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Best Caribbean Cruise?


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My husband and I are looking to take our first trip as parents without kids in August 2018. We know we want the Caribbean, but that's about it. What line/itinerary/ship do you think offers the best Caribbean cruise?

 

 

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Yes good advice from Lulu as usual! :*

 

We've visited most of the Caribbean islands either by ship or plane and we have our favorite islands for different reasons. Unfortunately with Irma's devastation it will be some time before the Windward islands of the eastern Caribbean like the USVI, BVI, and St Maarten will be ready to welcome tourists.

 

For a favorite itinerary we're torn between the mid - southern Caribbean islands of St Kitt's, Antigua, St Lucia, & Barbados, and the western Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and the port of Belize.

Although both itineraries offer beautiful beaches and interesting history, the western islands offer a different experience with more jungles, reefs, Mayan ruins, and exotic animals. Jamaica is a beautiful island and a must, and both Cozumel and Grand Cayman offer not only the stunning beaches but great diving and snorkeling. Belize is an amazing port with interesting Mayan ruins as well as jungle excursions with the animals there. A Mexican Riviera cruise is also a great idea with stops at Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan.

 

As far as cruise lines, we've always stuck with Carnival (and NCL once to Bermuda) because we enjoyed the vibe, and we have zero experience with all of the other lines that are so well regarded like Princess, HA, RCI, and the luxury lines. But we're considering a cruise next year to celebrate my retirement and getaway other than to Mexico where we have a vacation home, and I have two "special" lines and itineraries in mind. One is a tall ship sail like Windstar that can take you into smaller ports where the big ships dare not go. The other is an Azamara cruise because they hit less-frequented ports, and also spend more time and some overnights in ports.

So just our personal opinions. Enjoy your research, and do take advantage of a TA in your area knowledgeable with cruising if available.

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I've always especially enjoyed the British Virgin Islands. :D

LuLu

 

 

:hearteyes::):*

 

I'm following updates from friends and others struggling to survive there, makes me feel terrible... There are a couple threads on the TTOL site from folks with vivid descriptions of no lights at night (no power or water of course), prisoners loose, roads blocked, garbage piling up, just a sad situation...Hoping to hear of extraordinary relief measures as they move forward soon...

Edited by blue_water
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:hearteyes::):*

 

There are a couple threads on the TTOL site

 

 

Tell me what that is, please. 3 of our planned ports were affected, one with minor damage. I feel like we will probably miss SM. I love that place, and this time we had booked a snorkeling excursion from St. Bart's. IF we are still able to go to SM and there, I want to know what I can bring to give to people and their kids to replace some things they lost. I know money is the most needed thing, but speaking as a kid that lost everything in a disaster, having something of my own to play with and hold on to afterwards meant a lot.

 

My opinion to the OP is to research based on what you want to do. If you want to spend time at a beach, pick a cruise that has a few ports with beaches to choose from. You might have to skip a port for some reason, or it may rain most of one day, so if you are going for mostly the beach experience, keep that in mind.

 

If you want to see ruins, cave tube, or zipline, then the Western would be a good choice. They do have beaches as well, and some good snorkeling and diving, if you do that. I can zipline in the US, although not over a jungle. I like to find things to do that I can't do anywhere else.

 

If you want to take island tours, then the Eastern/Southern is good. We like to mix it up and will sometimes schedule another cruise with some of the same ports so we can do something different each time. I like snorkeling, DH likes sightseeing. You can still do both in a port, but will have a shorter time at each one.

 

These are only MY OPINIONS. There will be other people's opinions that will be totally opposite of mine.

 

I've been on 4 different lines, and each one is different. Each cruise was chosen by the itinerary and not the cruise line. We are in our early 50's and rarely drink, don't like to dance, and go to bed pretty early. Based on that, we found Carnival was not a good fit for us. They seem to be more of an "action" line, where we prefer to find a quiet place and relax. They have late night comedy shows and the Quest, which is sort of like a scavenger hunt, "talent" contest combined. If you are easily offended, you might want to skip that because some people let it all hang out. Both of these are for over 18 guests, and so are held later at night. One cruise left from PR, and the other from Miami. I feel like more people with children cruise with Carnival, based on my observation.

 

Royal Caribbean has been a good fit for us. They are not quite as "busy" as Carnival, but still have things that we like to do. However, one cruise we were on, we were under the casino, and they had drawings or something about twice an hour where there was a guy with a microphone that kept waking us up. I think they got started when we went to bed! It didn't last but a couple of hours a few nights, but it was something that we had overlooked when picking a cabin. Always find out what's above you! Another thing....don't pick a cabin right by the elevator unless you want to hear the dinging and people talking everytime it stops on your floor. Both of our Caribbean cruises with them were out of PR. RC generally has an "adults only" pool that is smaller. The music is not as loud there either.

 

NCL is about even with RC, to me. I think we left out of Fort Lauderdale with them...not sure.

 

This time we are going on Holland. We've been with them twice, both to Alaska. Holland is a line that I've seen mostly age 30 and up cruising on. Both times prior to this, we saw a small number of children. Things tend to slow down after the night show, and it's a great choice for people that don't want to miss anything, but don't want to stay up late either.

 

So.....my advice is, pick what you want to do and see, and then see which cruise lines go there. Use the cruise finder tool on this site. Watch for sales such as prepaid gratuities and on board credit. Our first cruise, we just booked straight thru the cruise line. After that, we started using the find a cruise tool, and while the prices will be close to the cruise line site, you may find some perks that would knock some money off the total.

 

Picking one could also depend on where you are leaving from, if you would be driving or flying to the port. Another thing to keep in mind is that August is during hurricane season. You may miss your most desired port. Don't have your heart set on one thing that you want to see, just in case an emergency or a hurricane happens.

 

Last thing---BUY THE INSURANCE. We missed our honeymoon cruise because my husband was in the hospital. I think we only lost the price of the insurance, and were able to reschedule with no issues. On another cruise, we had a medical issue on board, and between our private insurance and the cruise insurance, were nearly totally reimbursed.

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Tell me what that is, please. 3 of our planned ports were affected, one with minor damage. I feel like we will probably miss SM. I love that place, and this time we had booked a snorkeling excursion from St. Bart's. IF we are still able to go to SM and there, I want to know what I can bring to give to people and their kids to replace some things they lost. I know money is the most needed thing, but speaking as a kid that lost everything in a disaster, having something of my own to play with and hold on to afterwards meant a lot.

 

 

 

My opinion to the OP is to research based on what you want to do. If you want to spend time at a beach, pick a cruise that has a few ports with beaches to choose from. You might have to skip a port for some reason, or it may rain most of one day, so if you are going for mostly the beach experience, keep that in mind.

 

 

 

If you want to see ruins, cave tube, or zipline, then the Western would be a good choice. They do have beaches as well, and some good snorkeling and diving, if you do that. I can zipline in the US, although not over a jungle. I like to find things to do that I can't do anywhere else.

 

 

 

If you want to take island tours, then the Eastern/Southern is good. We like to mix it up and will sometimes schedule another cruise with some of the same ports so we can do something different each time. I like snorkeling, DH likes sightseeing. You can still do both in a port, but will have a shorter time at each one.

 

 

 

These are only MY OPINIONS. There will be other people's opinions that will be totally opposite of mine.

 

 

 

I've been on 4 different lines, and each one is different. Each cruise was chosen by the itinerary and not the cruise line. We are in our early 50's and rarely drink, don't like to dance, and go to bed pretty early. Based on that, we found Carnival was not a good fit for us. They seem to be more of an "action" line, where we prefer to find a quiet place and relax. They have late night comedy shows and the Quest, which is sort of like a scavenger hunt, "talent" contest combined. If you are easily offended, you might want to skip that because some people let it all hang out. Both of these are for over 18 guests, and so are held later at night. One cruise left from PR, and the other from Miami. I feel like more people with children cruise with Carnival, based on my observation.

 

 

 

Royal Caribbean has been a good fit for us. They are not quite as "busy" as Carnival, but still have things that we like to do. However, one cruise we were on, we were under the casino, and they had drawings or something about twice an hour where there was a guy with a microphone that kept waking us up. I think they got started when we went to bed! It didn't last but a couple of hours a few nights, but it was something that we had overlooked when picking a cabin. Always find out what's above you! Another thing....don't pick a cabin right by the elevator unless you want to hear the dinging and people talking everytime it stops on your floor. Both of our Caribbean cruises with them were out of PR. RC generally has an "adults only" pool that is smaller. The music is not as loud there either.

 

 

 

NCL is about even with RC, to me. I think we left out of Fort Lauderdale with them...not sure.

 

 

 

This time we are going on Holland. We've been with them twice, both to Alaska. Holland is a line that I've seen mostly age 30 and up cruising on. Both times prior to this, we saw a small number of children. Things tend to slow down after the night show, and it's a great choice for people that don't want to miss anything, but don't want to stay up late either.

 

 

 

So.....my advice is, pick what you want to do and see, and then see which cruise lines go there. Use the cruise finder tool on this site. Watch for sales such as prepaid gratuities and on board credit. Our first cruise, we just booked straight thru the cruise line. After that, we started using the find a cruise tool, and while the prices will be close to the cruise line site, you may find some perks that would knock some money off the total.

 

 

 

Picking one could also depend on where you are leaving from, if you would be driving or flying to the port. Another thing to keep in mind is that August is during hurricane season. You may miss your most desired port. Don't have your heart set on one thing that you want to see, just in case an emergency or a hurricane happens.

 

 

 

Last thing---BUY THE INSURANCE. We missed our honeymoon cruise because my husband was in the hospital. I think we only lost the price of the insurance, and were able to reschedule with no issues. On another cruise, we had a medical issue on board, and between our private insurance and the cruise insurance, were nearly totally reimbursed.

 

 

 

Thank you Trouble! I understand those are your opinions, but those are exactly the thoughts I was looking for ... incredibly helpful!

 

 

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>> Tell me what that is, please. <<

TTOL is www.traveltalkonline.com. You will find the BVI and SXM (St Maarten/St Martin) forums great resources for both land and cruise traveling. Both of these areas were devastated and will not be receiving tourists for some time so the eastern Caribbean is not a good option.

 

>>3 of our planned ports were affected, one with minor damage. I feel like we will probably miss SM <<

I assume you mean SXM, yes you will not be going to SXM any time soon.

 

The trip insurance is a good recommendation. I would not buy it through a TA, cruise line, or airline, but instead compare policies for coverages and prices at insuremytrip.com. You will get better coverage at a better price. Two insurers offer a great cruise policy at a great price.

 

The OP has to do some research and decide what most interests them to get the most out of their first cruise. Different cruise lines cater to different age groups, of course. We prefer a younger and more casual vibe resist a more stoic and less casual experience, and that's why we've enjoyed Carnival over so many years. Not a party vibe but something younger than the Holland America for example. And their cabins are larger that RCI. But do choose the cruise line that sounds right for you. And as you travel more you will learn more. Cruising introduced us to so many beautiful destinations throughout the Carib very quickly, and we later returned on land vacations to those that called us. We've since built a home in Mexico, but still enjoy cruising the Caribbean.

 

The devastation that Irma wreaked on the Windward Islands is just terrible - people died, and those that survived are still without power, water, garbage removal, prisoners are loose on Tortola, and roads are blocked from mudslides and ferries and boats are lost. Unfortunately the media is not covering this tragedy that well, and some folks are still asking about excursion options on Tortola and St Barth's for upcoming cruises. So I will say again the eastern Caribbean is not a good choice and it will be some time before buildings can be replaced, let alone the foliage that was stripped away.

 

But do more research on the western and southern itineraries here and also select different itineraries on the various cruise site booking engines like cruises only and cruises dot com and the various cruise line sites to get a feel for what you will experience in those destinations. Then you can use the specific port forums here to learn even more!

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Looks like another one headed their way. These poor folks can't catch a break.

 

My MOTHER loves Carnival, lol. I don't have anything bad to say about them. They are affordable and give you your money's worth, for sure. I've never had a bad time on any cruise line.

 

OP, you will learn so much between now and then. I look back and see "mistakes" I made with my first cruise. Nothing bad, just things I would have researched more, like the perks from different sites, how to choose where you want to be (I prefer midship) and excursions. I'd probably choose the cheapest one this time, because you're going to want to do it again!

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Yes a terrible situation for everyone in the path...nowhere to hide and so many people from the other islands with no homes and no way off the islands...

 

Questions for the OP -

Do you want the mega-ship experience, or a smaller ship?

Do you want a more formal or less casual experience as with HAL or more casual and fun like Carnival or NCL?

Would you be interested in a tall ship leaving from Barbados or a cruise ship from San Juan where you can spend time after the cruise before flying home?

What ships have you already been on?

 

Some information on what you want to experience will help others give you more specific feedback.

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