Cruise advice?

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yolli71
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Cruise advice?

Post by yolli71 » Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm

I'll be going on my first cruise in over 30 years this Thursday. It's a 9 night cruise on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas leaving Baltimore and heading up to New England and Canada. It'll be me, my wife, my 2 kids (9 and 7) and some other relatives who will be visiting from AZ.

Since my wife and I are novices with cruises, we were hoping to get some advice. What should we think of as we start to prepare? Any packing tips? Do we basically need two outfits for every day (casual for day and nice for dinner)? Should I bring my thermos water bottles for excursions? Do we need cash for tips? What about parking in Baltimore's port?

Also, my wife and I didn't purchase the drink package because we heard you really have to drink a lot to get your money's worth, but we do plan on enjoying beverages while on the boat.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Gill
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by Gill » Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:34 pm

Your best advice on cruising is on cruisecritic.com.
Gill
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Dottie57
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by Dottie57 » Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:40 pm

yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
I'll be going on my first cruise in over 30 years this Thursday. It's a 9 night cruise on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas leaving Baltimore and heading up to New England and Canada. It'll be me, my wife, my 2 kids (9 and 7) and some other relatives who will be visiting from AZ.

Since my wife and I are novices with cruises, we were hoping to get some advice. What should we think of as we start to prepare? Any packing tips? Do we basically need two outfits for every day (casual for day and nice for dinner)? Should I bring my thermos water bottles for excursions? Do we need cash for tips? What about parking in Baltimore's port?

Also, my wife and I didn't purchase the drink package because we heard you really have to drink a lot to get your money's worth, but we do plan on enjoying beverages while on the boat.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Theprice of liquor is high on the cruise. Think about the package again. Does wine come with the dinner?

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Watty
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by Watty » Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:52 pm

yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
It'll be me, my wife, my 2 kids (9 and 7)
Be sure to know what your kids are allowed to charge to your room. You can likely restrict this.

Keep a very close eye on your kids. They are probably young enough that it would not be much of a risk but sexual assault on cruise ships can be a problem that is often under reported since it is so hard to investigate and prosecute.

Don't cut it at all close on getting back to the cruise ship on time when you are at a port. The ship will promptly leave without.

Rudedog
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by Rudedog » Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:08 pm

Have a great cruise.
Last edited by Rudedog on Mon Jul 22, 2019 8:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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ResearchMed
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by ResearchMed » Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:23 pm

Gill wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:34 pm
Your best advice on cruising is on cruisecritic.com.
Gill
This ^^

And next time, you may want to browse there more in advance of departure.
There are Roll Calls, which would have others on your specific sailing. That can be useful to get suggestions about other excursions, or to share excursions (which can make it nicer than the cruise-line excursions).

Also, for the future, you might want to look at CC's travel insurance section, family travel, air travel, and also each port of call...
We enjoy the planning, too!

Enjoy!!

RM
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wish
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by wish » Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:25 pm

We have taken this ship from Baltimore several times .. last time 3/19.
- Parking at port is 15/ night...easy access from I 95
- Stay and Cruise options sometimes cheaper than port parking via Comfort Inn at Lincicolm ...shuttle from hotel dependable
- each adult can bring a 750ml bottle of wine ....must be in carryons
- usually easier to get lunch upon boarding at Solarium than in crowded Windjammer
- Solarium pool is open to kids under 16 if outdoor pool is closed
- debarking at return much quicker if can carry off luggage
Have fun...If you like ships as I do, great vacation from the time you board until the the time you debark!

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StevieG72
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by StevieG72 » Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:40 pm

Parking at Baltimore is fine, secure lot within walking distance to the ship.

I always pack a refillable water bottle to bring tea or lemonade back to my cabin and for shore excursions.

One thing I always forget is an air freshener for the cabin restroom.

You can bring two 750ml bottles of wine per cabin on board ( in carryon luggage) bring your own corkscrew or ask you cabin steward for one. I agree the drink package is too expensive for light to moderate drinkers. I had a free drink package on an Alaska cruise and came nowhere near any value if I were to have paid for the package.

Cash tips for room steward and favorite waiter / waitress are common if service is exceptional.

Two outfits per day is a about what you will need, I find that slacks can be worn more than one evening. Also I would advise not getting carried away on formal nights. I simply bring a sports jacket. Dress code is not enforced and you will see lots of folks dressed down.

Plan any excursions ASAP, you can book prior to sailing. Popular excursions often sell out.

Do not be unnecessarily alarmed, but do be vigilant about keeping up with the children.
Last edited by StevieG72 on Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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tibbitts
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by tibbitts » Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:43 pm

Watty wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:52 pm
yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
It'll be me, my wife, my 2 kids (9 and 7)
Be sure to know what your kids are allowed to charge to your room. You can likely restrict this.

Keep a very close eye on your kids. They are probably young enough that it would not be much of a risk but sexual assault on cruise ships can be a problem that is often under reported since it is so hard to investigate and prosecute.

Don't cut it at all close on getting back to the cruise ship on time when you are at a port. The ship will promptly leave without.
If sexual assault is under-reported, how does anyone know if it's happening?

I would guess that it's not the same issue with the 9-day New England cruise or any Alaska cruise as with the shorter Bahama/Caribbean itineraries. I'm in my 60s and usually at/below the average age of passengers.

Hoosierdom
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by Hoosierdom » Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:52 pm

You don't need cash for tips - I don't believe they are allowed to accept them (except maybe as you leave the boat for the maids).

I consider myself a drinking man, but you really have to go at it to get your money's worth on the drink package. And you would have to do so every day. No way I would find it worth it.

I don't know this particular cruise, but I greatly preferred making my own way on the land. The ship's excursions were expensive and didn't allow for the sort of exploring I prefer.

mptfan
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by mptfan » Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:56 pm

tibbitts wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:43 pm
If sexual assault is under-reported, how does anyone know if it's happening?
That's a good question.

delamer
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by delamer » Sun Jul 21, 2019 5:03 pm

Regarding individual drinks, the prices on cruises are comparable to those at a nice, moderately priced restaurant (say dinner entrees in the $20 to $30 range).

Use that as your guideline regarding the drink packages.

tibbitts
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by tibbitts » Sun Jul 21, 2019 5:47 pm

Hoosierdom wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:52 pm
You don't need cash for tips - I don't believe they are allowed to accept them (except maybe as you leave the boat for the maids).

I consider myself a drinking man, but you really have to go at it to get your money's worth on the drink package. And you would have to do so every day. No way I would find it worth it.

I don't know this particular cruise, but I greatly preferred making my own way on the land. The ship's excursions were expensive and didn't allow for the sort of exploring I prefer.
I don't know about every cruise line but at least on some, cash tips are welcome - and okay per the cruise line policy.

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tennisplyr
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by tennisplyr » Sun Jul 21, 2019 5:57 pm

Just got back from an Alaskan cruise. Things are pretty casual. At the buffet dining areas you can wear virtually anything for breakfast, lunch or dinner. For meals in the dining room, still casual though no shorts and dresses/jackets not necessary. At dinner I wore khakis/jeans and decent shirts. Wife wore pants. Make sure to take in the ship's shows, they're usually very entertaining. Enjoy!
Those who move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out.

Iridium
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by Iridium » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:04 pm

yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
I'll be going on my first cruise in over 30 years this Thursday. It's a 9 night cruise on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas leaving Baltimore and heading up to New England and Canada. It'll be me, my wife, my 2 kids (9 and 7) and some other relatives who will be visiting from AZ.
I have done the Canada cruise (on Holland America, but Royal Caribbean will be similar) and it greatly exceeded expectations. It is one of my favorite itineraries.
yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
Since my wife and I are novices with cruises, we were hoping to get some advice. What should we think of as we start to prepare? Any packing tips? Do we basically need two outfits for every day (casual for day and nice for dinner)?
Cruisecritic.com as recommended above would be good to browse. Definitely decide whether you want flexible dining or set times. There is a real luxury in having the same table and waiters every night: you come to the table with last night's wine bottle already set for you, the waiter already knows you want the dressing on the side of your salad, if your kids have a soda package, their favorite beverage will be sitting there for them, etc. On the other hand, if you value the flexibility or your kids can't handle a 4 course meal (so you'll be eating at the buffet mostly) flexible dining might work better for you.

Ideally, you would try to avoid packing too much. Staterooms are efficient but still of finite size, and you wouldn't want to juggle clothes around because they don't all fit in the dresser. Your daytime and evening outfits would usually be different (you always have the option of eating dinner in the buffet in whatever you want). However, one evening outfit ought to cover multiple nights; you won't need to go outside to get to dinner and the ship is air conditioned, so there is no reason why you would sweat through them or get them dirty. Royal Caribbean should be able to let you know the dress code for the 2 or 3 nights that will be a bit more dressy (cruises have been getting increasingly casual, so you should get up to date information). I am not sure how strictly it is enforced these days, but you'll feel out of place if you don't follow it in spirit, at least. Don't worry about copying the folks wearing tuxedos, that is just them getting a chance to dress up, in one of the last environments that hasn't gone completely casual these days.

yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
Should I bring my thermos water bottles for excursions?
Depends on the excursion. I believe a number of excursions actually give you a water bottle when you board the bus. If you have some refillable water bottles and they fit in your luggage, it won't hurt to bring them. Otherwise, consider buying a pack of water from a grocery store. Better to have and not need it than need it and not have it. That being said, don't pack as if you are going to scale Everest. Ship excursions are largely pretty sedate affairs in terms of physical activity. You just need a little something because you may not always be near a water fountain in excursions.
yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
Do we need cash for tips?
Mostly just for your tour guides. Staff on the ship are taken care of with a charge to your room (the default is fine). I had an exceptional room attendant and left my leftover Canadian dollars to him, but that was more in recognition than actual money (my parents did not have anyone exceptional and just left the default, my leftovers reflected probably less than 10% of the default tip).
yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
What about parking in Baltimore's port?

Also, my wife and I didn't purchase the drink package because we heard you really have to drink a lot to get your money's worth, but we do plan on enjoying beverages while on the boat.
Those will be taken care of as a room charge. Plan on spending $7-$10 per drink and you won't be too disappointed with the actual pricing. If you are wine drinkers, definitely order bottles for the table. They will cork the leftover and have it for you the following night. The wine packages can be a good deal, but if you do not like the wines on that list, is not strictly necessary.
yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Try to get your friends to watch your kids for one dinner and then book yourselves into one of the specialty restaurants (you'll want to make the reservation now, as times book up). Your friends may want to do the same. The steakhouse and the like are quite an experience and cut above the already good service in the dining room.

Get your kids involved in the kids program. My sister had a blast with them (on every cruise line we have been on, including Royal Caribbean) back when she was young enough.

What expeditions did you book on? For first time cruisers, going through the company is probably reasonable, as they take care of all the details and guarantee you'll get back in time For your next cruise, start booking some of your own expeditions. However, if you are stopping in Charlottetown and do not have something booked yet, my favorite tour of all time was the tour put on by the confederation players (https://confederationcentre.com/whats-o ... enactment/). It is such a small town it would be almost impossible to miss the ship, and the place the tour starts from is close to the docks. Note: the tour is for all ages, but alcohol figures prominently in the parts of Canadian history told on the tour (apparently there was an underground passage way between the state house and a local bar, and the whole founding sounded like it was a largely a drunken party with some signatures thrown in). If you decide to go, I hope your tour guide is as good as mine was, she was hilarious.

GreenGrowTheDollars
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by GreenGrowTheDollars » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:15 pm

1. If you like to sip your coffee while it is hot, consider bringing your own travel coffee cups along. Cruiseline coffee cups let the coffee go cold very quickly and you may not want to stay in a location convenient to the coffee urn. We liked having coffee somewhere quiet looking out at the sea.
2. We bought a really cheap closet door shoe holder like this: https://www.amazon.com/24-Pockets-Simpl ... nonsite-20 -- fantastic for holding all the little stuff that clutters up a cabin when you're sharing it with a bunch of folks (sunscreen, hairbrush, flip flops, card keys, ...) -- ours was from the dollar store.
3. Plastic clothespins (from the dollar store) -- our cabins always have a clothesline in the shower; some clothespins make it a lot easier to hang up swimsuits so that they don't all clump together.
4. Picky detail: I like half-n-half in my coffee, not Coffee Mate. A box of the shelf stable individual half-n-half cups would have been awesome.
5. Common OTC drugs: small quantities of Aleve/Advil or whatever pain reliever you like, dramamine, Sudafed, anti-diarrheal med. Enough sunscreen. (They have this stuff on board -- but the price markup is amazing.)
6. Pad of post-it notes & pen/pencil. Great for leaving notes about who's where, when, reminders...and post-its doubled up can cover any annoying little lights that glare at you while you're trying to sleep.
7. Everyone needs a sweater/jacket suitable for the dining room. Sometimes they have that area chilled down to meat locker temps.

Have a great time!

Ace1
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by Ace1 » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:52 pm

Yolli
My spouse and I took this exact cruise 2 months ago in May, and other than the colder temps in Maine, New Brunswick
and Nova Scotia, was an excellent trip. I might add the excursion to Peggys Cove in NS. well worth the cost.
Park at the Baltimore port...its a secure lot and $15 a night. When you arrive there, you will drive in, drop your checked luggage
with the porters, then pay to park and its in you go. Keep your important things like meds, passports, checkin docs etc in your carryon.
We have cruised several times on RCCL and never bought the alcohol package, could never drink that much.
Alcoholic drinks on the Lady G run in the $10-$20 range, beers $7-8.
They do have specials from time to time like $2 mimosas.
As has been noted above, you are allowed to bring 2 bottles of wine or champagne... must be in your carryon.
We have also never bought a soft drink package...not sure how you might manage that with 2 kids.
We just drink the iced tea and lemonade and coffee that are included at no extra cost.
As to clothing for the 2 formal nights, 1 or 2 dress shirts and ties and a couple nice dresses for spouse, the rest of the time nice casual
wear for the dining room. Casual wear in the Windjammer for other meals.
Except in the casino, everything purchased onboard is charged to your cabin, you settle up at the end.
You will want cash for tips for cabin steward and waiter/asst waiter at the end for the exceptional service beyond the base gratuity
you paid in your booking. Cash or credit card for any purchases in ports. Most tourist stops in Canada will accept US, but may be stingy on
the exchange.

If you want the all dressed up family photo onboard, you will be given many opportunties.
You will also be hit on several times for upscale dining, drink and spa packages etc.
The Grandeur is a smaller (2200+/- passengers) ship and the cruises we have taken on her is primarily filled with older passengers.
However that may not be the case on a summer vacation cruise.
As Gill noted above, cruisecritic.com is an excellent site for more relevant cruise info.
Just remember you are on a cruise...relax and enjoy it.
And make certain you enjoy at least one lobster roll in Maine !
Have a great trip.
Ace

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snackdog
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by snackdog » Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:10 pm

If you discreetly tip the cabin steward $20 or so on check-in, he/she will take extra special care of you the rest of the cruise and possibly spread the word to others so you are well looked after.

theplayer11
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by theplayer11 » Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:40 pm

skip the dinner buffet and get a table if watching people pack their plates to the point of overflow disgusts you..table is much more enjoyable.

jello_nailer
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by jello_nailer » Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:19 pm

Good move on not getting the drink package. Wife and I have done the math on this on many cruises and to be honest you have to really try hard the whole trip to break even at the prices they charge these days. 5 years ago the package was a better value. Here's what we found:
1) If you buy the drink package the cruise line doesn't have any incentive to pour you a decent drink. We feel package drinks are small and light, but of course you can have as many as you like.
2) If you pay for each drink though, they aren't going to short pour because you will complain or won't buy another drink. We find that the pay per drink option gets us darn good service, even at dinner. More incentive to keep you happy so you say "another".
3) Once you find "your bar", and you will because they all don't have the same theme, crowd, or inventory, you will stumble on what you like and gravitate to that bar. After that it's old school like another poster said so you tip "your guy/gal" at that bar in advance. They will jump and pour great all week like your personal bartender.
4) One other option - on RCL and Celebrity you drink free in the Casino. High end stuff too. I'm not suggesting sit down and play for the free drinks but if you were going anyway...
In the casino do the same thing - find "your waiter/waitress and tips them on the first day. They will hunt you down with your drink whenever you are there.
Have fun.

Topic Author
yolli71
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by yolli71 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:01 am

Thanks for the advice, especially from those who have take this cruise before...some very useful information! So for these nicer dinners, can I wear a polo style shirt with slacks or khakis? Or do I need to wear a button up shirt and sports coat? Also, are there usually any bottled waters supplied in your room?

lazydavid
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by lazydavid » Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:37 am

jello_nailer wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:19 pm
1) If you buy the drink package the cruise line doesn't have any incentive to pour you a decent drink. We feel package drinks are small and light, but of course you can have as many as you like.
2) If you pay for each drink though, they aren't going to short pour because you will complain or won't buy another drink. We find that the pay per drink option gets us darn good service, even at dinner. More incentive to keep you happy so you say "another".
The cruise line doesn't have an incentive, but the server does. They get an automatic 18% tip on what the drink would have cost had you not had the package. If they give you bad service or pour a weak drink, you're likely to go to another server/bar and they lose out on that money.
jello_nailer wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:19 pm
3) Once you find "your bar", and you will because they all don't have the same theme, crowd, or inventory, you will stumble on what you like and gravitate to that bar. After that it's old school like another poster said so you tip "your guy/gal" at that bar in advance. They will jump and pour great all week like your personal bartender.
Yep, and nothing stopping you from doing this with a drink package as well. My place is usually the pub, so I find a good server in there and give him/her a little extra in advance. For the rest of the week, they don't bat an eye when I go in (with three cards) and order three beers and six bottles of water. My son also had the non-alcoholic premium drink package, and they made him awesome virgin cocktails all week long.

It all depends on the individual, but we definitely got excellent value out of our drink package on our last cruise. In addition to the booze, we took full advantage of having a couple of cappucinos/lattes in the morning, as well as 10+ bottles of water a day (including stocking our stateroom fridge for the overnight).

lazydavid
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by lazydavid » Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:41 am

yolli71 wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:01 am
Thanks for the advice, especially from those who have take this cruise before...some very useful information! So for these nicer dinners, can I wear a polo style shirt with slacks or khakis? Or do I need to wear a button up shirt and sports coat? Also, are there usually any bottled waters supplied in your room?
We only ate in the specialty restaurants, and I didn't wear a button-down shirt once the entire week.

No water provided in the room, but bottled water is included in most drink packages.

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dm200
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:45 am

Watty wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:52 pm
yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
It'll be me, my wife, my 2 kids (9 and 7)
Be sure to know what your kids are allowed to charge to your room. You can likely restrict this.
Keep a very close eye on your kids. They are probably young enough that it would not be much of a risk but sexual assault on cruise ships can be a problem that is often under reported since it is so hard to investigate and prosecute.
Don't cut it at all close on getting back to the cruise ship on time when you are at a port. The ship will promptly leave without.
Yes. Years ago my wife and I and our then early teenage son took a cruise from Baltimore to Bermuda. Our son quickly figured out how to charge all sorts of stuff to our account. Fortunately, we caught this early and cut him off. Do not underestimate the creativity of some 7 and 9 year olds.

Lalamimi
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by Lalamimi » Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:47 am

Pack less than you think you need! Wear a shirt to dinner, then the next day on tour. Shorts can be worn 2 days, slacks 3 nights unless you are messy. Suitcase will fit under the bed. We did not know that! Don't get drink packages, and the kids don't need sodas all day. they have drinks at the buffet, lemonade, tea, coffee, take some back to cabin for later. Enjoy a few cocktails and don't worry about the price of those. They make you tip with every purchase. Buy the 4 beers rather than one, its usually a deal at the pool bar, and you don't have to open them all then.
Enjoy a balcony if you got one, best part.
Agree ahead of time to not spend every minute together. Our first cruise was a 10 day through the Panama Canal, in 2010. With my sister in law and her husband. We dined together most meals, but they did the purchased dinners a time or two, we did excursions, they did not. It balanced. Enjoy.
Take water bottles and fill them (some ships have a dispenser, some you have to pour from a glass. Don't purchase bottled water on ship. Usually can buy one on shore, but some ships make you dump it. Keep the bottle and reuse if did not bring something.

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dm200
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:53 am

I suspect the regular, more formal (depends on the ship), dinners might not be the kind of things the children would like.

On most cruises, you have the same seating all the time. You generally sign up soon after you board the ship. I don't know how or if you could do this, but the children might be happier if there were other children at the same table? Some of the dinner waiters can be entertaining to children as well (they want a bigger tip) - but how this can be arranged - who knows.

There are usually two seating for dinner - one earlier, one later. Try to get the one that you think will work better for the children.

I think you generally have choices of food at dinner. If you can, try to know ahead of time what the choices are so you can be fully prepared to "suggest" things that the children will like.

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dm200
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:55 am

Some cruises have very different dinner options, while others have just one. If there are multiple options, pick the one that is most likely to have the children better behaved.

I believe on some cruises - it can be safe for the children to be left away from you for a period of time.

mptfan
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by mptfan » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:03 am

dm200 wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:53 am
On most cruises, you have the same seating all the time. You generally sign up soon after you board the ship.
That used to be your only option, but no longer. It is now common for cruise lines to have the option of so called "anytime dining" or flexible dining which means you can show up at a designated dining room any time between certain hours and be seated in the dining room for dinner. Also, it is common practice to select your dining options (early seating, late seating, anytime dining) well before sailing.
Last edited by mptfan on Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:23 am, edited 5 times in total.

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dm200
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:04 am

yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
I'll be going on my first cruise in over 30 years this Thursday. It's a 9 night cruise on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas leaving Baltimore and heading up to New England and Canada. It'll be me, my wife, my 2 kids (9 and 7) and some other relatives who will be visiting from AZ.

Since my wife and I are novices with cruises, we were hoping to get some advice. What should we think of as we start to prepare? Any packing tips? Do we basically need two outfits for every day (casual for day and nice for dinner)? Should I bring my thermos water bottles for excursions? Do we need cash for tips? What about parking in Baltimore's port?

Also, my wife and I didn't purchase the drink package because we heard you really have to drink a lot to get your money's worth, but we do plan on enjoying beverages while on the boat.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
The weather should be warm enough into Canada and New England. Will any stop be in French Canada? If so, it might be nice for the children to experience a foreign country/language.

Be prepared, as best you can, for "flexibility" if the children want/need different activities, etc. than you initially plan.

If the children are interested in Geography, have a map of the trip and follow the trip on the map.

If you have time before or after the cruise, check out the port/harbor at Baltimore.

cherijoh
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by cherijoh » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:04 am

yolli71 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:27 pm
I'll be going on my first cruise in over 30 years this Thursday. It's a 9 night cruise on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas leaving Baltimore and heading up to New England and Canada. It'll be me, my wife, my 2 kids (9 and 7) and some other relatives who will be visiting from AZ.

Since my wife and I are novices with cruises, we were hoping to get some advice. What should we think of as we start to prepare? Any packing tips? Do we basically need two outfits for every day (casual for day and nice for dinner)? Should I bring my thermos water bottles for excursions? Do we need cash for tips? What about parking in Baltimore's port?

Also, my wife and I didn't purchase the drink package because we heard you really have to drink a lot to get your money's worth, but we do plan on enjoying beverages while on the boat.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
I have found it can take several hours for your luggage to be delivered in cabin so pack what you might need in your carryon. If you are flying to Baltimore, you should have a change of clothes in a carryon for everyone. Also cross-pack so that if one suitcase gets delayed no one is totally without clothes until the suitcase catches up with you. Packing cubes are a great help with both cross-packing and unpacking your stuff into drawers.

Having a good comfortable backpack will help on the excursions for those water bottles, rain gear, suntan lotion, etc.

I would recommend getting some dramamine (there is a kid's version that is chewable). Normally the ship stabilizers work to keep the ship on an even keel, but in rough weather anyone can still get seasick. On those occasions the ship's medical office is swamped so you want to bring your own. I also carry a small first aid kit with a full range of OTC drugs that goes in the backpack for shore excursions. You don't want to waste shore time hunting up a drug store because one of your kids has an upset tummy.

I also take Seabands on all my trips. They are inexpensive accupressure wristbands that are reusable and they really work to eliminate/reduce seasickness! (I am prone to motion sickness, so I can provide a true testimonial). They have both adult and children's sizes and can be worn for the duration of cruise.

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dm200
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:05 am

mptfan wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:03 am
dm200 wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:53 am
On most cruises, you have the same seating all the time. You generally sign up soon after you board the ship.
That is how it used to be as your only option, but no longer. It is now common for cruise lines to have the option of so called "anytime dining" which means you can show up at a designated dining room any time between certain hours (usually 5:30 to 9:30) and be seated in the dining room for dinner. Also, it is common practice to select your dining options (early seating, late seating, anytime dining) well before sailing.
OK - thanks for the updated practices.

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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by Ace1 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:21 am

Yolli,
A polo with slacks/dockers is perfect for the dining room.
On RC, the dinner dining times are 530 and 800pm.
The mytime is anywhere between 5 and 8.
Your cruise document should indicate what your scheduled time is.
If you want to change the time, you can talk to the maitre’d and they usually
can accomodate you.
The main dining room is open for breakfast and lunch on sea days, but not lunch on port days.
You will find in your cabin each evening, the ships “newsletter” for the next day.
It lists all shipboard activities and times as well as dining times.
The duty free shops onboard are open most evenings and during the day from time to time on sea days.
Ace

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willthrill81
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by willthrill81 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:33 am

Gill wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:34 pm
Your best advice on cruising is on cruisecritic.com.
Gill
:thumbsup
Dottie57 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:40 pm
Theprice of liquor is high on the cruise. Think about the package again. Does wine come with the dinner?
Don't forget that the duty free shops can be very cheap. At our last cruise, we got a few bottles of rum for about half the price of our local stores. However, they don't deliver the liquor until the end of the cruise, for obvious reasons.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

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dm200
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:33 am

Many cruise "add ons", etc. can really inflate the cost of the cruise.

These include alcohol consumption, gambling, side trips at the various stops along the way.

Maybe there are lower cost ways of seeing certain specific things at stops along the way.

On our cruise from Baltimore to Bermuda, we did not drink alcohol, did not gamble and found our own way to the beach there and to some other attractions.

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willthrill81
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by willthrill81 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:38 am

dm200 wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:33 am
Many cruise "add ons", etc. can really inflate the cost of the cruise.

These include alcohol consumption, gambling, side trips at the various stops along the way.

Maybe there are lower cost ways of seeing certain specific things at stops along the way.
During our cruise to Alaska last year, we spoke to one of the excursion operators. They said that the cruise lines charge a 100% markup on their cost of excursions. To cover up this little tidbit, they won't let the operators offer the exact same excursion to their customers directly. But if you contact the operators directly and tell them what you want, they can nearly always find 'something' that fits what you want for a fraction of what the cruise companies charge. For instance, we wanted to go to a crab feast at one port but didn't want the activities that accompanied it in the cruise's available excursions. We contacted the operator directly, and they said that we could do just the feast alone, which the cruise didn't offer, for about 25% of the stated cost of the 'bigger' excursion offered through the cruise.

The major cruise companies don't make any profit from selling the cruise itself. Their profit comes from alcohol, excursions, and gambling.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

mptfan
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by mptfan » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:40 am

dm200 wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:33 am
Many cruise "add ons", etc. can really inflate the cost of the cruise.
It seems that cruise lines continue to find ever more creative ways to charge for "extras" on the cruise, some of which have been around for a while and some are relatively new... liquor purchases, drink packages, mini bars in the cabins, picture taking, art auctions, inflated excursions, inflated prices in the onboard shops, specialty dining restaurants, specialty coffee or desserts, room service, internet service, spa services, behind the scenes tours, reserved loungers or reserved cabanas, bingo games, casino gambling, automatically added gratuities for alcohol and other onboard purchases, automatically added gratuities on your total bill at the end of the cruise for each person per day for tipping cabin stewards, waiters, etc.

(I'm not complaining about tipping for service, I'm just pointing out another charge that gets added to the total bill in addition to the cost of the cruise ticket about which some people may not be aware.)
Last edited by mptfan on Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

michaeljc70
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by michaeljc70 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:58 am

Regarding the drink package, Celebrity often has a 20%-25% promotion in the weeks before the cruise. This is not just on the drink package and is notified via email. Since Royal Caribbean is the same company, they may have the same thing. With the discount, the drink package is a good deal if you plan to do above average drinking.

A few other points regarding drink packages:

-I have never drank for free in the casino on RCCL or Celebrity and I've been at least 10 cruises with them.

-The drinks can be very weak on cruise ships. If you pay $9 for a margarita and expect it to be a strong drink, you are likely to be disappointed. I think there are several reasons for this: they don't want drunk, unruly passengers; they want to encourage the drink packages; it makes them more money if you buy more drinks. I would prefer 3 strong drinks to 6 weak ones. I don't need to be bloated with mixers. With the drink package, you can order a margarita (or whatever) and an extra shot to pour into the drink. As is typical, going to the same bartender and tipping them results in bigger pours.

-If you like wine or martinis or premium alcohol, the good ones are expensive ($12-$14). Maybe you need to drink 6-8 per day to break even. And that sounds like a lot. But have a glass of wine for lunch, 2 by the pool, 1 before dinner, a glass of wine at dinner and 2 after dinner/during show/in nightclub and it adds up without you being bombed all day.

As others said, cruisecritic is great for detailed information.

I would concentrate on what you are going to do in each port. Shore excursions are expensive (but easy). I plan all my own stuff to do in port.

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dm200
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:01 am

mptfan wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:40 am
dm200 wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:33 am
Many cruise "add ons", etc. can really inflate the cost of the cruise.
It seems that cruise lines continue to find ever more creative ways to charge for "extras" on the cruise, some of which have been around for a while and some are relatively new... liquor purchases, drink packages, mini bars in the cabins, picture taking, art auctions, inflated excursions, inflated prices in the onboard shops, specialty dining restaurants, room service, internet service, spa services, behind the scenes tours, reserved loungers or reserved cabanas, bingo games, casino gambling, automatically added gratuities for alcohol and other onboard purchases, automatically added gratuities on your total bill at the end of the cruise for each person per day for tipping cabin stewards, waiters, etc.
(I'm not complaining about tipping for service, I'm just pointing out another charge that gets added to the total bill in addition to the cost of the cruise ticket about which some people may not be aware.)
Yes!!

I do believe, though, that "tipping" , in several methods, is a well known added cost of the cruise to most folks.

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yolli71
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by yolli71 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 6:54 pm

mptfan wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:40 am
dm200 wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:33 am
Many cruise "add ons", etc. can really inflate the cost of the cruise.
It seems that cruise lines continue to find ever more creative ways to charge for "extras" on the cruise, some of which have been around for a while and some are relatively new... liquor purchases, drink packages, mini bars in the cabins, picture taking, art auctions, inflated excursions, inflated prices in the onboard shops, specialty dining restaurants, specialty coffee or desserts, room service, internet service, spa services, behind the scenes tours, reserved loungers or reserved cabanas, bingo games, casino gambling, automatically added gratuities for alcohol and other onboard purchases, automatically added gratuities on your total bill at the end of the cruise for each person per day for tipping cabin stewards, waiters, etc.

(I'm not complaining about tipping for service, I'm just pointing out another charge that gets added to the total bill in addition to the cost of the cruise ticket about which some people may not be aware.)
Thanks...I was unaware of all of this and of the auto tips per person per day! I guess this might be more expensive than I realized.

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William4u
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by William4u » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:08 pm

tibbitts wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 4:43 pm

If sexual assault is under-reported, how does anyone know if it's happening?
Seriously?

https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/sexu ... erreported
https://ocrsm.umd.edu/files/Why-Is-Sexu ... ported.pdf
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog ... -reporting

jlawrence01
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by jlawrence01 » Tue Jul 23, 2019 6:59 am

While Cruise Critic is a good source for cruising information, there are literally hundreds of various cruise blogs on YouTube for nearly every cruise. Some are obviously sponsored, but many are not.

One of the problems of cruise information regardless of the source is the lack of any very critical reviews for most cruises. Most of them are "abover average."

rterickson
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by rterickson » Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:01 pm

Royal Caribbean has a Gratuity package that supposedly works out better than the usual nickel & dime treatment.

Also, the drink packages go on sale from time to time, so check back frequently. 3 weeks ago RC screwed up and offered it for $18/day! We jumped on it, and after a day of bad publicity they decided to honor the price. They're going to lose money on us.

michaeljc70
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:11 pm

Lately I've only been taking cruises that offer perks like free drink packages. If you are flexible on your schedule and a little on destination (though I've seen perks for pretty much every region) that helps. For example, we are taking a Celebrity cruise on a newer ship in Nov. 9 nights to the ABC islands. $750. We also get a classic drink package (each) and $75 room credit. The drink package cost is $59/day+20% mandatory gratuity so that is worth $637 if you use it. Almost the cost of the cruise. If you don't drink they typically have other perks that are less lucrative like prepaid tips, wifi, specialty dining, etc.

One thing I found interesting is that on Celebrity the free drink package includes the gratuity while on Norwegian I had to pay the gratuity.

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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by jello_nailer » Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:54 pm

-I have never drank for free in the casino on RCCL or Celebrity and I've been at least 10 cruises with them.

Celebrity - Vancouver to Vancouver Alaska cruise, last month - 2nd week of June. Drinks in Casino were free.

michaeljc70
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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue Jul 23, 2019 4:22 pm

jello_nailer wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:54 pm
-I have never drank for free in the casino on RCCL or Celebrity and I've been at least 10 cruises with them.

Celebrity - Vancouver to Vancouver Alaska cruise, last month - 2nd week of June. Drinks in Casino were free.
Were you gambling a lot? I believe you have to gamble enough and earn status to get free drinks (not necessarily on that cruise). Did you have a sticker on your card? RCCL also has a reciprocal agreement with MGM Grand. I believe you can also get some free drinks (not just in the casino) depending on your Crown and Anchor Society (RCCL rewards) program.

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Re: Cruise advice?

Post by jello_nailer » Tue Jul 23, 2019 4:36 pm

michaeljc70 wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 4:22 pm
jello_nailer wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:54 pm
-I have never drank for free in the casino on RCCL or Celebrity and I've been at least 10 cruises with them.

Celebrity - Vancouver to Vancouver Alaska cruise, last month - 2nd week of June. Drinks in Casino were free.
Were you gambling a lot? I believe you have to gamble enough and earn status to get free drinks (not necessarily on that cruise). Did you have a sticker on your card? RCCL also has a reciprocal agreement with MGM Grand. I believe you can also get some free drinks (not just in the casino) depending on your Crown and Anchor Society (RCCL rewards) program.
Nope, no sticker on my card but they did know me by the end of the cruise. I didn't play heavy, basically quarters on 1 or 2 hands on the BJ table. So did the wife. I'm pretty certain that I have a Casino Royale card or number as they email me stuff all the time but I didn't mention it when I sat down. Could be linked to my Sea Pass. And I'm also pretty sure I remember them making some sort of an announcement regarding drinks being free if you were playing. Maybe not, I will check with the wife to confirm so I don't mislead anyone. Worked out well though as our bill for drinks wasn't even $500 for the week and that included the wine at speciality restaurants, the main dining, and evening deck cocktail bars.

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