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  1. Have to disagree. We have never failed to be on board earlier than our check in time. We always arrive around 10-10:30 and always board right after FTTF regardless of our check in time. This has been in Charleston, Port Canaveral (twice), Miami,, and New Orleans. Disclaimer: No one was delayed or otherwise affected by our early arrival. Had they told us to wait we would have waited but that has never happened yet. I do know some people get thrown in the naughty area for doing it but I attribute our success to clean living. 😉
  2. We have dined in Royal's, Carnival's, and most recently MSC steakhouse. I realize that things vary a little from ship to ship and cruise to cruise but of the three we prefer Carnival but by a slim margin over Royal. It has gotten expensive over the years though.
  3. Mine is the Magic (or Breeze) and my Wife's is the Sunshine. We liked the Liberty a lot as well.
  4. As Diamond level C&A members with 23 years of RCI cruises the Sunshine was also our first Carnival ship a couple of years ago. We agree with everything you said. Since that first Sunshine cruise we have been on one Royal cruise, five Carnival cruises, and one MSC cruise. We will be back on Sunshine in 22 days. There are many more similarities than differences between Royal and Carnival these days but we give the edge to Carnival. If huge ships with amusement parks and a hotel feel are your thing Royal does that better though. We like the size and layout of Carnival's vessels better but Royal ships seem to have a higher "build quality". All things considered we would choose Carnival. We are trying NCL next year to see how that goes. Thanks to the OP for sharing.
  5. I have to say no, do not transfer. We have 35+ cruises over 25 years and have used various TAs on occasion including recently when we tried to give our business to a local TA who seems to be nice guy. I had to end that relationship for a variety of reasons including his failure to make our payment when requested, not answering emails, not answering phone calls or returning calls, etc. Again, nice guy but very disorganized. As has already been stated, you give up any direct control or the ability to speak directly with the cruise line to resolve issues, make changes, etc. Unfortunately, we have never found a TA or agency that was fully responsive to our needs including being available to make a booking if a sale came up and we wanted a specific cabin. Simply put, when you are dealing with a single agent he/she will not always be available for you. This is understandable since people need to have a private life as well. Bottom line is if they are out or tied up you are stuck. Basically, you become of a slave to the TAs schedule and not yours. If it is a multi agent operation you are often not able to get the same person when you want them and the other person does not know you or your situation. They will offer to have your TA call you back but you are back to the TAs schedule again. When you deal with the cruise line someone is available 24/7 and they can all do whatever you need. Additionally, you never hear "I need to call the cruise line and get back to you". You are dealing with the cruise line. Which brings up another point. I have been told many things by TAs that I knew from experience were not true. These things were said in good faith but were said from an uninformed point of view. On occasion a TA will offer a little extra perk which essentially comes out of their commission. This can often be in the form of an on board credit of $25 or $50, maybe more with an expensive cabin. We have found that the hassle of not being able to work directly with the cruise line is just not worth it for us. Add the fact that this last TA "forgot" to put the promised $50 credit on our account and we found out on board. This was despite the fact that I transferred the paid in full booking to him 8+ months prior to the cruise. I know some TAs will be upset with this but it is all true experience with at least a dozen different TAs over a lot of years. We are just fine booking direct and see no need to involve a third party.
  6. Thanks for the detailed review! Your cruise sounds remarkably similar to our Magic cruise at the end of August. We had a cove balcony (first) and it was our favorite cabin ever & that includes a 12th deck Spa balcony. We liked the privacy and the closeness to the sea. We enjoyed the ship & ports, having never been to any of these ports in our 25+ previous cruises. At Amber Cove we hung out with some of our new friends that had a poolside cabana. At San Juan we also walked. And walked. We actually made a big circle and wound up back at the ship. I was looking for a cab and then noticed that the ship was right in front of us (downhill too). At St Thomas we took the lift up to the point. It was very quiet up there & we took a few pics and back down to walk a bit then back aboard. Grand Turk was also my favorite and we spent most of the day at Jack's. The ship was in great shape and we agree that the entertainment was good. We do not go to shows, so we are speaking of the atrium and bar entertainment. There were long lines at the buffet. They really need a better design but we did not go hungry. Main dining was not great for us - slow service and cold food so we opted out most nights. The Steak house and Italian were well worth the money. We had a bit of a problem with the spa double charging my wife for her massage and guest services did not have much interest in trying to correct it. It was eventually resolved after we were off the ship. Someone asked about bars & we found that the Red Frog on the promenade was never crowded in the daytime and they do have inside & outside seating. Serenity never seemed crowded either. Despite a few hiccups we thoroughly enjoyed the Magic and would gladly do it all over again tomorrow!
  7. Our son wore his military dress uniform when he was on active service. I am not sure whether he would now but i suspect it would be more an issue of it fitting than anything else. We used to dress up in tux, formal dress, etc. but for the past several years have not done so as much. We were disappointed at first with the formal evenings becoming more casual but began to enjoy the comfort. On our most recent cruise we did dress up a little more to get some new photos since it has been years since we did that. I think I can say that it is nearly impossible to be "out of place" any longer on formal nights. You see the full range from shorts to tuxes and everything in between. When we dress down (khakis and short sleeves for me) nobody seems to notice. If we dress up, the same except for maybe a compliment or two (nice). Be yourselves and enjoy. I am betting the dress blues will get at least a dozen "thank you"s.
  8. I was told by Carnival a couple of months back that I my wife could get a Dr. note and I would be allowed to purchase separately. This was for a cruise on Aug 25. I decided not to get the package myself and we did not bother with the note. If you have a similar situation I would advise calling Carnival rather than relying on Cruise Critic. Myself included.
  9. Just returned Saturday from cove balcony 2285 on Magic. Best balcony cabin we have had and I am including a spa balcony on Sunshine. It was very nice but we prefer the privacy of the cove and the closeness to the sea. Do pay attention to what is above you. We were essentially under guest services and it was quiet.
  10. We have never been on the Magic but will be in 11 days. In our experience all ships can feel crowded at certain places and at certain times. This is a function of lots of people wanting to be in the same place at the same time and not necessarily of the ship's design although that can be a factor. We learn to avoid peak times at the public areas and are prepared to execute plan B if we find that we have picked wrongly. Even on full sailings we manage not to stand in line a lot by making our schedule a little off the norm.
  11. Correct in that you pick a check in time. The time that they actually open the doors varies depending on how quickly the arrival/customs clearance takes but it is normally well ahead of the earliest check in time slot. We tend to get there early and rarely have to wait outside very long if at all. We have found that if the lines are not very long and are moving smoothly they will pass you on through regardless of your appointment time but that is not guaranteed. If you feel like chancing it and don't mind the possibility of waiting to check in then go for it. This will anger some of the more rule bound folks but if the cruise line wants to get the ship boarded and the lines moving so they enforce the check in times at their discretion. Royal Caribbean does not have this check in time policy even on their much larger ships and they manage really well without it.
  12. My son and I rented a Hobie many years ago at Coco Cay. I had been on them before and knew just a little about sailing so I figured we would give it a try. We struggled to get any sort of speed or control going and eventually brought t back in. The guy checking us in looked and the rigging and said it was all messed up by whoever set up the boat. He fixed it and offered to let us take it back out but we were tired and declined. I always wanted to try it again with a properly rigged sail but they seem to have disappeared and I have not seen them for years. I can say that they definitely were Hobie Cats though.
  13. Agreed. We were very loyal to Royal for many years, mainly out of habit and the fact that we were satisfied with the product and knew what to expect. We started to cruise with Carnival last year and have been equally satisfied. We find many more similarities than differences and both lines have positives and not very many negatives as far as we are concerned. We have a future MSC cruise booked as well. Never been on NCL but that could change in the future. Bottom line is that we have no issue with "loyals" nor with the "variety" types. We do wonder why some feel it necessary to bad mouth those who see things differently but such is the nature of free speech and we would not want to have it any other way. By the way, I spent a lot of time in South Jersey working several years back. Around Swedesboro. Loved that area.
  14. For us the answer is a definite yes. Not only that, we have already done so! We were loyal to Royal for many years, mainly out of habit and were always satisfied and saw no reason to change up. Last year (June) we tried Carnival and have taken 4 Carnival cruises since then so obviously we liked them. We have upcoming cruises on Magic and Royal's Brilliance of the Seas booked this year. We have wanted to try MSC with the new Seaside and so we booked that for next May. With our matching loyalty status from Royal we will be at their top tier which is Black. We also got the included unlimited drink package. All in all, it is a great bargain. It is very aggressive marketing from MSC as they try to break open their presence in the US market and I do not expect these promotions to last forever. We never buy the unlimited packages on any line because we don't consume enough to justify it but my wife sometimes gets the soda package. We do have a bar tab though and it can run on up there, but it does not equal the cost of the package. We probably would not have gotten the package on MSC if it was not included, but having it will save us the money we would have spent on a single pay basis so it does have value. As previously mentioned, it is a very basic package with limited selection and you can upgrade for $12-20 per day if you want to. The included package is fine for us. Now, to the OP's question. A few weeks after booking the MSC cruise we saw the schedule for the Sunshine out of Charleston and being that we really liked that ship and live 3 1/2 hours from Charleston we have booked a Sunshine cruise for later next year. So yes, we will cruise other lines, probably including MSC, in the future Now that our kids are grown we can afford to go more often and we find we like the variety. We still shop for great deals regardless of line. As they say, price is not everything (but it is important!).
  15. There are plenty of places to eat in Nassau from Senior Frogs all the the way to the famous Fish Fry area. You can google Fish Fry Nassau for more info on that. There is plenty to see and do within walking distance of the pier or their are plenty of cabs and horse drawn carriages as well. There are several beach areas within a short walk of the pier as well, just go right out of the gates. The beaches are public but there are bars and tiki huts where you can rent chairs & umbrellas and some have drink packages as well including "all you can drink". Be sure to have some cash, as there are no ATMs out that way and some places do not take cards. Eating on the ship is always a fine option but if you venture out it may not be that convenient. As with all ports, be sure to allow plenty of time to get back to the ship before sail away. If not, be sure to have your camera to get some good shots of Ecstasy sailing out of Nassau. :D
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