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Need cruise advice
Old 10-22-2018, 04:36 AM   #1
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Need cruise advice

Hey y'all. I haven't ever booked a cruise before. So here is the situation- we have a local holiday (Mardi Gras) and are considering taking the fam (Me, DH and two boys 11 and 14) on a cruise. It has to be that week and no other thanks to the boys being off from school. We would drive to the port (Canaveral, Tampa or New Orleans)

I don't understand cruise pricing- its double occupancy, right? Does it change if you have more than 2 people in a room? Can you book adjoining rooms, and if you do, can one be ocean view and one be balcony? Do cruises get more heavily discounted closer to sailing date? When is high season and low season? Is it cheaper to do it yourself or would a travel agent be better in this situation. Thanks!
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Old 10-22-2018, 05:07 AM   #2
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Since you don't understand cruising, you should work with a good travel agent.
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Old 10-22-2018, 05:59 AM   #3
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You have a lot of decisions to make. The cruise line is the first decision. We prefer mid line cruises like Celebrity or Norwegian or Royal Caribbean over Carnival which has a younger, boisterous clientele.

The destinations are important too. We have been to virtually every Caribbean island except for Martinique. We prefer to avoid Mexico--simply put. But that is about all you will get out of Mobile or New Orleans and usually Tampa cruises. Check out cruises from Port Canaveral first.

The best source of information is Vacations to Go online. My wife usually books with an independent cruise specialist at Avoya Travel. Many Florida cruise lines give discounts to Alabama, Georgia or Florida residents.

We go for the cheaper rooms--seldom any balconies and never any suites. We sometime take inside rooms too. There again, we often cruise a month a year. Rooms for four are available and often 3rd and 4th passengers to cheap. But it can be tough with 4 to a room. Adjoining rooms are usually available.
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Old 10-22-2018, 06:19 AM   #4
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In your shoes, I would turn your specific requirements over to a TA, and let them find something that works, plus answer your questions. Ask All. The. Questions. Assume nothing.

Every cruise line has its own way of doing things, and some lines are more kid-friendly than others.

Good luck!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ugeauxgirl View Post
Hey y'all. I haven't ever booked a cruise before. So here is the situation- we have a local holiday (Mardi Gras) and are considering taking the fam (Me, DH and two boys 11 and 14) on a cruise. It has to be that week and no other thanks to the boys being off from school. We would drive to the port (Canaveral, Tampa or New Orleans)

I don't understand cruise pricing- its double occupancy, right? Does it change if you have more than 2 people in a room? Can you book adjoining rooms, and if you do, can one be ocean view and one be balcony? Do cruises get more heavily discounted closer to sailing date? When is high season and low season? Is it cheaper to do it yourself or would a travel agent be better in this situation. Thanks!
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Old 10-22-2018, 07:33 AM   #5
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My wife and I enjoy cruising. One excellent resource we have discovered is a website called Cruise Critic (www.cruisecritic.com).

Cruise Critic provides an enormous amount of information about everything related to the cruising industry. This includes the different cruise lines, most of the individual ships, the most common itineraries, the common ports of call, and the common shore excursions available in each port. There was also a section about tips for new cruisers that even veteran cruisers can benefit from.

There is also a "roll call" section which allows cruisers to connect with other individuals who will be on their particular sailing. Somebody will often organize a number of socials on board the ship for other Cruise Critic users.

Most of the people posting on the Cruise Critic website are veteran cruisers. Of course, we should always be cautious about blindly accepting information from any source as being truthful, but our experience has been that whenever there is a general consensus of opinion on a topic on the website, the general consensus is pretty accurate almost all the time.

If you are not familiar with the Cruise Critic website, give them a look!
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Old 10-22-2018, 07:42 AM   #6
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There is additional charges for a 3rd or 4th person in the room. The rooms are very small to start with and having 4 people in a room will be very cramped. You could book a balcony room for you and your spouse and then an interior room across the hall for the kids....I have done this before and it worked well. You likely won't be able to get adjoining rooms where one is a balcony and one is ocean-view as these types of rooms are typically on different floors
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Old 10-22-2018, 09:00 AM   #7
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Since you have never cruised before I would suggest a travel agent . You can sometimes get better deals waiting for price drops if you are very flexible in where you want to go and when. High season is the summer and anytime school is out especially holiday times . Low season is Sept,Oct, Dec before Christmas and January .
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Old 10-22-2018, 09:11 AM   #8
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We get inside rooms because we are only there to sleep or shower.
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Old 10-22-2018, 09:21 AM   #9
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Typically you will see something like this, which I just stole from a Princess email:

DatesInteriorOceanviewBalconyMini-SuiteSuite
Sat, Sep 21, 2019$274.00*$374.00*$474.00*$574.00*$1,074.00*
Guests 3 & 4 - same stateroom$149.00*$199.00*$249.00*$299.00*$549.00*
Taxes, Fees & Port Expenses additional: $55.00*

On this cruise, the base fare for all four of you to sail in the same Balcony room would be 2*$474 + 2*$249 + 4*$55 + = $1666. The fare for one Oceanview and one Balcony would be 2*$374 + 2*$474 + 4*55 = $1916. Whether you can get these as adjoining cabins depends on whether those cabins exist on the particular ship that's sailing on the week you can travel and whether someone else has already booked them. Your kids are old enough that you may be fine with adjacent cabins or ones across the hall rather than adjoining cabins. If you do book two cabins, the cruise line will write the booking so that there is one adult in each cabin, but you can easily switch things around once on board.

When you are calculating fares, don't forget to add up the mandatory gratuities that will be charged once you are aboard ship. With Princess, it's $13.50 per day per person. The cruise that I priced above is 3 days, so you'd have 3*4*$13.50 = $162 added to your total just for sailing. You will also pay extra for shore excursions; drinks other than water, lemonade, coffee or tea; spa services; and specialty restaurants.

My point here is that you can't think of it as an all-inclusive (unless you're sailing on one of the truly high-end very expensive lines that really is all-inclusive), and you will need to make sure your kids understand that too, since they'll have key cards that also work as charge cards.

As for discounts and high seasons -- when is high and low season varies around the world and doesn't really matter to you. You have a specific week when you can travel, so you have to pay whatever the prices are for that week. If a lot of schools have the week off, then the prices will be high, ships will sail full, and there won't be any last minute discounting.
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Old 10-22-2018, 09:25 AM   #10
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Anyone here remember the website where you would enter a cruise you were interested in and then get competitive quotes from a bunch of different vendors/agents.

It been a long since I looked at cruise travel but I don't the name of the site. Very often you'd get the same price from several vendors, sometimes with a better cabin and a few extra shipboard credits thrown it.

I did a lot of looking for a cruise to South American but ended up not doing that trip.
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Old 10-22-2018, 09:59 AM   #11
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Travel agent is a good idea in your case.
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Old 10-22-2018, 10:04 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ivinsfan View Post
Anyone here remember the website where you would enter a cruise you were interested in and then get competitive quotes from a bunch of different vendors/agents.

It been a long since I looked at cruise travel but I don't the name of the site. Very often you'd get the same price from several vendors, sometimes with a better cabin and a few extra shipboard credits thrown it.

I did a lot of looking for a cruise to South American but ended up not doing that trip.
I think that's https://www.cruisecompete.com/. I tried them once but ended up not booking the trip due to a change in plans.
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Old 10-22-2018, 10:12 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cathy63 View Post
I think that's https://www.cruisecompete.com/. I tried them once but ended up not booking the trip due to a change in plans.
Yes that's it and it might help the OP.
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Old 10-22-2018, 11:03 AM   #14
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OP - best to use a travel agent in your case.

However if you want to get a vague idea of the costs, go to Carnival site and pick a cruise for the time you want, and number of people, and the room(s). You can click along until you get to the payment option point, it will tell you the cost including port fees, (but won't mention the tipping fee per day per pp).

We often get an inside room, as we don't want to spend our time in a room, but in the ship at the various locations.
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Old 10-22-2018, 11:20 AM   #15
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Also, get travel insurance if the cruise is expensive. I’ve been able to get covered for anything including changing my mind. I think you have to buy that kind of coverage soon after you book the trip. I use insuremytrip.com and call them for advice.
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Old 10-22-2018, 11:26 AM   #16
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I think the advice of getting a balcony room for you and an inside room for the boys across the hall is a good one. That way they can spend the day with you , but have their own bathroom and shower.
4 people in a room is not a good idea, IMO.
Even though we have been on many cruises, we still use a travel agent. Do not be seduced by an ad for a low price. That does not include port charges, gratuities, etc. and is for the lowest class inside room.
I would stick to the middle mainstream lines, like Princess, etc. You do not want to go on Carnival or Norwegian.
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Old 10-22-2018, 12:01 PM   #17
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We have just about settled on Royal Caribbean. The reason is their boats. They put their main shopping district down middle of the boat. The three stories above the promenade deck have bay windows than look down on this area. On their new 'big' boats it is open at one end and most of these rooms appear to have balconies. When cruising out of Galveston in Feb, whe have been able to book one of these rooms for less than $1,400 for everything including the gratuity for a 7 day trip. With the bay window you don't feel so claustrophobic.
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Old 10-22-2018, 12:09 PM   #18
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First time cruisers might consider letting price dictate the specifics. My logic goes like this... fancy stuff would be wasted on you, lol! You'll come back with a few things you didn't like, and the next cruise, you'll know to avoid a cruise serving up those annoyances.

I've never used a travel agent. They might end up costing you more by not showing you an acceptable, cheaper option. "vacations to go" web site can give you the sailings and pricing. The price you are typically presented is per person, presuming double occupancy. Just put in the people and cabins and get to where you are about to buy and you will see how it works. You need to add $13 or so per adult per day and some lower number for kids for mandatory tips. This is a huge annoyance...if its mandatory, it's not a tip and should be in the price! You give them your credit card and the tips and anything else you buy goes on your "onboard account". This way spending on $12 rum drinks is painless...until you spend a decade paying off your credit card.

You will need to book one adult and one kid in each cabin, but when you get on board, you can put the two of them across the hall. They'll pay full price that way. It's unlikely you'd get adjoining outside rooms balcony/window. Until high school, we had our 2 kids in with us in a single room. We did plenty of cruises like that, no problem. But our two girls got along well, and we did everything together. Schedule the shower a bit is all. If your kids are used to day care, they might just love the kids club activities...you can drop them off and they can't "escape" unless you come to get them. All lines have kids "clubs", but Carnival and Princess have better ones and Disney, if you want to spend more. My kids felt imprisoned, but they never went to day care w/a sahm.

Port parking is $200 or so. You can find a hotel near the port that's got a shuttle and much cheaper parking. The off-site parking outfits suck at bringing you back to your car in a reasonable amount of time, but the hotel shuttle worked ok for us.

More ships are in the Caribbean in the winter. You can't count on the price dropping as sailing date approaches, especially when kids might be out of school. April/May you'll find a lot of low prices.


One last bit of advice: since all the staff get their "tip" income, whether they serve you well or not, your carrot and stick is the end of cruise survey. Good servers will remind you of their name again and again, lol! My advice is to read name tags and ask for pronunciation of their name. Repeat their name a few times when you see them and they will be your "friend" and you'll be able to give them the opportunity to earn their "tip".
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Old 10-22-2018, 12:43 PM   #19
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First time cruisers might consider letting price dictate the specifics. My logic goes like this... fancy stuff would be wasted on you, lol! You'll come back with a few things you didn't like, and the next cruise, you'll know to avoid a cruise serving up those annoyances.
Oops. DH and I violated that and were glad we did. We went for a cruise line with ships carrying under 100 passengers and almost no extra charges. No stops in ports where they sold tanzanite, no "Port lectures" that were really pitches for particular stores or for "discount" coupon books.

Do check the extras, no matter which line you take. They can include alcoholic beverages, "premium" restaurants, port excursions, spa treatments, etc. You're basically a revenue stream on many ships and the front-end price is not the whole picture. This makes comparisons very difficult unless you do your research. I highly recommend CruiseCruitc, whether or not you decide to use a travel agent. The "Ask a Cruise Question" section is particularly good for first-timers. They're patient if you ask one that's been covered before but try doing some searches and reading ship reviews.
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Old 10-22-2018, 01:00 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sengsational View Post
First time cruisers might consider letting price dictate the specifics. My logic goes like this... fancy stuff would be wasted on you, lol! You'll come back with a few things you didn't like, and the next cruise, you'll know to avoid a cruise serving up those annoyances.

I've never used a travel agent. They might end up costing you more by not showing you an acceptable, cheaper option. "vacations to go" web site can give you the sailings and pricing. The price you are typically presented is per person, presuming double occupancy. Just put in the people and cabins and get to where you are about to buy and you will see how it works. You need to add $13 or so per adult per day and some lower number for kids for mandatory tips. This is a huge annoyance...if its mandatory, it's not a tip and should be in the price! You give them your credit card and the tips and anything else you buy goes on your "onboard account". This way spending on $12 rum drinks is painless...until you spend a decade paying off your credit card.

You will need to book one adult and one kid in each cabin, but when you get on board, you can put the two of them across the hall. They'll pay full price that way. It's unlikely you'd get adjoining outside rooms balcony/window. Until high school, we had our 2 kids in with us in a single room. We did plenty of cruises like that, no problem. But our two girls got along well, and we did everything together. Schedule the shower a bit is all. If your kids are used to day care, they might just love the kids club activities...you can drop them off and they can't "escape" unless you come to get them. All lines have kids "clubs", but Carnival and Princess have better ones and Disney, if you want to spend more. My kids felt imprisoned, but they never went to day care w/a sahm.

Port parking is $200 or so. You can find a hotel near the port that's got a shuttle and much cheaper parking. The off-site parking outfits suck at bringing you back to your car in a reasonable amount of time, but the hotel shuttle worked ok for us.

More ships are in the Caribbean in the winter. You can't count on the price dropping as sailing date approaches, especially when kids might be out of school. April/May you'll find a lot of low prices.


One last bit of advice: since all the staff get their "tip" income, whether they serve you well or not, your carrot and stick is the end of cruise survey. Good servers will remind you of their name again and again, lol! My advice is to read name tags and ask for pronunciation of their name. Repeat their name a few times when you see them and they will be your "friend" and you'll be able to give them the opportunity to earn their "tip".
Vacations to Go actually is a travel agency. From their website: “Vacations To Go is a bonded and fully accredited travel agency, and a member in good standing of the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), the International Airlines Travel Agent Network (IATAN) and the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). We have achieved the highest level of recognition possible from every major cruise line in the world for our exceptional sales and superior service. Click here to read what top execs at every major cruise line, tour operator, river cruise company and resort chain have to say about Vacations To Go.” I think it is a great site, too, whether as a starting point for research or to book travel through.
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