Tag Archives: Cruise Critic

Cruising Tips

Tip #1  To learn the nitty gritty about your stateroom and can’t read the deck plans online head to my favorite site Cruise Critic, find your cruise line and post a question “Is 6029″ a good cabin?”  You will surely get comments that will tell you if you have made a good or poor decision.  Some deck plans do help.  For instance in the Celebrity line of Solstice ships, they have two bumps outs on each side.  Some of those are very prized staterooms since they have double or twice as large balconies because of the bump. Many travel agents are not aware of it.  Do your homework.

look closely for the bump on the Solstice class of ships on Celebrity
look closely for the bump on the Solstice class of ships on Celebrity

Tip #2   Conde Nast compiled information for you on a range of cruise subjects  Click here to go to their site.

Tip #3  What helps seasickness?  Fresh ginger but of course if you think you might be prone, see your doctor before your cruise and get the prescription patches to wear behind your ear or get over the counter medications that can help you.  You are less likely to get seasick in the Caribbean than you are in the Atlantic though you can get seasick on any body of water.

Tip #4  Repositioning cruises are generally a great value and you may see some ports that you generally would not see.  The cruise lines in the fall and spring need to move their ships and will offer repositioning cruises at a discount.  Of course that means you fly into one city and out of another but that is no problem – just book an Open Jaw ticket with your airline.  I generally go to Repostioningcruises.com to see what is available and then book with whom I want.

Tip #5 look at the cruises that the airlines are offering.  You can get airline miles by booking through the airlines.  Don’t forget about checking out the cruise prices with Costco as well.

Tip #6 For excursions an option is Shoretrips  Although I have not used them, passengers on my last cruise did and they were very happy.

Tip #7  Insurance – some prefer to “self insure” their own trips (in other words not purchase any insurance) while others wouldn’t leave home without it – it’s a very personal choice.  If you need pre-existing coverage, you have to purchase your insurance with 14 days of booking your trip.  You can purchase it through your travel agent (generally the ship’s insurance) or purchase it on your own.  There are many good sites such as insuremytrip.com where you can compare different policies.  Most of these policies are secondary and will pay after your primary insurer pays.  Some will pay first so determine what you want.

Tip #8  Staying on the insurance topic, some prefer to just have medical evacuation coverage and the one that is recommended the most is MedJetExpress  You need to find out if it meets your needs.

Tip #9 My must haves – I always bring a small alarm clock with me since there aren’t any in the staterooms – I like to know what time it is.  In my luggage I bring a power strip to plug in my alarm clock, curling iron (ships provide hairdryers), plug in my phone, IPad, laptop, etc.  I also bring duck tape to put across closet door/drawers so they don’t open in case of rough  seas.  I pack my toiletries in a small plastic basket from the Dollar Store and then just put the basket on the bathroom vanity – keeps everything together.  My clothes get wrinkled being packed so again I go to the Dollar Store and get a spray bottle and sprtiz my clothes while on hangers and the wrinkles fall out.

Tip #10  Go with a good attitude, don’t sweat the small things, relax and enjoy your vacation.

 

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Booking Your Cruise

You have thought long and hard about what type of vacation you want and have decided to try a cruise.  You have also decided where you want to cruise.  Wondering what to do now?  Generally I look at the itineraries of each ship going to the location that I want to go to and try to ascertain what are the differences.  Do some ships spend more time at port or more sea days?  Do some include more of the places you want to go to?  Narrow your list down to 2 or 3 and then compare prices.

cruising under the Sydney Bridge
cruising under the Sydney Bridge

Once I have decided which cruise I want to go on I need to determine how I want to book this cruise.  If you have cruised before and don’t need any help then you might want to consider getting quotes from online travel agents as well as the brick and mortar travel agents and also through the cruise lines.  When I ask for a quote I also inquire what type of On Board Credit (OBC) they will give me.  OBC is a credit on your shipboard account – anything you buy on the ship goes on your shipboard account.   The other question I ask is if the price goes down, will they adjust it and will that affect my OBC.  I found last year that one travel agency quoted me “book price” but their OBC was huge.  Another one had a discounted cruise but a small OBC.  I basically had to figure out what the bottom line was for each quote. Another question is what is their cancellation fee? Are there any fees for changes (like a stateroom change). All of these factors will help you decide who to book with.

Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece

I generally pick out what cabin I want from previous experience – I like mid – ship and close to  elevators or stairs.  Holland America has three sets of elevator banks so being mid-ship will always put me near an elevator bank.  The other cruise lines, to the best of my knowledge, only have two sets of elevators banks.   Always look at the deck plans that are on the cruise line’s website.  Look at what would be over your room.  You may not want to be under the pool deck or under a cafe as they move the chairs early and late in the day.  Also see what is across from your room.  You may not want to be across from a utility room where your cabin stewart will be in and out all the time or a utility elevator for staff only.

Panama Canal
Panama Canal

You also need to decide what type of cabin you want.  The interiors are less expensive and you have no idea if it is morning or night without a window but they may fit your budget.  Some rooms have port holes, others have windows, some have obstructed views (lifeboat in front of your window), some have balconies, some have larger balconies and some have wrap around balconies (those in aft suites).  I personally like the balconies but have been in all the others except the fancy schmanzy suites.   You, your needs and your budget will dictate what type of stateroom you will have.

Alaska
Alaska

Another option is a guarantee stateroom and those are least expensive in their own category than choosing a particular room in the category of your choosing.   You are guaranteed a room at that category or higher.  I have tried that only once and I was not pleased (had second cabin from the bow and a long walk whenever we wanted to go somewhere or to return to the cabin).  Others have been very pleased with the rooms that were given to them.  You must be willing to accept the worse cabin at your category or higher and some of the higher ones are not that good based on location.  It’s a gamble and you must be prepared to win or lose.

Alaroa, New Zealand
Akaroa, New Zealand

After I book a cruise I want to make sure that I know when and if he price has dropped so I can get an adjustment from my travel agent.  Most travel agents are not pro-active so you have to let them know if there has been a price reduction.  I go to this site and purchase a subscription for $5.  They will send me an email when the price has gone down.

Istanbul
Istanbul

Lastly, one of the best resources I have found is Cruise Critic.   Register, get a screen name and you are good to go.   Find the cruise line you want to cruise on and go to their board.   You might want to start a new thread with your stateroom number and ask if anyone has stayed in this stateroom before and what was their experience.  If you have any questions about anything, you can ask it here.  Like many boards you’ll always find some snarkly posters….just ignore them.  Most people are happy to share their experiences and help those who are new to cruising.  They also have a Roll Call section and here is where you begin to meet people who will be on your cruise.  Fine your cruise line, your ship and your sailing date.  Go on and introduce yourself.  We have met so many great people and have done so many activities with people we have met through the Roll Call.

Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo

I hope you are enjoying this series on cruising.     if so, please consider becoming a follower by signing up to your right.  Please feel free to pass this site on to your friends and family.  if you have any comments or questions, feel free to ask them and I will answer to the best of my ability.

Next up – what to do on shore.