First ever cruise...

Discussion in 'Royal Caribbean' started by qwerty2k, Aug 28, 2018.

  1. qwerty2k

    qwerty2k Earning My Ears

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    so me and my wife are seriously considering going on a cruise for the first time. We are in the U.K. but have found the following itineraries for a Caribbean cruise but are having a difficult time picking one. Wondered if anyone could offer any thoughts?

    Logically should we go for the one with more ports? But as a new cruiser part of the fun seems to be exploring and using the ship?

    Anyone have any first timer tips for someone who has never cruised?

    Edit: we are looking at mid April next year if that makes any difference.

    Western Caribbean
    7 night- Rhapsody of the Seas
    ITINERARY

    Tampa (Florida), United States Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico Belize City, Belize Roatán, HondurasCozumel, Mexico Tampa (Florida), United States

    Western Caribbean
    7 night- Harmony of the Seas
    ITINERARY

    Fort Lauderdale (Florida), United States Labadee®, Haiti Falmouth, Jamaica Cozumel, Mexico Fort Lauderdale (Florida), United States

    Eastern Caribbean
    7 night- Oasis of the Seas
    ITINERARY

    Port Canaveral (Florida), United States Nassau, Bahamas Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Philipsburg, St. Maarten Port Canaveral (Florida), United States

    Eastern Caribbean
    7 night- Allure of the Seas
    ITINERARY

    Miami (Florida), United States Philipsburg, St. MaartenSan Juan, Puerto Rico Labadee®, Haiti Miami (Florida), United States
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2018
  2. cel_disney

    cel_disney DIS Veteran

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    You picked one really small ship and 3 bohemiths!!

    We have not been on an Oasis class ship yet - our first is in April, but we have been on several cruises over the last few decades.

    My advice for a first cruise would be to look at a Freedom Class ship. Royal Freedom Class is larger than almost all other cruise line ships even though it’s not as large as Oasis Class. At 156k tons - it has everything you can want and the Promenade is really special.

    Also - I recommend for first time cruisers the Western Caribbean route because the waters of the Caribbean Sea are calmer than the Atlantic. This also means look for a southern Florida or Texas port for your cruise to have less time in the Atlantic. We prefer the Roatán / Belize / Cozumel itinerary to the Grand Cayman / Jamaica one but both sets of stops offer enough for a first time cruiser!

    Once you understand how you like cruising and how you do with it - branch out to smaller and larger ships to see what you like best! We fully subscribe to the larger ships being the destination - but we have been to all of the stops above already and don’t need to ‘see’ these islands. Since you have never been - you should plan budget to check them out!!

    Good Luck! Out of the 4 you listed - I would try Harmony or the Baby Rhapsody...also check out cruise critic for additional reviews and information from each.
     
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  4. Mpadovani2

    Mpadovani2 Mouseketeer

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    I agree with the above poster on a number of points. Western Caribbean is usually better for first time cruisers and less touristy IMHO. The Rhapsody, although lovely, is an original sailing vessel quite small by today’s standards and lacking several amenities. And a port intensive intinerary can be burdensome if you really want to enjoy the ship. And I agree whole heartedly that the promenade on royal ships is not to be missed. I would say that the Freedom class vessels are not my favorite. IMO I find them to not handle the number of passengers as well as the huge Oasis Class ships. The Oasis class ships are just wow and the other ships that I love are the Explorer class vessels. Good luck choosing and Happy sailing.
     
  5. gumbypee

    gumbypee DIS Veteran

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    I've been on the Rhapsody and thought it was a fine ship - sure, not as many bells and whistles such as... well I'm not quite sure because I haven't been on the big ones. IT MIGHT be a good starter cruise but then again you might want more options that come on bigger ships. Sorry, not helpful I know :)
     
  6. FabFourteenFamilyFun

    FabFourteenFamilyFun Mouseketeer

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    I have only been on 3 cruises- the 1st was Carnival 17 years ago and We were not bitten by the cruise bug until...... Allure- eastern Caribbean- incredible!!! Never felt the ship once (middle of June)! Just fantastic! So we talked 4 friends into going on Harmony- Western Caribbean this past April- just as fantastic! We are all booked now for next year on Anthem-9 day Canada and New England(Quantum class). Plan! Plan! Plan! I had a lot of questions answered here! I also looked at the Cruise Compasses for the itinerary. We had 8:00 for traditional dining. Really let’s you enjoy the day. Out of the 2 cruises we only went on 1excursion(in Cozumel). We always walked around every port and went to the beach on Labadee. Just loved being on the ships! We stayed in the same cabin on both ships- Boardwalk balcony on the 11th deck- over the carousel. I want to go on both again and would try a Central Park Balcony then. We were 6 retirees with a drink package!! Do you have children?
     
  7. nkereina

    nkereina Last chance to lose your keys.

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    We've been on 2 cruises - a small ship on Carnival and Oasis on Royal. My parents' first cruise was Oasis Eastern itinerary and they loved everything about it.

    For us, we found the 3 ports to be the perfect amount on Oasis. My dad was more interested in relaxing, enjoying the ship, and enjoying his drink package (lol) and he said a few times that if there were any more ports, it would have been too much for him. There was a ton to see, do, and eat on the Oasis and I was able to plan what we wanted to do accordingly with this number of ports. I would imagine Allure is the same way, if that one is more appealing to you.

    IMO, for a first time cruiser, the fewer the ports the better. It will allow you to get acclimated with how things work, and enjoy the ship itself. If you go with Oasis or Allure, I highly recommend giving your days some framework of a plan and making reservations for the shows, just to ensure you do everything you want to do. I didn't love having to plan my days, but wanted to maximize all the opportunities available to us on the ship. It was worth the planning - we loved it!
     
  8. qwerty2k

    qwerty2k Earning My Ears

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    Thanks for the response, leaning towards the larger ships at the moment.

    Thanks for your response.

    No problem, thanks for taking the time to respond!

    We have been to Disney World and Land a couple of times, so planning isn't a problem, i love planning! No we don't have children.

    Yeah i like planning so will reserve spots for shows and the like and try and plan (but not too perscriptive) each day and what we can do in the evening etc. Three ports is sounding like a good amount of time to spend on the ship and still see other places.
     
  9. hdrolfe

    hdrolfe DIS Veteran

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    Personally I'd pick Harmony. Big ship (one I really want to go on). Labadee is lovely and can be free. Cozumel has so many choices for things to do. I think you could go a dozen times and not have to go to the same place twice. And Jamaica, if you are active do Blue Hole or Dunn's River Falls, or if you want calmer, I believe there are some all inclusives you can get a day pass for. All the sea days will allow you to enjoy the ship, and see if you really do like cruising.

    We have been on Carnival twice, RCL three times. We love each of the cruises and all of the ports we've been to. Kiddo is not a fan of sea days unless there is a lot to do on the ship. But since you won't be travelling with kids you can relax and enjoy!
     
  10. OKW Lover

    OKW Lover Retired and living 2 miles from The Castle. DIS Lifetime Sponsor

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    We have been on both the Rhapsody and the Oasis. Enjoyed both ships. For a first time cruiser I'd suggest a "basic" 7-night eastern (or western) Caribbean cruise, which typically call at three ports. That give you a nice mix of sea days to explore the ship and port days to sightsee/shop. I'd probably also suggest the Oasis-class ships for the first time cruiser as they have so many features you can enjoy.
     
  11. cel_disney

    cel_disney DIS Veteran

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    We also love Voyager/Explorer/Adventure/Navigator/Mariner!! They are not much smaller than Freedom Class and the added features are things like the splash pad area and in some cases water slides. Mariner is pretty amped up these days with new fun amenities and a hip vibe and a tiki bar and Adventure has water slides!

    And for folks without kids - the missing water park area on Voyager Class is probably not an issue at all! They all have flow riders and multiple specialty restaurants now!!

    OP - good luck with your choice! Of those listed - I would choose Harmony, but it really doesn’t leave much to look forward to in the NEXt cruise after that!
     
  12. qwerty2k

    qwerty2k Earning My Ears

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    I think we are leaning towards harmony, it’s good to hear that the ports sound like stuff that we would like to do so thanks

    Yeah the three ports sounds good, a
    Nice mix of enough time on the ship to explore as a newbie but still places to visit.

    Yeah I think we are leaning towards harmony!
     
  13. qwerty2k

    qwerty2k Earning My Ears

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    Quick question: tipping. So if I pay tips upfront as you can do via royal Caribbean, when else do I need to tip? (As someone from the U.K. who isn’t used to tipping, want to make sure I tip he expected people)
     
  14. cel_disney

    cel_disney DIS Veteran

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    Tipping is very subjecting and controversial. I am including some references to help you get the idea but we need to not get this turned into a ‘tipping’ thread!

    PreBoarding:
    You will want to tip the Porters that help with your luggage. $5-$10 is usually what we tip depending on the amount of bags.

    On board:
    This covers your room steward and regular dining staff. If you dine in a specialty restaurant, you will need to tip there. Many also leave extra for room steward or wait staff at the end of ge week for exceptional service. For waitstaff - this will really depend on what type of dining you do. If you have the same staff each night and they truly get to know you and personalize your service, $20+ extra would be warranted.

    If you purchase the drink package, you will prepay tips. Many also leave a little extra - this is at your discretion but we only do this for truly exceptional and personal service. If you don’t have a drink package, 18% I’d added to your bill for each beverage purchase.

    You do not have to tip the sports or entertainment staff.

    On Islands:
    You should plan to tip Drivers and Tour Operators and Restaurant/Bar Staff when you are off the ship. Bring small bills - they won’t make change! Ha!
     
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  15. FabFourteenFamilyFun

    FabFourteenFamilyFun Mouseketeer

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    This is exactly what and who we tipped! A couple other things from a fellow planner: Starvenger( on this site was so helpful!) I believe he hasn’t chimed in because he is on the Allure! CruiseCritic is very helpful- especially to see the cruise compass. Fly into Fort Lauderdale and get your hotel on 17th st. Embassy Suites, Hyatt Place, Holiday Inn Express,etc. Check for free shuttles from the airport and to Port Everglades. These are all close to the airport and port. On disembarkation day this was our timeline (On Harmony):
    7:00 American Icon for breakfast
    7:57 back to cabin to carry out our luggage (we only had 2 carry-in’s) True!!!
    8:21- in Taxi
    8:30(approx) at airport
    8:59 at the gate!
     
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  16. qwerty2k

    qwerty2k Earning My Ears

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    Thank you for the hotel information! That was something else we were wondering about so thank you for offering some good suggestions!
     
  17. WanderlustNZ

    WanderlustNZ DIS Veteran

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    I’ve never actually cruised with RCCL before (Celebrity is our current cruise line of choice now that we can no longer afford Disney), so any advice about which one of those ships/itineraries to choose would be based purely on my interests rather than first hand experiences. However, I did want to say have a wonderful first cruise.

    My first cruise was about 12 years ago around the Eastern Med on a Costa ship. While I didn’t love the ship, the amazing ports made it one of my all time favourite vacations. So even though I think you’re right to pick a ship you like the look of, don’t underestimate the importance of also picking ports that appeal to you. Had we not loved those ports as much as we did, DH and I probably wouldn’t have tried another cruise.

    Other than that, probably my biggest piece of advice would be to do a bit of research into your choice of cruise cabin rather that just putting faith in the cruise line to pick one for you.

    Some obsessive researchers (I just might be talking about myself :rolleyes1) will go as far as researching which way the ship usually docks at the various ports so they can decide which side of the ship will give them better views. Of course, as a first time cruiser, this is low down the list of what you need to worry about. Yet, I would argue that there are other pieces of information that are definitely worth knowing and considering e.g.
    - cabins midship and low down are less susceptible to rocking motion in rough seas
    - inside cabins can sometimes be problematic if you’re claustrophobic
    - cabins above or below busy areas (or right next to busy elevator shafts) can sometimes be noisy
    - some cabins are long walks from stairs and elevators
    - not all cabins are created equal and occasionally ships have ‘secret’ cabins which might be more spacious or a better shape than others of the same or similar class.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2018
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  18. FabFourteenFamilyFun

    FabFourteenFamilyFun Mouseketeer

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    On royalcaribbeanblog.com- August 28- Harmony of the Seas Guide and Review. You can also access a Cruise Compass on this site :)
     
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  19. starvenger

    starvenger DIS Veteran

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    I am back from the Allure. Have notes about my cruise and will put that together in my trip report. But school starts tomorrow so I gotta get the kids prepped for that first!

    The tipping sounds about right. I would say that 3-5 bags would be $5 for the “Porter”. The daily gratuity rate is fair but I believe it is pooled amongst the pertinent staff so tip your room attendant and waiters more if you feel it was earned.

    Onshore, 15-20% is a generally accepted tip rate. Bear that in mind if you go to an all-inclusive day resort.

    Cash is king, but some places take credit cards, and use chip and pin. Don’t let the card out of your sight!

    Yesterday was debarkation day for us and we also ate in American Icon (take the a la carte option if offered - you can still do the buffet if desired).

    If you’re going to Honduras, it apparently causes long lines at the CBP line, especially for non-Americans. BUT, there is a global entry/mobile passport line that will cut at least an hour off your time if you have a late (say, 35 and up) exit number. To use mobile passport, your physical passport must be valid for at least the next 6 months. (There’s obviously a story to tell about this and you’ll see it soon)

    Hotel shuttles I would probably ignore and just get a taxi/Uber/Lyft to the port.
     
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