From: Stu on
On Fri, 04 Jun 2010 23:57:24 -0400, Tom K <tkanitra(a)>

>On 6/4/10 4:41 PM, Ohioguy wrote:
>> It looks like my wife and I will be going on a cruise in early
>> October. It just works out that several relatives can come by and watch
>> our kids (all are 7 or under). I think this will be the first time my
>> wife and I have had a week to ourselves since our first child was born
>> over 7 years ago.
>> My preference for a vacation is actually hiking in the wilderness for a
>> week or so, but my wife wasn't interested in that. I find that when I'm
>> around crowds of people, it typically makes me feel worn out. I tend to
>> recharge when I have time to reflect in nature, in my garden, or similar
>> activities. Probably has something to do with growing up in the country,
>> out on a farm.
>> Anyway, details: we can take a 7 day cruise, with up to a day allowed
>> for travel on both ends. In other words, we can be gone a grand total of
>> about 9 days, and wouldn't want to push it past that. Due to a "Disney
>> on Ice" show that various folks in the family want to see, we can leave
>> either October 1, 2, 3 or 4. Sort of wish there was a website that could
>> also lump in airfare - I'm trying to do it separately. (from Dayton,
>> Ohio) I think we will focus on the Caribbean 7 day trips.
>I would also suggest staying away from Carnival.
>In addition... regarding your question about travel agents. Cruise
>lines include commission in the quoted fares. If you book through a TA,
>the TA gets the commission. If you book directly with the cruise line,
>the cruise line keeps the commission. But that's never a good idea.
>First off, you want an ally in case something goes wrong (airline
>delays, etc.). Second, if there are potential upgrades to better cabins
>to be had, or if there is a price drop, a TA can help get those, but if
>you book directly with the cruise line... little chance of that
>happening. And you want a TA with major cruise experience like many of
>the TA's who post here, like Susette and George.
>Let me offer some "trade offs"... or other things to think about.
>Some cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have the BEST ships. Period.
>Ice shows, rock walls, surfing pool, mini golf. But food isn't their forte.
>On the other hand, lines like Celebrity and Princess do better with food
>and pampering, but the ships aren't like the Royal Caribbean ships with
>a zillion things to do. They're more into elegance, rather than non
>stop action and activities.
>You mention that you do have a day on each end to travel.
>Given that... would you consider something in Europe? You might find
>something more active, with things to see and do, than the Caribbean.
>Maybe something in the Mediterranean. I believe there are a number of 7
>day Med sailings. You could visit places like Monte Carlo, Nice, Rome,
>the Greek Isles.
>Or maybe a northern Europe sailing around the British Isles (England,
>Ireland, Scotland).
>Or, how about Alaska? Hiking glaciers. Going on a sled dog excursion?
> Whale watching? It's a little late for the Alaska season, so prices
>might be very inexpensive in early October.
>If you had a little longer, you could even look at something like the
>Norwegian Fjords, where you could hike along 10,000 foot cliffs, get wet
>from waterfalls
>I guess I'm saying, don't just think Carnival in the Caribbean.
>In fact... if my only option was Carnival... I wouldn't go. I did one
>Carnival sailing out of 40+ cruises. It was my first and last Carnival.
> To me... the other options (Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean) are
>just much better cruise experiences.
>And while I do love the Caribbean (snorkeling with Stingrays in Grand
>Cayman is wonderful), there's a whole world out there besides the Caribbean.
>But if you decide Caribbean... at least expand your horizons past
>Carnival. Look at Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess.

Hey Tom, how long ago was your carnival cruise?
From: Becca on
On 6/4/2010 3:41 PM, Ohioguy wrote:
> I've used a website,, to come up with some
> possibilities. They are all Carnival ships - Legend, Victory &
> Liberty. Oct. 3 7 night Western Caribbean from Tampa shows $569 for
> balcony, so that is one possibility.

Since you have young children, I will assume you and your wife are also
fairly young. Royal Caribbean and Carnival would be good choices for a
first cruise. I have cruised on the Legend and the Victory and I
enjoyed both of those ships. The food was wonderful, so was the
entertainment. If you like comedy, I think Carnival has the best
late-night stand up comedians. They also have jugglers, magic shows,
etc. The Legend is a Spirit Class ship and, IMO, they are the best
ships Carnival has built.

If traditional dining is not for you, you can choose Your Choice dining
on Carnival, so you can eat whenever you feel like it. The buffet is
another option, they are open during dining hours. The Deli is open
from 11:00am-11:00pm and the pizzeria is open 24 hours a day. Room
service is free, but you should offer a tip.

Since you are a first time cruiser, you will have a lot of questions and
this is a great place to find answers.

A bunch of us "cruise addicts" are going to a picnic in Ohio, there were
about 50 people there last year. It is on a farm in a wooded area, with
horses. You are welcome to join us.

From: Stu on
On Sat, 05 Jun 2010 10:16:13 -0400, gmbeasley(a) wrote:

>On Fri, 04 Jun 2010 16:41:17 -0400, Ohioguy <none(a)> wrote:
>> I'm most interested in buffets, magic shows, and perhaps
>>40's/50's/60's type nostalgia music shows, or just some variety shows.
>All the ships will have buffets and some kind of variety show.
>>I'm not very interested in formal dining, because by the time you've
>>waited to be seated, waited to order, waited to get your food, and
>>waited for the bill - I find myself thinking, "gee, I could have fixed
>>something like that in half the time". I am looking forward to having
>>time to relax and read as well, rather than change diapers, get kids
>>ready for school, etc.
>The formal dining does not take any more time than any other kind of
>dining on a ship. You either have an assigned table which you go
>directly to at the assigned time, or you go to the dining room and are
>seated - wait time depending on when you go. We usually go early and
>are seated right away but going late is the same. You only have to
>wait if you go between 6 and 7 which is when most other people go.
>There's no waiting for the bill as others have mentioned.
>> I've used a website,, to come up with some
>>possibilities. They are all Carnival ships - Legend, Victory & Liberty.
>> Oct. 3 7 night Western Caribbean from Tampa shows $569 for balcony, so
>>that is one possibility.
>Once you decide on your trip, buy it from a travel agent that knows
>about cruises. Can be on-line but use an individual person and not a
>mass marketing agency. The travel agent's fee is paid by the cruise
>line and they do NOT give you a lower price because you don't use and
>Also I would caution about using cruise line air. I talked to a
>couple from Toronto on our last cruise who had done that, and they had
>three flights to connect on, starting at 5 am and getting to the ship
>just before it sailed. It was January and they were worried about the
>weather disrupting one of the connections which were pretty tight.

Yes don't, you'll regret it.
From: Kurt Ullman on
In article <56ok06ldk6s1r5perolungnhb62c27jsgr(a)>,
Stu <info(a)> wrote:

> What 2700 cruisers and 1100 staff isn't so bad , look at the new Royal
> Caribbean Ship .. Oasis of the Seas 5,400 passengers and 2,165 crew
> members, way too many people for my liking.
> Then a 29,000 sq. ft kids area, not a ship I'd like to be on for a
> relaxing time.

I view the Oasis much the same as NYC. Not necessarily a place I would
like to live, but absolutely a place I have to visit once to have
experienced it.

I want to find a voracious, small-minded predator
and name it after the IRS.
Robert Bakker, paleontologist
From: D Ball on
Hi, Ohioguy, welcome to RTC.

I'll add my two cents to the many good ideas and tips you've received.
If you want to skip the blah blah blah, at the end, I recommend you
consider Celebrity Solstice in addition to Norwegian Epic and Carnival
(many ships).

First, some general stuff and narrowing down the field. Hats off for
trying to do something that might be a compromise for you but pleases
your wife. You sound like a flexible guy who will go with the flow and
have a great time no matter what. It is wonderful you two can get away
for a "second honeymoon." Raising three adorable kids under 7 means
you two have had your hands full and deserve a break! My distillation
of your comments, right or wrong, and related opinions are: It doesn't
sound to me like small specialty lines doing unique destinations are
what you really want this time--the mass market cruise lines offer the
greatest variety of dining, activities and entertainment, all on one
ship, and they are much less expensive--it sounds like you're hoping
to get the biggest bang for your buck. You're a young couple--I would
think twice about fall foliage cruises, which will largely attract an
older audience. That's not a bad thing per se, but part of the fun of
cruising can be socializing with other passengers, and naturally,
you'll have more in common with folks if the demographics are broader.
Also, I think a tropical cruise feels more like a vacation vs. going
on what we call a destination cruise, where sightseeing is the greater
focus. Europe sounds good, but is too much IMO for the time allotted.
Hawaii is too expensive. The Mexican Riviera is a good option, but I'm
thinking air to catch a Caribbean cruise will be more favorable, and
for a first cruise, I like the Caribbean best because there are so
many ships, you have lots of choices, not to mention max price
competition = better value. As was noted, it will still be hurricane
season, so just don't get emotionally wed to any port and be sure to
make no shore excursion reservations that are non-refundable (if you
book excursions through the cruise line, no problem; if you book on
your own, check vendor's cancellation policy or buy your own travel
insurance--not the cruise line policy). Note, during hurricane season,
it's far better to cruise than take a resort vacation because if the
hurricane comes to the resort, you are stuck; on a ship, the captain
gets advance warning and moves out of harm's way. vote is Caribbean. And in October, it will be warm, but I
don't think you'll feel too hot too much of the time!

Second, on searching for cruises, air and booking, I think the big
online travel agencies have great search engines. Take Orbitz, for
example. Considering your specs, input Caribbean-All, 6-8 nights, Oct.
2 or 3 and select 3 days before/after from the drop down menu to cover
your target dates (note, most cruises leave Sat/Sun), allow all of the
rest of the options to default to All Cruise Lines, etc. Now, you have
a list of all mass market cruises (14) that fit your specs! If you
choose any one cruise, you can start filling in data including your
air information to get a quote that includes both the cruise fare and
the air. The cruise fare covers room, food and entertainment. Extras
you will need to budget for include gratuities (most lines are at
$10-11 per day per guest for all dining and housekeeping services, so
for you two, figure $150, it may sound high, but I think you will see
those folks earn every penny), alcohol (cost is about the same as in a
nice bar or restaurant back home, some lines offer drink packages, all
alcohol purchases will include a 15% bartender tip), shore excursions
(ave. $75 pp), photos ($20+ you'll want at least one!), casino, spa
treatments, specialty dining (almost every ship has one or more
specialty restaurants, you pay $20-30 per person for the experience,
this is totally optional, but lovely/high quality), souvenirs.

I like using these search engines to narrow down my choices, then
turning it over to a travel agent who specializes in cruises. As
indicated, you will not pay more to use one, and you'll get more good
service and helpful information if you do.

On air, the cruise lines will offer an air package. Compare it to what
you can find on your own. In my experience, it's almost always less
costly to book myself, plus I get to select preferred airline and

If possible, fly into the port city the day/evening before your
cruise. We all know too many horror stories of folks missing their
cruise because they tried to fly in the day of and were delayed. If
you are content with a simple, clean lodging, you can get a good
Priceline deal.

If losing the investment you've made in the cruise fare and airfare
would hurt, I'd check into trip insurance. Unless you pay a higher
premium, it doesn't generally cover cancelling due to work or changing
your mind. But it covers for you/wife illness and, what I'm really
thinking about is, any last-minute illness or accident involving your
non-traveling family members. With three little kids, there's always a
risk! Also, if one babysitter became ill, would there be others who
could cover? Anyway, if you buy through the cruise line, it will
protect your cruise fare but not any air, hotel, shore excursion, etc.
bought independently. You can check or for other policies that will cover all non-refundable
trip expenses (on air, that's usually only the $150 or similar change
fee per ticket, on hotel it would only be a Priceline or other prepaid
hotel or hotel that charges if you cancel within a certain time
period, etc.). If you, wife or any non-traveler has a pre-existing
condition that reasonably could be the cause for a last-minute
cancellation, then cruise line coverage generally does NOT cover pre-
ex, when you buy third-party coverage, you have to purchase within
7-14 days of trip deposit to secure coverage of prex-ex conditions.

Re: passport, see

Third, finally, considering the 14 choices I saw doing the above-
described Orbitz search (I'd compare to results from other search
engines to be sure it didn't miss anything), I think your idea of
Norwegian Epic is a good one. I also recomend you consider Celebrity

Norwegian Epic - More casual, formal nights are optional, no assigned
seating, brand new, lots of innovative entertainment (including Blue
Man Group) -
Be sure to note the number of restaurants that are for an added fee.
My gripe with Norwegian's Freestyle concept was that free dining was a
hassle--hard to make a reservation, always a wait when you showed up
without one. That was one ship (Star) many years ago. So things may be
different on the new Epic. Which raises a good point: when you read
reviews, just remember, we all filter experiences through different
lenses, so until you see a solid trend over a number of reviews, don't
take any rave or complaint as gospel.

The Epic features a fun and easy itinerary. Costa Maya - very laid
back, you can have a fun beach day without paying for an excursion,
optional jungle ruins excursion. Roatan - my all-time favorite place
to snorkel in the Caribbean because it is very calm and easy for
beginners and there's a lot of pretty undersea life. Cozumel - a
favorite port for good mix of beach and touristy shopping, plus all
the water sports, crazy mini golf, you name can do this one
without a paid excursion, recommend a beach club with nominal fee, we
like Paradise, or the national
Chankanaab park with excellent snorkeling, or renting a car and going
to the deserted other side of the island.

Celebrity Solstice - Less casual than Norwegian--you'd need to wear
slacks to dine in any dining room, but you can always dine in a casual
venue, including on formal nights (if your wife has her heart set on
getting dressed up one night, you can wear a dark suit and skip the
tux), assigned seating offered or you can reserve with Select anytime/
unassigned dining. We just cruised the Solstice in March and really
loved it. It will have a more upscale look and feel than the Epic, but
not stuffy--I think the food and service are better than on Norwegian,
but I don't think the entertainment (including its own Cirque-like
show) will compare to the choices on Epic. The hot glass show (sounds
crazy) was really neat. There are very cool seating areas all around
the main pool and the adults only pool. See Cruising
out of Ft. Lauderdale is a bit easier than Miami in terms of
logistics, but note when pricing flights, you should check both, as
the two airports/ports are close enough that if you get a great air
deal into Ft. Lauderdale for a Miami cruise or vice versa, you should
go for it.

The ports are classic for an E. Carib. cruise. San Juan - The 2-10
port time means there should be a quick excursion to El Yunque rain
forest as soon as you dock, that's a great experience for a nature
lover. After (and if no trip to rain forest), you can simply enjoy Old
San Juan on foot, definitely walk out to El Morro-gorgeous grounds.
St. Thomas - This is a beloved port, everyone has their own favorite
here, lots of shopping and world-famous beaches, I like getting on the
public ferry and going to St. John to snorkel, it is amazing, you can
do this via cruise excursion or on your own--lots of detailed
instructions on the 'net. St. Maarten - Another place with lots to do,
can just shop and beach, two things we've done that I highly recommend
are Golden Eagle catamaran "booze cruise" to an island where you can
snorkel, beach and do mud baths (!), see,
usually offered by the cruise line as one of their excursions, and the
America's Cup sailing race, another thing usually offered through the
cruise line, see it is a blast.

Carnival - There are a number of Carnival choices, but I haven't been
on any of those particular Carnival ships, so can't offer personal
experience. Overall, in my opinion, of course, I think Carnival has
terrific food, and compared to the Epic and Solstice, it's better than
Norwegian and lots more variety than Celebrity. I felt the crowds more
on Carnival than on other ships, but that could've been a product of
the layout of the particular Carnival ships we sailed. Carnival is
more casual like Norwegian, but does offer formal nights. It offers
lots of entertainment options. There will be more kids. The decor is
always much-discussed as being creative to crass. It's not boring,
that's for sure! Looking at the sailings on your dates, I'm thinking
the Valor looks like primo bang for the buck. And the port line-up is
fabulous, with Roatan and Cozumel, plus Belize and Grand Cayman (many
would say #1 excursion in the Caribbean = the trip out to stingray
city, amazing!).


Wow! I can't believe I wrote all of that, LOL. That's what 2 cups of
coffee will do!

The last thing I'd say is, it might seem overwhelming right now, but
once you choose, don't look back! We've had great experiences on all
lines (22 cruises so far!), and with your upbeat attitude, I think you
will enjoy this experience no matter what you end up selecting. I
didn't discuss Princess here because it's not coming up on this Carib
search, there are Holland America and Royal Caribbean options, but I
don't think they're the best fit for this cruise...HAL for many
reasons, Royal Carib we love but so pricey=overkill for first time.

I always say your first cruise is like your first car or kiss--pretty
wonderful because you have no basis for comparison!

Have fun researching,

Diana Ball
Austin, TX