Q: We want to take a family cruise with our two boys, ages 17 and 21, this summer, but we don't know which cruise line or destination. Any advice? --Suzanne
A: It's a great question, but I can't really answer it in any detail. There are many ships, cruise lines and destinations that can be just perfect for you. It depends on whether you want a big ship or a smaller ship, a warm weather cruise or a cooler weather cruise, an active cruise or a more relaxed one, etc. You also have to figure out how much you want to spend. In addition to the cost of the cruise itself for a family of four, you have to add in on-board and shore excursion costs. I would suggest you go to the Family Cruise area on the CruiseMates site and review Luisa Frey-Gaynor's articles on family cruising. She has been on many cruises and really can help guide you to a decision. I also suggest you discuss this with your travel agent, who can break down the decision tree. If you pick the right ship and destination, you'll have a great time.
Q: Can we bring our own liquor on Carnival's Inspiration? Do they search the luggage? --Robert.
A: The official policy, as stated in Carnival's brochure, is that guests cannot bring their own liquor aboard. As for searching the luggage, any alcohol found will be held on board and returned to the guest at the end of the cruise.
Q: We are an eclectic bunch. Mom & Dad are in their early 50s, very active; and there are three kids, a daughter age 24, sons 19 and 20. Last but not least is Nanny, age 78. What would you suggest for an Alaska cruise? We are a laid back bunch. --Marge
A: First things first. Go to the CruiseMates web site and start reviewing the Alaska 2003 section. It's extremely detailed in terms of the cruise lines and ships sailing there this summer. You'll have to determine the size of ship you want, the quality of the ship (which essentially determines how much you're going to pay), and the basic itinerary you want to sail -- i.e., Inside Passage or Across the Gulf (for details, see the guide). You can also determine whether you want to sail out of Vancouver or Seattle. It looks like you'll need three cabins, maybe four. That may qualify you as your own little mini-group. You do not say whether this is your first cruise. If it is, I'd suggest a roundtrip Seattle or Vancouver cruise to the Inside Passage. It will cover the major ports and you'll get to see lots of glaciers and nature. Make sure you do at least one flight-seeing shore excursion. Alaska from the air is not to be missed. You should probably use a travel agent to help you plan it all out.
Q: Four of us (two couples/unmarried) are planning to go on a cruise to Hawaii for the first time. I have three questions: (1) After paying for the tickets, Do we need to bring money to pay for everything that we need, or do we get billed after? (2) Will there be someone to assist us for questions we may have? (3) What kind of IDs will we need to bring? --Redo
A: (1) You will need to bring some cash. You don't say which cruise line you are going on, but it will probably have some sort of credit program on board which will take care of most, but not all, of your on-board expenses. You can sign for most things and pay for it with a credit card. Gambling and tips are usually the largest exclusions. Most shore-side expenses can also be charged as well in this day and age. If you're used to using an ATM card, make sure you have that. Traveler's checks are always a safe bet when traveling. (2) On board the ship, there will be a purser's desk with people to answer your shipboard questions and a tour desk to answer your shore excursion questions. Depending on the ship, there may also be a concierge to help with more advanced subjects. (3) In this age of heightened security you should always travel with a passport. If your cruise is leaving the United States, a passport is even more important. A driver's license and/or birth certificate may not be enough. Read the documentation that comes with your cruise ticket for further details.
Q: Are shore excursions expensive? How much money should I bring along for a seven-day cruise to the southern Caribbean with Carnival? --Jennifer
A: Shore excursion prices are based on the length and quality of the tours involved. The longer they are, and the more things they involve, the more expensive. Bus tours are less expensive than boat trips or flight-seeing trips, for example. Those that are more exclusive are the most expensive usually. But they are usually fairly priced; Carnival's have always seemed fair to me. As for how much cash to bring, you may not need a whole lot. Carnival has a credit card policy, so you will mostly sign for things and have the total billed to your card. Gambling, if you choose to, may be the biggest exception, since you can even prepay gratuities. Don't carry too much cash ashore. Travelers' checks are always a safe bet. If you have an ATM card, it would be good to carry it as well.
Q: What is a good cruise ship for a golfer and two 17-year-olds. The golfer is a first-time cruiser; we would be a total group of four. --Gmac.
A: Based on what you've said, a good possibility might be the new Carnival ship, Carnival Glory, due out this summer. It's going to offer a very enhanced golf program, both on-board and with golf excursions ashore. Knowing how well Carnival does everything, it's bound to be a terrific program for adults and 17-year olds alike. Fore!
Q: We are kosher and want to travel in the Caribbean in May 2003. Do all ships offer kosher or are there special kosher cruises at this time? --Peter
A: Of the major cruise lines, none really specializes in kosher dining. For example, Celebrity Cruises' brochure says its kosher meals are pre-packaged and only available for dinner in the main dining room. Holland America's kosher meals are pre-packaged off the ship in a kosher kitchen, frozen and brought to the table sealed in their original containers; kitchens on board are not kosher.
Q: We are on the May 10 sailing of Celebrity Constellation. There is a shore excursion to Moscow, which suggests that one should be able to walk 8.5 miles. Is there REALLY that much walking? How much walking is done with resting? --Cathie
A: If you have the opportunity to take the Moscow shore excursion, take it. The 8.5 miles of walking (if it indeed is that many) will certainly be broken up with many stops. And it will not be speed walking by any stretch of the imagination. When I was on a cruise (different line/ship) during the summer of 2001, I took the Moscow excursion from St. Petersburg and it is one of the highlights of my cruise career. You will see so many wonderful things (the Celebrity shore excursion book does a nice job of describing it) that the time will fly by, as will the miles and the steps. If you don't take the tour, you will really regret it. Enjoy!