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Ambam24

First Cruise Ever- HELP!

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Hi all, 

 

Please go easy on me, I’m a first time cruiser who likes to be prepared. I have done a ton of research, but nothing compares to first hand experiences of others. 

 

Quick background- cruising with Celebrity on the Equinox (conceriege class). We leave out of MIA on March 2 and are visiting San Juan, St Thomas, Punta Cana, and Nassau. I don’t have any excursions booked yet, looking to do that in the next week. Any recommendations? We are 27 and 28 (DH) looking for more relaxing activities vs adventurous activities. 

 

Here come the (probably) dumb questions: 

 

How much cash do you bring with you? When shopping at ports, do they take debit cards? 

 

If you charge an item to your room, do they bill you daily? Or is it all charged on the final day of your trip? 

 

Anyone get lucky with a deal on the premium drink package on board with celebrity? We originally booked an inside room but bid on a concerige room, so don’t have any perks. Wondering if we can shave a little off the $69/day? Does the price increase on the ship?

 

We return back to Miami at approx 7am. Looking at a 10:30 flight back home out of MIA. Cutting it too close?

 

I’m sure I’ll think of many more questions, but those are the ones that come to mind right now. Thank you for any insight, tips, or suggestions you have! 

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Excursions....St Thomas....take ferry to St John Trunk Bay.

Nassau..... Colonial Hilton day pass.

 

U will love Celebrity!! We started cruising with them in our early 30s....we are 42 now....... great food! EXCELLENT service!!

 

We are sailing on Equinox again in September for 11 days!! 🍸🛳️😎🌴🍹💗

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I would bring some cash for tipping the ship, but I'd attach the account on board to a credit card, not a debit card.  You may end up with lots of authorizations and holds.  Same way as you are suppose to use a credit card at a hotel instead of debit.  I would  also only use a credit card in ports of call.  Sometimes they have sales on drink packages prior to sailing.  A 10:30 flight is cutting it way too close in my opinion.  The ship may dock at 7, but there is no guaranteed time you will be off.  

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People will come along to help you with your cruise questions, but let me help you on your flight.

 

Are you traveling this March 2?  Because if you are you are getting into last minute ticket price territory, and fares tend to soar.  So buy those tickets soon (now).

 

Almost everyone will tell you to fly in the day before your cruise leaves, if you can, and I agree.  You can get a cheap hotel with plenty of help on the Florida board here.

 

i would take the 10:30 back, but I’m an experienced traveler with TSA precheck and alternate plans.  There is some risk your ship might be delayed, but I would take the risk.  

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4 minutes ago, JFontaine said:

 

i would take the 10:30 back, but I’m an experienced traveler with TSA precheck and alternate plans.  There is some risk your ship might be delayed, but I would take the risk.  

 

You are much braver than I...lol. I consider myself an experienced traveler as well...mostly domestic, so that may be my achilles heel here. I also have Global Entry. It's probably more the anxiety of the small window. 

 

I tip my hat to you. I can't do it. 

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@Pier290 thank you so much! I’ve read a few things about St John, would you recommend an excursion through the ship or are the ferries easy to figure out on our own? I hope you love your 11 day cruise, I’m super jealous! 

 

@cmp702 thank you for your credit card advice. I didn’t even think about the pre-authorization pulls and issues that could come with that. I will be looking into which of my credit cards has no international fees and will use that for my trip. I will definitely bring some extra cash for additional tips. Any experience with how much you’ve spent above the standard gratuity charge? We absolutely love to tip for great service, but struggling with how much extra? Thanks for your advice. 

 

@JFontaine it is March 2 2019. I already have my flight to MIA booked. We are flying in March 1. I read way too much telling me not to fly in the day of the cruise, so eliminated the risk. I fly about once a month for work, so relatively experienced. Appreciate your advice, will probably book and hope for no customs delays. Thanks! 

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I would do some searches on this board for drink menus and price out whether you would be better off to pay for your drinks individually rather than buy a package.  

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My advice for Nassau, if you have been before, stay on the ship. There are a lot of big ships in port the same day as the Equinox.   Most people get off the ship and get a day pass to a resort.  We have been to the Bahamas enough, and will only get off the ship to stretch our legs a little bit.  Then get back on and enjoy the emptier ship.  

 

Old San Juan is quite picturesque, but if  there are a lot of ships in port that day, it could be quite crowded.  We have done a walking tour of Old San Juan.  It is very nice and not too strenuous.  

 

I would not use your debit card.  Use a credit card if you can.  If you can't, don't use your debit card in the ports, just to be safe.

 

I am too chicken to do a 10:30 flight especially out of Miami.  It takes a long time to get through security in Miami when a lot of ships are disembarking.  the earliest we have done was 11:30, and we got off the ship really early, and we still cut it close.  IMHO Miami airport is a nightmare.   Have fun.  Good luck.

Edited by screwsmcernst

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You don’t need to take excursions - it’s usually easier and cheaper to go off on your own.  Go to the Ports of Call forum for some ideas.  Just build in plenty of time to get back to the ship - finding a cab, traffic, ferry delays etc.  I research the best beaches in each port with amenities- chairs, real bathrooms, taxis for return.  

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Since this is your first cruise, in San Juan, I would spend the day walking around exploring the town and walk to the fort and explore. In St Thomas, I would go to Magen's Bay if yiu want some beach time, or just walk around town, (Havensight Mall area) and do the Skyride to Paradise Point to the top www.paradisepointvi.com/.  ENjoy the view from the top and enjoy their famous drink, the Bushwacker. In Nassau, I would probably take an excursion over to Paradise Island if you haven't been there. 

 

For your early flight home, you definitely  should do self walk off and get a taxi to the airport.  Make sure you are in line for self disembark way ahead of time

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Although I feel like I am an experienced traveler, I have only been on 2 cruises, both celebrity.  Here are a couple examples of why I wouldn't be brave enough to do a 10:30 flight: 1.  On my first embarkation, I arrived at the port that was completely on lock down.  Every first responder in south Florida seemed to be at the port.  They weren't letting anybody in or out.  We found out later that a bomb dog had indicated a bomb.  This ended up being a false alarm, but there was no way that anybody that day was making an early flight.  2.  On disembarkation on this same trip, the line to get off the ship was not moving.  We had chosen to carry off our luggage because we were hoping to be off the ship quickly, as we had plans for the day.  We soon learned that the escalators to go down were broken, and we were waiting on 1 single elevator to transport everyone on the ship.  So literally one escalator for 3,000 people.  After about an hour of waiting in line, they decided to let people use the stairs.  (They didn't want to let people use the stairs because many like us had chosen to carry off their luggage and they were afraid it would be a safety issue.)  We did have to make a couple trips to get all of our bags down the stairs, but at lease we were able.  Some people did not want to attempt it.  3.  When disembarking on our last cruise, an elderly lady took a pretty bad fall  on the gangway and they needed to get emergency personal to her, including a stretcher, so they stopped the line because it was a narrow area so they could tend to her.  The last 2 were both before we even made it to customs!  You never know what can happen!  But I seem to have pretty bad luck, and since I won't be on your ship, maybe you'll do fine lol. 

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Everything you charge on the ship goes to your account.   At the end it will be charged to the credit/debit card you have registered to that account.

 

I would be a nervous wreck with a flight at 10:30 am!   But if you walk off with your luggage as soon as they let you it should be fine.  Not sure where they are going to drop you off,  but departures are on the second floor,  look for the signs.

 

As for tips, I bring envelopes (or ask at Guest Services as they have them there) and tip at the of the trip.  On the list is the room attendant, the waiters and any bartenders that have taken care of you on your trip.

 

Have a great time!!!!

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49 minutes ago, Ambam24 said:

Hi all, 

 

Please go easy on me, I’m a first time cruiser who likes to be prepared. I have done a ton of research, but nothing compares to first hand experiences of others. 

 

Quick background- cruising with Celebrity on the Equinox (conceriege class). We leave out of MIA on March 2 and are visiting San Juan, St Thomas, Punta Cana, and Nassau. I don’t have any excursions booked yet, looking to do that in the next week. Any recommendations? We are 27 and 28 (DH) looking for more relaxing activities vs adventurous activities. 

 

Here come the (probably) dumb questions: 

There are no dumb questions ... feel free to ask away!!  We don't do a lot of excursions anymore ... so will let others chime in here.  

49 minutes ago, Ambam24 said:

 

How much cash do you bring with you? When shopping at ports, do they take debit cards? 

I usually take a little more than I think I am going to spend.  Cash is king so if you are bargaining, you can get better deals with cash.  How much you take is dependent upon what you want to do.  If you are taking an excursion from the ship, you will want some money for tips to the tour guide and bus / boat driver.  If you want to shop, you will be fine, especially in St Thomas and San Juan, with credit cards .. no exchange rate.  We still like to take about $100 in smaller bills ($10s and $5s and a few $1s) when we got out and about ... just to get a drink, souvenir shopping or to gamble a little bit in the casinos in Nassau or San Juan.  We never use debit cards so can't really speak to that.  

49 minutes ago, Ambam24 said:

 

If you charge an item to your room, do they bill you daily? Or is it all charged on the final day of your trip? 

Everything you charge while onboard goes onto your account and it is secured with a credit card (or cash) when you board.  

49 minutes ago, Ambam24 said:

Anyone get lucky with a deal on the premium drink package on board with celebrity? We originally booked an inside room but bid on a concerige room, so don’t have any perks. Wondering if we can shave a little off the $69/day? Does the price increase on the ship?

The only times I've seen a beverage package on sale is prior to the cruise.  It might be to your benefit to upgrade to an oceanview room just to get the beverage package ... depending on your drinking habits.  The package is really nice;  it includes all your specialty coffees as well.  When you board, you can determine if you really need the premium beverage package vs the classic.  If you get the classic, you might be happy with their offerings and if you want something above and beyond the price limit, you just pay the difference for that drink.  That can shave off a little from the price. 

BTW, no sharing allowed.  If you do, and get caught, you will lose the package and the money you've paid.  It might be cheaper to upgrade if you both want the package.    

49 minutes ago, Ambam24 said:

We return back to Miami at approx 7am. Looking at a 10:30 flight back home out of MIA. Cutting it too close?

 

I wouldn't even chance it a 10:30 flight.  We have a higher status on Celebrity and our last cruise, we almost didn't make an 11:45 flight....and we had TSA pre-check and had boarding priority.  There can always be delays.  I wouldn't book anything prior to 12:30 PM without those priority lines.  

49 minutes ago, Ambam24 said:

 

I’m sure I’ll think of many more questions, but those are the ones that come to mind right now. Thank you for any insight, tips, or suggestions you have! 

If you are celebrating a special occasion, the specialty dining is a great way to celebrate.  Unlike the beverage packages, you can oftentimes get specials onboard for this.  

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17 minutes ago, cmp702 said:

Although I feel like I am an experienced traveler, I have only been on 2 cruises, both celebrity.  Here are a couple examples of why I wouldn't be brave enough to do a 10:30 flight: 1.  On my first embarkation, I arrived at the port that was completely on lock down.  Every first responder in south Florida seemed to be at the port.  They weren't letting anybody in or out.  We found out later that a bomb dog had indicated a bomb.  This ended up being a false alarm, but there was no way that anybody that day was making an early flight.  2.  On disembarkation on this same trip, the line to get off the ship was not moving.  We had chosen to carry off our luggage because we were hoping to be off the ship quickly, as we had plans for the day.  We soon learned that the escalators to go down were broken, and we were waiting on 1 single elevator to transport everyone on the ship.  So literally one escalator for 3,000 people.  After about an hour of waiting in line, they decided to let people use the stairs.  (They didn't want to let people use the stairs because many like us had chosen to carry off their luggage and they were afraid it would be a safety issue.)  We did have to make a couple trips to get all of our bags down the stairs, but at lease we were able.  Some people did not want to attempt it.  3.  When disembarking on our last cruise, an elderly lady took a pretty bad fall  on the gangway and they needed to get emergency personal to her, including a stretcher, so they stopped the line because it was a narrow area so they could tend to her.  The last 2 were both before we even made it to customs!  You never know what can happen!  But I seem to have pretty bad luck, and since I won't be on your ship, maybe you'll do fine lol. 

 

Wow!  I think 3 events like that is definitely not the norm.  Have never experienced anything like that in FL.

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We have always gotten the Premium beverage package....the bottled waters and coffees we drink alone add up so quickly!! We get ours as a perk booking balcony rooms..... although it's not really a perk as we are paying for it as a hidden cruise cost which is what I hate about Celebrity.......non of the perks offered are ever FREE.  

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Thanks all so much. I did take a look at the beverage options for the premium beverage package and think it will definitely be the best option for us. Sounds like if we were going to get a deal, it won’t be on the ship. I’ll probably book close to the deadline just to avoid having to book on the ship. 

@Cruise Raider you mentioned upgrading to an ocean view room. I’m not sure I have that option anymore as our Bid Up was accepted. We are now in a C2 room, but upgraded from an inside. Are we still able to upgrade to get perks? Thanks for the tip, nonetheless! We are celebrating our 10th anniversary..Tuscan Grill or Murano? 

 

I will I’ll definitely be using a credit card and will bring some cash for extra tips/mad money. Thanks for educating me on the debit card, just not something that even crossed my mind. 

 

Thanks again everyone for your tips! 

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36 minutes ago, Ambam24 said:

Thanks all so much. I did take a look at the beverage options for the premium beverage package and think it will definitely be the best option for us. Sounds like if we were going to get a deal, it won’t be on the ship. I’ll probably book close to the deadline just to avoid having to book on the ship. 

@Cruise Raider you mentioned upgrading to an ocean view room. I’m not sure I have that option anymore as our Bid Up was accepted. We are now in a C2 room, but upgraded from an inside. Are we still able to upgrade to get perks? Thanks for the tip, nonetheless! We are celebrating our 10th anniversary..Tuscan Grill or Murano? 

I don't think you will get the perks from an upgrade.  It never hurts to ask, though.  The worst they can do is say no.  You may find it is beneficial for you to pay the going rate over the original cost plus the upgrade bid + the beverage package (and maybe an additional perk, to boot).  

And, I recommend Murano ... the Tuscan Grille has the most beautiful view (on S-class ships anyway) but the menu in Murano is to die for.  It is a more white glove experience.  Be sure to let them know it is your anniversary.  

Have a great time!!  

36 minutes ago, Ambam24 said:

 

I will I’ll definitely be using a credit card and will bring some cash for extra tips/mad money. Thanks for educating me on the debit card, just not something that even crossed my mind. 

 

Thanks again everyone for your tips! 

 

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Hope you really enjoy your cruise.  I wish I had been able to take so before I was 40.

 

That said here here is some opinions from an 11 cruise guy.  

 

First off your return flight. A 10 :30 flight out of Miami from the Port of Miami can be done and we actually few out of Miami at 9:50 off an Escape cruise.   The key is you need to walk off and not send your bags off the night before.  The second key for a first time cruiser is don’t overpack.  My wife and I each have a large rolling suitcase. We fill the suitcase and she carries on a small carry on bag with valuables and essentials.  I bring a backpack with the same.   Usually the only issue we have is making sure the suitcases are under 50lbs.  To catch your flight check with the ship and find out when they let people walk off usually about 7.  Get to the area at least 30 min early because people line up.  We walked off the Escape about 7:15.  Took us 40 minutes to get thru customs and we were in a shuttle to Mia by 8:15.  Took about 20 min to the airport on weekend mornings. We had time to spare. That said if the ship is late or something goes wrong you don’t have a lot of room for error.  

 

PR - the old fort is a short walk or shuttle ride from the Port. It is pretty cool with amazing history.   

 

St Thomas.  Lots of choices there.  Good beaches on St Thomas Megan’s Bay is ok but I think overrated.   Coke is different but we enjoyed it.  Our favorite is to go to St John’s.   You can take a cab to the Ferry which involves cab fare both ways and ferry charges. The traffic can get bad coming back as well.  

 I believe the better way to go is to take the ships excursion labeled something like explore St John’s on your own.  The ship has a boat that picks you up near the ship takes you to St John’s then brings you back at a set time.   No traffic worry and the price is similar.   Most people go to Trunk Bay   But Cinamon is a Mike down the road and really nice as well.  Not as crowded.  

 

Note on St Johns.  These are parks not commercial resorts. Often you spread your towel on the beach because there is not loungers all over the beach to rent. 

 

Never been to The DR.  

 

Final thoughts.  Bring a back back for beach ports.  You are young and probably pool and sun people.  If that is the case when you board the ship remember you are not getting on a plane. Get on early as possible.   Put you valuables, swinsuits, lotion etc in carry bags or or back packs.  Check everything else. Why drag the bags around.  Get on the ship and head to the pool relax and enjoy a beverage. Best time the whole cruise at the pool. No crowds because most people are eating and dragging carry bags around waiting to get in their room to change when their suitcases finally arrive which can take hours.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You got some great advice from the above posts. I'd second the vote for Murano for your anniversary. It's always a special meal with nice tableside preparations like the Lobster Murano, Chateaubriand for two, and Crepes Ballon Rouge. 

 

As far as St. Thomas, if you want a relaxing rather than adventurous time I'd suggest Emerald Beach. It's about a 5 minute 1 mile cheap taxi ride from the port. There's a hotel there with beach bar, restaurant, and bathroom facilities and it's easy to get transportation back to the ship. You can rent beach lounges and umbrellas for about $20. It's our go to whenever we visit St. Thomas since a nice concierge suggested it to us about 10 years ago.

 

Also I'd recommend using the Luggage Valet program going home, but that's for flights leaving after 11:30 (or noon?). You pay $25 pp + and airline baggage fees. You put out your luggage the last night of the cruise, receive your airline boarding pass on the ship, go to the airport to the security line (since you're already checked in) and pick up your luggage from the luggage carousel at your final destination airport. 

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We've made a 9:45 flight and two 10:10 flights in Ft Lauderdale without a problem and walked off a little after 8 (always shoot to be off by 8 but that never happens). And we don't do self debarkation. We just make sure we ask for the lowest number possible for luggage. That being said, Ft Lauderdale is much more organized than Miami and the airport is closer. But I think you're fine (assuming no mobility issues) as long as you do the self debarkation as soon as they allow you to walk off.  There are always stories of unusual debarkations where they were delayed 2 or 3 hours, but then even if you had an 11:30am flight, you'd have issues. So I wouldn't worry about a 10:30 flight as long as you walk your own luggage off as soon as you can. Enjoy! 

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We are also cruise "newbies" and will be taking our first cruise this April...this forum is amazing for getting any information you need or questions you may have.

 

Enjoy your planning and your cruise!! :classic_smile:

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Hi and welcome aboard!  We have been on over 25 cruises and Equinox is our favorite ship.  We will be back on in September.  The crew is absolutely the friendliest and most helpful we have sailed with.  I also think Captain Kate will be your captain.  She is always out and about on the ship and so friendly!  

 

Our last two cruises we disembarked in Miami and made a 9am and 9:30am flight.  Not ideal but I didn't want to take a 2pm flight home as I had to work the next day.  We only book non stop flights.  Don't put your luggage out the night before disembarkation.  Head to the Ensemble Lounge at 6:30am and you will be one of the first off the ship.  Grab a cab and you will be at the airport in under 15 minutes.  

 

Use a credit card and not a debit card on your cruise both off and on the ship.  I learned this the hard way early on when I had "holds" put on my debit card.  

 

On our last couple of cruises they were offering the booze packages at buy one get one 1/2 half.  It doesn't hurt to ask the bartender.  You can also take 2 bottles of wine on board with you.  Make sure to put them in your carry on luggage.  When you get on the ship take the elevator down to deck 3 - Passport Bar.  That is where they offered us the discounted beverage packages.  Have a wonderful time!  There is nothing like the excitement of your first cruise.  Wanda

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On 2/17/2019 at 5:53 PM, Ambam24 said:

@Pier290 thank you so much! I’ve read a few things about St John, would you recommend an excursion through the ship or are the ferries easy to figure out on our own? I hope you love your 11 day cruise, I’m super jealous! 


@cmp702

 

We did the ferry on our own to St John, pre-hurricane. It was easy. I would come prepared, though with the most up to date info on times for the ferry, and plan on taking one slightly earlier than you might think, especially after the hurricane. We wanted to do some hiking, so we got info from the National Park hqtrs, which is about 2 blocks from the ferry stop, did the hike, then had lunch and drinks in a little bar there where the ferry lands.

There is an open air bus from the port to Red Hook, then the ferry, I want to say about 1 1/2 hours including waiting. I'm pretty sure you can get a taxi from the ferry on St. John to beaches, sightsee, etc and negotiate a return, we just didn't do that.

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On 2/17/2019 at 5:53 PM, Ambam24 said:

@Pier290 thank you so much! I’ve read a few things about St John, would you recommend an excursion through the ship or are the ferries easy to figure out on our own? I hope you love your 11 day cruise, I’m super jealous! 

 

@cmp702 thank you for your credit card advice. I didn’t even think about the pre-authorization pulls and issues that could come with that. I will be looking into which of my credit cards has no international fees and will use that for my trip. I will definitely bring some extra cash for additional tips. Any experience with how much you’ve spent above the standard gratuity charge? We absolutely love to tip for great service, but struggling with how much extra? Thanks for your advice. 

 

@JFontaine it is March 2 2019. I already have my flight to MIA booked. We are flying in March 1. I read way too much telling me not to fly in the day of the cruise, so eliminated the risk. I fly about once a month for work, so relatively experienced. Appreciate your advice, will probably book and hope for no customs delays. Thanks! 

We did the St John excursion.... basically it's just ferry and bus transport for u....once u get to Trunk Bay it's all you!!! It's very rustic there...a tiny little bar, not much shade....it's absolutely gorgeous!!!!!!!!   Then we ate lunch at the end of the tour at a restaurant near the ferry port. Definitely recommend via Celebrity. 🛳️🍹😎🌴

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Can't improve on the tips you have already received....Regarding dining, we LOVED Murano on the Silhouette!  It was so incredible on night 1 of the ship (we got 30% by asking upon embarkation) that we dined there our last night.  As others have said, the Lobster Murano was my wife's favorite, and I really loved the Chateaubriand (it says "for two", but they will prepare it for one if you ask).  Service was incredible!

 

Enjoy your cruise!  You will love it!

Edited by DENIE
Needed to add to it.

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