Who wants to help plan our trip?!!!

Discussion in 'Royal Caribbean' started by lovetheduck, Aug 22, 2018.

  1. lovetheduck

    lovetheduck Mouseketeer

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    My family and I (DH, DDs 14 & 17) are trying to plan our first cruise, but there are so many options we're just getting confused. Since we've never been before, we're not sure what the most important things are to us. This is what we do know...
    -We will need two rooms. They don't have to be connecting, but they need to be near each other. Both will need at least windows, but don't need to be the same type of room.
    -DDs will stay together ALL the time. They might try a teen club (but probably not very much, and certainly not if they have to split us). Our goal is for them to have freedom on the ship-it's ok if we don't see them very often. So there will need to be things for them to do on the ship.
    -We don't really like buffets. Food is important to DH and I, the kids not so much.
    -We'll be flying from NY, so we're ambivalent about departure ports.
    -We want a warm weather beachy type of cruise.
    And finally...
    - We have to go over winter break! Departure date must be between 12/23-12/29. (see, you knew there had to be a catch! haha)

    We've pretty much narrowed it down to RCCL or Norwegian. Sometimes I think the biggest ships would be great since there's so much to do, but then I remember it will be school break and the lines will be insane and the ships crazy crowded. DH thinks eastern Caribbean is better, I think western. Southern sounds good, but then there are more at sea days, and is that good during busy times or not? We're going around in circles.

    Any advice? Feel free to be specific.
     
  2. HopperFan

    HopperFan "It's a bug-eat-bug world out there, princess."

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    I'll just share some thoughts ...

    - You get to pick your cabins so it's completely in your control what you pick. Depending on ship you may be able to get Inside Promenade or Park View rooms that have windows, no balcony. It saves LOTS of money but feels very open. We once had two of those rooms connected.
    - We cruised with two kids about that age. They had NO interest in the kids groups after they checked into them. They wished they were on a bigger ship where there is so much more to do on their own.
    - We love to show up to dinner every night, same table, same staff who know your every whim. To us it's one of the best parts of the cruise. If you choose one of the larger ships you never have to go to buffet since so many dining options.
    - We've done Port Canaveral, Ft Lauderdale and Miami. Flying ... I think FL is the easiest.
    - If you want beachy, I would pick one that has their own island stop and goes to other ports with nice beaches available.
    - Western, usually costs less, some ports are less desirable to some people.
    - Eastern, usually costs more due to ports, we are doing that in November but anticipate remnants of hurricane damage.
    - Southern, very nice, more sea days isn't a problem on bigger ships since so much to do.

    It took us a few months to finalize next cruise. 3 cabins of us. You just start picking out what is important, and see what fits with your dates. Sometimes you just keep narrowing it down until that one cruise is sitting in front of you.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018
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  4. tortoni

    tortoni DIS Veteran

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    Sometimes when we travel with our kids, we stay in a balcony room and they stay across the hall in an inside room. We do this if there is a substantial savings. The kids don't care about the view and come in to use our balcony when they want it. When they were under 18, I think we set it up with one adult in each room for the booking and then just switched when we got onboard. As to which cruise, so many choices, assuming that they are not booked up for the holiday week. I would think any of the bigger ships on RCCL would be great so your daughters could enjoy the activities and you could enjoy the specialty restaurants. We fly from NY too and prefer flying into FL or Orlando over Miami. Fl is the easiest for convenience to the ship from the airport.
     
  5. plutolovr

    plutolovr DIS Veteran

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    I recommend working with a knowledgeable travel agent. The sponsor of these boards Dreams Unlimited Travel, books other cruise lines other than Disney. They will be able to steer you in the right direction.

    That being said, the larger ships will feel less crowded because there are more places for everyone to go. I have sailed most of the larger RCCL ships during busy times and there were never long lines or a crowded feeling.
     
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  6. Ksquared

    Ksquared Mouseketeer

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    I think you can't go wrong with either RCCL or NCL. Here's what I would do: Check out itineraries that interest you and pick one from each cruise line. Then, look at each ship, activities, shows, restaurants and figure out what appeals to your family more. Since you are flexible and can fly out of any of the FL ports, that should be the last thing you look at. Then maybe price out 2 cabins on each cruise line and then make your decision.

    I was looking at both cruise lines before booking recently. Originally, I thought I wanted to do a RCCL and booked with them. Then I changed my mind after looking at a similar itinerary on Norwegian. For me, what it came down to was we were limited to a certain date, I liked the Norwegian ship better and the port was more convenient for us. If you have a little more flexibility with port etc. then narrow down ship vs. sailing date etc. and see what's the best fit.
     
  7. starvenger

    starvenger DIS Veteran

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    I agree with using a TA, especially ones that deal with cruises. With a 2 room request like you have, they can probably find something that works for you. The actual booking is likely to require one adult per room, but if that happens to change once you get on board... only you and the stateroom attendant will know for sure.

    Your timeframe is a very popular time to go, so I think that no matter what, you'll be dealing with crowds. Definitely look at the itineraries. I'd recommend finding no more than 3 stops on a 7 day cruise, as it's a balanced mix of sea and port days. If you can book a ship going to a private island/peninsula, all the better, as that gives you a built in beach day.

    Western Caribbean itineraries often includes Cozumel. Easy to see why, as it's a destination that caters to cruise ships and resort lovers alike. You can also visit some ruins from here, so if that's on your list of things to do, you might want that.

    But I think both itineraries would feature ports that have easy access to beaches, so if you're not looking to go on excursions I think you're covered either way.

    Avoiding buffets... that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Main dining rooms are usually open for breakfast and lunch, and I haven't noticed them being particularly busy relative to the buffet. On Royal, they actually offer a small buffet as well as menu service for breakfast and lunch, so you can get your buffet fix in should you desire.
     
  8. lovetheduck

    lovetheduck Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for the advice everyone!
    I think we've got it narrowed down to the Norwegian Bliss or RCCL Harmony. Most of the other options were nixed due to ports. Most of the family wanted eastern caribbean over western.
    So between the two, any favorites?
     
  9. starvenger

    starvenger DIS Veteran

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    Haven't been on Bliss. Was on Harmony last year - enjoyed it a lot. But then, I pretty much enjoy any cruise. My trip report is linked in my sig.
     
  10. lovetheduck

    lovetheduck Mouseketeer

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    Another change of plans!
    Now it's either the RCCL Harmony or Freedom.
    Eastern or Southern. Miami departure or San Juan.

    Thoughts?
     
  11. hdrolfe

    hdrolfe DIS Veteran

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    Both look like awesome ships. NCL is known for being freestyle, so you don't need reservations or an assigned dining time. Bliss will be porting in Miami and Harmony is in Fort Lauderdale I believe? I'd prefer FLL myself, it's so close to the airport and flights are easier for me, so perhaps check that aspect just in case? I have not yet cruised on NCL but do really enjoy RCL. I think either would be lovely. Based on what I know about the itineraries though I'd probably vote for Harmony, I believe their Eastern is Labadee, San Juan and St Martin? Bliss is St Thomas, Tortola and Nassau. We loved Labadee. That would be my preference. But, you know your family and if you have been to any of these places before. I like to go to a new port if I can.
     
  12. hdrolfe

    hdrolfe DIS Veteran

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    We have been on Freedom twice, it's a great ship, rock climbing, flow rider, ice skating. We liked the size, it wasn't too big to be overwhelming but had everything we wanted. The dining service was good, we had assigned dining once and My Time one, it was good both ways. We ate at Johnny Rockets for lunch which was ok and the Mexican place for dinner which I really enjoyed but my son found not great. Though he did love the calamari and nachos. The buffet was really good, especially at breakfast. And the Southern Itin is pretty awesome, on my bucket list :) Harmony is bigger, fewer ports, and the ship itself is one I want to try. Tough choice!
     
  13. crabbymom

    crabbymom Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess

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    I love the Freedom. It is my favorite ship and I have sailed her 4 times. We book promenade rooms, which are priced like interiors but have a window overlooking the Promenade. Its a great place to watch the parades and parties without being in the crush of people. My boys (15 & 20) love the flowrider, ice rink, sound booths, and arcade on the Freedom. We actually were book on the Southern Caribbean out of San Juan for this past June, but had to cancel :-(
    All of the ports on the Freedom cruise have great beaches.
    I have not been on the Harmony yet, but if I had the same choice, I would still choose Freedom based on the itinerary. Good Luck!
     
  14. Terri

    Terri .

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    I can't help with the itinerary or ship choice, but my sister and family just back from a 10 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Anthem. I quizzed her for 2 hours about it, especially since her eldest and my dd are the same age.
    • They had 2 cabins a balcony and an inside across the hall. The inside was much better than expected because they kept the TV on the outdoor camera channel the entire time so it was like having an ocean view window. In fact her 2 teens (that would normal sleep in until 2 or 3 if allowed) enjoyed being awaken by the sun rise on the TV and after the first couple mornings actually made a point of watching it from the deck. Lisa said she couldn't watch sunrise from her room, even with the balcony =D
    • Their teens (15 & 13) went to the teen club the first day, made friends, and then hung out with them the rest of the cruise but not in the teen club. Parents never saw kids except during planned excursions, dinner, and any other event parents required them to attend.
    • Lisa said MDR food was very good with many options, though lobster night and desserts were a bit meh in her opinion. She definitely didn't see the need for any specialty dining. Since her cruise was packed, she said Windjammers was a nightmare they would get breakfast in the Solarium.
    • They loved Labadee
     
  15. lovetheduck

    lovetheduck Mouseketeer

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    Just got off the phone with the travel agent and we booked..... THE HARMONY!!!!!
    We can't wait till December!
     
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