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About this blog

Covering the pre-planning phase, booking phase, and when it's time to cruise - Daily updates from the ship

Entries in this blog

Sarge6870
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Welcome back!! First off, allow me to extend my sympathies to the passengers of the failed Carnival Triumph cruise. I sincerely hope that with time, you will take advantage of the discount you have received from Carnival and venture to the open seas once again. There has been enough coverage from the media and aboard the Cruisecrazies site so that's all I'm going to mention about the Triumph incident.

Now that we have covered the most important aspect of your cruise planning, Finances, let’s discuss the variations in the different vessels and some of the most popular cruise destinations you may choose from.

When choosing a cruise ship for your vacation, there are many variables that come into play including, YES, finances again. It seems that in most cases, the smaller vessels operated by lines such as Silversea, Seabourn and Costa just to name a few, seems to be a bit more expensive yet provide a quieter atmosphere and more of a personalized touch. The larger vessels, also known as “Mega-Liners” operated by lines such as Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean are more family friendly priced and offer more of a family type atmosphere where there is something for just about every age group. If you’re a couple planning an intimate and relaxed type atmosphere with very little hustle and bustle, a smaller vessel may be to your liking. Vessels that host in the range of 2000 passengers would most likely fit your needs. If you’re a couple or family that enjoys the party type atmosphere with activities around every corner then a cruise aboard a vessel in the 4000 to 6000 passenger range will keep you very busy. Just keep in mind that the larger vessels have much to offer. If you are planning a cruise on, let’s say, the Oasis of the Seas for 7 days of bliss, you may find that there is just not enough time within one week to discover all the ships amenities have to offer.

Where to go! Hmm, this is more personal preference than anything. If you prefer the warmer climate type destinations, then cruising the Eastern (St. Marteen, St. Thomas, Nassau and Freeport), Western (Cozumel, Roatan and the Caymen Islands) or Southern Caribbean (Aruba, Curacao, and Granada) may be a direction to go. If you’re more interested in a colder climate, then an Alaska cruise may be in your future. All destinations offer their own enticing amenities such as snorkeling and scuba diving in the warmer climates in the Caribbean sailings and visits to small Alaskan towns and Glacier views in the colder regions. Your cruise agent can provide more insight on the regions you will be visiting on your cruise vacation.

Here’s a commonly asked question, “Do I need a passport to go on a cruise”? The answer, Yes and No! The U.S. Department of Homeland Security states that if you are on a “Closed-Loop” cruise (a cruise that originates and returns to the same U.S. port) and are visiting what are considered U.S. possessions such as Puerto Rico, you do NOT need a passport. A certified (not a copy) of a U.S. State issued Certificate of Birth and a State issued type of photo I.D. is fine. The only catch here is even if you are cruising from and returning to the same port in the U.S. yet are visiting a foreign country such as Mexico or Bermuda, those countries DO require you have a Passport. My personal advice, GET A PASSPORT!! They are good for 10 years. Just be aware that it can take a couple to a few months to receive your Passport if it is your first time applying for one so plan well in advance of your cruise. Now, until my next BLOG entry, you may wish to go back and review my previous cruise planning steps easily just by clicking here... http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/blog/17-brilliance-of-the-seas-2013-uncut/. Till next time, may you have calm seas and beautiful sunsets.

Sarge6870
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As you can begin to see, the puzzle pieces into the initial planning of your cruise vacation are coming together. And, at this point, we have not even spoken to a cruise agent. The reason for this is that I have found if you jump right in and call a cruise agent without any preparation, you will be faced with an abundance of cruise options that may confuse you. In many cases this approach can lead to “Impulse Buying” and very well put you into a cruise that is beyond your vacation means. By the time we get to the point of calling an agent, you will know how much you can spend, what you may like your itinerary to be and our next two steps, your accommodations and your departure port. It may seem that my approach to planning your cruise vacation as very involved. I do this so the next time you plan to cruise, you will have these steps stored in your memory and planning will be easier. Remember, the best cruise comes from the best planning!

Your choice of accommodations will also factor into your financial planning. When you see advertisements such as “Cruise 7 days to the Caribbean beginning at $479”, the small print in the ad is the word “Beginning”!! What the advertisement is not spelling out, unless specifically indicated is that the price is for an inside cabin. Unless you are comfortable in an inside cabin, you may want to add approximately another $200 per person to that price for an Oceanview or Balcony cabin. Square footage in cabins varies largely between inside and larger accommodations. The prices for larger accommodations such as mini/junior suites up to such cabins as Owners suites go up. An inside cabin is fine for a couple sailing together but if you are a family, things in an inside cabin can and will get a bit tight. On some vessels, more than 2 passengers in an inside cabin are impossible and you would have no choice but to upgrade to a larger cabin. Keep in mind, there are personal benefits to a larger cabin but most cruise veterans will tell you that the only real times you are in the cabin are to sleep and for other personal reasons. The majority of your time on a cruise is spent up on deck or in your ports-of-call. I have sailed in Inside, Oceanview and Balcony cabins and prefer Balcony cabins because it allows me to see what the weather is when I wake in the morning and also allow us to order scheduled room service delivery in the mornings for our coffee and Danish’s. We also enjoy being able to sit on our balcony when entering and leaving ports. The choice of your cabin should be researched prior to booking your cruise. Cruise lines post the various cabins on their vessels and have specifications of their cabins. Keep in mind, when researching your cabin type, if you feel you may be prone to sea discomfort, look for a cabin that is mid-ship in every aspect (front to back and top to bottom). Although today’s modern cruise ships have equipment to minimize movement when at sea as well as medical assistance to ward off sea sickness, planning your cabin location is the best approach in avoiding any discomfort.

When choosing a departure port, you may be lucky enough to be within driving distance of a nearby cruise port. If so, you can drive there and park your vehicle for a fee for the duration of your cruise. You may also have shuttles in your area you can arrange to take you and return you from the port. Plan on between $5 and $9 per day if you plan to drive and park your vehicle to the port. In some cases, you may have no choice but to fly to your embarkation port. This could be because you do not live near a cruise port or if your planned itinerary leaves from a port that does not access your planned cruise. For example, cruises leaving from the Tampa Florida area mostly cruise to the Western and Southern Caribbean and the majority of cruises leaving from the East coast of Florida cruise to the Eastern Caribbean with some that go to the Western and Southern Caribbean. You will see the variations as you research your cruise.

In my upcoming BLOGS, I will discuss documentation needed for your cruise and some variations in cruise line amenities. Please continue to enjoy your extended stay on “Planning Island”.

Sarge6870
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I truly hope you are having a calm, relaxing stay at Planning Island. Now that you have had some time to consider your finances for your cruise vacation, we can venture to our excursion of “Tour of Days”!

If this is your first cruise, and just want to investigate what a cruise is all about, a three to five day cruise may be a good start for you. I personally feel anything less than 7 days is a waste of precious vacation time but YOUR cruise is just that, YOUR cruise!! You MUST understand that what you have decided to be your maximum financial expenses for your cruise vacation, should dictate the length of your cruise. As explained in our previous post, most of your amenities are covered by the fare you pay for your cruise. BUT, there are many opportunities to spend, spend, spend!!! Although your 15 or so meals daily are covered, there are specialty restaurants on most ships that are an added expense to indulge in. Then there are also the shops onboard, the shops at your ports of call, the casino, alcoholic beverages and shore excursions just to name a few, at your ports of call that are NOT covered by your cruise fare. There is nothing worse than not being able to indulge in fun on your vacation because finances won’t allow it. This would be a good time to navigate to the “Shore Excursions” tab under the “Save Money” tab on the Cruisecrazies homepage to get an idea of what shore excursions are available at different ports of call you may be interested in visiting on your cruise. There, you can see what excursions may interest you and you can factor those costs into your cruise finances. Again, this will help you in deciding how many days may be right for your cruise. Now keep in mind, you do not have to do ANY shore excursions on your cruise. There may also be some listed on the homepage of the cruise line you choose to sail with which we will discuss in later BLOG.

Remember, anytime you have questions regarding shore excursions, your fellow passengers on the M/S Cruisecrazies are always willing to help!! All you have to do is ask. So now you have reviewed what your finances are and can include, if you wish, shore excursions as part of that decision to see how long your cruise can be. In my next BLOG, we will talk about choosing an itinerary that interests you.

I hope your “Tour of Days” excursion on Planning Island is sedate and calculated.

Sarge6870
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Allow me to take this opportunity to welcome you to our first port of call, “Planning Island”, located in the remote area of “Land of the Lost”. It may seem funny, but yet for many, so true. It’s the feeling many get when planning their first cruise or even their next cruise. Even for veteran cruisers, it seems that the water changes with every cruise booking. I will approach this first port as though you have never been to this island before. This will allow new passengers to experience the sometimes confusing steps of planning your cruise vacation. Of course, these shore excursions are personal experiences encountered from my past eight cruises to this hemisphere. Remember as we continue, all experiences vary by passenger yet the final outcome will be the same.

Just to give you some background on myself, Captain Tim, I have been fortunate to sail to many ports of call over the years aboard many wonderful ships. My past cruise ships include:

*Carnival Celebration

*Celebrity Meridian (Celebrity Cruise Lines Flagship)

*Norwegian Cruise Lines Dreamward (Now called the Norwegian Dream)

*Carnival Ecstasy

*Carnival Pride

*Carnival Triumph

*Grand Princess

*Carnival Dream

My ports of call over the year have been Key West, the Eastern & Western Caribbean as well as Bermuda. The planning of our next cruise on November 16, 2013 began after three years of no vacation.

So let’s begin with what I consider to be Step one in the planning stage, Finances. For us, this is the crucial step in a successful cruise vacation. Even before you plan the time-frame, itinerary, cruise line and ship, you want to make sure it is within your means. Ask yourself, “What can we afford”. You can book cruises for as little as one day, usually called a “Cruise to Nowhere”, cruises that are called “Back to Back” ,a cruise right after a cruise and cruises that can last weeks to months. So, now you see why finances are the most important step. Although most of the amenities on-board are included in your cruise fare, there are some extras that you may need to consider. The amenities vary from cruise line to cruise line but these are the generals that are included:

*Your Cabin

*Food (Including 24 hour room service)

*Entertainment

*Some Non-Alcoholic Beverages

There are some additional charges you may need to consider such as Specialty Restaurants, Alcoholic Beverages, Shopping, tipping and Shore Excursions. Some of these items may be included in your cruise fare dependent on the cruise line you choose. In the upcoming “Tim’s Times” planning guides that you will find in your cabin next to your towel animal, we will discuss these varied amenities. So until next time, sit down and consider what your cruise vacation budget is.

Again, Welcome aboard and I wish you a wonderful day on “Planning Island”.

Sarge6870
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For many of us, so called, "VETERAN" cruisers, booking another cruise is similar to a conveyor belt. Let me explain. You have the "been there, done that" mentality and just plan everything accordingly as you have done in the past. Then again, some of us "Veterans" still go into booking a cruise blindfolded. We start with, "Hey, Let's go on a cruise"!! Then comes the when, where & which questions. And of course the money issue. So when my wife approached me (as she always does when she wants to cruise) and said, "Look into it", I felt the feeling again! The "CRUISE feeling. That's all she said!! No when, where or which. Well, look at the picture that accompanies this post and you'll see where MY mindset was when she volunteered me for this task !!

So it begins! After interrogating her for some input (goodness knows I do NOT want to mess up the plans), a decision was made...."End of the year". Ummm, HUH? That's right, she wanted to go the end of the year and the rest was on me! Seeing as to how she had put her trust in me for the last eight cruises, that gave me a little bit of confidence. A VERY little bit!! But, on goes the Cruise planning conveyor belt (now known to me as the CPCB). I took many factors into consideration in planning the preliminary steps. "Let's see, been on Carnival five times, on Celebrity once, Princess once and Norwegian once". I then realized one of the only lines we haven't been on yet was Royal Caribbean. THAT'S IT!!!! We'll do RCCL!!! PHEW! Since we recently moved to Tampa, Florida, pickings were slim. When we lived on the East coast of Florida, we had Jacksonville, Port Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale to choose from. All within decent driving distance. But, after some research, I found the Brilliance of the Seas sailing for 7 days from Tampa on November 16, 2013!! WHOO-HOO, the biggest job is done!! And the itinerary was awesome. I venture in to planning this cruise as though I am new to cruising. Because, in fact, since I have never sailed on RCCL before, I feel as though this IS my first cruise.

My BLOG will cover the initial planning phase right through disembarkation to include updates from the ship during the cruise and a review at the end. This will help not only those passengers aboard the M/S Cruisecrazies that are new to cruising, but will also help veteran cruisers that have never sailed on RCCL before. It will also be a bunch of laughs along the way. So I guess we go into this on foggy seas!!

Join me over the next 11 months for a FULL cruise from the planning phase to disembarkation. I look forward to seeing you deckside!!!

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