My g/f and I are looking into going on our first cruise. We live in Los Angeles, so we are interested in a Mexico or Alaska cruise. I've just started poking around on Orbitz and Cruisemates, and thought I'd throw a few questions out in search of advice (I've actually got more than two questions...snared you with a deceptive subject line!).
Itinerary: After poking around on Orbitz, it seems that the Mexico cruises are much cheaper than the Alaska cruises. If we go to Mexico, we can probably afford a short cruise this fall or winter, whereas if we go to Alaska, we will need to save up and go next summer, probably on a longer cruise. What is the prevailing opinion on whether a short cruise or a long cruise is better for a first cruise? Does anybody know how the weather is in Baja California in December (remembering that we live in Los Angeles!)? Finally, and most importantly, are we going to be able to stand to wait until next summer now that we've decided we want to take a cruise?
Ship: Several of the posts and articles I've read seem to suggest that choosing the specific ship we want is one of our most important decisions. What are the best places to research individual ships? Further, only a limited number of ships are going to have the itineraries and destinations we want, correct? We are in our early thirties, but we're not big on the dancing scene. We prefer casinos, sports activities, games, drinking (without the dancing), reading, relaxing, nature, and the outdoors. Any suggestions for west coast ships or destinations?
Travel agent v. Online: I travel quite a lot for business and consider myself fairly expert in booking air, lodging, et cetera, but cruise booking is a different beast. For business travel, I generally find travel agents far too pushy and hasty (even the good ones), so I prefer to do it myself. The overwhelming opinion here seems to be that travel agents are best for first-time cruise booking, but will they be any less pushy or hasty for leisure travel? Will I be lost without a trace if I try to research and book online myself?
I've still got plenty of reading and research to do myself, but any input and advice anyone could give on these questions would be tremendously helpful. Thanks for reading, and thanks to the site for creating a good forum.
There are actually quite a few nice ships in the areas you want to cruise. You can start by posting in the "bargain finder" here at Cruisemates and see what some travel agents can find you. May-be limit the post to a few ships and see what kind of prices and availibility there is. Wishing you the best of luck, once you start cruising, you want to get that next one booked: http://www.cruisemates.com/CF/bargfind/index.cfm
You certainly can save a lot on airfare by going to Mexico. The Mexican Riviera cruises out of L.A. are good starting cruises. That's how I got started cruising about 20 years ago.My favorite of the mainstream ships in that market is the Star Princess. She is my overall favorite ship in 14 cruises. There is a lot to see, a lot to do, and she is a very well-run ship.
The typical itinerary is L.A., Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, L.A.
Also, Norwegian Cruise Lines are coming out with a new 8 night itinerary on the Norwegian Star. (Try not to be confused because both ships are dubbed "Star."
She will sail L.A., Acapulco, Ixtapa/Zijuatanejo, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas. This is a better itinerary but perhaps a slightly lesser ship. (I.M.H.O.)
If you carefully watch pricing trends, you can get a very good deal. I have seen the Star Princess as low as $499 per person, depending on sailing dates. Some of the cruise wholesalers will give you better pricing than Expedia and Travelocity as a general rule. I think the Bargain Finder suggestion is a good one. I have used this method and it has worked well. The Norwegian Star will undoubtedly have similarly good pricing as she gets closer to her 2004 sailing dates. A good agent will give you the lesser price if price reductions occur.
Donna: Thanks! The bargain finder sounds like a good idea, and we will try it out. I have spent a few days trying to browse through the dizzying array of ships. Which brings me to...
Chuck: Thanks for the recommendation! I also read your review, which was very informative. The Star Princess sounds great, but unfortunately it's leaving California in six weeks or so for Australia and Europe. Princess is launching the Diamond Princess from LA in March, but it is only cruising Mexico for two months before heading up to Alaska for the summer. AFAIK, Princess will not have a ship offering 7-Day Mexico itineraries next summer. Does this sound strange? We might try the Diamond if we can get a good price on an itinerary in late April, though. (Incidentally, I've read some terrible things about NCL in general and the Norwegian Wind in particular, so I think we'll pass on the Norwegian Star. Thanks, though.)
I think we've narrowed our choices down to several 7-day Mexican Riviera itineraries on:
Vision of the Seas
Each have their pros and cons, so we're just trying to see which one feels best for us and for which one we can find the best value. Celebrity seems very nice--the Ian Schrager of the seas--but obviously more expensive. We're a little worried Carnival might have too many kids and be more of a party crowd than we like. Anybody care to venture an opinion on which of those might be best for a thirtyish couple who like casinos, sports activities, games, cocktails, reading, relaxing, nature, and the outdoors?
I agee that NCL is not as good as Celebrity or Princess. I swore I would never sail NCL again after our Dream Vacation until I saw this new itinerary, which was a real plus because of Ixtapa/Zijuatanejo and Acapulco. I've also heard from friends the newer NCL ships that were built for the freestyle concept are far better than the Wind or the Dream.
We've found if you just budget for the alternative dining, then NCL is at least okay.
I've been on the Mercury and liked her a lot. The main dining room is extraordinary. My only complaint was the narrowness in depth of our balcony and the door that opened out and literally cut the veranda in half which made logistics quite awkward at times. Our friends had an inside cabin and their room, in ways, was nicer than ours. Go figure! We were on the Zenith at Xmas/New Years and found it acceptable, but not excellent.
I've never been on a Carnival ship and I doubt I ever will. (Too many bad rumors) I've heard the Vision class RCI ships are okay but we did not like the Radiance so I'm not likely to try RCI again. It was probably our least favorite cruise of 14 cruises.
Thanks for all of your help. My girlfriend and I have done research, read brochures, and talked to a few travel agents (one through the Bargain Finder here!), and we've finally settled on the cruise we want. We were really interested in the Star Princess, but unfortunately it is leaving California for Asia and Europe after October, which was too soon for us. Instead, we are going to book a 7-day Mexico cruise for next April on the new Diamond Princess.
We're very excited! I'm sure we'll be haunting the message boards here for the next nine months picking up tips and such, and we'll be *very* interested in reading the first Diamond Princess reviews when they come in next March. In the meantime, thanks again for all of the help, and we hope to run into some of you some day.
hello my name is larry and have been on many cruise.If you want to take a mexico cruise and really have a good time. Take the star princess or the diamond out of LA this was my best cruise ever.Make sure you get a balcony with a non obstructed view because having part of the ocean right out side you door is everything. Have a good time larry.