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Old March 11th, 2013, 10:05 PM
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Default Some basic cruising questions.

Man, I love the Internet. I can plan a whole bunch of different vacation ideas out, and then, when I don't know about how something works, regardless of how obscure the topic, I can always find a forum dedicated to explaining it.

Anyway, I suppose I could tell everyone that I've never been on a cruise and am planning my first one, but since this is going up in the "First-Time Cruisers" page, that's probably already explained.

So, here's the deal. I'm currently looking at planning my first cruise(and first big family vacation). I am married and have a daughter, who will be about 6 for our first big non-camping vacation. I've always had an interest in getting on a cruise ship, so that was my first pick. My wife and daughter are serious Disney nuts, so I'm looking at the Disney Cruise Line(this would be a good point to tell me this is a good or BAD idea). I know that I don't care if Goofy is running around on board, so long as I have a comfortable bed to sleep in, some good chow, and a big chair to sit in with a drink, the rest are all extras.

And, interestingly, most of my questions surround the extras. So, I'm going back and forth between two different trips. One of them is a 7-night Alaskan trip with three roughly day-long stopovers, and the other is a 4-night California coastal cruise with one half-day stopover. I'm not a gambler, and neither is my wife(I have some concerns about my 6-year-old at a poker table, but that's a different story), but I don't know that DCL offers gambling on-board anyway, so that may be a moot point. I do like to have an adult-type beverage with dinner(and maybe a couple more since I'm on vacation), as does my wife. And, of course, one would expect to spend money spoiling their kid a bit on some Disney swag. So, considering the stopovers and those tendencies mentioned, what would be the suggestion regarding how much cash do bring along? I imagine credit cards are probably the way to go, but I like to restrict my credit card usage to booking things ahead of time, and emergencies, not "impulse spending", because my wife would get out of control really fast if we did that. So thoughts, please?

Next, I have to ask about "ship guts". I know that if I were on a cruise(or anything regarding a big ship like that), I'd be perfectly content to put my feet up, drink a beer, eat too much food, sleep in, and let my kid drag me around to show me all the exciting things. But, I know the one other thing that I'd really be interested in seeing is how the ship operates(the engines, control spaces, etc.). I deal with heavy industrial processes daily, and I'm always quite interested in that kind of thing. I imagine there are like-minded people out there. I can also understand that there may be some liability/security issues when it comes to this kind of thing aboard a passenger ship. I've never heard about anyone who's taken a "ship tour" of this manner before, but I haven't talked to a lot of veteran cruisers, either. Does anyone know if this is an offered bit or not?

And what's the deal with swimming? I know that I always see people jumping into pools and riding waterslides on cruise ships when I see ads, but is this really viable on an Alaskan cruise in May/Sept? I tend to prefer the cooler weather, but my wife and daughter would be crushed if we were to get on an Alaskan cruise and then find out that it's too cold to swim. What kind of temperatures are you typically dealing with through the Alaskan cruise season?

When the ship hits a stopover port, how does that work? Do they kick you off the ship, and tell you what time the anchor raises and they sail away, so you better be back, or what? Do you retain the option to remain on-board? What are the typical policies regarding getting people back on the ship before heading off(I assume there's some kind of a head-count system, checking in when you get off/on the ship)?

Tipping. I'm a generous tipper to service staff, because once upon a time I worked in the service industry. I've seen "all-inclusive" resorts in Mexico that prevent you from tipping, saying it's built into the price. I also understand(correct me if I'm wrong) that there's an additional $12 per person per day gratuities fee on cruise ships that cover that part of it. So when you get up after a big satisfying meal, what's the deal on slipping a couple bucks to the guy who brought you the plate? Expected, not expected, not permitted, frowned upon, built into the price, what?

So, now I realize I've started to write a bloody novel, and my keyboard is heating up because I'm typing so much. So, I'll summarize, and then wait for some help.

Questions I have regarding money:

1) If you were not interested in gambling but expected to have 4-6 alcoholic beverages daily between 2 people, and were taking a 4-night cruise with 1 half-day stopover, knowing you'd have to buy some swag for the kid, how much cash would you take?
2) If you were not interested in gambling but expected to have 4-6 alcoholic beverages daily between 2 people, and were taking a 7-night cruise with 3 day-long stopovers, knowing you'd have to buy some swag for the kid, how much cash would you take?
3) What are the guidelines regarding tipping and gratuities on a cruise ship(specifically aboard the Disney Cruise Line)?

Questions not dealing with budget:

1) What's the weather like on the Pacific, both along the Alaskan and Californian coastlines, for cruising? Would it be too cold to swim, or sit on the verandah and have a drink, in May or September? What kind of clothing would you pack for that?
2) When the ship stops over at a port of call, what is the typical expectation regarding disembarking and re-boarding?
3) Have you ever taken, or seen offered, an on-ship tour showing the engine and control spaces, or is this just not feasible given liability/security reasons?
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Old March 11th, 2013, 11:47 PM
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1. Beer $5-7, Wine $7, Mix drinks $8-12(all paid drinks will include additional 15% tax), tips $12 each per day=$144, 1/2 day if you do a shore excursion 30-100 each depending on what it is. Say $500 to be safe extra, you can pay cash to as a $200 deposit and then add if you run out to avoid credit card runs.
2. Extra mostly depending on what you do in ports $750-1000(beaches vs snorkeling on a boat that has free drinks and lunch provided for example).
3. Tip is $12 pp/day so $36/day for 3. Drinks will automatically be adding 15% tip though you can tip more. Usually additional tip is done on the last day if you really enjoyed the room service or dinner servers though some people greese the first night though it's totally not needed. On Disney dinner is in different dining rooms nightly based on themes but the same servers follow you the whole cruiseso you can tip at the end.

1. Pacific weather is dependant on time of year. Alaska cruise season starts late May and will be cold regardless, sweater weather but bring thermals just in case. Alaska also tends to rain on top of cold so swimming will be a no go for the most part. They do have hot tubs of course...It's absolutely gorgeous if you have not been it must be done in a lifetime.
2.How long you have in port will be on the itinerary easily researched ahead of booking. Usually you get 8-10 hours in port and they suggest your back on board 30mins prior. Yes they will leave if your late, but not if you do a ship shore excursion. If you book through the cruiseline they wait for you regardless of if the bus broke down or traffic etc, even if it's hours.
3. Tours of the ship are not common but do occur. On some lines it's a free perk to the frequent traveler, on others it's paid. You will not go to the engine room it's not allowed. You will see backstage, in the kitchen, the bridge, many go to crew quarters they all vary a bit. Personally I've seen a few and it's not really a wow thing.

Happy travels!
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Old March 12th, 2013, 06:44 AM
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I am pretty sure there is not a casino on any of the Disney ships, so don't worry about that. It is pretty easy to pre-book your excursions, there are some really good ones in Alaska, so plan accordingly. If for some reason, you don't plan a tour in a port, you don't even have to get off the ship, but you really need to see the ports in Alaska. You will know what time the ship sails at each port and be onboard at least an hour before that time...
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Old March 12th, 2013, 10:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CanadianBrad View Post
Questions I have regarding money:

1) If you were not interested in gambling but expected to have 4-6 alcoholic beverages daily between 2 people, and were taking a 4-night cruise with 1 half-day stopover, knowing you'd have to buy some swag for the kid, how much cash would you take?
2) If you were not interested in gambling but expected to have 4-6 alcoholic beverages daily between 2 people, and were taking a 7-night cruise with 3 day-long stopovers, knowing you'd have to buy some swag for the kid, how much cash would you take?
3) What are the guidelines regarding tipping and gratuities on a cruise ship(specifically aboard the Disney Cruise Line)?

Questions not dealing with budget:

1) What's the weather like on the Pacific, both along the Alaskan and Californian coastlines, for cruising? Would it be too cold to swim, or sit on the verandah and have a drink, in May or September? What kind of clothing would you pack for that?
2) When the ship stops over at a port of call, what is the typical expectation regarding disembarking and re-boarding?
3) Have you ever taken, or seen offered, an on-ship tour showing the engine and control spaces, or is this just not feasible given liability/security reasons?
Brad,
Welcome to Cruisemates and I know you will enjoy your cruise. I can try to answer some of your questions.

The weather on the Pacific coast and Alaska is always changing. You will encounter periods of rain, sunshine, cooler temps and some days will be perfect. No one can really predict the weather but for these cruises the key is: Dress in layers. Start with a t-shirt and long pants. Put a sweater or sweatshirt over that and then a "waterproof" jacket. A decent pair of shoes are also good to have but I usually wear a good tennis shoe and have had no problems. Unless you are going onto a glacier or heavy hiking then hiking boots are what you want.

The definition of "cool" is different for different people. I'm from Minnesota so temps in the sixties are fairly comfortable. The pools won't be 88 degrees Fahrenheit but they should be tolerable. If it isn't raining you will be able to kick back on the balcony and enjoy a cocktail.

There are two ways to get off the ship in port. Walking off the ship on the gangway or "tendering". Tendering is where you board a smaller boat, sometimes one of the lifeboats, and go ashore and back to the ship on that craft. Tendering takes a little longer but it is pretty efficient. On most Alaskan itineraries you will only tender in Ketchikan. The other ports have docks where you just walk off the ship. You will receive a daily newsletter that will tell you what time you have to be back on board. You can always stay on the ship and there is no requirement to get off in port. You can also return at any time, and as many times as you wish, before departure. When you leave the ship they will scan your ship card and they will scan it again when you return. This keeps track of who is on and off the ship at any time. Always take your ship card and photo id with you when you go ashore. Children do not need a photo id if they are with their parents.

Access to the engine room is pretty much off limits. On Carnival they do have a "Behind The Fun" tour that will let you see "part" of the engine room. On NCL they also have an in depth tour but you do not go into the engine room. The only time I saw the engine room was on the Ocean Princess when we had dinner with the Chief Engineer and he arranged for me to have a tour. It is interesting and very loud.

The money question is always a hard one to answer. The rule of thumb is to have $100/day, in cash, as my guideline. I use a credit card for major purchases. The drinks and all other on board expenses and ship's tours will go on your ship card and will not require cash. The on board expenses, charged to your ship's card, will be put on your credit card that you give them at check - in. You can set up a cash account with the Guest Services desk but I find that to be more hassle than it is worth. Others like to do this for a variety of reasons.

In regard to tipping. Your gratuities will be added to your ship's account. No other gratuity is required. IF you feel someone deserves more than you can give them an additional amount, in cash. Most people do this on the last night. You will have the same waitstaff and room steward throughout the cruise. There is already a 15% gratuity added to all bar drinks. Do not feel obligated, in any way, to tip additional. I only give additional tips if someone goes out of there way in order to fulfill my needs or a specific request.

I hope I have helped and not confused you. Have a great cruise and feel free to ask any and all questions that you have.

Take care,
Mike
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Old March 22nd, 2013, 02:41 PM
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You have gotten good responses.

I will add that room service when delivered if you use it .... you should provide a tip of a couple of dollars.

Also, if you leave the ship on your own (not a cruise booked excursion) and are late, the ship will leave without you.
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