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?