PDA

View Full Version : E. vs. W. Caribbean - Give Me the Lowdown


twopeasonepod
10-19-2012, 12:06 PM
We have vacationed approximately 6 times per year in the past two years. Now that my sons are in first grade, their school has asked parents to refrain from taking kids out for vacation when school is in session. We just got off the Wonder on the last Pixar cruise and are in our second week of vacation (our last hurrah during a non-break time). We also went to Alaska with DCL in July.

We want to go on another cruise next year, but our options are limited. We are going skiing for Spring Break, and also to Tokyo Disneyland (planned for June), so we are looking at August. I don't get the hype about St. Maarten/St. Thomas. I think I would much rather go to Grand Cayman. But I have never been to either so I need info. Yes, I have looked online and googled x vs. y, etc. But I trust your opinions much more!

We are from Hawaii, so I don't expect to be "blown away" by beaches. Tell me what I can expect if we choose to go on the Dream or Fantasy on one of these itineraries (we have only been on the Wonder twice, and I have cruised concierge on RCCL).

gunka
10-19-2012, 12:20 PM
Sorry, I don't have the answer, but am very interested in the answer. I have cruised the Wonder twice and loved it, but that will no longer be an option and am looking for the best Caribbean choice as well. Let hope for some good replies :thumbsup2

sayhello
10-19-2012, 12:55 PM
Personally, unless you really love to shop, I don't think that St. Thomas or St. Maarten will hold anything special for you compared to Hawaii. While the snorkeling in St. Thomas was pleasant, it was nothing special.

I haven't been to Grand Cayman yet (heading on the Western Caribbean in Dec) but I much prefer Cozumel to either St. Thomas or St. Maarten (and forget about Nassau!). I think the Western looks much more interesting than the Eastern, but that's just me...

Sayhello

boogabuzz
10-19-2012, 01:13 PM
We were indifferent on E or W. Our choice to do W was it was a tiny bit cheaper and there were only 2 sea days vs the E with 3 sea days. That being said, after doing the W with only 2 sea days...I'm sure that 3 sea days would be fine too. :) Honestly, I don't cruise DCL for the ports though. I just love the ships and we thought the Fantasy was spectacular! I would go on either itenerary without even caring where we are going. (we did have a really good time at all 3 stops on the W itenerary though)

Summerl30
10-19-2012, 01:37 PM
I would prefer West on some of the other lines, but Disney doesn't go to the places I would want to go.

On disney i would still probably choose west because I have seen a lot of the places in the East already. I would be interested in going to the Bahamas again. Its on Dh's bucket list and I am sure we wont see enough this time to do it justice.

Zeppelin
10-19-2012, 02:38 PM
We have vacationed approximately 6 times per year in the past two years. Now that my sons are in first grade, their school has asked parents to refrain from taking kids out for vacation when school is in session. We just got off the Wonder on the last Pixar cruise and are in our second week of vacation (our last hurrah during a non-break time). We also went to Alaska with DCL in July.

We want to go on another cruise next year, but our options are limited. We are going skiing for Spring Break, and also to Tokyo Disneyland (planned for June), so we are looking at August. I don't get the hype about St. Maarten/St. Thomas. I think I would much rather go to Grand Cayman. But I have never been to either so I need info. Yes, I have looked online and googled x vs. y, etc. But I trust your opinions much more!

We are from Hawaii, so I don't expect to be "blown away" by beaches. Tell me what I can expect if we choose to go on the Dream or Fantasy on one of these itineraries (we have only been on the Wonder twice, and I have cruised concierge on RCCL).

we've done a pair of 7 night WC cruises and will be doing our first 7 night EC cruise next year....if you are dealing with a pair of 1st graders the WC may be a better bet as the boat makes an extra stop....i also think there are probably more/better excursions for younger kids on the WC (boatswains turtle farm in Grand Cayman, catamaran fury and sail in cozumel)...

TifffanyD
10-19-2012, 02:52 PM
I've been on several westerns and easterns. I prefer western, but let me tell you what we have found to do on each.

Eastern:
St Thomas - We've done an island tour which stunk. We went to St John's and hiked through nature and onto a great beach... but you might not be impressed with that being from Hawaii. We've also taken a taxi into downtown and shopped - which is ok.

St Maarten - we did an Island tour to the french side - which was kinda neat but most places were closed as it was too early. We only had an hour there too so we ate crepes then went back. We've shopped for jewelry and we've gone to the beach that is walking distance.

So not a ton besides the beaches



Western:

Cozumel: We've done Nachi Cocom beach (another beach - but it's all inclusive and not very crowded), we did an ATV ride through the jungle where we say Mayan ruins (on a diff cruiseline), we've walked to downtown and shopped. I like listening to the Mariachi music at the port and shopping for masks.

Grand Cayman: We've done the tour which included the turtle farm, Hell, rum cake factory, and 7 mile beach. That was fun but really a one-time thing. We did snorkeling through Captain Marvins (which included stingray city). And we often go to the Margaritaville and hang out. Also do some shopping here (very safe but pricey).

Not sure if you are looking at Key West or Costa Maya. We've not done CM yet but in Key West we like to walk and shop and visit art galleries. And barhop. There are lots of museums and attractions to visit, but we've not done any yet. We walked to the southernmost point and took a picture at it.

I just think there is more to do and more culture on the Western.

Itinkso
10-19-2012, 04:02 PM
Being from California and DD having attended college in San Diego, we never book "beach days" when we cruise. DD chose the Fantasy Western and we had great excursions:

Grand Cayman: Turtle Farm - DD did snorkel there
Costa Maya: Chacchoben Maya Ruins with Native Choice
Cozumel: we did the Rainforest Room/Spa onboard. DD is not too fond of Mexico so we canceled our on land spa appointments and spent hours in the Rainforest Spa onboard.

We talked to a couple onboard who were on the second portion of their back-to-back cruises and they said they didn't see much difference between the Eastern vs. Western ports. For us though, the Turtle Farm and Mayan Ruins were amazing experiences!

disneywonderfun
10-19-2012, 06:07 PM
I have to mention this is the first review of E vs W that I have seen that has been dominated by the W. It seems that you normally get a 2/3 pro E vs 1/3 pro W opinion on disboards.

Anyway, I also am more inclined to go west. I do not like 3 days at sea nor the stops going east. I enjoy the Mayan ruins, love the Caymans, and dislike days at sea (ship is crowded except when you are at port!)

Just my opinion,

DWF

ranidayz
10-19-2012, 07:02 PM
We have vacationed approximately 6 times per year in the past two years. Now that my sons are in first grade, their school has asked parents to refrain from taking kids out for vacation when school is in session. We just got off the Wonder on the last Pixar cruise and are in our second week of vacation (our last hurrah during a non-break time). We also went to Alaska with DCL in July.

We want to go on another cruise next year, but our options are limited. We are going skiing for Spring Break, and also to Tokyo Disneyland (planned for June), so we are looking at August. I don't get the hype about St. Maarten/St. Thomas. I think I would much rather go to Grand Cayman. But I have never been to either so I need info. Yes, I have looked online and googled x vs. y, etc. But I trust your opinions much more!

We are from Hawaii, so I don't expect to be "blown away" by beaches. Tell me what I can expect if we choose to go on the Dream or Fantasy on one of these itineraries (we have only been on the Wonder twice, and I have cruised concierge on RCCL).

For me, the only difference between the two itineraries is that on the Eastern I get an extra day on the ship....- and that's why I'm there - for the ship. Islands are just islands. Given my choice, I'll always pick the Eastern just for that extra day.

kcashner
10-19-2012, 07:04 PM
I don't like Cozumel, but LOVE Grand Cayman...so the Western is sort of a toss up. We have done the island tour and the snorkel 1/2 day thru Captain Marvin. Great company! The island is clean, friendly, and as safe as any place in the US.

Cozumel is Mexico--nuff said.

Eastern--we LIKE the sea days. Usually DCL has a special someone on board doing a series of 3 adult education talks. We've been on with a VP of Imagineering, a person involved in theme park attraction designs, the original cast Gaston from Broadway, etc. All great speakers and very interesting presentations.

Frankly, St. Thomas and St. Maarten are sort of "been there, done that" for us after so many Easterns, but there are nice beaches that you can do on your own and some good kid locations. We've especially enjoyed some of the "non-standard" stops like Tortola and St. Croix.

TifffanyD
10-19-2012, 08:43 PM
Oh i like sea days... So many fun activities!! But I DO like having experiences at various ports too.

My fave port day EVER was in Belize but DCL doesn't go there

bmalonef45
10-19-2012, 08:51 PM
We have done a W and we loved KW and GC, Coz. is okay but as others have said its Mexico. DW and I stopped their on a Carnival cruise and they port in a different port which felt safer than the port DCL uses. Mainly because it was off on its own. DW and I liked KW so much we're going their over MLK weekend in January. Can't wait. GC was another favorite of ours. We did the sub tour with the kids (so so at best) and 7 mile beach on our own. It is expensive but I would go back there for a non cruise vacation some day too.

We are doing a E this summer so I'm interested to follow this thread to hear more about St. M and St. T.

TifffanyD
10-19-2012, 08:59 PM
We have done a W and we loved KW and GC, Coz. is okay but as others have said its Mexico. DW and I stopped their on a Carnival cruise and they port in a different port which felt safer than the port DCL uses. Mainly because it was off on its own. DW and I liked KW so much we're going their over MLK weekend in January. Can't wait. GC was another favorite of ours. We did the sub tour with the kids (so so at best) and 7 mile beach on our own. It is expensive but I would go back there for a non cruise vacation some day too.

We are doing a E this summer so I'm interested to follow this thread to hear more about St. M and St. T.

I like the port carnival uses in cozumel too... International pier or something? Feels much swankier and newer

tvguy
10-19-2012, 10:34 PM
I have to mention this is the first review of E vs W that I have seen that has been dominated by the W. It seems that you normally get a 2/3 pro E vs 1/3 pro W opinion on disboards.

Anyway, I also am more inclined to go west. I do not like 3 days at sea nor the stops going east. I enjoy the Mayan ruins, love the Caymans, and dislike days at sea (ship is crowded except when you are at port!)

Just my opinion,

DWF

My observation too, and as someone else mentioned, the Easterns are more expensive than the Westerns which implies they are more popular.
I have a hard time putting Western and Caribbean together, you just don't go far enough south to be Caribbean to me. Grand Cayman is only about 450 miles south of Florida, and Cozumel 560 miles. St. Thomas is 1100 miles, St. Maarteen is about 1300 miles south. And the further south you go, the closer to the equator, the warmer the weather. I loved my Alaska cruise, but to me a Caribbean cruise means warm weather, even in January. The average temperature is about 10 degrees warmer in St Thomas and St. Maarten than Cozumel and Grand Cayman in January.

Zeppelin
10-20-2012, 10:06 AM
My observation too, and as someone else mentioned, the Easterns are more expensive than the Westerns which implies they are more popular.
I have a hard time putting Western and Caribbean together, you just don't go far enough south to be Caribbean to me. Grand Cayman is only about 450 miles south of Florida, and Cozumel 560 miles. St. Thomas is 1100 miles, St. Maarteen is about 1300 miles south. And the further south you go, the closer to the equator, the warmer the weather. I loved my Alaska cruise, but to me a Caribbean cruise means warm weather, even in January. The average temperature is about 10 degrees warmer in St Thomas and St. Maarten than Cozumel and Grand Cayman in January.

i always figured it was a little more expensive because you have one more full day at sea versus the port which means more food and beverage consumption on the ship...

twopeasonepod
10-20-2012, 10:42 AM
Thanks for all the replies. I, too, noticed the big swing toward Western. Cost was also mentioned, although in my limited research cost seems much more related to date of sailing rather than itinerary.

We are now exploring a few options:

1) Fantasy Eastern/Western right before school starts with extended stay in FL (we are DVC and "home" is AK, but we are using our points for TDL so we will visit a friend and rent a beach house instead). I think for this we are mostly going for the ship. We will flip flop the extra week depending on which sailing we choose. I am not thrilled about this because it seems so pricey for just the ship. Is the Fantasy THAT much worth it?

2) Don't listen to the school and take the boys out anyway for a Labor Day cruise (Western) for $2K less! They would only miss four days, is that so bad? Haha

3) Take them out for three days at Thanksgiving and pay about the same as mid-Aug. DH is not excited about this one because he thinks we will run into hurricanes haha.

4) Forget the whole Caribbean thing and take the Magic from Barcelona! I looooove Spain and Italy (did a summer semester in Florence during undergrad).

Now I know why we never cruise during August. So expensive!!!

KSDisneyDad
10-20-2012, 09:15 PM
We have done two Westerns and one Eastern. Our next cruise is an Eastern.

We prefer the Eastern for the two Sea Days up front and the one Sea Day later.

However, if I were you I'd opt for the Western over Labor Day to save money. Yes, there may be a hurricane, but we've cruise in September 3 times and have never had an issue. Just buy cruise insurance.

Good luck choosing.

twopeasonepod
10-20-2012, 09:26 PM
We have done two Westerns and one Eastern. Our next cruise is an Eastern.

We prefer the Eastern for the two Sea Days up front and the one Sea Day later.

However, if I were you I'd opt for the Western over Labor Day to save money. Yes, there may be a hurricane, but we've cruise in September 3 times and have never had an issue. Just buy cruise insurance.

Good luck choosing.

Okay so I am assuming the weather is still blazing' hot for Labor Day, right?

I think we might do Siesta Key the week before and the Labor Day cruise - definitely more bang for my buck. It's not like they're gonna not get into college of they miss the first week of school. AND we can go to some Rays games woo hoo!

mamiof2
10-20-2012, 11:44 PM
twopeasonepod, with the amount that you guys like to travel, you should just homeschool, then school attendance wont be an issue! :goodvibes We homeschool and therefore can take lengthy vacations whenever we want, because i make our own school schedule. We just got home Tuesday night from our 24 day vacation to Disney World and Bahamas on the Disney Dream. I could never take them out of school for that long!

as for the topic at hand, we were also debating between the E and W Caribb for next Sept. We opted for the W. I believe it will be a more culturally-rich experience for us. My degree is in Spanish and I teach my kids Span, so this influenced our decision. I will have to start researching the best port excursions for us.

twopeasonepod
10-21-2012, 12:30 AM
twopeasonepod, with the amount that you guys like to travel, you should just homeschool, then school attendance wont be an issue! :goodvibes We homeschool and therefore can take lengthy vacations whenever we want, because i make our own school schedule. We just got home Tuesday night from our 24 day vacation to Disney World and Bahamas on the Disney Dream. I could never take them out of school for that long!

as for the topic at hand, we were also debating between the E and W Caribb for next Sept. We opted for the W. I believe it will be a more culturally-rich experience for us. My degree is in Spanish and I teach my kids Span, so this influenced our decision. I will have to start researching the best port excursions for us.

I definitely admire you for homeschooling your kids. I could never do it. I don't have the patience, plus I have to bring home the bacon! I am a private practice psychologist and my husband works from home as a web developer - which is why we can travel so much (I make my own schedule and he still works while we are on vacation). And what would I do when they know more than me??? Hahaha that day will come sooner than I can predict!

I like your opinion on culture! That is pretty big for me. I want the boys to experience as much diversity as possible.

What did you think of the Dream? And the Bahamas? I don't want to have to do a B2B and Nassau doesn't sound that great, but maybe I am missing something?

tvguy
10-21-2012, 12:34 AM
i always figured it was a little more expensive because you have one more full day at sea versus the port which means more food and beverage consumption on the ship...

And more sales of booze and bingo cards. :rotfl2:

We always have all our meals on the ship, even when in port, so never really thought about that.

I do know that on NCL Americas Pride of America, when we sailed on her, there are 2 ports where you overnight......and the big issue the dining staff was having was dealing with how many people where choosing to eat on the ship, and THEN go into town at night, rather than go into town to eat.

mamiof2
10-21-2012, 01:28 AM
What did you think of the Dream? And the Bahamas? I don't want to have to do a B2B and Nassau doesn't sound that great, but maybe I am missing something?

The Dream is wonderful! It was our second time on the Dream. We dont feel a special draw to Nassau either, so we prefer to stay on the ship. It is rather empty that day, as the majority get off the ship. It is the best time to experience the Aquaduck without outrageous lines, and also do the Midship Detective Agency. We were so lucky this time to receive a complimentary upgrade to concierge. It was amazing!!

are u still considering a cruise to / from Barcelona? That is my dream cruise!! So i would vote for that one! i also LOOOVE Spain! So i would have to plan on staying there for a few weeks either before or after the cruise. I studied there for a semester undergrad. 8 wonderful months i stayed!!

Silverfox97
10-21-2012, 07:02 AM
We are now exploring a few options:

1) Fantasy Eastern/Western right before school starts with extended stay in FL (we are DVC and "home" is AK, but we are using our points for TDL so we will visit a friend and rent a beach house instead). I think for this we are mostly going for the ship. We will flip flop the extra week depending on which sailing we choose. I am not thrilled about this because it seems so pricey for just the ship. Is the Fantasy THAT much worth it?

2) Don't listen to the school and take the boys out anyway for a Labor Day cruise (Western) for $2K less! They would only miss four days, is that so bad? Haha

3) Take them out for three days at Thanksgiving and pay about the same as mid-Aug. DH is not excited about this one because he thinks we will run into hurricanes haha.

4) Forget the whole Caribbean thing and take the Magic from Barcelona! I looooove Spain and Italy (did a summer semester in Florence during undergrad).

Now I know why we never cruise during August. So expensive!!!

I would choose:

1) Longest vacation first
2) Magic in Europe
3) Fantasy Eastern
4) Fantasy Western

A few notes - we prefer the Eastern. St. John is our all time favorite port, and, we love Sea Days. We rotate between eastern & westerns (see signature & tickers), but are set on 2 Easterns in 2014 (unless DCL surprises us with a new fancy locale or southern Caribbean). Also, we live in FL & don't have the hurricane-fear issue, so time of year is not a big deal for us. We actually prefer to cruise when it's warmer. 2014 we are sticking to school breaks tho - no more taking DD out if school.

And, I would only consider the Dream if you were short on time & they were doing a 5-night double dip. We love Castaway Cay & have only gotten off at Nassau on our 1st cruise back in 2005. We prefer the longer cruises & the Fantasy over the Dream (although love the classic ships even more). I don't think a B2B would be very exciting when instead I could have uninterrupted time on the Fantasy instead.

Just my opinion!!!

Sent from my iPhone using DISBoards