Help me select a family cruise

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#1
4 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
We are looking at a Spring Break cruise the first week of April 2018. We have 2 boys, 10 and 13. We do not need the newest and fanciest ship, but want to have plenty of amenities, including water slides, mini golf, ideally a rock climbing wall, and some dining selections. We've seen various other amenities that look great--besides the ones listed, variety is good. We are trying to make a budget-aware decision. We don't need the cheapest available, but want to make sure we are aware of how everything adds up-general cost, gratuity, ports, etc.

Here is some of what we are looking at-
RCL-Anthem of the Seas or Liberty of the Seas (Liberty is cheaper, but Anthem stops at CocaCay where we could have a beach day for free)

Carnival-Magic, Breeze, Glory (Glory seems a little smaller, but stops at Half Moon Cay where I think we could have a beach day for free and I like the other port possibilities more)

NCL-Escape or Epic

One question about NCL-they have free add-on options. If you do the Free Specialty Dining, do you end up paying extra gratuity on that?

Any feedback on any of these ships?

And then, here are some of our port options. Ultimately, I think we'd like to have a day at a beach somewhere and we like old towns that would allow us to see something historic or just walk around a safe town (think San Juan). Thoughts on if any of these ports would easily allow for either of those--Nassau, George Town, Falmouth, Cozumel, Belize, Mahagany Bay, Costa Maya, St Thomas, Grand Turk, Tortola?

Finally, am I understanding the "ship owned island" correctly for CocoCay and Half Moon Cay? Is it true that we would be able to get off the ship and hang at the beach and that lunch on the beach is part of the cruise so we wouldn't really have to spend anything unless we rented snorkel stuff or an umbrella?

Thank you!
#2
Elyria, Ohio
221 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Not on your list but MSC has the Seaside at a reasonable​ price....brand new ship and is built for families according to advertisments.....stops in San Juan for historical stop and St Maarten has great beaches that are a cheap taxi ride from Port.

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#3
Fredericksburg, va. USA
82,023 Posts
Joined May 2001
In the Caribbean, you can do "beach days" for minimal cost! No need to do an excursion for a beach day, so don't choose based solely on Coco Cay! Although it's a fun day!

Yes..the private island/beaches are an extension of the ship. Loungers abound....pull them into the shade, if you want shade! You can move them! Lunch is included in your day. Everything else comes at a cost, just like on the ship.
#4
856 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
I would suggest you go to the boards here on Cruise Critic for each of the cruise lines you are considering and read the questions and comments. You will probably reach a conclusion about which line suits you best. We usually book based on ports then cost. We have recently done RCL several times but it has been years since we did Carnival or NCL. The Caribbean is port intensive so the ship is not quite as important as a cruise wIth a lot of sea days. Any of your options will give your family a memorable vacation.
#5
Virgina
3,496 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Can you give us the price break down and the ports of call on each? I can comment on the Carnival ships and would say Magic being newest with the sports square for boys is great....no rock wall though but it does have roles course.


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Royal Caribbean February 2000 (Eastern)
Carnival Valor March 2007 (Western)
Carnival Legend March 2008 (Western)
Carnival Fascination March 2009 (Key West/Nassau)
Carnival Glory August 2009 (Eastern)
Carnival Glory June 2010 (Canada)
Carnival Fascination December 2010 (Bahamas)
Carnival Legend March 2012 (Western)
Caribbean Princess March 2013 (Southern)
Carnival Victory January 2014 (Western)
Carnival Fantasy March 2014 (Eastern)
Grand Princess May 2014 (Alaska)
Carnival Sunshine February 2015 (Western)
Carnival Conquest December 2015 (Western)
Carnival Sunshine October 2016 (Canada)
Carnival Magic December 2016 (Eastern)
#6
Texas
151 Posts
Joined May 2001
Are you able to drive to any of the ports? For us, that helped us narrow our selection. We had sailed carnival last year so we decided to go with Rccl this time. Carnival was good, but there really wasn't a lot to do on the sea days especially during the day. Royal seems to have more things to keep you busy while on the ship.
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#7
4 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Thank you so muchfor suggestions so far.

We are not ableto drive to any ports. We are very mid-west located. Here are some of our mostviable options at this point-

RCL
Anthem of the Seas, $4700, Orlando; CocoCay; Nassau, Bahamas
Liberty of the Seas, $3260, Cozumel; George Town, Grand Cayman; Falmouth,Jamaica
Freedom of the Seas, $3600, Basseterre,St. Kitts; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; San Juan,

Labadee, Haiti
**Liberty of the Seas seems like a good selection here except that itleaves from Galveston and it seems like transportation from Houston airports isexpensive so that adds to the cost.

Carnival-

Magic-$3300, Cozumel—Belize—MahoganyBay—Costa Maya
Vista-$3500, Ochos Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Breeze-$2700, Cozumel—Belize—Mahogany Bay (Galveston again)
Glory-$3100, Half moon cay, St Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk


NCL
Escape-$3900+2 free upgrades, St Thomas; Tortola, Virgin Islands, Nassau,Bahamas
Haven't looked as much at others here.
Also wondering about gratuities if we do free specialty dining.

#8
Texas
151 Posts
Joined May 2001
Your next step should be to compare airfare to Houston vs airfare to Florida. Florida might be cheaper to fly into thus making up the difference in the cruise price.
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Destiny 11/11/01
Mercury 11/8/02
#9
charleston, sc
178 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
The magic port stops are by far our favorite. You had better like anthem, because that is a bunch of sea days.

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#10
856 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
I took a quick look and a one-way car rental from Houston airport to Galveston can be less than $70, depends on the size of the car you need to stow you luggage.

I agree with looking at the airfare to Florida and Houston as major factors to consider.
#11
Virgina
3,496 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by ntourtelotte
Thank you so muchfor suggestions so far.

We are not ableto drive to any ports. We are very mid-west located. Here are some of our mostviable options at this point-

RCL
Anthem of the Seas, $4700, Orlando; CocoCay; Nassau, Bahamas
Liberty of the Seas, $3260, Cozumel; George Town, Grand Cayman; Falmouth,Jamaica
Freedom of the Seas, $3600, Basseterre,St. Kitts; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; San Juan,

Labadee, Haiti
**Liberty of the Seas seems like a good selection here except that itleaves from Galveston and it seems like transportation from Houston airports isexpensive so that adds to the cost.

Carnival-

Magic-$3300, Cozumel—Belize—MahoganyBay—Costa Maya
Vista-$3500, Ochos Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Breeze-$2700, Cozumel—Belize—Mahogany Bay (Galveston again)
Glory-$3100, Half moon cay, St Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk


NCL
Escape-$3900+2 free upgrades, St Thomas; Tortola, Virgin Islands, Nassau,Bahamas
Haven't looked as much at others here.
Also wondering about gratuities if we do free specialty dining.



Imho magic has the best ports of call for kids on that list. Nassau is ok but not really "Caribbean" and is dirty and crowded comparatively. Jamaica is also not a favorite - you really need a private guide here as certain locals are very very aggressive and pushy.

I also like the 4 port days - more stuff to do and explore. Best guess is you will spend just as much on going ashore as you will doing the extras on RCI. Carnival doesn't nickel and dime as much and is less structured (need reservations for a bunch of things on RCI like shows - I have read - no personal experience)


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Royal Caribbean February 2000 (Eastern)
Carnival Valor March 2007 (Western)
Carnival Legend March 2008 (Western)
Carnival Fascination March 2009 (Key West/Nassau)
Carnival Glory August 2009 (Eastern)
Carnival Glory June 2010 (Canada)
Carnival Fascination December 2010 (Bahamas)
Carnival Legend March 2012 (Western)
Caribbean Princess March 2013 (Southern)
Carnival Victory January 2014 (Western)
Carnival Fantasy March 2014 (Eastern)
Grand Princess May 2014 (Alaska)
Carnival Sunshine February 2015 (Western)
Carnival Conquest December 2015 (Western)
Carnival Sunshine October 2016 (Canada)
Carnival Magic December 2016 (Eastern)
#12
4 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
[quote=momto2js;53352091]The magic port stops are by far our favorite. You had better like anthem, because that is a bunch of sea days.



Can you share what activities you would recommend or really like about some of these ports?

Thank you!
#13
charleston, sc
178 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
[quote=ntourtelotte;53353075]
Originally posted by momto2js
The magic port stops are by far our favorite. You had better like anthem, because that is a bunch of sea days.



Can you share what activities you would recommend or really like about some of these ports?

Thank you!
My DH is a diver so this itinerary is great for him, but the kids and I also enjoy it. In Roatan, we do Daniel Johnson Monkey and Sloth Hangout, contact them through Facebook for $30 you get roundtrip transportation to see the monkeys and also a few hours at the beach. We did the snorkel add on last time and it was a great deal for $45.

For Belize we did cave tubing, it was about $35 each. We used Butts UP. but there are several operations to pick from.

There are lost of inexpensive beach days available in Costa Maya, but this is generally our big "excursion day" and our big day is a cheap day for everyone else. We did the Mayan ruins last year with native choice and included the stop in a village for lunch. It was a very good experience. A good "culture" see how other people live day for my kids. (they however would not rate it the best day on the trip, I might . This year I am taking them to the water park and zip line place. At $80 each it is pricey, but looks fun.

In Cozumel, We like Chankanaab. Last year we did do the dolphins there, this year the manatees. but you could go for the day and just do the things that are available with admission. They have a sea lion show (that is in Spanish, so my kids thought that was interesting) the snorkeling is pretty good for along shore, the little beach area is fun. They have some trails and a large pool. I think it is about $20 a person to get in and the cab is about $15 each way.
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#14
charleston, sc
178 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
To answer the gratuity question, the answer is yes you will be charged for the gratuity on the promotional package. For dining it is about $20 per person. For the drink package I think it is about $180. Do remember the promo only apply to the first and second passenger. So... you kids will not have specialty meals included. Mine don't care and gladly eat off the kids menu (and maybe steal a bite or 2 off our plate) but yours are old enough to maybe have a different opinion on that.
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September 2017- NCL Escape Western Carribean
#15
Virgina
3,496 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
[quote=momto2js;53355375]
Originally posted by ntourtelotte

My DH is a diver so this itinerary is great for him, but the kids and I also enjoy it. In Roatan, we do Daniel Johnson Monkey and Sloth Hangout, contact them through Facebook for $30 you get roundtrip transportation to see the monkeys and also a few hours at the beach. We did the snorkel add on last time and it was a great deal for $45.

For Belize we did cave tubing, it was about $35 each. We used Butts UP. but there are several operations to pick from.

There are lost of inexpensive beach days available in Costa Maya, but this is generally our big "excursion day" and our big day is a cheap day for everyone else. We did the Mayan ruins last year with native choice and included the stop in a village for lunch. It was a very good experience. A good "culture" see how other people live day for my kids. (they however would not rate it the best day on the trip, I might . This year I am taking them to the water park and zip line place. At $80 each it is pricey, but looks fun.

In Cozumel, We like Chankanaab. Last year we did do the dolphins there, this year the manatees. but you could go for the day and just do the things that are available with admission. They have a sea lion show (that is in Spanish, so my kids thought that was interesting) the snorkeling is pretty good for along shore, the little beach area is fun. They have some trails and a large pool. I think it is about $20 a person to get in and the cab is about $15 each way.
I can elaborate as well.

Cozumel - a great beach day option if you are trying to keep costs down. But beyond Chankanaab (which we LOVE), if the cruise is Cozumel Plus, you should see options that include many land based longer excursions to either ruins or with cave snorkeling.

Costa Maya - again generally a beach day. Venture beyond the port a ways to the local area. We also thought the ruins an hour a way were worthwhile when my DS was 8 (left his 2 yo brother on board).

Belize - snorkeling (including sharks) and Caye Caulkier. Goff's Caye is also a nice shorter excursion to a very small atoll where you can snorkel from the boat or shore. One of our favorite excursions ever was Altun Ha and River Wallace; these are ruins that aren't crowded and there is one that you can climb for a view; plus the included lunch was good, and the river teeming with wildlife from iguanas to bats to manatees to crocs to monkeys to dolphins - all in a purely natural environment. DH and others have also enjoyed the zoo. This is a port that you should plan something because the actual port facility is small.

Roatan - my kids favorite port. Book an island tour and definitely include the monkeys/sloths, iguana sanctuary and West bay. This is also a good place to zip line for beginners. West Bay/ or Tabayana (the beach at the very end that is offered as a cruise ship excursion) has the best snorkeling from shore I have found anywhere. Do not just stay in the port here, though even after an island tour you will have time to explore the beach and short trail.

So much to do...so little time!
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Royal Caribbean February 2000 (Eastern)
Carnival Valor March 2007 (Western)
Carnival Legend March 2008 (Western)
Carnival Fascination March 2009 (Key West/Nassau)
Carnival Glory August 2009 (Eastern)
Carnival Glory June 2010 (Canada)
Carnival Fascination December 2010 (Bahamas)
Carnival Legend March 2012 (Western)
Caribbean Princess March 2013 (Southern)
Carnival Victory January 2014 (Western)
Carnival Fantasy March 2014 (Eastern)
Grand Princess May 2014 (Alaska)
Carnival Sunshine February 2015 (Western)
Carnival Conquest December 2015 (Western)
Carnival Sunshine October 2016 (Canada)
Carnival Magic December 2016 (Eastern)