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New to cruising. Please help

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New to cruising. Please help

We are just in the process of booking a cruise for the last week in July 2007. We would want to sail out of a port in Florida. I have looked at all areas of the Caribbean with Cruise.com but I am still not sure of destinations, prices, cruise lines or what to expect. My wife is not sure but I want to make the first one special so that we will want to 'carry on cruising'.

I am doing my homework but any short cuts would be apprecaited

Thankyou

Chatham, Ontario
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1. Re: New to cruising. Please help

Hi, there - have seen your many, many helpful posts on other forums. Welcome to this one. Hope I can be helpful to *you*.

I've never booked a cruise with VacationsToGo.com, but they have an amazing website, and a great search function. One search is by departure port, and one choice is "Florida (any port)"

For the last week in July, the list of available Caribbean cruises departing Florida was surprisingly short:

Jul 21,2007 Fort Lauderdale, FL Carnival / Carnival Liberty 4.5* - built 2005 - 3,700 passengers (pax) - San Juan St Thomas Antigua Tortola Nassau

Jul 21,2007 Miami, FL Royal Caribbean / Liberty of the Seas 5.0* - built 2007 - 3,650 pax - San Juan St Maarten private island

Jul 21,2007 Miami, FL Carnival / Carnival Triumph 4.0* - b uilt 1999 - 3,400 pax - Cozumel Grand Cayman Ocho Rios

Jul 21,2007 Port Canaveral, FL Carnival / Carnival Glory 4.5* - built 2003 - 3,700 pax - Nassau St Thomas St Maarten

Jul 22,2007 Fort Lauderdale, FL Princess / Caribbean Princess 5.0 * - built 2004 - 3,100 pax - private island Ocho Rios Grand Cayman Cozumel

Jul 22,2007 Miami, FL Royal Caribbean / Freedom of the Seas 5.0* - built 2006 - 4,300 pax - private island Ocho Rios Grand Cayman Cozumel

Jul 22,2007 Miami, FL Carnival / Carnival Valor 4.5* - built 2004 - 3,700 pax - Grand Cayman Honduras Belize Costa Maya

Jul 22,2007 Port Canaveral, FL Royal Caribbean / Mariner of the

Seas 5* - built 2003 - 3,800 pax - private island St Thomas St Maarten

Jul 22,2007 Tampa, FL Carnival / Carnival Legend 4.5* - built 2002 - 2650 pax - Grand Cayman Cozumel Belize Costa Maya

For your first cruise, I'd look at the ship as the destination, rather than the itinerary. All these ships are big, so newer is better IMHO.

Carnival offers a perfectly fine cruise experience, but I sense you're looking for something special. Do you want assigned dining? Or do you prefer to eat when you wish each night? In addition to "traditional" dining, Princess also offers "anytime dining". (You must either chose traditional or anytime for the entire cruise, and sometimes one option is waitlisted - check for availability on your sailing.)

If you and your DW are fine with assigned dining, and if your budget will stretch to this, can I suggest a suite on Royal Caribbean? This would mean concierge service, and a concierge lounge.

From the Royal Caribbean website:

What amenities are included in the Concierge Club service?

Diamond-level and above Crown & Anchor Society members and guests reserved in the

**Grand Suites or above** (my italics)

can now take advantage of the Concierge Club. Available on the Enchantment of the Seas® and all Voyager and Radiance-class ships, Concierge Club guests will receive this complimentary service that provides assistance with any special requests they may have while sailing. As a Concierge Club guest, you will be offered amenities and services not available to other guests including:

A dedicated Concierge who is available to assist with anything you require

Twenty-four-hour a day use of the Concierge Club Lounge**

Continental breakfast every morning† and open bar & hors d'oeuvres every evening available in the Concierge Club Lounge

Assistance with reservations for Portofino Italian restaurant & Chops Grille Steakhouse

Assistance with Explorations! Reservations

Assistance reserving appointments for Salon or Spa treatments

Priority tickets for the ice skating show

Assistance with the arrangement of private parties

Personalized Discover Shopping advice

DVDs and CDs available to borrow during the Concierge’s hours

Pre-ordering of your dinner wine

Business services (faxing, copying, etc.)

Warning - Once spoiled with a suite and a concierge, you'll find it hard to go back!

I guess if I was picking, I'd opt for the brand new Liberty, which is 5* rated.

San Diego
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2. Re: New to cruising. Please help

Just one little "fly in the ointment" Remember that July is right in the middle of hurricane season in the Carribean. Either be very adventurous or perhaps make sure you ahve trip cancellation insurance and be flexible in you rmind about the whole thing!!

Chatham, Ontario
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3. Re: New to cruising. Please help

RiffsMom is absolutely right that weather could affect your cruise. But, it isn't true (and I'm sure she didn't mean to imply!) that your ship would ever sail into harm's way. The captain would avoid any port likely to be hit with extreme weather. Another port - or even a whole itinerary - could be substituted, but your cruise wouldn't be cancelled. As others have commented, "Ship happens." Often (small) on board credits are awarded, and port fees refunded, when a port is missed.

Phoenix, Arizona
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4. Re: New to cruising. Please help

Vegasdebut007 - I've taken a lot of cruises in the Caribbean and Mexico. IMO, the homework you have to do is to know which ports/cities you think you would like to see and work it that way. July can be a very hot and humid month to travel to that location. Also - do you want a port every day? Several days at sea? These are only questions you can answer. Are you looking for as cheap as you can go, or do you want a more upscale experience? What age group are you looking for?

I've been on Carnival, NCL, Celebrity and just Sep 06/Oct 06 (Istanbul to Venice) Oceania. I highly recommend you look at www.cruisecritic.com for some reviews and forums regarding people's opinion on various cruises.

For my DH and I, we loved Oceania the best so far. Smaller ship 600 versus 2000 and people were friendly, well traveled without being snobs. They have a Caribbean route in March or April (much nicer time to go) that we are looking at - ship is Regatta.

Sorry - but unlike the other person who replied - I'm not a big fan of the itnernet agents such as vacations to go. The advantage to having a reputable travel agent is not just that they will go to bat for you if something comes up, are experienced, but that they will also even give you some perks for booking with them such as shipboard credits, or paying your tips for you.

Also be aware that if you are a military verteran, you can qualify for a discount too on some cruise lines.

Hope some of this info helps.

Chatham, Ontario
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5. Re: New to cruising. Please help

I agree with Cheesi - I use a bricks and mortar TA. I just research on line

San Diego
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6. Re: New to cruising. Please help

fannish,you were correct that I did NOT mean they would be in harms way BUT a hurricane can dis -arrange things I know it messed up a lot of plans in Riviera Maya and oth er places so I thought the folks should just be aware. I think you should "nose around" on the Carribean forums here in trip adviser and see which islands pique you r interest. I love the fact that there are so many different cultures to pick from.

I have enjoyed port visits to Martinique,Jamaica,St Thomas,Cayman Islands,andCozumel. I did not enjoy Aruba.

Chatham, Ontario
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7. Re: New to cruising. Please help

I agree riffsmom - never get sick of cruising the Carribean, and always love your helpful posts (didn't want vegasdebut to think there was any chance of the cruise itself being cancelled for weather)

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8. Re: New to cruising. Please help

Thank you all so much - you are very helpful.

I really would like to sail out of Tampa for a week cruise before we start our vacation in St Pete. That would mean west Caribbean. However I love the look of those out of San Juan going South.

Thanks for the wisdom and experience you have given. It is a bit of a minefield for the first timer. I have been told to go inside berth for a week at the most as a taster. The trouble is that I think I would prefer a balcony.

So do I go for the South or stick to Cozumel etc

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9. Re: New to cruising. Please help

I think you should do the one that is the easiest for you logistically and dhen go back another time fo rother destinations.BUT I think getting an inside cabin is a mistake. I LOVE my balcony. Especially for the frist time ,so noon efeels claustroophobic and then the balcony is just sooo romantic for lots of reasons!!

Chatham, Ontario
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10. Re: New to cruising. Please help

If it was me, lookling at the last week of July, I'd pick RCI Adventure of the Seas out of San Juan to Aruba (sorry, RiifsMom!) Curacao, St Thomas and St Maarten.

Copy and paste this address to see details of the itinerary:

vacationstogo.com/fastdeal.cfm?deal=24113

Here's a tiny URL to preview Revelex booking program/specific cabin availability:

http://tinyurl.com/yc5pmn

Lots of on line sites offer live Revelex cabin availability/booking. Once again - I don't advocate booking through any of the on line sites - just like using them for research.

The price is still high for this cruise. I know you're doing your research, but in a nutshell, here's the price dilemma....up until 70 days before the cruise, prices will be stable. At 70 days out (final payment date for those who've pre-booked) one of 2 things will happen - price will go up (cruise is almost fully booked) or price will go down (still quite a few cabins available) for NEW BOOKINGS ONLY. However, by final booking date, the "best" cabins in each category will be booked, and it's only if there's a cancellation you'll get one of the great cabins insiders clamor for (larger balconies for the price, best locations).

I did my first cruise in a suite on a very small ship, my second through 5th in inside cabins, the next half dozen (in no particular order) in outsides, balconies, and suites. For me, it's now "suites only" - I'd rather cruise less often, and pay more to be pampered. But, I can make an argument for each and every category being "best".