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Cruise Newby questions

Redmond, Washington
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Cruise Newby questions

We're thinking (hard) about taking our first cruise, and we're considering Royal Caribbean to the Eastern Carribean - 7 days: Miami, San Juan, Charlotee Amalie, St. Martin, Nassau, Miami.

What I need to know is what everyone wished they had known prior to their first cruise...any special thing to bring with you, questions you wish you would've asked...that kind of thing.

I'm pretty much of a control freak about getting info before I leave; although once I'm headed to the airport I relax and enjoy ;-)

Thanks in advance.

Milwaukee
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1. Re: Cruise Newby questions

You can find much info on this site and crusecritic.com among others.

I will start with a couple of tips. If possible book your own airport transfers and shore excursions and you will save money.

Many people don't know you can board the ship much earlier than the time listed by the cruise line. We try to get on by noon for a 4:00 departure. I think they list boarding time as 2:00. The lunch buffet is going and you can take a good look around the ship.

Texas
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2. Re: Cruise Newby questions

Since you are a control freak, get to the departure port a day ahead. Our first cruise was nearly ruined because we had booked with Airtran. Our flight left at 6am, so thought we had plenty of time to get to Miami on the day the cruise left. Our flight was cancelled and the next flight out didn't get there until after the ship left. We ended up getting a very pricey flight with Delta so we could get there in time. Airtran would not get us on another carrier. They did refund half the airfare. Since then we have always gone a day ahead.

Rio
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3. Re: Cruise Newby questions

Why fly all the way from Seattle for a Carib cruise? Airfare will set you back as much as the cruise. How about cruising down the coast or flying to a CA port and picking up a round trip cruise that goes down along the Mexican Riviera. The ports are at least as interesting, the weather generally good , and you will save a bundle on air.

Grayson, Georgia
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4. Re: Cruise Newby questions

Darmanad seems to have a bone to pick with Caribbean cruises. If Caribbean is what you want, then that's what you should do. I have taken the exact RC itinerary you mentioned and I loved it! The ports are beautiful and the Caribbean water is not the same as the Pacific waters. If you'd prefer to save money, sure, cruise from the West Coast. Otherwise, go where you want to go.

I'd recommend picking up a Frommer's guidebook. I always get one for my first visit to an area. They make a Caribbean Ports of Call guide. It breaks down the different ports, describes ship-sponsored and on-your-own excursions. It even has a section recommending which ports of call you should "do on your own" and which ones you experience through organized tours. You'll find the ports you're considering are on the list of "no organized tour needed."

San Diego
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5. Re: Cruise Newby questions

A Caribbean cruise is a WONDERFUL way to start because:

1- you will be in different ports ev ery day

2 - be on the calm Caribbean waters

3-not have too many days just sailing at sea

Definitely book your own airfare and transfers.

Go a day before so you can relax about boarding on time.

Check out the destinations on this site and ask questions.

Don't overpack.(color coordinating is the key)

If a cruise excursion sound interesting go for it otherwise you can probably use the info from this site to plan your own activites.

Take anti seasick meds before you get on board just in case.

Have LOTS of FUN!!!!

San Diego...
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6. Re: Cruise Newby questions

I have somewhat of a different take on earlier suggestions. On our first cruise, we flew from San Diego to Florida. We had Celebrity book our airfare with the following conditions (we did this through a travel agent). One; ALL transfers were included (before and after the cruise). Two; THEY would put us up in a hotel in Florida the night before the cruise (not fly us on a red-eye and take us right to the ship). Recommend you get these conditions in writing from the travel agent.

When we got our tickets, etc from Celebrity, they did try and put us on a red-eye but a simple but firm complaint to our travel agent fixed this problem and they flew us in a day early. They put us up overnight in a Sheraton which was pretty nice.

Even though you can save money by booking your own excursions, for your first cruise I would just do it through the cruise ship. When booking by yourself, you are responsible for getting back to the ship on time. Miss ships movement and you must pay the cost to fly to meet the ship at it's next port. If a ship sponsored tour is late, the ship will wait for you.

Once you've been on one cruise, you will probably be back for another. Then you can get more adventuresome with your trip planning.

Bring an extension cord with you. Power outlets are never where you want then in your cabin.

Rio
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7. Re: Cruise Newby questions

I have no "bone to pick with Caribbean cruises", but I just wonder why someone would fly cross country ( Seattle to FL ) to take a cruise with ports that have little in the way of interesting sights especially when they live in a port city. If a first time cruiser wants to do the Carib, by all means go for it, but be aware of what is involved. The best things to do in most Carib ports are beach and water sports. Bargain shopping is mostly hype. The ship is the destination. With the savings on air the OP could book a longer cruise on the Mexican Riviera ( or Alsaka) , a better ship, upgrade his cabin or all three.

Redmond, Washington
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8. Re: Cruise Newby questions

We've been to most if not all of the ports in a Mex. Riviera cruise, so we are looking for something new. Got a big map of the world in my office, and I get great joy out of putting pins into it ;-)

I will make reservations to come in early and leave late so we can check out Miami, and perhaps jaunt over to Disney World.

Love the ideas about boarding early and the extension cord - just the kind of details a newbie wouldn't know!

Spartanburg, South...
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9. Re: Cruise Newby questions

I agree with booking excusions through ship for first cruise.

Also bring -- nightlight, copy of drivers license and passport, copy of email addresses, if you purchase travel insurance don't forget to bring the entire booklet, telephone calling card for emergencies (your cell phone may not work at most locations), sticky notes to comnmunicate, 1 dollar bills (most other countries expect tips).

Also, when you get on the ship you will be coached about the expected tips for various people --can be $10 -50 each generally plan to drop about 10% additional on tips

Louisiana
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10. Re: Cruise Newby questions

Have a great trip! But I recommend booking your excursions through the cruise line.

Even when renting an automobile through the cruise line, we had difficulty - the car was delivered to us late and you need to remember to return in enough time to turn the car back in and do the paperwork before and after.

Usually the pool and casinos are closed when ships are in port, so if you are not taking an excursion, bring board games to play and books to read if you are not the type to sunbathe all day. Many ships have a lending library, but the selections aren't great. Some ships provide a deck of cards.

Bring a flashlight and batteries. Keep the batteries in the original package until you need them. It may come in handy when you least expect it, such as extra lighting when applying make up.

Bring a camera you can use underwater. Some of the disposable ones work well, but I'm not able to recommend a particular brand.

Bring lots of sunscreen.

If during the cruise excursion booking information meeting they tell you that you can receive a free gift from any particular merchant in a port by showing your cruise identity, don't waste your time going there.

The decks can be slippery if you are wearing smooth sole shoes or sandals. This usually happens with new shoes, so sand them a little before you leave.

Bring a decent size beach type bag. It will come in handy for carrying sunscreen and water on excursions and all the items you buy in port. You may also want to pack a small duffle type bag in case you shop too much and can't fit it all in your luggage to return home.

I always pack tylenol and band aids. You may not be on the ship if and when you need them.

Happy cruising!