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freerain66 September 25th, 2013 10:01 PM

New as New can be.
I am so happy to have found this forum.
My wife and I are celebrating our 25th Anniversary and we have never taken a cruise. We would really like to see Italy.

As we have never taken a vacation like this we need some advise.

We are looking at July, 2014 and we have no idea what is the best cruise line for normal working people with a set budget in mind.

Just a few questions:
1. Is "free air" really a good deal?
2. Is there a cruise line that includes on board amenities such as drinks & excursions?

Any advise would be greatly appreciated

Thanks September 25th, 2013 10:19 PM

Welcome aboard Cruise Mates!!

First, I would definitely suggest talking to you travel agent who is hopefully a cruise specialist and has been there so they can help answer all your questions and find you the best cruise based on your needs.

With that said, there are only a very few luxury cruises that include complimentary booze and excursions. But those are fairly expensive. Some cruise lines have beverage packages that you can buy, but those aren't cheap either.

There are some wonderful river cruises if you think that might be something you want to consider.

But as for which cruise line, that's a personally thing and you'll get as many different answers as there are people - everyone likes something different and what one person loves, another will hate. And what one considers to be a good price/value is very subjective.

And as for 'free airfare', nothing is free! What gets me is that if you ask what the price is with free airfare and then ask what the price is without the free airfare, you'll find it cheaper. Well, if it's 'free', then why is it cheaper if you don't want the airfare??? Almost always, it's a better deal to book airfare independently of the cruise.

It really depends on where you want to go, how long you want to go, what you want to see, and what your budget is. Obviously, that's something you really do need to talk to your agent about as they can be invaluable in helping you gather information.


freerain66 September 26th, 2013 01:11 AM

Thank you Pete

Manuel September 26th, 2013 07:40 AM

Pete always gives out great information.


Queen of Oakville September 26th, 2013 11:04 AM

I just wanted to say Happy Anniversary!

My parents had their first cruise for their 25th too! They loved it so much for their next cruise they took all the kids. Introduced me to a love of cruising too! September 26th, 2013 01:12 PM

I think spending a big anniversary on a cruise ship is a great way to celebrate!! Just makes it all that much more special.

We did our 40th anniversary last year on the Paul Gauguin in Tahiti. It was awesome and such a memorable way to celebrate together in such a magnificent setting. Very romantic!

Make sure you plan to spend one full day doing some really special for yourselves; start off with breakfast on the balcony, then treat yourselves to a nice steam bath and massage in the spa, followed by a romantic dinner in one of the specialty restaurants with a nice bottle of wine. (And don't forget to have flowers delivered to your cabin - she'll love it!)

And depending on where you are and which cruise line you choose, perhaps you can do a renewing of your vows. We did that on the Paul Gauguin with Mt. Otemanu, Bora Bora in the background. It was magical!


Sulross September 26th, 2013 10:57 PM

First Cruise

Originally Posted by Queen of Oakville (Post 1485501)
I just wanted to say Happy Anniversary!

My parents had their first cruise for their 25th too! They loved it so much for their next cruise they took all the kids. Introduced me to a love of cruising too!

In 1995 we did our first cruise for our 25th anniversary. Now 50 some cruises later we are still going. You will love it.

Paul Motter September 27th, 2013 04:16 PM

I hate to say this because my favorite cruise lines all do it - but in most cases the phrases "free air" and "two for one pricing" are just come-ons - they have been saying it for so long it is even in their yearly brochures.

That obviously means the air is not "free" it is just included in the rice of the cruise. The reason they do this is because market research told them that people who see airfares higher than cruise fares will back off from buying the cruise simply for psychological reasons (not practical reasons). So they stopped showing the airfare as a separate charge and just added it in with the cruise fare.

In the long run you are going to compare the entire cost of the trip side by side anyway - and you will see which cruise (with air) is the best deal, whether it is "free air" or not.

Now - once in a GREAT while I will see certain cruise lines offering big discounts for cruises with air included - I have seen this with Holland America, Grand Circle, Celebrity and others - when it happens infrequently or only on certain itineraries I consider a real bargain, but when certain cruise lines (Oceania, Viking River, Regent) continually offer "free air and two for one pricing on EVERY cruise for years, you can be pretty sure that is not a special deal, just a fancy way to show their pricing.

I personally dislike it - but they report they are very successful using that strategy, so I cannot fault them for doing it.

What it says to me, however, is that travel agents are telling clients "this is a special deal; two for one pricing!" But it isn't a special deal in most cases, it is business as usual.

Paul Motter September 27th, 2013 04:23 PM

Is there a cruise line that includes on board amenities such as drinks & excursions?

Yes, most river cruise lines include excursions and wine or beer with meals. The new (2015) cruise line called Viking Ocean will also offer shore excursions and drinks.

Regent cruise lines already includes both as well.

Most cruise lines now offer "drink package" where you can drink as much as you want for an added daily or per-cruise cost. The question is whether you are going to drink enough to justify it. Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, etc.

However, that is the same question you have to ask on cruise lines that include drinks in the cruise fare; mostly lux lines like Seabourn, Silversea, Regent, Crystal. Most people who go on those lines realize they are paying a lot more just for the privilege of not having to pay for drinks separately, but they enjoy the convenience factor and the freedom to choose to have any drink at any time without thinking about the cost.

Queen of Oakville September 27th, 2013 04:39 PM

Hi Paul - ? for you. I'm a long ways off from cruising those lines that offer free air :)

but i'm curious. How do they package out air if some are flying from close by and other from far away? Are you paying a premium to subsidize those with longer travel? Or are the prices you see reflective of your departing airport alone? September 27th, 2013 05:24 PM

The 'free' air is usually from certain major airports and those outside of those airports will pay an extra premium. Plus, often these airfare promotions have routings that you may not like.

However, keep in mind that those 'free' airfares aren't really free. As your mother always told you, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The funny thing is that if you ask them how much the cruise is without the 'free' airfare, the cruise fare is less. Wait a minute; if the airfare is 'free', then how can the cruise be cheaper if you decide you don't want the 'free' airfare???

It's one of those little 'tricks' they like to play on people who aren't savvy on the matter and are booking it themselves directly through the cruise line, so they don't think to ask alot of questions.

Most of the time, we find when we book our clients without the 'free' airfare and then do the air independently, they usually pay less and get a much better routing.

It's always good to let your agent do some research to insure you're getting the best possible deal for you.


Paul Motter September 28th, 2013 01:32 AM

Pete's right - air travel these days is all about "hubs" and "gateway" cities, so a flight from Los Angeles to Dallas can be cheaper than Albuquerque to El Paso.

Anyway - what they is figure the actual cost of your flight on average (based on your gateway city to the port city) and add that to the cruise price.

plantcrone October 15th, 2013 04:00 AM

I'm sure new as new can be--at age 70 I'm taking my first cruise with my youngest daughters family-including grnd child who I'm sharing the room with and my son-in-laws parents,for a total of a party of6 all cruising over the Christmas holidays in the Caribbean.

I'm sure my question is a much asked one but here it goes-I'm quite picky about the whisky I drink..single malt scotch is it..and HAL does not offer a particularly stellar selection of single malt scotch. It's not that I drink a lot, it's simply that I know what I want and Kentucky whiskey isn't it. I like a particular brand.

What can I do? Theres basically no difference in price between what HAL offers and the lower quality Scotch Whisky available but I don't like the taste of it..any ideas for how I can smuggle a bottle of my brand into my room? I'm even willing to pay a surcharge or corking fee,like they offer with wine, but they don't offer it with whisky.

I feel like a cheap skate here but damned if I'll pay $300+ for a one week beverage pass only to be served inferior whiskey.

I'm frustrated ....and looking for solutions from experience travelers and cruisers

Paul Motter October 31st, 2013 04:49 PM

Plantcrone -

Most mainstream cruise lines that have "drink packages" offer two choices; average and "premium." If you get premium you should be able to drink the scotch you want (if they have it).

Most luxury cruise lines will include almost any brand in the cruise fare - but you pay a LOT more for the cruise.

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