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  #1  
Old August 5th, 2012, 07:06 AM
SusanDK SusanDK is offline
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Default Advice for informal luxury, smaller ships

Hi all,

New first-time cruiser and first-time poster here! I've been reading a lot, but every time I think I've narrowed down my selection, I find a few reviews that steer me away. So would appreciate some advice.

It's just my husband (mid-40's) and me (early-50's) and we have no children. We would like a fairly luxurious or elegant experience, but not formal or stuffy, if that makes sense. I would never get my husband on a cruise if he were expected to where a tux, or even a tie, for dinner. We prefer resort casual or business casual - it's ok with a sport jacket and open shirt for him, nice trousers / blouse / jacket for me.

I believe we'd prefer a smaller ship, no fixed dining times or fixed seat-mates, and the ability to eat when we want and at a table for two if desired (outdoors preferred if weather permits). All-inclusive appeals, but some of the reviews have implied that it isn't always what it's cracked up to be for a variety of reasons.

Originally I thought we would have to have a balcony, but some of the cruise lines I've narrowed down to (based on reading here) don't offer balconies so I'm not sure if we need to re-think.

First-time destination could be western Mediterranean, Caribbean or Scandinavia (primarily interested in Norwegian fjords except for concerns about the weather).

Based on information here on CruiseCritic and Fodor's descriptions, I thought that Regent Seven Seas would fit the bill, but some of the reviews are less than favorable. Then I started looking at SeaDream, Windstar or StarClippers (my husband loves to sail and we have a sailing boat), but the lack of balconies were a concern, and some recent SeaDream reviews were again a bit of concern. Also, we can sail our own boat, so not sure we need to go for the sailing experience that Windstar and StarClippers offer. And the size of the cabins on those ships sound really cramped. Also considering Silversea or maybe Seabourn but those sound more formal with older crowd?

I don't think we'd enjoy a massive ship with over 1,000 passengers, nor queueing to get on and off board at ports. We don't need a bunch of ship board entertainment, but would enjoy exploring destinations - so would like to be somewhere in port most days where we would enjoy walking and exploring the area. While on board, I can imagine we'd enjoy relaxing and reading in comfort.

Any advice?

Thanks!
Susan
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  #2  
Old August 5th, 2012, 07:47 AM
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sherilyn70 sherilyn70 is offline
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The main thing to remember... don't take reviews as solid gold facts. How many of the reviews were actually negative compared to the positives? Also try to determine if the type of cruising that the review has done was actually what they really were looking for. I've read plenty of great things about Regent Seven Seas, enough to make me thinking that a lof of people just had silly expectations or wanted to find something to be unhappy about. Their ships are older so they won't be as current in decor as other lines might be... but to me that is really not a reason not to stay with a hotel/cruiseship as long as the bed is comfortable enough for me to sleep in. If you haven't been over on the Regent boards, stop buy and read the many threads over there.

(I haven't sailed them yet but they are high on my next list because of the positive things I have read).
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Last edited by sherilyn70; August 5th, 2012 at 07:48 AM.
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  #3  
Old August 5th, 2012, 10:22 AM
ducklite ducklite is offline
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We just got off the Wind Surf and the lack of a balcony wasn't a factor. We had the smallest size cabin and it was sufficient for our needs--and we typically book larger suites. There was ample storage space and we really weren't in the cabin much. I was pleasantly surprised as I really thought the space would be a good 30% less than it was. If I cruise Europe again, it will be with WindStar as long as they are cruising an itinerary I'm interested in.

We had one sea day each week, and it flew by. I read a book and three magazines while on board, not including my Rick Steves books. Lots of secluded spots on the deck and never a problem getting a lounger, even by the pool.

We ate breakfast on the deck every single day for two weeks, and lunch was outside when we weren't in port. We had five dinners outside as well--it would have been six but we were invited to the captains table one night so we cancelled the Candles reservation.

My husband took a sport jacket and never wore it. He pretty much wore polo's, Oxfords, and Cuban-style shirts with chinos or linen slacks. I wore anything from crop pants and a bling-y tank to a silk blouse and skirt with an elegant scarf. Breakfast and lunch were "come as you are" and most days we were in shorts.

Some nights we ate with others, some nights we ate alone. On the nights we ate with others, some nights it was a pre-planned group and others we just asked for a large table with others.

Let me know if you have any specific questions.
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  #4  
Old August 5th, 2012, 12:03 PM
kitty9 kitty9 is offline
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I would recommend Oceania. I've been comparing prices and I cannot believe how expensive Regent has become. I looked at similar itineraries on Regent and Oceania, in similar cabins, and Regent was more than $2000 more. To me, Regent isn't worth the difference.

Seriously, don't believe what you read in reviews. You can put two people on the same ship in similar cabins and one will give 5 stars and the other will give one.

Find a good local travel agent and talk to them. They don't cost you anything
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  #5  
Old August 5th, 2012, 12:21 PM
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Nanatravel Nanatravel is offline
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I too would recommend Oceania. There service and food is wonderful and the ships are just the right size. They often offer two-for-one special rates; have your TA watch out for these offers as they don't come along too often.
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  #6  
Old August 5th, 2012, 12:56 PM
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CruisinEars CruisinEars is offline
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I, personally have not sailed Oceania but my parents have. They loved it for the reasons you have stated. They did a Med cruise and just rave about it and they have been on Disney and Princess.
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  #7  
Old August 5th, 2012, 01:24 PM
Arusha Arusha is offline
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I, too, am a first-time cruiser and have the same criteria you do. I chose the Oceania Regatta, a small ship (less than 700 passengers) for my first cruise in October.

Take a look at the Oceania board here on CC. Lots of info and the folks are very helpful.

Also look at the Oceania website for itineraries and more info on the ships.
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  #8  
Old August 5th, 2012, 02:05 PM
Andee Andee is offline
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Another Oceania fan--love the small ships, wonderful staff, open seating dining, no formal nights, trourist office reps who get on at every port.
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  #9  
Old August 5th, 2012, 03:20 PM
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sherilyn70 sherilyn70 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitty9 View Post
I would recommend Oceania. I've been comparing prices and I cannot believe how expensive Regent has become. I looked at similar itineraries on Regent and Oceania, in similar cabins, and Regent was more than $2000 more. To me, Regent isn't worth the difference.
I'm just curious... was that $2000 above your additional expenses on Oceania? Or just above the regular fare price? Are you including hotel stays, transfer fees, excursions, gratuties, alcohol etc? From the pricing I have seen so far in planning they really aren't that far off in price once you add up all of the other normal expenses you would incur with other lines.
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  #10  
Old August 5th, 2012, 03:39 PM
SusanDK SusanDK is offline
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Thanks, everyone, for the great advice! It's funny because Oceania was on my original short list, and I cannot now remember what I had read that made me push them off. It might have been that the only ships I'd read about were 1,200+ passengers, so it's good to know they have smaller ships as well. I'll research them further.

Ducklite - thanks for the Windstar input as there is something that draws me to that cruise line. You were in the area we'd probably be looking at. We'd likely opt for something like Nice to Barcelona, or Barcelona to Rome. I like the sound of the casual dress code. Did you take any arranged shore excursions, or explore the areas on your own? Knowing my husband, he would want us to go off on our own. Was it quick to get on and off the ship? If you had any annoyances, what were they?

Susan
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  #11  
Old August 5th, 2012, 04:06 PM
kitty9 kitty9 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sherilyn70 View Post
I'm just curious... was that $2000 above your additional expenses on Oceania? Or just above the regular fare price? Are you including hotel stays, transfer fees, excursions, gratuties, alcohol etc? From the pricing I have seen so far in planning they really aren't that far off in price once you add up all of the other normal expenses you would incur with other lines.
I looked at fares, and that's it. For me, the included excursions on Regent mean nothing because they are not accessible, and I require that due to my disability. Whether I'm on Celebrity, Crystal, Seabourn or whatever, I have to book private tours. As for the included alcohol, what Regent offers in terms of what they allow in the included price doesn't interest me----I didn't care for their included wines and would have to pay extra for the wines I prefer. So again, paying a premium for things I don't use is counterproductive.


I'll give you an example. I'm looking for a Caribbean cruise this coming winter.
On Regent, for a 10 day cruise, in an F balcony, the price is $6199. On Oceania, for their lowest category balcony (equivalent to the F) the fare is $3097, also for a 10 day cruise Regent is double the price, and I know there's no way I'd drink $3000 in alcohol and there's no way their excursions would add up to that much. Add to that the fact that my TA pays my gratuities and provides an on board credit makes Oceania the obvious choice.
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Last edited by kitty9; August 5th, 2012 at 04:08 PM.
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  #12  
Old August 5th, 2012, 04:19 PM
ducklite ducklite is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SusanDK View Post
Ducklite - thanks for the Windstar input as there is something that draws me to that cruise line. You were in the area we'd probably be looking at. We'd likely opt for something like Nice to Barcelona, or Barcelona to Rome. I like the sound of the casual dress code. Did you take any arranged shore excursions, or explore the areas on your own? Knowing my husband, he would want us to go off on our own. Was it quick to get on and off the ship? If you had any annoyances, what were they?

Susan
We took ships shore excursions to Pompeii, a winery in Hvar, a winery in Dubrovnik (we spent two days there, the second day we did our own thing, walked the wall, etc.), and we had two excursions through our charter company as well. We did our own thing in Santorini, Kotor, Venice, and one other, I can't remember which right now. If it wasn't for the wineries, we would have done our own thing in Hvar and both days in Dubrovnik. I am glad we took the tour in Pompeii.

Getting on and off was very easy, we did a combo of tendering and docking, but even when we tendered we never waited.

Annoyances? Nothing really. My English muffin went to the kitchen to be toasted one morning and never returned. Yup, that was about the worst thing I can think of other than they made me get off at the end of the second week.
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Past Cruises...
August 2002--Disney Magic Eastern Caribbean
October 2005--RCCL Mariner Western Caribbean
October 2011--Disney Dream Bahamas
June 2012--Windstar Wind Surf Back-To-Back, Rome to Venice to Athens
April 2014--Paul Gauguin to French Polynesia

Still to come...

2016 -- Windstar Wind Surf Southern Caribbean Back-To-Back
2021 -- SilverSea Explorer Antarctica for Milestone Birthdays!

Three weeks in Europe (two on a ship) with a 20" roll aboard and a tote bag--packing list here.

My all in a 20" wheeled bag for a warm weather cruise packing list here
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  #13  
Old August 5th, 2012, 06:03 PM
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sherilyn70 sherilyn70 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitty9 View Post
I'll give you an example. I'm looking for a Caribbean cruise this coming winter.
On Regent, for a 10 day cruise, in an F balcony, the price is $6199. On Oceania, for their lowest category balcony (equivalent to the F) the fare is $3097, also for a 10 day cruise Regent is double the price, and I know there's no way I'd drink $3000 in alcohol and there's no way their excursions would add up to that much. Add to that the fact that my TA pays my gratuities and provides an on board credit makes Oceania the obvious choice.
If you're not interested in cocktails (which does have a very nice variety for free) then the value in alcohol probably isn't there. My husband doesn't care for wine so I would rarely order it for just myself as I can't drink an entire bottle alone. On previous cruises I've felt I had to drink very sparingly for fear of accidently raising a large bar tab and I would like the comfort of knowing I can drink what I want when I want (and I'm not a heavy drinker... in fact I can still count the times I've been drunk on my hands). I understand that if you're not interested in the hotel you can get credits for that towards your cost. Then there's the lack of gratuties and apparently a lot of TAs rebate back money from these cruises. So when you add all of that in the price does seem to get closer. In terms of the excursions, you definitely have exceptions that need to be made so that could become costly and I can definitely understand that affecting your personal decision.

Personally I guess I just like the idea of not having to always hand off my room pass to sign off on receipts and the comfort of knowing that everything is already paid for.
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  #14  
Old August 5th, 2012, 06:16 PM
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wactedout wactedout is offline
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Consider Azamara. Smaller ships, interesting itineraries, good food and service at a reasonable price.

And...from time to time Azamara will have sales which makes their cruises excellent value for the money.

Please do not try to please your husband excessively. I take it that he is a mature adult. A cruise is a wonderful and interesting way to travel, but no cruise can completely satisfy a reluctant participant.
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  #15  
Old August 5th, 2012, 09:55 PM
dundeene dundeene is offline
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Default another vote for Oceania

We are in our 40s and sailed with Oceania in April in the Med. Beautiful ship, wonderful service, outstanding food!
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