had to wait for a table. They gave us the standard restuarant beepers and told us to come back in 20 to 60 minutes.
Now *that* qualifies for a "YUK".

Frankly, we did Carnival once before and we don't plan on returning unless someone gave us the trip with the specification that it had to be on Carnival.
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Old 03-10-2010, 10:28 PM   #26
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I went on my first cruise in 25 years last summer (Alaska, Holland America, 7 days), followed by an 11 day ferry trip (Alaska Marine Highway ferries Tustumena and Kennicott) down to the Aleutians and back.

The cruise was exactly as I expected - idiot proof, very well organized, everyone sheparded closely on the excursions. The food was good, the cheap ($901 total with single supplement) room seemed enormous, the staff friendly - but the whole experience seemed a bit too sterile and predictable. I might go on another, but only in a special circumstance.

The ferry trip was even better than I expected. A much more industrial feel, mostly locals with a few tourists mixed in, mostly sleeping in the lounge or solarium. We stopped in each town long enough to walk the whole place (mostly 1-3 hours, a few longer). Some had no roads (only boardwalks), most had only dirt roads.
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Old 03-11-2010, 08:24 AM   #27
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Only the smaller ships offer a good "anytime dining" option. on the Solstice we had arranged this option (added charge) but when we spoke to the head waiter when we got on the ship he said to come by 6:45PM or it would be crowded and we would have to wait. Kind of defeated the purpose. We solved the problem by staying out of the main dining room (better description is banquet hall) altogether and booked the specialty restaurants (again at an extra charge). These were excellent.
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Old 03-11-2010, 08:29 AM   #28
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Only the smaller ships offer a good "anytime dining" option. on the Solstice we had arranged this option (added charge) but when we spoke to the head waiter when we got on the ship he said to come by 6:45PM or it would be crowded and we would have to wait. Kind of defeated the purpose. We solved the problem by staying out of the main dining room (better description is banquet hall) altogether and booked the specialty restaurants (again at an extra charge). These were excellent.
Of course, the smaller ships also don't have too many options outside the dining rooms. The larger ships usually have several different dining options outside the main dining room -- ranging from casual grills by the pool to pizza and pasta places to the higher-end steakhouses and seafood places -- which is good when you don't feel like dressing for the dining room or you're feeling particularly anti-social on a particular day and don't feel like making small talk with strangers at the same table. Some of them require an extra fee (like the steakhouses and seafood restaurants), but most of them are at no extra charge.
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Old 03-11-2010, 08:50 AM   #29
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Only the smaller ships offer a good "anytime dining" option. on the Solstice we had arranged this option (added charge) but when we spoke to the head waiter when we got on the ship he said to come by 6:45PM or it would be crowded and we would have to wait. Kind of defeated the purpose. We solved the problem by staying out of the main dining room (better description is banquet hall) altogether and booked the specialty restaurants (again at an extra charge). These were excellent.
I disagree that you must be on a smaller ship to get good "anytime dining". We have opted for it on Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Princess. All of those lines have done it well on our sailings. Unfortunately the experience you get may differ between ships on those lines. We have been very lucky to have great experiences, the only bad one was on the Carnival Conquest. After the third night we switched to late seating and still didn't receive the kind of quality service that we were expecting.

There are two cruise lines that I will not choose to cruise on again. That doesn't mean that someone else might not like them, but they are not a good fit for what I want in a cruise. The first is Holland America (I need to be much older to enjoy their ships. They are boring to me. I like to be active and the majority of the people on the Eurodam when we sailed were at least 80.) The second is Carnival (I left beer bongs and silly pool games behind a few years ago. Bingo doesn't do it for me either.).

Cruising is like any other type vacation. You have to pick wisely and make sure you a signing on to the right ship and itinarary for you. Don't trust a travel agent to pick the right ship for you. They may be getting more compensation for putting you on certain lines. Do a little research on your own about not only the cruise company but the ship you are considering. I highly recommend the Cruise Critic message board. You can get very valuable info on individual ships prior to booking.
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Old 03-11-2010, 08:59 AM   #30
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Aside from time in the Navy, my wife and I have been on only one cruise, a Norwegian Cruise Lines two weeker from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Valparaiso, Chile. This went around Cape Horn and had port visits in places I never thought I'd see. For the most part, we went on shore excursions and enjoyed them.

Here are my take-aways on cruising vs. land vacations (admittedly based on a small sample of cruises):

CRUISES:
- You unpack once and your hotel comes with you. Very nice.
- Meals are all very good.
- Accommodations very nice.
- Very relaxing (in our case there was often a day at sea between days in port). Good chance to chill, work out in gym, jog the promenade deck, etc.)
- Limited time in each port means you can't delve into things that really interest you nor can you spontaneously decide to spend an extra day.
- Don't get to sample local cuisine.
- It's a bit of a pain when ship can't tie up at the pier and you have to take launches to get ashore. (Brought back memories of motor whaleboats in the Navy.)

LAND TOURS:
- You generally see sights in greater depth and at a slower pace;
- You get to stay different places, try different food.
- Depending on location, land transportation between locations can be less than ideal.
- We don't do big "on the bus, off the bus" tours but, if you do, you can either end up with a great group of fellow travelers or a bunch of jerks. (Probably a mix of each.)

If we cruise again, I think it will either be Alaska or a river cruise in Europe or Russia.
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Old 03-11-2010, 09:21 AM   #31
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Aside from time in the Navy, my wife and I have been on only one cruise, a Norwegian Cruise Lines two weeker from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Valparaiso, Chile. This went around Cape Horn and had port visits in places I never thought I'd see. For the most part, we went on shore excursions and enjoyed them.
Now that itinerary, I might be willing to get on a cruise ship for!

So you really did go around Cape Horn? Not through the Straits of Magellan?

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Old 03-11-2010, 09:54 AM   #32
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Here are my take-aways on cruising vs. land vacations (admittedly based on a small sample of cruises)...
We did an 11-day cruise-tour of Alaska and the Yukon in 2002 for our 10th anniversary. The bus tour portion of it was nice in the things we got to see all over the Alaskan interior and in the Yukon, and the scenery along the way was spectacular.

But there was one BIG problem with the land tour which would prevent us from doing it again:

Almost every day, the bus left before 8 AM, and usually around 7:30. We stayed at hotels and had breakfast vouchers as part of the package price, but the problem is that when the bus leaves at 7:30, you pretty much have to be up by 6:30 to get dressed and have breakfast. (On this schedule, we showered shortly before going to bed the night before or else we'd be waking up a half hour earlier still.) I'm sorry, but getting up at 6 or 6:30 every morning for 7-8 days is like work.

The thing is, the bus usually reached its final destination of the day by about 4 PM, and early June way up north there has the daylight until 11 PM or even midnight up closer to Fairbanks. I would have much preferred being on the road from 10 AM to 6:30 PM instead of 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM. Of course, DW and I were 34 and 36 respectively, making us at least 20-30 years younger than almost anyone else, so I suspect the tour catered to the "early riser" crowd.
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Old 03-11-2010, 10:04 AM   #33
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I'm sorry, but getting up at 6 or 6:30 every morning for 7-8 days is like work.
You wouldn't enjoy a birding trip! But they usually fed us breakfast in the field if we had a particularly early start.

But then again, that's why only the most serious birders go on these trips.

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Old 03-11-2010, 10:10 AM   #34
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You wouldn't enjoy a birding trip! But they usually fed us breakfast in the field if we had a particularly early start.
See, that's a little different, IMO, because you *have* to get an early start for that, much like hunting and fishing trips. For garden variety sightseeing, you don't *need* to get up before the crack of dawn. If I were really into birding or hunting or such, early rising is the price of admission.
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Old 03-11-2010, 10:21 AM   #35
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See, that's a little different, IMO, because you *have* to get an early start for that, much like hunting and fishing trips. For garden variety sightseeing, you don't *need* to get up before the crack of dawn. If I were really into birding or hunting or such, early rising is the price of admission.
Photography, also, fits in this category.
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Old 03-11-2010, 10:39 AM   #36
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Old 03-11-2010, 01:16 PM   #37
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I stand corrected about "anytime dining" . However, the smaller ships have in my opinion been better at delivering an "intimate" and by this I mean more personal and less crowded cruise experience. Granted they tend to be more expensive.
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Old 03-11-2010, 02:27 PM   #38
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I've never been on a cruise before, but I'd be willing to go on an ER.org forum member cruise. Can you imagine the follies?

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Old 03-11-2010, 02:52 PM   #39
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Not surprised that there was a good percentage of overweight on a cruise as all I've ever heard about them is "the food" and "the food." I have to stay away from a cruise then because 1. I am weak when it comes to good food and 2. I'm trying to lose and not gain more. I always thought "the food" was one of the top reasons people took cruises? Wrong?
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Old 03-11-2010, 03:03 PM   #40
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Thanks for the responses, many valid comments. We generally like smaller ships (Regent/Silver Seas)and this probably clouded our experience on this one. Have been on 12-15 cruises in past 15 years so generally have enjoyed ourselves. Food was indeed excellent as we dined at the specialty restaurants each night. Service could not be faulted. Gym was good except the erobic machines were mostly broken. Our suite was the biggest we ever had-1300 ft2 so we spent several days on the balcony rather than brave the hoards at the pools. Suspect you are right about "no worse than the malls" but we don't like the malls much either. As to ports- Diamonds International, Colombian Emeralds, Tanzanite International, not exactly rustic or interesting. Maybe a little cynical or jaded at this point but enjoy more active vacations while we can. Have booked bike trips to Puglia and Laos/Viet Nam over balance of year. Cheers.
Surely you realized before going on the Solstice that a mainstream line like Celebrity cannot be compared to an upsace line like Regency or Silver Seas.
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