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I'm my family's "travel agent"...


SingingPixie

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I'm my family's "travel agent" and they're all first-time cruisers. Most likely we'll be on the Independence of the Seas, Western Caribbean route in Feb 2010. "We" will be my parents (early 50s), me and my boyfriend (late 20s), brother and his girlfriend (early 20s). I've done one prior cruise- on Enchantment in Jan 2008, but I'm enough of a travel planner that I was never a typical "first-time cruiser" per se- we did either independent excursions or set out on our own in each port, and nothing really "surprised" me on board since I'd researched everything to death.

 

That said, what should I be sure to tell my family ahead of time to prevent any unpleasant surprises? I'm planning to mention tips, excursion costs (planning to go the "this is what I'm doing- you're welcome to join me or I'm happy to help you figure out other options, just tell me your plans by x date" route), cab info for Ft Lauderdale from the airport, embarkation procedures (including need to tip luggage porters), having first several hours' needs in a "carry-on" for embarkation, cab info for beach in Cozumel if anyone plans on sleeping in and coming later, and dinner attire. What am I forgetting?

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I'd give them the cruise brochure, let them read it, and figure most of this stuff out on their own. That way, should an "unpleasant" surprise occur, YOU won't be to blame! Same with excursions, room picks, etc.... Let THEM do some of the "legwork"--that's part of the fun, anyhow! I mean, you enjoyed the research of your first cruise...let them have that fun, as well!

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*Disemarkation info (i.e. you don't get off until your section is called so that could mean getting off early (hence be packed & have eaten breakfast early) or late (hence don't schedule flight until you are sure you'll be off).

*costs of drinks, etc that you might decide to buy on the ship as these can add up if you aren't paying attention.

*some ideas on things to bring to make the trip more enjoyable.

*give them a few websites to visit so they can start seeing what others are talking about, it might spark a questin they hadn't thought of.

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I "planned" 3 family cruises. The only thing set in stone before we left was that we all agreed to eat dinner together nightly. All excursions and activities were planned by each family. If they had a question for me, I'd tell them what I knew from past experiences. But they all got their own book covering the ports of call, checked out web sites, did their own arrangements etc. Some of us ended up together on some daily tours or cabs somewhere. But none of that was decided until we were on the ship. When we'd visit before the cruise we'd talk about very general things, like clothing, spending money etc.

For newbies, all the pre info can be too much. I agree with CB that you should let them discover cruising on their own. Be there if they have a general question. But if you are concerned about things going well for everyone, I definitely would not be leading them by the hand. Once you are on the ship, you can help if asked. If they think YOU are making all the decisions (even tho you are just offering suggestions) if something goes wrong, you can bet YOU will take the flack. I wouldn't hand myself over as the agent with all the "options". That's their job as adults.

 

I like to plan things out ahead of time. And I have a lot of expericnce on different lines and itineraries. But lots of people like to just roam around taking in what they want and can at each moment. They might not want to hear what I think is the "right" way to do things. Same for you.

 

You'll have a great time. Don't worry about their details so much. It will interfere with your good time if thinking of them too much. You're not cruising with children. :)

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I would have them do some research and planning on their own. Let them know if they have questions that you're happy to help but that everyone is going to be interested in different things. It would be stressful to organize group excursions when people's tastes may be very different.

 

Active people hate lying on the beach and beach lovers may not like going on a zip line. If everyone does their own planning it makes life easier (and budgeting easier!) for everyone.

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Yeah, I'd love to let everyone figure it out on their own, but I know that in a couple cases it won't happen. I traveled to WDW with my mom last summer, and she was thrilled to let me book everything, just tell her what she owed, and follow along. It seems like she prefers to go that way again. As for my dad, I know that the cruiseline excursion prices will make him balk, so it's going to have to be independent excursions. I don't disagree with him- the ones I'm looking at easily cost twice as much through the cruiseline, and none of them are complicated transportation-wise or cutting it close on time. It just means I can't direct them to the brochure or shore excursion desk, or my parents won't do anything. As for my brother and his girlfriend, they're a bit of a mixed bag. I know that $-wise they'll benefit from independent excursions, but my brother is absolutely not a planner and I barely know his girlfriend. So I'd like to at least have a couple easy "no-research, give me the money and I'll book it for you" options to offer them in case they want to go the no-legwork route.

 

I do think I have the shore excursion thing figured out though, at least as far as how I'm going to handle it. Really more of a "this is what I plan to do. You can join me for $x or not, just let me know by the time I need to book. Other things to do in this port are x, y and z for $y. If you see something in the cruiseline brochure that you want to do, I may be able to find a company that does it cheaper if you give me lead time."

 

It's more the little things like tipping and ground transportation details that I want to be sure not to forget. Because I guaruntee that my 23 year old brother will not be looking up tipping guidelines on the Royal Caribbean website- it won't even occur to him, and I'd hate for him to be surprised by that. When I was his age, that extra $70 or so would have made the difference between being able to buy a few drinks onboard and a few trinkets in the ports and not being able to do so.

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Pixie,

consider paying the recommended gratuities up front, before you even leave home - that way your family could consider it as part of the total "ticket price" and it would not be something to budget for onboard. I'm pretty sure you can do this on Royal - I think I did it for my cruise on the Vision.

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Pixie,

consider paying the recommended gratuities up front, before you even leave home - that way your family could consider it as part of the total "ticket price" and it would not be something to budget for onboard. I'm pretty sure you can do this on Royal - I think I did it for my cruise on the Vision.

 

That's my plan (actually, I'm not sure if my parents will end up covering it- they are being VERY generous and covering cruisefare and airfare; we are handling our own excursions/incidentals). I'd just like to include it in a general "cruise info" email rather than a specific "hey guys- don't forget to tip!"

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If they haven't cruised before you also may want to give them a short list of things that they CAN'T bring on board (ditto for planes if they aren't frequent fliers).

 

They are fairly frequent fliers. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head that they can bring on the plane (in checked luggage at least) but not on the ship is alcohol. Am I missing anything?

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Liquids in carry-ons would be the big one to point out to them, but since they fly often they are aware of that.

 

I would recommend bringing a power strip AND a 3-prong to 2-prong converter. My last cruise I brought a power strip and couldn't use it.

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Yeah, I'd love to let everyone figure it out on their own, but I know that in a couple cases it won't happen. I traveled to WDW with my mom last summer, and she was thrilled to let me book everything, just tell her what she owed, and follow along. It seems like she prefers to go that way again. As for my dad, I know that the cruiseline excursion prices will make him balk, so it's going to have to be independent excursions. I don't disagree with him- the ones I'm looking at easily cost twice as much through the cruiseline, and none of them are complicated transportation-wise or cutting it close on time. It just means I can't direct them to the brochure or shore excursion desk, or my parents won't do anything. As for my brother and his girlfriend, they're a bit of a mixed bag. I know that $-wise they'll benefit from independent excursions, but my brother is absolutely not a planner and I barely know his girlfriend. So I'd like to at least have a couple easy "no-research, give me the money and I'll book it for you" options to offer them in case they want to go the no-legwork route.

 

I do think I have the shore excursion thing figured out though, at least as far as how I'm going to handle it. Really more of a "this is what I plan to do. You can join me for $x or not, just let me know by the time I need to book. Other things to do in this port are x, y and z for $y. If you see something in the cruiseline brochure that you want to do, I may be able to find a company that does it cheaper if you give me lead time."

 

It's more the little things like tipping and ground transportation details that I want to be sure not to forget. Because I guaruntee that my 23 year old brother will not be looking up tipping guidelines on the Royal Caribbean website- it won't even occur to him, and I'd hate for him to be surprised by that. When I was his age, that extra $70 or so would have made the difference between being able to buy a few drinks onboard and a few trinkets in the ports and not being able to do so.

 

Since money might be an issue for some, I would definitely advise them that they can save a ton by not doing any pre-planned excursions. A cab ride to a beach is pennies. You don't say where you are cruising but there's a lot of us here that have been to all the ports that can help there. I would not book excursions for every port. Your brother sounds like someone who might enjoy using the ship more with his girlfriend. Maybe just walking around the main city. Our family took van cabs everywhere on the last cruise we went on together( S. Carib) No pre booking. We negotiated with one of the many companies at the port and made our own schedule and itinerary. Those of the family wanting to join, just paid their share up front.

 

You need to be very specific about money issues up front since you have decided to take on this job. What if you brother stalls or doesn't chip in on something like a cab? Or his share of wine with dinner? Are your parents willing to pay? Does he have his own credit card pay his ship acct.?

 

For sure, get the tips figured out ahead of time. Since your parents are paying for the fares, they should not be expected to pay for everything else unless they choose to. And then they need to advise the kids of that. Or vice versa. Don't wait till it happens.

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