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Cruise questions
Old 10-19-2013, 08:39 PM   #1
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Cruise questions

Yeah... Nearing age 80 and never been on a sea cruise, 'cept for the ferry ride to our home in Vineyard Haven...
So a lot of silly questions, that everyone but me knows the answers to.

What expenses... beyond the fare.
Parking?
Meals?
Beverage costs... w/meals, at bar, on deck? at pool?
Extra costs... itemize... ie, massage, skeet shooting, games, shipboard stuff?
Shows, other entertainment?
Internet costs? Phone?
Captain's table?
Different restaurants, snack bars?
Room service...
Meals dependent on ticket price?

Clothing:
Dress clothes needed? for what?
What to bring for a (let's say) four day cruise?
Laundry or dry cleaning?

Tips...
In your own understanding... and like, do ya tip in between time for special services?

Are there socio econimic issues based on your room choice... ie. between balcony and steerage?

How do you naturally develop relationships with others? Meals, deck, entertainment, pool... your choice? random?

How much time do you spend doing what? and where? Room, Deck, Pool, Shows, Reading... Rainy days?

Children... depend on cruise line? ie. Disney, or spread across most lines...
Are certain cruise lines more geared toward older persons... and what about "money"... Does the little guy, me, rub elbows with the wealthy?

Friends tell me how to smuggle booze, in plastic containers, while others talk about a cork fee? How much for a Martini? a domestic beer?

What do you do when you get to a port? ships tour? private? bus? Are ports safe? Pickpockets etc?

Medical facilities on board?

How big are the rooms?... am claustrophobic. Cost differential.

What are the on board "nickel and dime" costs as you go along? Cash out of pocket? Cruise line credit card?... When do you get the bill?... Night before return?

Relocation trips? Ie. Panama Canal? Other off season best prices.

Lead time... from parking to boarding? Also Deboarding time.

BIL and SIL travel regularly on super cheap tours, 7 or 8 times a year, notified by travel agent, and usually 24 to 36 hours lead time... they live in Sebring FL. Often 1/2 price or less. Like $300 for 7 days. Anyone do that?

How much do you plan to spend beyond the ticket price? 25%, 50% 100% more? ....More?

The questions can go on forever. What I'm really looking for is advice for the average guy, lower middle income class, who doesn't wanna look too stupid, or to get a big surprise when total bill is added up.

What are the newbie cuise mistakes? Your tips to make a cruise easier and happier for first timers?

Thanks, from an old landlubber.
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Old 10-19-2013, 09:22 PM   #2
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Cruise lines have different policies but there are some things in common. Meals are included in the basic fare, EXCEPT if you choose to use one of the "specialty restaurants." But if you do so, there's no surprise as you'll be told up front and can then decide if it's worth it.
Some (most?) cruise lines add a daily service charge that is charged to your credit card that covers tips for waiters, cabin attendant etc. Alcoholic drinks - and soda as well - is an extra charge and tip is automatically added.
Shows are free. In fact, I should have started my answer this way: there are no surprise charges (except perhaps for the aforementioned daily service charge). You'll have to sign for anything that has a fee. Typical extra charges that cruisers pay are for drinks, specialty restaurants, and shore excursions.
Dress: again, some ships have a formal night, or a dining room where formal dress (e.g., suit for men) may be required. All ships offer an alternative buffet dinner, where dress is very informal (bathing suit, shirts etc). Regardless of cabin, everyone eats in the same places - the days of RMS Titanic class differences are long gone.
Have a good time - I bet you'll be fully acclimated before the end of the first day.
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Old 10-19-2013, 10:07 PM   #3
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Don't be intimidated by your fellow passengers. There is every socioeconomic level and every size and shape. Our last couple of cruises have been on Carnival and there is every age group. The last trip was mid-September so there weren't many school-age kids. During Spring Break time of year, there will be tons of them as well as college kids. We hide out in the adults only area of the deck to read and enjoy the sunshine.

On formal night, you'll see gorgeous gowns and simple black dresses (me, Costco $16). Some men will be in tuxedos and some will be in a suit and tie (DH). If you don't feel like dressing up, skip the dining room that night and eat from the buffet line.

Excursions managed by the cruise line run in the $60-$100 range. We haven't done one in a long time. People on our last cruise searched out and paid for their on-shore activities on Priceline. You can also check out providers in port on Trip Advisor.

Drinks are their moneymaker. I think a beer ran about $5 and a mixed drink $7-$9. A 15% tip is added to every drink purchase. We bring our allotted 2 bottles of wine. We always pre-pay our tips when we pay for our cruise. I think it comes to about $10 per person per day.

Our neighbors drop us off at the Port of Tampa about 11 am and we are on the ship by noon. You check-in online and print your boarding documents before you leave home. The boarding process is pretty simple and not too much waiting. Rooms aren't usually ready until 1 pm but lunch is being served as you board. We like to carry our own luggage. Between us, we have 3 wheeled carry-ons and a suit bag.

When we cruised out of Port Canaveral, we parked off-site and paid about $8 a day in a secured lot. They bused us over to the Port. The ride to the port was maybe 10 minutes but we had to wait an additional 15 minutes at the Port because the union porters were on their morning coffee break or whatever. They have to point the bus to its parking spot and they are the only ones allowed to take the luggage out of the trailer. We were all fuming!

Debarkation was a snap because we were carrying our own luggage. We were able to get off immediately. On other trips we have been called by zone. They give you all that info in a flyer the last night of the cruise.

Nobody pays much attention to what you are doing. You'll only look stupid if you leave your fly down!

I'm watching a show about Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas as I write this. 8,500 people on the ship. It's huge! We've been cruising on older, smaller ships.
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Old 10-19-2013, 10:11 PM   #4
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I've only been on Disney and Carnival cruises. I like any cruise. The only way to figure out which cruise line suits you best is to go on a few.


Check out cruisecritic Cruise Critic Message Board Forums

They can and will answer anything you might want to know and will happily give in depth answers for the most mundane cruise topics!
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Old 10-19-2013, 10:12 PM   #5
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My mother liked cruises.....when I think of them I start twitching (for many reasons).....no way. But.....if you want to go on one.....hope things go well.
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Old 10-19-2013, 10:24 PM   #6
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You can eat dinner in the dining room or at the buffet. When you make your reservation, they will ask if you want early seating, late seating or "your time" dining.

If you opt for early or late seating, you typically sit at the same table with the same people and the same waitstaff.

With "your time" dining, you can show up when you want. You can request an individual table or you can let them seat you at a larger table with open seats. We do "your time" dining and sit with new people every night. We find people to be very friendly and everybody has some interesting story to tell.
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Old 10-20-2013, 07:55 AM   #7
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You can eat dinner in the dining room or at the buffet. When you make your reservation, they will ask if you want early seating, late seating or "your time" dining.

If you opt for early or late seating, you typically sit at the same table with the same people and the same waitstaff.

With "your time" dining, you can show up when you want. You can request an individual table or you can let them seat you at a larger table with open seats. We do "your time" dining and sit with new people every night. We find people to be very friendly and everybody has some interesting story to tell.
Even though you are signed up for your seating in the dining room, you never have to show up. The seating time just controls when you are allowed to show up IF you decide to eat in the dining room.
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Old 10-20-2013, 08:13 AM   #8
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No expert cruiser (1), but here's my experience... Take your two bottles of wine, and it's relatively easy to smuggle on a plastic bottle in your luggage, or, as I did, buy some fake binoculars from Amazon. Of course, we drank a lot, YMMV! That was really my only onboard expense, besides per use wifi, to upload pics to Facebook, about $15. FYI, everyone who tried to smuggle liquor by refilling water/tea bottles got busted. Evening sit down dinner was worth it. The crew assigned to our table was very friendly and accommodative. We dressed nicely, but no suits or gowns. As for other clothing, I wore swim trunks, shorts, and easy dry tees, that I normally bike in. A hat is handy as well. Never hung out with other cruisers. Got up early, and watched the sun rise from the jogging track on the upper deck. Ate breakfast after the rest of my group awoke. Hit the fitness center two times as well. Spent the afternoons lounging in the sun, or wandering around people watching.
Didn't see any "shows"; not my thing. But a couple of the bands on board were good. Skipped the shore excursions. Didn't want to be on a schedule, I was on vacation! Did spring for a balcony room. Nice, though not totally necessary. Did not gamble. Again, not my thing. Plus, the casino reeked of wet ashtray. Unlikely to be a serial cruiser, though Alaska or Mediterranean interests me.
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Old 10-20-2013, 09:51 AM   #9
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On some cruise lines you have the option of dining at you convenience. This is what we do. You just make the reservation for the time that you want.

We no longer bother with formal evenings in the MDR. We only take casual clothing. On formal evenings we eat in the buffet or in one of the pay restaurants.
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Old 10-20-2013, 10:06 AM   #10
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We have been on around 8 cruises to various destinations. We have always brought more than 2 bottles of wine per suitcase and have never had any issues. If your room has no fridge, just get bucket of ice and chill prior to happy hour. My BIL likes to get an empty wine bottle, fill with gin, recork and seal. The cruise lines mandatory charge card (no cash transactions) usually still has 1 or 2 hundred $$ at the end of trip in spite of resisting numerous tempations to buy stuff. Our only bad experience involved a passenger who had a heart attack and we had to come back to port and lost a day and a port of call. Cruise lines don't reimburse for stuff like that.......
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Old 10-20-2013, 01:42 PM   #11
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Since the tip is included, the staff are basically trying to stay under the radar (not like the old days when they really tried to impress you with excellence). So the secret to getting the best service in this arrangement is to repeat your server's name a bunch of times. I end every sentence with their name, and they always perform well. Tons of stories of orders taken (usually out on deck) that get "lost", but not if you repeat their name, because they know you might "write them up" in the survey.

The any time dining means you don't get the same wait staff and same dining guests every night. Some of the best fun I've had on cruises was with the randomly assigned people at out dinner table. We'va had some real duds too, so it can cut both ways. Only once was it bad enough to go through getting re-assigned. But eating on schedule, with the same wait staff is what we prefer, but my mom and dad go with anytime. Mom doesn't like to watch the clock and schedule the prep time and "eat when they ring the bell".

Nobody will know or care if you are in a cheap or expensive room...the room is just for sleeping and changing cloths, IMHO.

The booze nazis vary considerably by cruise line and by the kind of cruise. If it's a young person's cruise, you'll need to be especially skillful to get it through. I'd read the fine print for the specific cruise line and take advantage of the allowable bottle rule (one per adult , wine).

Park and ride can save money, but when you get off, plan on cooling your heels for an hour or two. That makes it not worth the savings IMHO.

I don't usually buy the shore excursions. Instead, I rent a scooter and we go anywhere for $25 each. The scooters are about $50/day. This is caribbean. In Hawaii, I walked to the rental counter and picked up a pre reaserved car. Like clockwork. But in the islands, that does not work....you spend hours getting a car, and the ships are in port for such a short time, you can't afford that delay.
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Old 10-20-2013, 05:15 PM   #12
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Remember the reason it's called a cruise is that you're on the water ....usually at sea. If you are susceptible to seasickness, you might want to be prepared beforehand so you can prevent rather than treat.......or attempt to treat.
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Old 10-20-2013, 05:23 PM   #13
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I am leaving tomorrow on my 25th cruise. I have cruised with five different companies and find them pretty similar . Tips , drinks , casino , bingo , pictures & excursions are extra . Depending on where you are going private excursions may be cheaper & more enjoyable .Dining is free except for the speciality restaurants & the chef's table . There is usually a formal night except on NCL where it is formal or not and on Carnival it is elegant night . You will see people in all kinds of dress from gowns to Sunday dresses and guys from tuxedos to shirts & pants .A lot of the lines allow you to take on a bottle of wine per person . Drink prices are high but not unreasonable.Depending on the cruise line rooms are either a decent size or tiny . We have done last minute specials for pretty cheap and more exotic cruises for larger amounts .Try it & see !
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Old 10-20-2013, 05:45 PM   #14
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Have you thought about luxury cruise lines where tips, drinks, alternative dining, air, and even shore excursions are included? Throw out all the advice you have been given if you choose to sail Seabourn, Silversea, or Regent (my line of choice). I would find a good travel agent that specializes in cruising (I would choose one that specializes in luxury cruising) and ask all your questions and get good advice.

Basic questions - where do you want to cruise? After all, the idea is to see the world. If all you care about is lying by the pool all day a resort in caribbean could be a better deal.

For how long do you want to cruise? To me, 10 is minimum but i prefer cruises of around 17 - 20 days even though I still work.

With respect to medical, you need a good medical evacuation policy. Since medicare is not good out of USA, you are going to want a medical policy anyway so i would just get good cruise insurance.

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Old 10-21-2013, 08:09 AM   #15
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I am happy for you that you are going on a cruise! Definitely take a bottle of Dramamine with you...it will come in handy with the sea sickness. I have been on two cruises and the second one was in a balcony room....spend the extra money for that! We did not go to any of the shows, went to one formal dinner, ate at the buffet most of the time (great salad bar!) Many of the people are very friendly and you are able to strike up conversations. We did not get the drink/soda package. Norwegian has room service for free and we used that quite a bit We had 1.5 days of rough seas and I had a bit of a hard time.
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Old 10-21-2013, 08:22 AM   #16
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+1 on the Dramamine (or Bonine, a different chemical but also for seasickness). Take it every day, as a preventive, and the odds are great that you won't have any seasick issues.
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Old 10-21-2013, 10:27 AM   #17
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+1 on the Dramamine (or Bonine, a different chemical but also for seasickness). Take it every day, as a preventive, and the odds are great that you won't have any seasick issues.
I've never been on an ocean cruise, so this may be a dumb question, but don't they have over the counter sea sickness available on board?
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Old 10-21-2013, 11:14 AM   #18
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I've never been on an ocean cruise, so they may be a dumb question, but don't they have over the counter sea sickness available on board?
Yes, but by then its too late for them to do you much good.
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Old 10-21-2013, 11:21 AM   #19
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Yes, but by then its too late for them to do you much good.
And, it is kinda like being sick in a hotel somewhere--the last thing you want to do is go roaming around looking for a pharmacy when you want to curl up. I've heard seasickness described as hours of thinking you were going to die, followed by hours of wishing you could just die.
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Old 10-21-2013, 12:27 PM   #20
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I've never been on an ocean cruise, so they may be a dumb question, but don't they have over the counter sea sickness available on board?
I'm a loyal NCL cruiser. Yes, you can go to the hospitality desk and get the pills for free. The key point is to take the pill every day (when first getting on board, and then every day with breakfast). That'll prevent seasickness. Wait until you are sick, the pill will be of minimal value.
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