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adelaidefc

Is cruising really a great value travel option?

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I took my first cruise on MSC Bellissima in May around the Mediterranean, and had a genuinely great time (despite some MSC quirks) and would consider myself pretty converted to the idea of cruising. I've even already booked another on Majestic Princess in Australia in December. 

 

However there's one thing that I can't really understand, having traveled extensively independently for a decade. It seems a lot of people seem to think that cruising is a really great value way of getting around, and even that it's a great way to experience new places. 

I think this may be true for very out of the way itineraries to otherwise inaccessible areas (I'm thinking Northern Lights or Norway cruises for example), but for a general itinerary to major ports or cities, there's no way it's cheaper than making your own way around. And no way observing a city on a port call for a morning or afternoon is even close to experiencing at least a few nights there (preferably longer). 

 

We ended up with a really good price for our 7 night cruise (judging by repeated searching on the same itinerary over time), but here's the price breakdown:

- Balcony cabin: $3600 (2500USD)

- Drinks packages: roughly $450 (300USD)

- Laundry: $50 (30USD)

- Internet: $79 (50USD)

- Gratuities: $250 (200USD)

So about $4400AUD($3000USD) total, working out to about $630/night(AUD) for two. And this isn't including any excursions, food off the ship, or any local transport (which you'll almost certainly need). On top of that, MSC are at the lower end of the price spectrum. 

 

The total transfer and accom costs for our expenses for the entire 2 weeks prior to the cruise we travelled (Barcelona-Madrid-Milan-Rome-back to Barcelona to get on the cruise) was $3650AUD, based on min 4* hotel or Airbnb, and air or fast rail transfers between cities. Even allowing an incredibly generous 150EU (160USD/250AUD) per day for food,drink and local transport, we're talking about $500/night(AUD) over the 14 days, and that is allowing probably double what we actually spent. So you could include the costs of some local experiences and entertainment into that very comfortably and still be cheaper. 

 

Please don't take this as a criticism of cruising, I went from being a fairly 'anti-cruise' person to someone who now spends a lot of time thinking about what one to do next! They're a great new travel experience for me that I'm quite excited to have finally 'discovered'! And perceived value is much more important than pure financial sums.

But I think of it as a floating resort with delightful and ever-changing views and plenty of fun people to talk to, rather than actually getting a true (or cheap) experience of the ports we'd go to.  

 

I'm sure there are exceptions to the above, and I'd love to hear them because they'll help inform me what cruise I should look at next time!

 

 

 

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Well I still think it’s great value, normally pay around $200-250;ea per day, can’t get a hotel in most cities and three decent feeds each for that money. Plus entertainment and transport.

 

last year we had a two night cruise, under $1000 for two of us.

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Posted (edited)

It varies a lot.

You've quoted the Norwegian fjords / Northern lights.

I'll add the Baltic as being far more convenient  & economical by cruise ship than by road or rail or air.

And the Caribbean, where most islands are worth a day but few are worth longer. Our first visit to the Caribbean was island-hopping by local planes - spent a lot of time packing & unpacking, taxis to / from airports, hanging around at the airports. We really should have done it by cruising.

 

But for places like the Mediterranean or the UK, where travel by road or rail is pretty cheap & easy, cruising isn't always the way to go.

Great for an oversight, great for someone else driving overnight, great for your hotel & bedroom & wardrobe travelling with you.

But a road trip means you choose your own itinerary, you spend your time at the places that you prefer, you spend your days and evenings exploring & immersing in the country, you already have your own transportation to the sights.

And of course you're not limited to being close to the sea, you can explore the heart of places like Europe.

 

So we mix it up - cruises, road trips, city breaks.

But probably half the folk who cruise do it because of the cruising and their "floating resort hotel", and aren't so interested in the destinations.

And there are those who are unable or unwilling to travel abroad without the comfort and convenience of someone taking care of things. Coach vacations are a popular with those folk too.

And as we age we'll doubtless increase the proportion of time we spend cruising, and add coach vacations to the mix..

 

Some folk won't cruise, some folk will only take their vacations cruising, most have a bit of a mix.

Each to their own. :classic_smile:

 

JB :classic_smile:

 

Edited by John Bull

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This graphic below

depicts Carnival's Southern Caribbean route

from Puerto Rico, Southward to Barbados, then returning.

 

You should try doing this itinerary via regional island-hopper airline LIAT

You don't have enough money for the air-travel

far less the hotel accommodation!

Cruising it by ship is waaay less expensive!

 

Btw...what kills most cruise vacation overall-expense

is the horrific air travel costs and hassles involved

in getting to the port where you board.

 

South Carib itin-NEW.png

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Hi Adelaidefc

 

So it looks like you are focusing in on how much you can spend if you opt in. Your question however asks, if this is a good value travel option. So, I will point out that I can go on a 7 day cruise for around $500 U.S., plus gratuities. I will have accommodations, pretty good dining options, the same can be said for entertainment and on top of that I can visit two or three other countries. Now that sounds like good value to me.

 

You can choose to spend thousands more on anything you want to while on vacation, just as I could spend thousands more instead of that $500 cruise. The choice, though, is yours, and there are few vacation options where you can get what I described for that little.

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An all inclusive in cozumel is the best option for us.  Flights, all inclusive with food and alcohol included for 10 days works out to $150 per person a day.  Cruises for us gives us a taste of where we want to spend more time but is not our vacation of choice unless we are looking for a new place to spend time.

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The way I see it - for approx. $1500 USD for a 6 day trip (including airfare) I can see 3-5 different major cities or locations, get food included.  Find a land vacation where you can see the variety of locations, spend the same or less on hotels AND food (and get decent quality food at that) and not be stressed about making it to the next place on time.

 

Maybe my feeling on this is helped by the fact that I could do day trips to NYC, Boston or Montreal if it struck my fancy...

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9 hours ago, adelaidefc said:

 

<snip> 

 

Please don't take this as a criticism of cruising, I went from being a fairly 'anti-cruise' person to someone who now spends a lot of time thinking about what one to do next! They're a great new travel experience for me that I'm quite excited to have finally 'discovered'! And perceived value is much more important than pure financial sums.

But I think of it as a floating resort with delightful and ever-changing views and plenty of fun people to talk to, rather than actually getting a true (or cheap) experience of the ports we'd go to.  

 

I'm sure there are exceptions to the above, and I'd love to hear them because they'll help inform me what cruise I should look at next time!

 

 

Where is the claim being made that the point of cruising is to get a "great value" for traveling?

 

Sure, it can be done that way, e.g., as mentioned above, and it can be done for far less as well, for those who do want a "value trip".  But likewise, one can go to Motel 6 for a "vacation", eat at cheap places, and also have a "cheap" trip.  I'm not sure that "value" is a term we'd use to describe either of those, but obviously there are some who do travel that way.

 

But when cruising on nicer ships, and/or in larger suites, "low cost" is not the key feature of the trip.  Indeed, some of the ships and suites are definitely luxury level, and no pretense is suggested about it being a "good deal" in terms of cheap travel.

That's NOT what those travelers are seeking, and similarly for those who choose to stay at 5-star hotels/resorts.

 

There are cruises at a huge range of costs per night (including room and board, and other required fees), and travelers can choose what they prefer.

But to criticize "cruising" in general as "not being a great value in traveling" makes no sense.    One could also criticize cruising for not offering great snow-shoeing, but that's not what most travelers are seeking. (And there are indeed *some* cruises that offer snow-shoeing on excursions, so this isn't as silly as it might initially sound.)

 

GC

 

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People generally fit into two categories with cruising: those who want the full ship experience and those that use a cruise as a convenient means of getting to their target destination.

 

I am a "budget traveler" who is in the second camp. Therefore, I book less expensive cabins and still manage to have an amazing time!  We are going on a 7-day port intensive MSC cruise in the western Med. Our total is $1,023 for two people. Our rationale, based on personal experience is that we will likely return each afternoon totally exhausted, we are going in the fall when the sunlight disappears early, and therefore a balcony isn't necessary. We are there to see the port cities. I could book a Yacht Club cabin for $3,955 but wouldn't get that much benefit. 

 

Also, we have a 12 night Rome, Greece, and Israel trip booked for $1,199.00 pp. Another trip intensive cruise. All total, with RT airfare, and the three days of tours in Israel, we are paying $2,200 pp. Our friends just left for an 8 day trip to Israel for $5,000 pp. I'd say cruising is a pretty great way and inexpensive way of traveling. 

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If you are cruising just for the travel experiences of visiting the ports , then perhaps cruising is not your best value.

However if you are cruising to enjoy the onboard experiences as well as the port visits , then it is a terrific value.

Not to forget . unpack only once .

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I think it all depends on how many extras you want/need to add on top of the cruise fare and whatever it costs to get you to the cruise. We usually skip all extras, so it's a great deal for us.

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So apples to apples comparision?  What are you comparing to a balcony cabin with cabin service each day?  What are you comparing to your 3 meals and snacks, bar, etc?  Your entertainment?  Your pool, hot but, spa, gym??  Your transport to several locations?  Security and medical?

 

So yes, we can do land at a less cost but typically there is an overhead of research as well as compromise.  Location of hotels can really impact the price.  Air, train, bus, and car travel have different costs.  You do get a better feel of the area - which can include good and bad experiences...

 

Cruises almost always provide some vacation value with the limited travel value.

 

Take your choice.

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Posted (edited)

We cruise for the ship time.  

 

We couldn't care less about the itinerary.  We will enjoy anywhere we go.

 

But I agree that in Europe, cruising is a second class way of seeing things, basically due to the short time available.

 

We have spend a full week on Mykonos alone.  A wee in Sicily driving around, and could have spent 2 - 3 weeks easily.

 

As for value, you have to shop around and find good deals.  But I look at it this way, if I enjoy it, and can afford it, it is fine.  I don't look at cost per day or such metrics.  Enjoy CHECK, affordable CHECK, then HAPPY. 😄

 

Also, many people have no clue when it comes to what they paid versus what they could have paid.  They seldom actually check around and compare.  Otherwise, a lot less people would fly SouthWest airline and stay in Hampton Inns. 😄

 

 

 

Edited by SRF

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Our upcoming trip is 11 days in the Caribbean/Panama Canal for about $5000, for the 5 of us, in next-door outside cabins. That's less than $100 per person, per day, which covers transportation, a place to sleep, and most of our food. (And with two teenaged boys, that's not an inconsiderable expense!). Yeah, we'll spend extra money on excursions and drinks and whatever, but we would have spent that anywhere we vacationed so it's not fair to tally in up in the cruise column and not for other vacations. We actually budget those expenses separately from the "hard costs" of a trip anyway, so that when we're making these decisions we're comparing apples to apples.

 

The closest comparison I can think of is when we were living in the Caribbean and went to all-inclusive resorts, we were paying $250-300 per night, and that was when the kids were small and traveled for free. It'd be double that now, because we'd need two rooms (and they'd probably make us pay the extra person fee for the third kid) so the price is in-line with what we'd pay there, or a bit less. And for that, we feel like we get a lot more transportation and opportunity than we would with a land-based all-inclusive. (We'd generally only stay for a long weekend there, because we'd get bored. Not a problem when you're in a different port every day...)

 

So, is it the cheapest option in the world? Nope! But the value for a family vacation is there. 

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11 hours ago, GUT2407 said:

Well I still think it’s great value, normally pay around $200-250;ea per day, can’t get a hotel in most cities and three decent feeds each for that money. Plus entertainment and transport.

 

last year we had a two night cruise, under $1000 for two of us.

My wife and I travel a fair amount - doing a bit of research and not shooting for high end (usually sterile) accommodations.  For your $200-$250 each per day, we’ve had good times in London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Athens and Istanbul — and great times in smaller, less expensive towns across Europe.

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16 hours ago, adelaidefc said:

a really great value

 

Value is determined in part by the cost of getting what you want......if what you want is a relaxing time away from home where someone cooks and cleans for you, I think $150 or $200 a day is pretty awesome, given that I can barely rent a room at the Best Western for $150 a day.  If you want first class service and food while sipping a martini and watching the ocean pass by, then even $500 or $600 a day is a good value, given that a first class hotel room can be $350+ a night and food and drink can easily top $150 a day.   If what you want is to really experience another country, visiting towns and cities and seeing the sights, then a cruise - even a port intensive cruise - really won't do that. 

 

The biggest thing that makes a cruise vacation not a "great deal" for me is the airfare, because I don't live near a port city.  And if I want to really visit a place, I either add on a land vacation, or do a land-only vacation. 

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I believe you have to enjoy some of the features of cruising to see its true value. And funny enough, some of those exact features are why people don't like to cruise. Basically the sameness. Same food, ship, entertainment,  people and so on.

 

My beautiful wife and I have a balcony booked on a ten day Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Reflection next January for $170 pp a day (minus the $400 obc). That also includes unlimited wifi for two, classic drink package and gratuities. The drink package a lone saves us $1,500, and we need the wifi because of our internet business. For us, this is a good deal. Everyones needs are different. 

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17 hours ago, adelaidefc said:

 It seems a lot of people seem to think that cruising is a really great value way of getting around, and even that it's a great way to experience new places. 

I think this may be true for very out of the way itineraries to otherwise inaccessible areas (I'm thinking Northern Lights or Norway cruises for example), but for a general itinerary to major ports or cities, there's no way it's cheaper than making your own way around. 

 

Norway is very accessible without a cruiseship so it may not be a really great value to experience that on a cruiseship.

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We don't cruise because it's a great value, we cruise because we love to cruise. We've done more destination vacations than I can count, both a la carte and all-inclusive, and could easily go to an all inclusive for less than we spend on a cruise. But our son is bored to death sitting on a beach all week and I'm at a place in life where I want to relax on vacation, not run around and wear myself out. Maybe when he no longer vacations with us (he's in college, so our family vacations are probably numbered) we'll go to all-inclusive beach destinations again. Or maybe when I'm retired and don't work 70 hours a week I'll feel like doing land vacations with lots of sightseeing. For now cruising fits, regardless of price.  

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We've holidayed every way- cheap packages; expensive ones; local transport in Arabic countries; hostels in The Netherlands; hire cars in Hawaii.

Usually it was taking the car across by ferry for long drives through Europe.

And one night, sailing on the overnight ferry home from Hamburg, we realised how tired we were, and how much we needed a rest- and age was a big reason in this.

And we enjoyed that sail down the Elbe out of Germany so much that we tried cruising... and don't want to return to our other holidays, whatever the price

( and TAs are throwing cheap breaks at us for this summer- but no...).

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On average travel cost us $1000 a day for 2 people no matter whether we cruise on do independent trips overseas.   We always book a mini suite on a cruise.  We always stay at a Hilton or better hotel.  Cruising we have the nightly entertainment on board, a wonderful view of the sea.  We do independent port visits so rarely pay for a tour.   So for us, cruises are a very good way to travel, we have seen most ports in the Mediterranean, gone to Middle East, the Baltics, most European capitals.  Done Alaska, Hawaii, South America, Central America, Canada east and west coast of the usa.  Did this over the past 40 years.    Cruises especially in Europe, use to be more expense... recall paying $7000 for a limited view cabin on the old Royal Cruise on a 12 day Venice to London late l980s.  By the time we added air, hotels, other expenses we surely paid $12,000 for the trip.   But that was for a limited view cabin no mini suite, lol.    Large ships have meant lesser fares.  

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2 hours ago, sverigecruiser said:

 

Norway is very accessible without a cruiseship so it may not be a really great value to experience that on a cruiseship.

In March we did a Norwegian coastal cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes.  I can't imagine doing that by land.  Just saying.  And I'm not an indiscriminate cruise fan.

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20 hours ago, adelaidefc said:

I took my first cruise on MSC Bellissima in May around the Mediterranean, and had a genuinely great time (despite some MSC quirks) and would consider myself pretty converted to the idea of cruising. I've even already booked another on Majestic Princess in Australia in December. 

 

However there's one thing that I can't really understand, having traveled extensively independently for a decade. It seems a lot of people seem to think that cruising is a really great value way of getting around, and even that it's a great way to experience new places. 

I think this may be true for very out of the way itineraries to otherwise inaccessible areas (I'm thinking Northern Lights or Norway cruises for example), but for a general itinerary to major ports or cities, there's no way it's cheaper than making your own way around. And no way observing a city on a port call for a morning or afternoon is even close to experiencing at least a few nights there (preferably longer). 

 

We ended up with a really good price for our 7 night cruise (judging by repeated searching on the same itinerary over time), but here's the price breakdown:

- Balcony cabin: $3600 (2500USD)

- Drinks packages: roughly $450 (300USD)

- Laundry: $50 (30USD)

- Internet: $79 (50USD)

- Gratuities: $250 (200USD)

So about $4400AUD($3000USD) total, working out to about $630/night(AUD) for two. And this isn't including any excursions, food off the ship, or any local transport (which you'll almost certainly need). On top of that, MSC are at the lower end of the price spectrum. 

 

The total transfer and accom costs for our expenses for the entire 2 weeks prior to the cruise we travelled (Barcelona-Madrid-Milan-Rome-back to Barcelona to get on the cruise) was $3650AUD, based on min 4* hotel or Airbnb, and air or fast rail transfers between cities. Even allowing an incredibly generous 150EU (160USD/250AUD) per day for food,drink and local transport, we're talking about $500/night(AUD) over the 14 days, and that is allowing probably double what we actually spent. So you could include the costs of some local experiences and entertainment into that very comfortably and still be cheaper. 

 

Please don't take this as a criticism of cruising, I went from being a fairly 'anti-cruise' person to someone who now spends a lot of time thinking about what one to do next! They're a great new travel experience for me that I'm quite excited to have finally 'discovered'! And perceived value is much more important than pure financial sums.

But I think of it as a floating resort with delightful and ever-changing views and plenty of fun people to talk to, rather than actually getting a true (or cheap) experience of the ports we'd go to.  

 

I'm sure there are exceptions to the above, and I'd love to hear them because they'll help inform me what cruise I should look at next time!

 

 

 

I very much liked what you wrote and agree.  We did some cruises 10-20 years ago and pretty much decided it wasn't for us.  As I wrote on another thread we felt that the ports "were either eight hours too long or eight days too short."  And to tell the truth most cruise food was what I call "LCD - lowest common denominator."  Feed the masses.  And most of our fellow travelers didn't agree with us.  Then last year we went to Antarctica on Hurtigruten's Midnatsol.  About 400 pax.  And the food generally was quite good.  And we went ashore four times on Antarctica and also the Falkland Islands.  This is a trip one can only do via cruise ship and the big ships (over 500 pax IIRC) can't disembark.  Period.  I believe I mentioned here that we did another Hurtigruten cruise on the Norwegian coast (up and back on the Lofoten, 100 pax).  And liked the beauty of it so much that we're going back next spring for one way along with spending time in Oslo, Bergen and Copenhagen.  And in December we're traveling on Oceania (check them out if you're into food!!!!!) because it takes us from Rio down to Buenos Aires, hitting ten ? ports.  We used to have an apt. in Rio and will spend time there pre and in BA post.  We're very much destination oriented.  And we're budget minded also.  I can get an airbnb-equivalent and cook which I miss when we travel.   I LOVE TO COOK.  And we can hang out with the locals which is fave part of traveling.  I could live in Barcelona so can't imagine a "day."  As far as escorted tours we did a half dozen or so of those and probably won't ever again.  Yes, you sure do get to see a lot and learn a lot.  But there was so little time for doing our own thing.  

 

Excuse my rambling and one long paragraph 🙂  But I wanted you to know that I totally get what you're saying.  Happy trails 🙂

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Thank you all so much for the thoughtful and well considered replies. I probably should've made the topic purely on 'financial' value, and even then, value is very much in the eye of the beholder. 

However the question has ended up being a great way to see people explain not only their enjoyment of cruising, but their motivations behind their vacation time in general - and as you'd expect it's as varied as everyone here.

 

I'm a person who loves staying in one place for a while, and loves the research part of the trip to find the best value accom, food and transport I can - very much champagne tastes on a beer budget. There were some prices above for hotel prices that are well beyond what I've paid for great lodging. For example we stayed in Barcelo Torre de Madrid (a 5* hotel, ranked 12th in Madrid on Tripadvisor) for what was around $120USD/night (total - not pp). But that's me loving the challenge and enjoying taking the time to find these things. That's simply not realistic or remotely enjoyable for a lot of people. 

 

I feel that regardless of the price we paid for the cruise, I think I got great 'holiday' value out of it. We'd traveled for 3 weeks on land prior to that point, and it was a lovely way to wind up the trip. I remember looking at myself in the mirror 5 days into the cruise and thinking 'jeez I look relaxed!' (that look didn't last long once I was back at work!). I love my Roman history - and sailing around the Straits of Messina (where the Romans and Carthaginians had naval battles) and imagining it 2000 years ago, was an experience only available on the sea. The views on sail-aways from 20 floors up were simply unbeatable.

 

It also seems some places (like the Caribbean) are not only cheaper to cruise but also well suited to the 'day' visit, and other lines offer unique experiences. There's so much to learn!  

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2 minutes ago, adelaidefc said:

Thank you all so much for the thoughtful and well considered replies. I probably should've made the topic purely on 'financial' value, and even then, value is very much in the eye of the beholder. 

However the question has ended up being a great way to see people explain not only their enjoyment of cruising, but their motivations behind their vacation time in general - and as you'd expect it's as varied as everyone here.

 

I'm a person who loves staying in one place for a while, and loves the research part of the trip to find the best value accom, food and transport I can - very much champagne tastes on a beer budget. There were some prices above for hotel prices that are well beyond what I've paid for great lodging. For example we stayed in Barcelo Torre de Madrid (a 5* hotel, ranked 12th in Madrid on Tripadvisor) for what was around $120USD/night (total - not pp). But that's me loving the challenge and enjoying taking the time to find these things. That's simply not realistic or remotely enjoyable for a lot of people. 

 

I feel that regardless of the price we paid for the cruise, I think I got great 'holiday' value out of it. We'd traveled for 3 weeks on land prior to that point, and it was a lovely way to wind up the trip. I remember looking at myself in the mirror 5 days into the cruise and thinking 'jeez I look relaxed!' (that look didn't last long once I was back at work!). I love my Roman history - and sailing around the Straits of Messina (where the Romans and Carthaginians had naval battles) and imagining it 2000 years ago, was an experience only available on the sea. The views on sail-aways from 20 floors up were simply unbeatable.

 

It also seems some places (like the Caribbean) are not only cheaper to cruise but also well suited to the 'day' visit, and other lines offer unique experiences. There's so much to learn!  

I also am a self-described "info junkie" or "frustrated reference librarian."  Oh, right, and "the family travel coordinator."  So I totally get it.  The research is part of my enjoyment of the trip.

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