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sxmsandbum
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Med Cruising questions
      #1599615 - 07/22/14 02:39 PM (98.186.71.171)

Looking to do a cruise for the first time. We are looking at Celebrity Equinox, NCL Epic, and Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas visiting the Med next summer. I know Celebrity is supposed to be the nicest of these cruise lines. Here are some things about us any suggestions of which cruise line might be the best for us?

We are late 50's and enjoy life but not huge partiers anymore but enjoy some entertainment or shows in evening.

We have never cruised before not sure what size ship would be best.

Really prefer casual to glitzy...hubby really doesn't want to haul a suit or tux and I am not into ball gowns.
Is there anywhere you can eat on the formal nights that you can dress casual or will that have to be a room service night?

We enjoy a cocktail, but not constant drinkers, how expensive is a beer or rum and coke on board if you don't buy a package.

Shore excursions...we have always done our homework and explored on our own. HOWEVER we have not been to Europe and wondering if this is advisable or stick to the shore excursions that you pay for in Italy, etc.

Is it better to book air through the cruise line or on our own...same for hotels before or after cruise?

Thanks for any and all help. I know I am comparing apples and oranges probably but trying to get a feel for this.


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Snorkeller
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599623 - 07/22/14 03:48 PM (108.4.121.156)

Even though we have cruised a lot, and I do a lot of research myself, I still get Bonnie Buchanan (CruiseOne) to offer any comment on and make the arrangements with the cruise line. Especaily as a first cruiser, I think you would be well advised to use a cruise TA such as Bonnie.

You probably could have a great cruise on any of those three ships you name on one of the three lines. In some ways, you sound like a good fit for Celebrity (age - general description), but in other ways, for NCL or RC (reference to no formal dress).

One thing that can be very important is deciding what kind of cabin you want and will get. Are you going to get a suite or are you willing to take an interior? NCL has the haven thing for suites which is pretty nice (Bonnie loves it) but it is relatively expensive.

How do the itineraries and prices compare among the three you mention and others during the time you want to go? Remember to understand not only what are the ports of call, but how long you are in the ports of call.

Just personally, I think Allure is too big and "unnecessary" for a port intensive Med cruise. Allure and Oasis are great ships just as a destination in and of themselves. But, if you are going to Med ports that you have never been to or have not spent any time in for decades, then I do not feel the need for all the attractions of a giant ship. Indeed, for European cruising, many of our cruising friends prefer the river cruising - which of course are much smaller and different boats. I would add here as well that you may not want to pay for something like the NCL Haven if you are really interested in the ports and plan to spend a lot of the day time ashore.

There are just so many options and possibilities that, again, I would recommend talking with an experienced cruise TA.


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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: Snorkeller]
      #1599636 - 07/22/14 04:37 PM (98.186.71.171)

Thanks for the thoughts. We will spend a lot of time ashore. The price is the same for all three as we are changing a timeshare in for the cruise. I can get a ov on Allure, suite or Balcony on Epic or OV on Equinox. No inside, rooms. I will definitely check in with an expert.

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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599664 - 07/22/14 07:31 PM (108.117.182.191)

Suite for the same price as an ocean view sounds kind of good to me, even though I dislike NCL. Give Bonnie a call!!

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nclauss1
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599710 - 07/23/14 12:38 AM (173.85.18.106)

We did a Med cruise in 2012 in September on Princess cruises. We chose that ship mainly for the ports and dates. Hated the ship, entirely too big and way too many people. We spent most of our time on shore and when we were on the ship we were on the balcony. Having the balcony was just great, the views were fabulous. I enjoyed that as much as the ports!!!Spent a little time at the pool.The ports were fabulous. We did the shore excursions from the ship. I had checked into private tours but for the two of us it was expensive. I enjoyed all but one of the shore excursions. I would recommend getting Rick
Steves' Mediterranean Cruise Ports book, tons of info. Have you checked out Cruise Critic? You can check out the reviews on the ships you are
considering. And once you book you can connect with people going on the same cruise. We have only done 2 other cruises, many years ago, to the caribbean. We are not cruise experts at all. We booked our own hotels before and after and our own flights. Our flights were much cheaper and less stops than if they booked it. We picked our hotels after recommendations from people that had stayed there. We flew into Amsterdam, we stayed there for 2 nights and flew to Venice. After the cruise we stayed one night in Rome and then flew home from there.


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Snorkeller
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599741 - 07/23/14 09:43 AM (108.4.121.156)

If I was choosing between OV on Allure or Equinox, or a Suite with Balcony on Epic (even if a mini-suite - but Haven would be really "suite"), and the cost to me was essentially the same, I would choose the Epic Suite in a heartbeat - getting the balcony would be a no-brainer for me. Also, Epic's 2015 summer itinerary out of Civitivecchia (however that is spelled) looks great. I think Bonnie has been on Epic and could give you a lot of info about it.

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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: Snorkeller]
      #1599744 - 07/23/14 09:57 AM (71.101.42.138)

Agreed, a suite could really make up for a lot of other things!

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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: Snorkeller]
      #1599820 - 07/23/14 04:38 PM (98.186.71.171)

Really? I am totally confused now...everyone has been saying Celebrity is so much better than NCl, and the Epic is smoky, etc. You would take NCL for the suite and balcony alone? On NCL I can get a family, mini, or spa suite...no Haven too many points. Any thoughts on those suites? Also can get a Aft stateroom with balcony. On Celebrity only OV. Also Allure is now off the board as all of a sudden not listed. So between Celebrity Equinox and NCL Epic. Lots more sailing date choices on Epic, might be making the decision for me. Thanks.

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Snorkeller
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599825 - 07/23/14 05:13 PM (108.4.121.156)

Oh yeah! I would grab that spa suite on Epic over the OV on Equinox any day - again assuming roughly similar expense or, in your case, points. You can read complaints about smoke with regard to the casino area on just about any of these ships - I would not worry about that too much. All things being equal I generally would choose Celebrity over NCL myself - but if the comparison is between OV (no balcony) on Celebrity and a Spa Suite (balcony) on NCL, I would go NCL. I have a bias against NCL partly because of a negative experience of my sister about 30 years ago - and some feedback I heard from friends about short cruises out of Floirda years ago - but my continuing bias may be unfair to the newer NCL ships and a little irrational when looking at the med cruises like what you are looking at on Epic. Again, Bonnie is not only a cruise only agent but she was on Epic last Nov/Dec time frame - so, you could get her thoughts specific to Epic. I would assume that if you are a copule (two people) you would go for the Spa suite over the family suite - but maybe there is something specific to what you want that would make you interested in the family suite.

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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: Snorkeller]
      #1599839 - 07/23/14 06:29 PM (68.247.4.100)

I am also biased against NCL because we had a really horrible experience on a short cruise from Florida--NO CABIN FOR US, when we booked a cat guarantee--although it was eventually solved, and we did sail. However, having a balcony, or in this case, a suite, can make up for a multitude of sins.. Seriously, call Bonnie, or another cruise travel agent, for advice..

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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599854 - 07/23/14 09:15 PM (98.186.71.171)

Thanks...yes a couple on anniversary cruise. Just listed all the suites available to us and wasn't sure if the family suite might not be a good choice as it is larger than some others. Thanks all. Will give Bonnie a call. Feel bad contacting her when I will be purchasing through my points and timeshare.

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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599866 - 07/23/14 10:31 PM (98.186.71.171)

Once again system issues...now Allure of the Seas back on the itinerary and available. There is a balcony unit available but looks to be inside over looking atrium maybe? So the search just got bigger again. lol

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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599894 - 07/24/14 08:25 AM (68.247.4.100)

If you are an avid people watcher, you might enjoy one of those inside balconies. For me, I get a balcony to see the water and the view, not other people!

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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: Carol_Hill]
      #1599918 - 07/24/14 10:41 AM (98.186.71.171)

Exactly I would so much prefer the ocean. But if you had to have an inside at least it wouldn't be so claustrophobic.

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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599921 - 07/24/14 10:55 AM (71.101.42.138)

I believe those cabins are more expensive than a standard outside without balcony. Regardless I personally would not be interested.

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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: Carol_Hill]
      #1599930 - 07/24/14 11:58 AM (98.186.71.171)

I agree...well as the world turns as they say...now Allure of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) is back on the site and available with balcony outside cabins. Got to love travel computer systems. SO! Thinking all things equal in terms of schedule, and cost is the same as I am comparing points to points...it is between Celebrity Equinox OV balcony and Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas OV balcony...neither of these are suites. Any thoughts on these two lines and ships for first time cruisers?

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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599932 - 07/24/14 12:05 PM (71.101.42.138)

For food, straight up, Celebrity will be way above Royal Caribbean.

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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: Carol_Hill]
      #1599934 - 07/24/14 12:18 PM (98.186.71.171)

Thanks...leaning that way. Appreciate all the input. Never cruised or had any desire but thought this would be a good way to see that area.

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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599935 - 07/24/14 12:33 PM (98.186.71.171)

So balcony has obstructed view on Celebrity...Allure is not obstructed or can get the spa suite on NCL...would you still pick the suite over balcony with limited views or go for Allure...I just have no idea. May have to ask when booking how obstructed.

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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599944 - 07/24/14 01:01 PM (71.101.42.138)

I understand your reluctance to call Bonnie, since you would be booking with your t/s points. As someone else suggested, you might want to post a note on Cruise Critic regarding the obstructed balconies on the Celebrity ship, as to how obstructed they are. And also post a note regarding the spa suites on NCL, as I am not familiar with them.

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Snorkeller
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1599945 - 07/24/14 01:04 PM (108.4.121.156)

If I were in your shoes: I would check itineraries for any difference in what I liked and wanted to see, get square footage of cabin and balcony for each cabin, find out exactly what kind of obstruction it is on Equinox, check what lead entertainment (like a speicific broadway show - shortened for ship of course) will be on different ships at time and decide how much of plus or minus the entertainment is, decide what access to spa is worth if anything, and then call Bonnie. As I said before, I think you can have a great first cruise on any of these ships.

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PelicanPirate
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1600272 - 07/26/14 09:49 PM (107.9.16.124)

We have taken Princess' 12day Grand Mediterranean route twice from Venice to Barcelona with 8 stops in Athens, Kusadasi (Ephesus), Istanbul, Mykonos, Naples (Pompeii), Rome, Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Monte Carlo or Marseille. So 10 cities in 12 days. First trip we took ship shore excursions. Second trip with new companions we saved countless dollars using taxis, trains, buses, subway. We did extensive research on cruise critic and some super people left bread crumbs in each stop to follow. You can buy tickets to the Vatican and Istanbul sites online in advance that allow you to skip the lines and walk in. That cost over a thousand dollars via the cruise line. I agree NCL is a downer food wise and service wise. You are better with the other two and Princess.

First trip bought air through cruise line. Second time direct with airline. More itinerary choices direct. Only advantage is if you are red eyeing in straight to the boat they guarantee you next stop protection if plane delayed. We did that first time. Second time we came a day early and stayed at hotel 1 night on both ends.

This cruise is a real bucket list checker and you will need another vacation afterwards..........but you see nearly all of Southern Europe in one unpacking of your suitcase. We are doing it again within the next two years.

--------------------
Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people.
Jack Dawson - Movie Titanic


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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: PelicanPirate]
      #1636457 - 03/06/15 04:06 PM (70.178.7.211)

Thanks for all your input...so far here is our deal and a few more questions. We are on NCl Epic balcony mini suite. We booked our air ourselves and got a great fare for Business class with only one stop so excited about that. We are going into Rome 3 days early and will do this on our own with guide books, and the help of someone we know living there at the moment. We have one shore excursion booked through Joe Bananas and that is a small (8 people) for 2/3 the ship costs. Hotels are done on the front and back end of the trip as well. Here are my questions...

Transfers...

1.Thought about the train into Rome from airport but after lots of reviews, etc. think it is wiser to take a car or taxi transfer. Any thoughts on regular taxis? Looking at Bobs Limo for private car which is the same price.

2. What about taking shuttles to cruise ship? Looks like they might drop you off a long way from the ships...would you think it wiser to pay the money for private car that drops you at the gang plank or is there bus service to your ship if at the last spot from drop off? Could be as much as $50 extra for this and not sure worth the $.

Excursions...

1.This seems to be my biggest dilemma...Cruise ship vs on your own vs smaller company or share a tour. We are doing the smaller company share a tour in Naples. Trying to figure out Florence, Barcelona, Palma Mallorca and Cannes...any insite on those ports if you have been there? Seems like Florence you are on the bus most of the time with little free time to shop or wander around. Having not done a cruise before wondering about this. I will want to pick up some gifts, etc.

That's it for now. Seems the more I read on cruise critic and boards the info is overwhelming in some ways. Thanks in advance for any and all info.


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swg
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1636473 - 03/06/15 04:49 PM (24.152.255.246)

Sounds like a great trip.

Others will disagree, but for your first cruise in foreign countries I would suggest that you use the ship's excursions.

Yes, doing it on you own is sometimes cheaper. However, if you take the ship excursions you know that you will be back at the ship at boarding time.

On an independent excursion If you are not back by boarding time and departure, they leave without you. You must get to the next port of call on your own at your own expense.

Because you are traveling in Europe language could become a factor in negotiating times, rates, etc. if you go on your own. (Especially in countries where you need to bargain)

We have always been very independent travelers, but for a first time cruise in a foreign country where we do not speak the language we tend to play it safe on cruises and book the cruise line excursions.

Sue


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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: swg]
      #1636506 - 03/06/15 08:14 PM (70.178.7.211)

Thanks for the input and we were just talking about those very factors. Our first stop is Florence and we have pretty much decided that with it being our first experience at shore excursions we are going to do ship excursions there, and in Barcelona since that one is right before our day at sea and the farthest from our next port which is Naples and the end in Rome. Thinking since Cannes is right on the water we can just wander around that one on our own. We think after 3 days in Rome and then Florence an easy day of shopping, café sitting, will be just the ticket in Cannes. Not sure on Mallorca yet. Naples is our last stop on the cruise and we are doing an excursion with fellow cruisers we found on our roll call and with a tour company that is very well known and gets great reviews. We figured if we did miss it we could get back to Rome from there easier than any of the other stops. Or at least that is the game plan. Thanks for all your info. Always good to have fresh ideas as it is easy to miss something or overthink it!

Edited by sxmsandbum (03/06/15 08:17 PM)


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Snorkeller
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1636775 - 03/08/15 10:56 AM (108.4.44.79)

You will have a great time either way, but I want to disagree with any idea that because it is first time on cruise excusions that you need to go with ship's excursions. The risk of missing the boat because you used a company like RomeinLimo or one of the other well established reputable companies is just so small as to be ignored. These private companies understand very well that if they miss the boat with a group, their business will take a huge hit - they will not let it happen. As example, we used RomeinLimo for Livorno October 30, 2014 off Serenade - Elisabetta was our driver/guide. Her skills and the small group enabled us to see more in Pisa and Florence than any group ship excursion. Also, when heading back, she knew that we were just ahead on the road of where the bus carrying the ship's excursion was - which made her relax a little despite the fact that there had been an accident on the main highway and things were very slow. This is what these guides do for a living.

In Palma, we did not use a guide at all but got a taxi to the Castell de Bellver and then walked down to other things - including the Cathedral - only problem is getting taxi to take you to the Castle because the drivers want to sell you a complete tour and want to tell you how you simply have to have a taxi to get you down from the Castle. Palma is beautiful and we had a great time there.

I again recommend Bob's - we use Bob's even when it is more - if using Bob's is roughly the same as using a taxi, then it would be a complete no-brainer for us to use Bob's.


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sxmsandbum
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: Snorkeller]
      #1636780 - 03/08/15 11:25 AM (70.178.7.211)

Thanks for the input. Still exploring all options for Barcelona, Mallorca, and Florence. Using Joe Bananas for Amalfi. They get great reviews. Using Bobs for my 3 transfers. Using private car on arrival into Rome. Thinking of using the shuttle to port and from port to airport. Have you used the shuttle or only private car service with them? Wondering if private car to the ship would be better. On the return don't care shuttle is fine as we have all day. We don't fly out until the next morning. It is a lot more for the private car vs shuttle to the port and from what I am reading a lot of times you end up being the only one on it anyway.

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Snorkeller
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Re: Med Cruising questions [Re: sxmsandbum]
      #1636818 - 03/08/15 01:33 PM (108.4.44.79)

We have only used private car service with Bob's.

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