New to cruises, tips please

(20 Posts)
Dancergirl Mon 02-Sep-13 22:29:37

I've only ever done one cruise before with dh before we had the dc. It was Alaska and should have been amazing but I was newly pregnant with dd1 and felt terrible the whole week. Wasn't sure if it was sea sickness or morning sickness but in any case I couldn't take anything.

So...we want to try a family cruise next year but I am VERY nervous. We were thinking of the Med, possibly Royal Caribbean as I've heard they are very good.

Where should we/shouldn't we go if I want to avoid choppy seas? Is it best to avoid sailing from Southampton? If you board the ship from somewhere in Europe, how do you co-ordinate flight times?

Next summer our dds will be 13, 11 and 7. Older two are keen to see cities.

Do I need to book now for next summer?

We did a 14 night Royal Caribbean Western Med cruise this summer (our first) with DCs of 9 and 7 and had a great time. We didn't book till Feb, I'm not sure when you get the best prices but I gather booking a long way ahead is the done thing.

We sailed from Southampton, depends where you live I suppose, you do have to add two sailing days at the start and end to get into the Med, so flying means you can have a shorter cruise. We live nearby so it was a bit of a no-brainer for us and was very easy indeed, much easier than negotiating airports. You can also do combined cruise-stay holidays where you stay in a resort for a few days before or after catching the cruise ship.

We had only the most minor choppiness in the Med, none in the Bay of Biscay,the ship was very stable. The DCs loved the kids clubs (they were in the under 11 one but there was a teen one as well) and came with us on every shore trip, we did a mixture of DIY and ship based excursions, highlights for us were Gibraltar, Rome and Pisa.

Your best bet is probably to find a travel agent who specialises in cruises (take a bit of care online, maybe someone will come along and recommend one) - we booked direct as we didn't need flights. Also take a look at the Cruise Critic website, they have an excellent forum.

iklboo Mon 16-Sep-13 23:05:52

How much do you recommend for tips? We've got the drinks packages so gratuities are covered but what about others? The 'pre pay' cost is £178 or we can choose our own amounts.

My folks have been on a couple of cruises & leave $20 for the cabin staff $10 for favourite barman/lady & $10 for favourite waiter - but that seems a bit, well, stingey.......

I'd recommend Thompson. Relaxed, informal, loads of kids activities. They say that staff tips are included, so you can leave an additional amount as you please. Mediterranean, no worries about weather conditions. Depends on the deal you book but it often includes the connecting flight, ask a Tavel agent.

iklboo Mon 16-Sep-13 23:29:31

Sorry - should have said we're already booked on Royal Caribbean. We leave in 6 weeks.

LinzerTorte Tue 17-Sep-13 09:30:40

We sailed with Royal Caribbean this summer and prepaid our tips so that we could have My Time (flexible) Dining, but still gave a bit extra to our cabin attendant and the two waiters who served us at dinner. Otherwise, I think they deduct a certain amount per person per day for tips at the end of the cruise (around $12 IIRC) if you don't prepay.

We did the same as Linzer, prepaid but also left 20 euros for the cabin attendant, 10 each for the 2 waiters (only ate in the dining room about half the nights) and 20 for the kids club staff. They provide envelopes for gratuities to make sure they get to the right person (all staff wear name badges, you get the same waiters every night).

iklboo Tue 17-Sep-13 23:45:30

Thanks - I reckon we'll do that then we know what we've got left to spend. Saves worrying at the end!

Dancergirl Wed 25-Sep-13 11:29:03

We are looking at Royal Caribbean, in and out of Rome, 7 nights, it looks fab and the dds are so excited about all the facilities on the ship!

Is it worth pre-paying the gratuities?

Royal Caribbean's customer service has been excellent so far, really helpful. He recommended a lower deck being better for any choppiness, is that true?

Also, they didn't have any inter-connecting rooms so I've provisionally reserved 2 rooms next to each other, one for us and one for the girls. Will that be ok - they will be 13, 11 and 7 next summer.

Dancergirl Wed 25-Sep-13 11:29:52

Also, it boards between 11am-5pm. For the flight, what time should I aim for it to arrive?

I would fly the day before to be honest, that way you aren't going to miss it if flights are delayed. It's good to get on board early when it's quieter. Also, not sure how far the airport is from the city or if it's in the same direction, but the port is a good hours drive away from the city.

iklboo Wed 25-Sep-13 20:39:04

We're staying in Southampton the night before. Do you recommend boarding about 11am when it's a bit quieter & spend the pre-sailing time exploring the ship (we sail at 4pm)?

That's what we did, although we hadn't realised you couldn't get in your cabin till after 2 and we took quite a bit of hand luggage in case our main stuff took a while to arrive, so we were carrying a lot of stuff around. We went straight to the Buffet restaurant for lunch it gets very busy on boarding day, then out onto deck. You might not have the weather for that, but there are plenty of other places to hang out and you can have a good explore.

I've heard that queues for boarding get longer as the day goes on too, but as we've only done it once not really sure about that. I would highly recommend looking at the Cruise Critic Forum, they have threads for each cruise, sections for each cruise line etc and lots of very experienced people.

iklboo Wed 25-Sep-13 20:57:26

Ooh thanks. Will check that out.

LinzerTorte Thu 26-Sep-13 10:27:37

Dancergirl We were on the 8th deck (the highest with cabins) but in the middle of the ship and it was absolutely fine. I occasionally felt the ship moving when I was in the shower, but that was about all. It really depends whereabouts you are on the deck; apparently the front of the ship is where you feel the most movement, and it can be a little noisier when you come into port.

I'm sure two rooms next to each other will be fine. It was quite convenient to have the interconnecting door, but I'm not sure I'd pay extra for it another time.

Dancergirl Thu 26-Sep-13 12:36:19

I've booked it! smile

The dds are so excited!

IamMummyhearmeROAR Thu 26-Sep-13 18:01:07

I'm just back from a western med cruise on Liberty of the Seas. It was amazing!! My first cruise and it was just the best.

BlackMogul Thu 26-Sep-13 18:28:02

Try and get in the middle of the ship and as high up as you can afford. Stern is choppy too. My children loved the Caribbean and definitely the clubs on board. In Europe I would consider flying out as it avoids the Bay of Biscay. Also shore excursions for a family can cost an absolute packet so you may want to look at itinerary that will suit all of you. You get whistle stop tours of some destinations which can be just a taste. Different cruise lines have different tipping policies and some have tips included so if people leave small amounts, this may be why. Keep checking for the best prices, but in general early is best and there are big discounts to be had. We always had an outside cabin and the biggest window/balcony we could afford.

Dancergirl Thu 26-Sep-13 20:32:45

iam we are going on Liberty of the seas!!

IamMummyhearmeROAR Sat 28-Sep-13 16:43:45

You will love it Dancergirl!! I'm still missing her. Last week I was still on board!

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