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Old May 11th, 2011, 09:54 AM
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Default Is a cruise right for us?

I am doing some research for our family on a vacation for the upcoming fall. In all honesty, I am reluctant to do a cruise, but they seem to offer a lot of "bang for the buck." Here is a bit about us: family of four, kids 8 and 5. We've done Disney four times and Universal this past trip. Fun, but not overly relaxing. We don't love crowds (which is part of the stress of Disney), enjoy exploring, nature and scenery. We ski all winter, like to hike, bike and swim.

What worries me about a cruise is the impression I get that you are a bit "herded" from place to place...meals, on the boat, off the boat, excursions, etc. Is this a false impression? Is there plenty of room to relax in lounge chairs without feeling like you are sardines? Are there lines everywhere to do everything?

We have considered a caribbean island but are hoping to travel in early October or early November when the kids have a couple days off from school so they will only miss three days. Considering this is hurrican season I imagine it is not a great time, and one article suggested a cruise can redirect its port based on the weather.

Are there preferred cruises and lines for families? What are the best islands to visit if you like mountains and a lush, tropical feel? Are there places to avoid? I plan to go through many of the ship forums but know, as a member of the Disney boards, that people who have done this before may be able to share a lot that I'll miss.

Clearly we don't even know many folks who have taken a cruise, so please forgive my questions, but I really want to plan a trip that my family will enjoy.

Thank you so much for your help.

Kim
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Old May 11th, 2011, 01:15 PM
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Kim,
I'll suggest checking into a cruise on any of the Royal Caribbean's Freedom or Oasis ships for you family. You won't get that hearded feeling you talked about, plus there are all kinds of activities, especially if you are active and your kids are a good age to go...If you can go in the fall, you will save some money by not going during the summer when a lot of families do go, they also have some great kids programs too...Worth looking into.
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Old May 11th, 2011, 03:18 PM
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Many cruise lines have changed a lot in the last few years. The regimentation is not what it used to be.

You have the ability to choose open seating dining on most major lines. There is a wider variety of entertainment for both adults and children. Lines such as NCL have a WIDE variety of entertainment options from Second City to Blue Man Group. The larger Royal Caribbean ships have large aqua shows, ice shows, Dreamworks characters and a wide variety of dining opportunities.

The shore excursions have also been expanded to include more Xtreme types of activities from ATV excursions, zip lines, diving and other more active things to do. There are still "shopping excursions" and the "bus tour" but you will find many options that fit your wants and lifestyle. There is also an almost unlimited options if you wish to do it on your own.

After 20 or so cruises my wife and I were becoming "burnt out" on cruising because of the regimentation, limited dining options and limited entertainment. You can only see so many production shows before they become an excuse for an evening nap. Luckily the cruise lines changed to accommodate people like us while still preserving their core product.

Check out NCL and Royal Caribbean and see if their offerings are what you are looking for. Carnival, while still being more traditional, does offer open seating dining and a wide variety of shore excursions. They also can be a good value.

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Old May 12th, 2011, 10:04 AM
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Welcome Kim, you have picked the right place to ask any and all questions about cruising. Your question,"Is a cruise right for us", if you have an open-mind and are willing to try something new, then the answer is yes of course. The only way to truly know is to give it a try. I would suggest you look into Royal Caribbean- Western Caribbean route.-look into the Freedom class ships or the even larger Allure and Oasis. lots and lots to do and see on board, never felt herded on the Freedom of the Seas. As for hurricane season, its hit or miss, so you need to be flexible, the safety of passengers and crew is the Captains main concern, so the possibility exists that you could get diverted, but that could happen on any cruise not just during hurricane season.
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Old May 30th, 2011, 10:16 AM
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I would also suggest the Large ships Of Royal Caribbean. I have sailed on the Liberty of the Seas twice and I have sailed on the Oasis and the Allure.
Those large ships have something for everyone. You will not feel crowded because people are not congregated in the same space.

They have ice shows and sports activities, lounges for dancing as well as lounges to just relax.

The Oasis and the Allure also have an ice show and a zip-line. (which I did on both ships).
They have have a Broadway Show and a lot of other great entertainment.

You can be on the go all the time or you can just relax if that is what you want.

Yes I would say that you would love to go on a cruise.

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Old May 30th, 2011, 10:46 AM
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Hi Kim,and welcome to Cruisemates! I am from Massachusetts as well..... Stoughton.

You are right,when you say a cruise is not for everyone. Getting together with a savvy, knowledgeable cruise travel agent, will put your family on the right ship,and a good price, which at the time you want to cruise is doable.
I love to sail at that time,and only once, did we have an"almost" issue with a storm.

Ships designs nowadays, have great flow, and eliminate the herd mentality of long ago,.You can dine when you want, if you want to or select traditional dining....so much now on ships, you do it your way.

But, really, aside from the great value,and being together as a family in gret surroundings, the only way to find out, is to do it...Then you know, and, for the majority, they want to do it again. Please let us know what you decide. I just came back from the Magic in Europe,and I can't wait to book again.
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Old May 30th, 2011, 10:50 AM
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Great advice so far.

Yes, false impression on herding. You can do whatever you want pretty much anytime you want now, especially with anytime dining.

Carnival has very good programs for kids. RCL and NCL also do well. There is so much to do on the mega ships mentioned, but perhaps you should try a shorter cruise first just to test the waters....

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Old May 30th, 2011, 12:50 PM
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I love cruises, but they are not for everyone. I have taken cruises for years with my boys, who are finally all out of the nest. Great opportunity for them to mix with other young cruisers and get involved with the youth activities. Mine loved it as kiddos. You can keep a good reign on them, yet they have a sense of independence, like they have control of their vacation, and are not just tagging along with the boring things Mom & Dad want to do.

One thing I have never done was try to jam the whole family in one cabin space. Try to make it a vacation for the adults too. The age mix of your youguns may make that harder than it was for us.

A cruise is only as regimented as you choose to make it. For me it is a very relaxed, non-regimented time. No phones, no obligations... I come and go as I please. I usually camp out in a lounge chair in the adult pool area with a good book. The kiddoes and my wife revolve around the ship like a bunch of spastic planets, doing what activities they want, and checking in or visiting from time to time. Pretty much eat, drink, and sleep whenever we want.

We do choose to eat dinner at a fixed time, and choose what entertainment we want to go to. If you go to a show or scheduled activity on a land based trip, it would lock you into times as well. Rarely encounter any more of a line issue than we'd have flying to an island, or doing a ski trip, and definitely better than the usual theme park hassle.

In all honesty, like any activity filled vacation, some excursions can get a little hectic, especially if you chose an all day tour... off the ship, line up in tour groups, board buses/vans for your destinations, do the excursion, return to dock, re-enter through security, get ready for dinner. After busy excursion days, we will sometimes just eat at the buffet at our convenience, rather than rushing for main dining.

Really, a cruise is whatever you make it. If you want to lounge around in your cabin or at the pool all week, that's an option. If you want to attend every cooking class, juggling show, ice carving demonstration, belly flop contest, china painting class, trivia contest, midnight buffet, lei making class, captain's reception, karaoke night, dance class, bingo session, and stage act on the schedule, that's also your option.

I'd give a cruise a try. Maybe you'll enjoy them as much as we do. Like recommended above, book one of the larger ships with more kid / family activities available and odds are you'll have a good time...
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Old May 30th, 2011, 09:15 PM
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Hi Kim,

Welcome to Cruise Mates!

DH and I are in our early forties, our kids are 3 (almost 4) and 5.

We love cruising; with or without the kids.

You've got great advice so far. We love Royal Carribean, and while they are the BEST option for famillies, they are also the priciest. We're doing our first "family" cruise with Royal this summer. We're doign teh Dreamworks cruise with the characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and Madagascar.

Disney, is an option too, if that's what you like. We're doing our first Disney Cruise next spring break.

Our kids have done 2 cruises; Carnival dream and HAL Eurodam. They weren't a fan of the programs on Carnival; but they loved HAL!

For us; cruising gives the best of all options, sun, sand, beach, casino, great food.

You mentioned hurricane season. If you are at a resort somewhere, and a storm hits; your holiday is ruined. On a ship; the captain has the ability to sail out of the storm, and you have wonderful indoor activiites to.

For us, we like to relax, and dont' always get off the ship to do excursiosn. SInces our kids are young, we limit our excursions to taking a cab to the beach and enjoying the sand and sea.

Any questions, just ask!
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Old May 31st, 2011, 05:44 PM
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hi, never felt herded or crowded.or rushed. just go and enjoy.
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Old June 2nd, 2011, 05:41 PM
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Hi Kim,

Although I don't have kids of my own I have yet to meet the family that isn't having a great time on a cruise. I'm sure they exist, but are probably few and far between. The youth programs on most ships are extensive. As a couple others have mentioned, Royal Caribbean tends to be one of the most family oriented lines with a ton for kids to do. Disney is great as well, but is the most expensive by far. I have also sailed on HAL, NCL, Carnival and Princess and have seen many families on each cruise. Each line has their pluses and minuses. Princess tends to be my favorite as it has enough action, but also plenty of room for relaxation. The main pool area is busy-busy, but the upper aft decks are tiered, offering plenty of room for R&R. I believe a couple of the tiers are reserved for adults. Most cruise lines do offer adult-only areas either on deck, or in a solarium type setting (Royal Caribbean). If you truly want personal space, pop for a balcony - there really is nothing like it. Although a balcony is best, don't feel like you need one. you will find plenty of outdoor space even if you are booked in an inside or ocean view room.

As far as islands, St. Lucia, Dominica and St. Thomas/St. John in my opinion best fit the bill of what you are describing. A few of my favorite ports in the Caribbean are not islands, but are offered on Western Caribbean Cruises. These are Belize and Costa Rica. the scenery in these countries is truly stunning - Costa Rica in particular. And both offer some really exciting shore excursions. I've done zip lines and raft trips in Costa Rica and cave tubing in Belize. You will see people of all ages having a blast on these types of excursions.

Last but not least, most of the cruises I have taken are during hurricane season in the fall as pricing is the best that time of year, and I have never had a trip interrupted by weather (although we did miss the one in St. Lucia last year by just one day!). The worst case scenario is that the itinerary changes. I would be much more concerned about booking a land-based vacation in the fall as you have nowhere to go if a storm hits.

The only way you will know if a cruise is right for your family is to take one. So I say GO!!!

Jim
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