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Tell me all about going on a cruise


mommyoffive
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I've only been on one cruise, but I'd definitely do another under the right circumstances. Dh and I went to Europe five years ago. We planned last minute (two weeks before we went). I booked a Mediterranean cruise as a way to see multiple countries without having to unpack multiple times or deal with travel between cities. The rate was cheap ($299 per person) for six days and five nights, stopping at three ports before returning to Barcelona. We spent time in Barcelona in the days before the cruise left.

 

How do you do it with a big family?

I haven't done this. It would be tricky. We have six kids and dh's family wondered about a family cruise. Rooms only seem to hold 4-5 people max in most cases.

 

What lines do you love or hate?

We had a great experience with Royal Caribbean. I've heard mixed reviews about Carnival.

 

Where are the good places to go?

I LOVED the Mediterranean cruise. We stopped in Nice (we spent the day in Monaco); Florence, and Rome. There are longer cruises I'd love to do sometime.

 

What are good prices?

The $299 per person price we paid was really a steal. It included meals, too. They seem to drop the price to fill up empty spots. That price point put us in a random room assignment. We ended up on a lower deck but with a window (usually an upgrade). It was nice.

 

Do you get sick?

I felt a little bit seasick the first day. Dramamine helped.

 

What else do I need to know?

There's generally a lot to do on the ship, but we didn't see much of that because we chose to explore the ports instead. Excursions booked through the ship are generally more expensive than touring on your own. We did Monaco and Florence through the cruise line, but we did Rome on our own because the transportation from the ship to the city was more straightforward (train). We rode back from Rome next to a man who worked for the Vatican. His job was to verify miracles for sainthood. We conversed in Spanish since he didn't speak English and we didn't speak Italian. :)

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We went on a cruise last fall with our family of 4. I recommend getting a good travel agent who can help you with booking. Cruise ship cabins are TINY and we got 2 adjoining cabins for the 4 of us. It was nice to have 2 bathrooms when we'd all need to shower before dinner. You won't spend much time in the cabin, but consider your bathroom needs when booking. The price was almost the same with 2 adjoining cabins vs all 4 of us in a single cabin. A travel agent can help you see all if your options.

 

We went on Royal Caribbean and had a great experience. Price wise, it was in the middle for Caribbean cruises. Disney is considered high end but is very expensive. Carnival is usually the least expensive but has a reputation for being "the party ship." Definitely avoid Carnival (and maybe cruising altogether) around spring break and right after graduation in May. We went in September and the ship was mostly couples and retirees.

 

Definitely bring some Dramamine. I got a little dizzy when the ship was crossing the Gulf Stream and rocking a but, but otherwise we had no problem with sea sickness. There was even a hurricane behind us making seas a little rough, and it wasn't a big deal. Hurricane season runs June through November, so keep that in mind when booking. Peak months for hurricanes in the Caribbean are August and September.

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Cruising, all two times I've done it, has been a sans kids activity. Maaaaybe I would take my kids on a Disney cruise, but it would be a very different kind of vacation. I go on a cruise to read, relax, go to fancy dinner every night, have cocktails, etc. Kids don't really mesh with that, unless we're talking older kids. And I would feel uncomfortable sending them to the ship day care. Just my opinion.

 

That said, I liked Celebrity more than Holland America, and we got a fantastic deal on a transatlantic cruise because it was repositioning for the ship.

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I suppose it sounds like I'm a fanatic, as I've been on 5 cruises in the last 20 years- 1 w/ friend, 1 w/ sister, 2 w/ DH and 1 w/ kids & IL's.   But I'm actually not.  It was more that we used to live on east coast close to several ports, so last minute low cost cruises were so appealing. And we've done older ship, lower budget itineraries (nothing fancy- Mexico, Caribbean and Bermuda etc)

 

But......land locked as we are in Colorado, we are headed out on a 5 night cruise in March w/ DH & kids (Yep, on Spring Break).  I've been on NCL, RC & Carnival.....Carnival is least favorite but still a good experience because we adjust expectations. I don't sit pool side near the bar, with expectations expecting serenity, KWIM? : )  We don't do bars, casino or party scene.  When I went w/ my sister, we went to a comedy show/bar, bought 6 bottles of wine (her choice) and did spa activities ($$$).  But that's not typical.   DH & I enjoy quiet dinners, peaceful sunsets at sea, stacks of books and the low decision vacation.   Even with kids, having a nice dinner with fancy service is a huge treat.  And for me, being surrounded by water is one of the loveliest things I can experience.  Thus why I like cruises.  Its difficult to explain- even with the hustle and bustle on a ship, it is absolutely peaceful to me because of the water. Le sigh. 

I like cruises because its an 'all the decisions have already been made' scenario.  Meals paid for, most activities included and a really low stress way to see various places.  I don't think I would like more than 1 day at a time at sea- but that's just me.   Especially with kids.   It's not an 'ignore the kids' vacation- but with mini golf, volleyball, pool (Depending on climate and size), water slide, arcade and lots of fun food options as well as movie theater, bowling alley, surfing etc on larger ships, there is a lot of options available to fill the day.  

 

The only reason I don't like cruises is the scenarios when/if things could go wrong.  Namely illness.  Nothing less appealing than being sick on a ship.  Blech, However, I've only had issues 1x on a specific cruise when dealing with very rough seas- 25-30ft seas with books flying off the table and decks closed.  I didn't like that.  And, I've had vertigo issues after the last 2 cruises but it only lasted 1-2 days and is more due to my sinus/inner ear issues- but worth noting as its not uncommon.  I've just learned to accept it.   Occasionally at dinner when seated and looking at horizon you are more aware of the movement. But usually not at all.  I had an aft balcony once and had a lot of vibration from the engines but wow- the balcony view was so so so worth it!    DS gets car sick if he's not careful, so we'll see how upcoming cruise works for him.... planning on taking bands and dramamine in case its needed.   However, others do get ill- its not that common on calm seas but truthfully you don't know until you're there.  

 

Price point wise, we are on the cheaper, value conscious side in most areas of life. Especially vacations.   Another family of 4 could easily spend 2x what we are spending.  EXAMPLES:  Our upcoming 5 night cruise from Galveston to Cozumel, Progresso and back again cost us $1644 (not including gratuities).   Same length cruise cost $1200 w/ kids in a balcony room, 5 years ago.  On this cruise, we decided the slightly nicer, larger room was worth it in this scenario because the kids are bigger and older.   I was very close to a 2 room scenario, but only lower deck options were available at booking which I did not prefer.    With a larger family, multiple connecting rooms would be amazingly helpful and neccessary- you can't do more than 4 per room anyway.  Be prepared by looking at youtube videos of cabins you are considering, (search ship name and cabin number) so you aren't shocked when you get there.  They are small compared to hotel rooms- but doable. :) 

 

Additionally, there is the gratuity that is added on- upcoming cruise will be $12 per person, per day for the entire cruise- we factored that into cost.  This is dispersed to cabin stewards, waiters, etc and non-negotiable.  Given that they cleaned our room 2x a day and provided incredible service in the restaurants, its very well worth it. ll

Excursions are optional-  I don't think we've done any actually- LOL.  Usually, research the port prior to going and arrange your own options, rent a car or just set off on foot.  We rented a car in Mexico 5 years ago- got lost a few times, but finally made it to the Mayan ruins of Dzibilchatlun.   Very nice to be on our own timeline to explore- although nervewracking at times. :)   Upcoming cruise, we are taking a taxi from port to local private beach (with food & pools, kayaks & snorkeling on site)....and likely renting a car again in Progresso- maybe driving the 2 hours to Chichen Itza.  Takes some research and legwork, but more desirable than paying $360 for a family for 4 to go on a 'tour'.   But it depends who you are and what you like. :) 

 

 

Thats a lot of info- and hopefully some of it will be helpful.  

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