Thinking about a cruise... your opinions/experiences?

Mr Johnson and I have been thinking about taking a vacation later on this year (September-ish). We’re considering a cruise, but neither of us have been before.

We’re not really into the night-life scene: don’t drink, party, etc. From what I’ve heard, it seems like partying is the thing to do on a cruise. Will we be bored?

Also, your experiences? Best places to visit? Best/worst cruise ships? Opinions on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, any others? Those are the only 2 I’ve heard of. And of course, any other comments and stories are welcome.
Or if cruises totally suck for whatever reason, any other recommended vacation spots?

I’ve been on the Disney cruise, and the Royal Caribbean. The Disney cruise would suck if you have no kids. The RC cruise I went on was mostly booze fueled. I heard from fellow cruisers that the Carnival cruise had better food, but I had no complaints about the food. A strip steak was always an option on our cruise, hell, you could have three if you wanted, every night.

Your experience will be based more on ports of call, on-shore excursions, the boat itself and various amenities. What are you looking for?

I’ve only been on one cruise and was quite happy with it. Sailed on Carnival out of Miami. Went to Grand Cayman Islands and Cozimo. Carnival is more for youngish people and people with kids.

When it comes to cruises overal plan on gaining weight. They all feed you tons like everywhere you look they have more food for you.

While the boat is crusing they had alot of little activities you could take part in. Scavenger hunts and such. Me and my bf spent alot of time at kareokee. He is a very talented singer and became minor celeberty on the cruise, because of this we met a handfull of people to play board games and such with. I spent alot of time in the casino. I was one of the few exprianced craps plays so I had a few people following my lead. Fortunatly I was winning.

The ports of call were fun. Grand caymen we went snorkling. Cozamo we went horseback riding.

If you want warm weather and calm seas, do not sail north from Southern California. Even in May. We went from L.A. to Vancouver, BC and it was rough, cold voyage. Still, the ship was fun and the food was good. This was with Holland America, and what they call a “repositioning” cruise, with the ship being transferred from the Carribean to the Pacific Northwest for the summer season.

If you are sensitive to tobacco smoke and residue, don’t go. Or at least stay well clear of the bars and the casino.

If you are susceptible to motion sickness, you probably shouldn’t go. As big as these ships are, you will feel the motion and it will affect your appetite.

Just my personal opinion, but I went on one cruise, and doubt I will go on another for some time.
The ship and service were all fine - just not my preference.
For one thing, you are essentially “captive” on the boat for large portions of the time - sailing from port to the first port of call, and between subsquent ports.
When you get to ports, you are subject to the ship’s schedule. Many ports have complete economies aimed at cruisers. Vendors, tours, restaurants, etc. You will have limited opportunity to go beyond what is conveniently offered - and no flexibility in your schedule.

Ships provide various amusements on board, but many if not most are somewhat weak imitations of what you could find on land. Most have a small casino, a variety of stage shows, and regular movie showings. There are activities such as Bingo and other games. But if you are like me, a time will come that you are sitting at a show and realize if you weren’t on this boat there isn’t a chance in hell you would spend your time and $ on such entertainment.

The main activity on board ship is eating. You can eat pretty much 24 hours a day. So if that excites you, go for it.
The pools on board are generally small, filled with sea water, and they slosh in rough seas.
And cabins are generally quite small, but the idea is most people don’t spend much time in their cabins.

Another thing I didn’t care for was the tipping policy. At the end of the cruise they will present you with a list of innumerable folks you are supposed to tip (as well as what I considered relativey hefty recommended rates). I felt both bothered by the strongarm, as well as guilty for not complying.

Again, just my personal opinion.

I have heard good things about cruises to Alaska, where they may provide one of the best ways to get around, as well as a beautiful viewpoint. But if I were going to a tropical destination, I would perfer to choose one and stay there, instead of hopping around getting little pre-packaged tastes of several.

My GF and I went on a Carnival (the fun ships) cruise last year and AM into the night life scene and drink and party and was bored out of my fucking mind.

The food was good and there is and endless supply of it. But for the most part it was like being trapped in a small casino/hotel for a week. The ship made three day stops in the Carribean. Basically you had enough time to tour the island briefly, shop at the tourist traps for a few hours, buy some duty free liquor (which is a scam by the way) and get back on the boat.

The people on the boat were either in their 80s or if they were our age, they were hicks from middle America.

A friend of mine took her husband on a cruise (Carnival, I believe) as his “welcome home from Iraq” gift. They hated it. They said the ship was dirty, the food was not appetizing, their cabin was filthy and the staff was very unhelpful and rude.

I was suprised to hear this as everyone I know who has been on a cruse loved it. I had always wanted to go on one until I heard their story.

Being a bit more positive, we’ve been on three. The first was on the QE2 from New York to France - not really a cruise, more a cool way of getting there (and I’d recommend going the other way because of the time changes.) We were young, and we had a good time being pampered. Meeting people is a plus - we got seated at the table of the Chief Engineer and Deputy Chief Engineer, and got invited to a party in their quarters, which was the highlight of the trip.

The second was in the sourther Carribean and up the Orinocco River. We actually got stuck in the river for a day, and I can testify that 24 hours stuck on a cruise ship is far better than 1 hour stuck in an airport. :slight_smile: Again, the highlights here were the side trips. The third was a traditional Alaskan cruise, with an additional week of inland touring.

We liked all of them, and we’re not party people. When we went we were out of touch with everyone, which was relaxing. There are plenty of things to do besides drinking. My suggestion is to cruise to places you’d actually like to visit. The big plus of a cruise is that you don’t have to shlep your luggage from place to place. We did a Princess cruise to Alaska, and it was very nice to have your bags magically disappear from one hotel and reappear at the next.

I just got back from a cruise (first week of june). We were on RC and had a wonderful time. Great food, friendly staff, nice stateroom with a large window, etc.

As far as if you will be bored, possibly. I would try to schedule a ship with as much time at ports of call as possible in your case. Because quite honestly, most on ship activities revolve around eating and drinking. Think of it as a hotel on the water, would you be bored inside a hotel for a couple days on end? I spent a lot of onship time just relaxing, either near the pool or watching the water in the evening. (moonlight on the ocean is just beautiful) So if you want to just relax, it’s great also.

I realize this is rambling, but my brain keeps going back and forth between our trip and what you might like. :slight_smile:

Hubby and I have been on two cruises and loved both of them. FWIW, one was our honeymoon cruise (Carnival Sensation to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and New Orleans in 2001) and one was last fall (Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas to San Juan, St. Martin/San Maarten, and St. Thomas).

Whether or not you like a cruise will depend on what you are interested in. My brother is a big drinker, so cruises are not for him - you have to pay for your alcoholic beverages, and the prices are comparable to a bar or restaurant. For him, all-inclusive land vacations are best. Hubby and I are laid-back and like to relax, lounge, and eat. So, cruises are great for us. We like the idea of seeing a little bit of a lot of places. Plus, you can “try out” a destination before deciding to stay for a long time. You can book shore excursions through the ship or with an on-site provider, or just wander on your own (the amount of wandering recommended in any port will certainly vary!).

On our first cruise, we swam with sting rays in Grand Cayman (booked with an on-island company), toured the Mayan ruins of Tulum in Cozumel (booked through the ship to ensure a timely return), and just wandered around in New Orleans on our own. Our second cruise’s itinerary was affected by Wilma - we were supposed to do Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cozumel, but had to change to the eastern itinerary. So, we had no excursions booked ahead. We walked around San Juan and did some shopping (we only had a few hours). We had a great time on St. Martin/San Maarten - we took the local bus across the island to Marigot (on the French side) and found an empty beach to lounge on and then took the bus back to port and did some shopping. We made a short visit to St. Thomas because I had gotten dehydrated on St. Martin, and wanted to take it easy.

The quality of the food, drinks, and service will vary wildly depending on what cruise line you choose, as well as on-board activites and amenities. There are loads and loads of cruise lines, and each one caters to a slightly different clientele. Disney is great for people with kids, but Carnival and Royal Caribbean are family-friendly as well. Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess, and Celebrity are little more “high-class” than the first three. Some ships are gigantic and hold well over 3000 people - others are much smaller.

The Mariner of the Seas is a fairly new ship and it’s huge. There are three pools (one adults-only), six hot tubs (three adults-only), a fitness center, an ice skating rink (open certain hours), putt-putt, a rock wall, in-line skating, a library, a movie theater - lots of stuff to do. There’s a casino and a “street” of shops, as well as at least six bars (wine/martini bar, pub-style, salsa club, dance club, and the Schooner Bar). And, plenty of places to do nothing, should you choose.

They provide a wide variety of entertainment options too. Yes, they have the Vegas-style shows each night, but they’re different each night. We went to see Bowser (from Sha Na Na) and the 80s show - both were well worth it. They have comedians and ballroom dancing and karaoke and guitar players. And then there’s the ice show - it was much much cooler than what I expected to see on a ship, especially considering how small the skating rink is.

Plus, food is available 24-hours a day.

For more info, check out the message boards at Cruise Critic. The site’s been around for ten years and has loads and loads of info.

My wife and I went on one. It wasn’t a great experience.

First, the food. It’s not that it was terribly bad. It was just so much. Always. And most of the people on the cruise figure that since they paid for it, they might as well eat. It’s a lot of fat people at an all you can eat buffet. And the waste is horrific.

I think cruise ships used to be a big deal, but the crowds they attract now seem to be, well, Wal-marty. My cruise in particular looked like it was filled with a bunch of trailer park people who were skipping their week of bowling. (no offense meant. Hell, I like to bowl every once in a while. And I shop at Wal-mart). People smoke and drank like there was no tomorrow. And the two biggest problems: old people who complain and drunk people with children who are unsupervised.

Finally, I’ll echo the tip pressure. Now, I had no problem tipping the woman who cleaned our room (she was great) and our dinner waiter. I would have tipped them on my own. I didn’t like the envelopes that were delivered to my room with suggested amounts. I thought it was insulting.

There are some pros, of course. It can be relaxing as hell, if you have a nice room with a balcony, or you enjoy reading by the pool. My wife and I aren’t partiers, so I think we missed a big part of the cruise ship experience. But we figured out a way to have a good time on our own. :slight_smile:

I don’t plan on going again any time soon.

The “class” of people on a ship will vary widely based on the cruise line - I’m assuming you were on a Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Disney cruise. Those three are the “discount” cruise lines, and that’s certainly where you’ll see the Wal-Mart/ bowling crowd. Holland, Princess, and NCL tend to have an older, slightly more affluent crowd (from what I’ve heard - my mother-in-law is the cruise addict).

The food certainly isn’t five-star, but it’s good and plentiful. And while the waste is mind-boggling, it’s actually gotten better. Many ships used to offer a nightly midnight buffet, and so many cruisers expressed concern about the wasted food that they’ve been scaled back. IIRC, we only had two on our Mariner cruise - a dessert buffet and the Grand Gala Buffet, where they showed off the ice carvings and fancy desserts and such.

As far as tipping goes, we always tip the recommended amount for the waiter, assistant waiter, and room steward(s). We didn’t tip the head waiter or maitre d’ on our first cruise because they didn’t do anything for us. On our recent cruise, the cruise line had our group (of 22) spread out over all three dining rooms as opposed to seated together. The head waiter and maitre d’ were able to get us re-assigned in time for dinner the first night, so they got tipped. The folks who work on cruise ships bust their butts day in and day out, and $2/person/day doesn’t seem like a lot to me. Besides, we budget that amount into the cost of the cruise because we know it’s customary (just like tipping a server in a restaurant).

We had an aft balcony room on our last cruise, so we spent lots of time out there, relaxing, reading, and napping. If you don’t have a balcony, there are plenty of spots inside and out where you can do the same. One of the nicest things about the Mariner was the adults-only area (the Solarium). Kids could pass through, but the pool, hot tubs, and chairs are reserved for the 18-and-older crowd. Some parents tried to play the “but she’s not bothering anyone” card, but our fellow passengers were not going to take that crap, even when the deck steward walked away!

We’ve been on two criuses, in 1999 and 2000 (I think). The first was Carnival’s Western Carribean route from Miami. The second was Royal Carribean’s Southen Carrieban route from San Juan.

The RC cruise was more enjoyable for us because the food and service were considerably better. Also, the itinerary only called for one “day at sea”. All of the remaining days were stops at a different islands.

We really had a good time but I have no desire to cruise again, unless it’s to see part of Alaska.

The two negatives (at least for me) were the fact that you are on the ships schedule and the extra costs that accumulate during the week, such as drinks, excursions, and tips.

I’ve since tried all-inclusives in Jamaica and I prefer the luxury of having everything paid for up front and not having to look at my wallet or watch for seven days.

I also get the impression that the criuse industry has gone more “mass market” in the last 5-6 years. So you may want to given some extra weight to the opinions of more recent cruisers.

I’ve been on lots of cruises, my parents have been on dozens and dozens, and my wife thinks it’s the perfect vacation. She likes the single low price and not having to pack and unpack. I also cave in to the pressure of tipping at the end, but figure that into the total cost of the trip. We took a cruise around Hawaii last year which was great since we got to see 4 different islands in one week. The cost of the shore trips is absurd… but I just bite the bullet.

For me that’s just one kind of vacation. I also like the “drive across Europe” kind of vacation, but it’s like comparing apples and oranges, so we tend to mix up both types and that works for us. She gets her “nice and easy” cruise and I get the exhausting vacation experience!

We have a 4-day cruise out of Miami to the Bahamas in December…

We took a Silversea cruise for our honeymoon in '95, and I was very impressed. Facilities, food, and service were top notch. The side trips were excellent too. The other passengers were very nice, at least the ones we met.

I’ve only been on Disney so far…and calling Disney ‘a discount cruise line’ is like calling Bill Gates a pauper. The food was great, the entertainment was great, the live shows were great. Sure, its best to have kids there, but there was one Hell of a lot to do when the kids were at the Oceaneers Club (and yes, they loved that so much, getting them to leave was difficult).

Sadly, Disney has Gone Out Of Their Minds price-wise, and we can’t afford them anytime soon. We are looking forward to RC next year though.

Tips for travel? What people have done for years to limit drink expenses are Bon Voyage baskets sent to your stateroom. Think of it as sending yourself a cheese basket with bottles of wine added in. It can also have toys, jewelry, and other things as well (I had them add a pair of 10x50 binoculars one year so we could see ships that passed by).

Of course, only certain companies can deliver these to your stateroom and you’ll have to search the cruise ship boards for good recomendations. (I fondly remember Shirley from ‘The Perfect Gift’ out of Port Canaveral, FL) But personally, I think of it as a standard expense. What price would I put on having wine & cheese on the balcony with my wife after the kids are asleep? :wink:

About ten years ago, I did a Carnival cruise. While I enjoyed it, I didn’t really get to spend as much time in the ports as I would’ve liked- my favorite parts of the cruise were when I wasn’t on the boat.

And, frankly, it was exhausting. I was just flat worn out at the end of the cruise, and I couldn’t wait to get back home to my own bed. It wasn’t relaxing so much as it was fatiguing.

The food was good, though.

I’ve also advised all of my younger, single male friends that a cruise is the way to go- there were so many cute 19-24 years old girls… man, I would’ve loved a cruise when I was that young.

In about 92 or 93 I took a cruise on the Big Red Boat. It was terrible. We had seas so rough that they had to put vomit bags down every 10 feet. The one girl that was with us was so sick she couldn’t even keep sea sickness pills down, they had to give her a shot. It rained all the time so there was very little to do on the deck.

My recommendation is, if you go on one, make sure you pick one that visits a lot of ports.

My husband and I took a Royal Caribbean cruise (Mariner of the Seas) back in October for our honeymoon. We paid for a balcony stateroom, and my parents had pre-ordered a bottle of Veuve Cliqot and some chocolate-dipped strawberries, and I tell you, there is NO better way to start a vacation than that! Even when you haven’t slept in about 36 hours (late wedding, early flight).

I’d go back in a heartbeat, although it IS expensive (especially the excursions and alcohol, but it was worth it!) I love boats, and just being on one that BIG was amazing for me. I still miss the gentle rocking of the ship back and forth…I’m an insomniac, and I’ve never slept better than on that trip! The food was also great, especially Portofinos (yeah, you pay extra for that too!) I would like it if they had an optional “all-inclusive” package (maybe an add-on) but it didn’t bother us too much. We didn’t party a lot, we enjoyed the days fully, and found it very relaxing. We bought a Wine-and-dine package of 7 bottles of wine, and had some great selections. The fact that we could carry the bottle around with us was definitely worthwhile. Smoke also wasn’t an issue - the majority of the ship is smoke-free, and I tend to be sensitive to it and never had a single problem.

Our itinerary was Labadee-Ocho Rios-Georgetown-Cozumel, with a day at sea at either end. That was perfect for us, because the first day was relaxed, and we could recover from the wedding/flight, and the last day was a good time to not be stressed with excursions and take advantage of all the last activities on the ship which we hadn’t had a chance to do.

In Jamaica we went horseback riding (including in the ocean, with the horses partially swimming). We went snorkelling in Georgetown (around the shipwreck) and swimming with dolphins in Cozumel. Amazing experiences, all of them.

Even though we currently can’t afford it (and because of other trips we’d like to do in our lives) I still occasionally check prices on various websites…we almost took off again in March when a balcony stateroom dropped to a crazy last-minute fare, but we couldn’t get away from work on such short notice. It was just such a DIFFERENT vacation experience, and I found it worthwhile. Though we spoiled ourselves a little with the Mariner (at the time, one of RCs largest ships - Voyager family) and I don’t think we could go with something smaller … maybe the Radiance family, but not smaller. I’m a dork, and loved being on the biggest boat at each dock! The Freedom class ship(s) scare me! They’re HUGE!

I just did a week in Cuba, and it was great and a lot cheaper, but its just different. I say try cruising at least once.

Any barefoot cruises? I have absolutely no stomach for the endless social responsibilities on one
of those huge boats-but reading a book under the shade of a sail is much more my speed.
Esp. if it is a “geek” cruise with side trips to places like the Galapagos or whatever.