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Old August 14th, 2007, 10:28 AM
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Default My First and Last Cruise - 6 weeks from now!

I decided that my mother should have one final adventure as she is 74 and really starting to wind down after a life of drop-of-a-hat traveling.

We talked and neither one of us had ever been on a cruise so that's what we're going to do. It's a 22 day trip from Vancouver through the Panama Canal with a flight home from Ft Lauderdale.

Just wondering if anyone has done this trip and has any suggestions as to how we can keep our costs down and still have fun. We won't do any planned shore excursions as Mom just won't be able to manage. I thought a trip to the town/city for a postcard and a picnic lunch in a park, weather permitting, would do us just fine.

After spending the last few weeks reading the MANY posts on this site, I'm feeling a bit concerned that we may have gotten in over our heads. Formal nights? Dress codes? HELP!!!
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Old August 14th, 2007, 11:29 AM
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Haven't done that itinerary so can't address those concerns, but dressing is not to worry. If you don't want to waste suitcase space on formal clothes or just don't want to dress up, just go to the buffet to eat on those nights. Or, if a buffet is too much for your mother, order room service and eat in your cabin. My DH hates to put on a tie so we always have a romantic dinner on our balcony on formal nights. These are often our favorite meals of the cruise! I always take a nice pair of black crepe slacks and a dressy shirt so that I'm prepared for anything, but this is strictly optional.
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Old August 14th, 2007, 11:48 AM
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Wow, you're brave going on a 22-day cruise your first time out. Most people start with something a week or less to kind of test the waters.

Longer cruises attract lots of people in your mother's age range, so she'll have lots of company. IMO, it would be a shame for her not to experience at least one formal dinner, but that's up to the two of you.

I hope you've purchased trip insurance, as Medicare won't cover your mother outside the US (assuming you're US citizens), nor will it cover a medical evacuation.

Sounds like a lot of fun. Your mother may discover that cruising is a great way to travel, and she may want to book another one when you get back.

Shelby
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Old August 14th, 2007, 11:56 AM
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I am no expert as only have gone on 2 cruises (but I think I may be on this one you are going on for the Van to LA portion, if its next month) but what I have found is that the little things are what add up when you are not looking. Aside from water, coffee and tea I believe everything else is a charge. What happens is this is a cashless society. You register a credit card and you never pay for a think on the ship, you just tell them your cabin number and bam,,its on your bill. So you want a couple of adult beverages every night and there is an expense. A cappacino,,bam. The other one is tipping. You are charged 10 bucks per person per day automatically. So do the math for your 22 day cruise. They say on the last day when you finzlize your bill you can remove the tips if you don't think they are deserved (I always add more, but thats just me because they are deserved) and I know of a couple of friends that won't give out a dime so they do that too. So be careful there (they get me with the dang bingo).

As far as dining,,as the other poster told you. You can always go to the buffet on formal nights, you can order room service,,and during dinner hours you can get whats being served in the main dining room sent to your cabin.

Really, cruising is blast and you'll find a lot of things to entain you even without getting off the ship.
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Old August 14th, 2007, 12:04 PM
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Ok, I'm back. Went to put on a load of laundry and started thinking about your post. Don't panic! The cruise line WANTS you to have a great trip - whatever a great trip means to you. They want you to come back. I know you say this is a one-time-only and for your mother it may be. But for you- the cruise line wants the experience to be so good that you'll be booking another cruise before you get off the ship. That's what happened to most of us. My DH is not as fond of ocean cruising as I am. He likes river cruising. So we do both- one for me - one for him. Obviously, HAL for many reasons cannot treat you and your mother as if you are the only passengers on the ship, but if you are clear and reasonable about your needs they will try to meet them. On our first cruise there was a lady in a wheelchair who was on her 42nd cruise in 15 years! She never went on shore excursions, but took advantage of discounts at the spa on those days. And she was having a great time or she wouldn't be there. Just remember that this is an experience to be enjoyed in whatever fashion you can and not an ordeal to be endured.
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Old August 14th, 2007, 12:25 PM
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You said "I thought a trip to the town/city for a postcard and a picnic lunch in a park, weather permitting, would do us just fine." Just so that you know, you are not allowed to take food off the ship - crackers and cheese maybe, but the ship will not pack a lunch for you and really are not allowed to take any fruit off the ship. I think it would be better & safer if you came back to the ship and had lunch there.

HAL does charge $10.00 per day per person for "gratuities" and that adds up. If you decide to remove the gratuity, they will ask you why. Also if you remove the gratuity, then any gratuity you give to any of the staff has to be pooled - they cannot keep it for themselves.

I also hope that you took medical insurance. Here in Ontario, we have to buy the insurance within 6 days of booking a cruise & the travel agent must offer it to you when booking. If you decline you have to sign a form noting this - don't know if it's the same in B.C.

We did the Panama Canal cruise from LA to FLL a couple of times but that was a number of years ago. The transit through the Canal is amazing, but be forewarned it's very, very hot and humid. Make sure you have lots of sunscreen and a hat.

Which ship are you going on?

I am sure you will have a wonderful time.
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Old August 14th, 2007, 05:04 PM
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Wow! Thank you so much for all your responses! I've read them and have my own responses to give.

arkiegal: thanks for the suggestion on the black pants/nice blouse for formal nights. That is easily doable. You certainly put my mind at ease!

Shelby: we're Canadian, and we purchased the Platinum level of insurance....it was almost a third of the cost of one fare! I have out-of-country extended medical coverage through my job (I work for a provincial gov't entity) but decided to go all out and get insurance for ANYthing that might come up. What the heck, right? As for going for the 22 days, you're right, I'm a bit nervous, but we felt it would be our one and only cruise so jumped in with both feet (or is that, all four feet!).

Ron: yes, it looks as if we'll be shipmates for the first few days if you're leaving on Sept 29 on the Zuiderdam. We started out departing from Seattle but when I discovered the Vancouver departure I switched. The fare increase was negligible and made it much easier on my mom. We're about 1/2 hour from downtown. I appreciate the warning about the extra charges although I have to admit to a giggle when I imagine myself passing out in shock at the end-of-cruise reckoning!

DeeDee: thanks for the head's up! I guess we'll try to find a small cafe locally and grab a sandwich and pop there. Most of our stops seem to be in Mexico so I wonder if we need to do research on what NOT to eat! Do I assume that bottled water (at least the recognizable brands) is safe? Great warning about the humidity - - thank you! I don't like the heat too much (I know, I know...why did I choose this cruise!) so I can be sure I have that hat!

Again, my thanks for your responses! Very informative and friendly!
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Old August 14th, 2007, 08:18 PM
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I will admit, your first cruise and 22 days might be cutting off a whole lot but go with the idea you will have a great time. Just think twice before doing one so long the next time. As for formal nights, don't worry, you can certainly repeat your wardrobe or bring things that mix and match. Will it be costly? Sure, obviously more than a 7 or 10 day cruise. Still you will be with your mom, I would rather travel with my girls than even my hubby sometimes. If you like a glass of wine at night you can bring your own on board. That will save you a whole lot of money. Also if the harder stuff is your thing, order the bar set up prior to sailing; again a way to save. Shore excursions, don't be afraid to book private ones or just get off the ship and find someone that will be glad to show you around. Usually these vans and tour guides will line up others to go with you. I love doing tours this way.

Anyway, I hope this helps you some. Go, enjoy and let us know how it went.

Nita

BTW: 74, unless she has some serious health issues don't be surprised if she is still cruising 10 years from now. I have a friend I play bridge, in her early 90s. She and her older sister are about to embark on HALs 64 day cruise. She had a double hip replacement in April, just so she would be up to cruising this trip. I am taking a group from our church on a Mexican Riv cruise next month: the youngest person, 58, the oldest 88. Most are mid 70s to late 80s. Will they do tours in every port? Of course not, will they retire at 9pm every evening? MOstly yes, but will they have a blast? I sure hope so....a
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Old August 15th, 2007, 08:29 AM
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Hi Nita,
Thanks for your input! I went through all my clothes last night trying to decide what to take for the formal nights. The mix and match is definitely the way to go.

The reason behind the long cruise is because my mother is slowly descending into early dementia and I want her to have that last huge adventure. I will take a million or so photos with her in them and hopefully that will help her recall in the years to come. If somehow she manages to do another cruise in the near future, I'd be ecstatic!

I have another question that hopefully I can get an answer to here:
Do the rooms have their own safes? I'll be borrowing a VERY expensive digital camera from my boss and don't want to be taking it with me during every moment away from the room. In doing research, I've come across quite a few horror stories about cruises, along with the wonderful ones and I'm concerned. Thanks!
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Old August 15th, 2007, 10:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Only1Cruise
Hi Nita,
Thanks for your input! I went through all my clothes last night trying to decide what to take for the formal nights. The mix and match is definitely the way to go.

The reason behind the long cruise is because my mother is slowly descending into early dementia and I want her to have that last huge adventure. I will take a million or so photos with her in them and hopefully that will help her recall in the years to come. If somehow she manages to do another cruise in the near future, I'd be ecstatic!

I have another question that hopefully I can get an answer to here:
Do the rooms have their own safes? I'll be borrowing a VERY expensive digital camera from my boss and don't want to be taking it with me during every moment away from the room. In doing research, I've come across quite a few horror stories about cruises, along with the wonderful ones and I'm concerned. Thanks!

You are a good daughter. Every cabin has its own safe.
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Old August 15th, 2007, 09:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Only1Cruise
Hi Nita,
The reason behind the long cruise is because my mother is slowly descending into early dementia and I want her to have that last huge adventure. I will take a million or so photos with her in them and hopefully that will help her recall in the years to come. If somehow she manages to do another cruise in the near future, I'd be ecstatic!
Your mother is so lucky to have a wonderful daughter (son?) like you. And, you never know ... the "descent" into dementia can be a very, very slow one ... so at her age I wouldn't be surprised if she had many, many more wonderful years ahead of her. My dad lives with me. He's going on 94 in January, is sharp as a tack, and active as all get-out. Does volunteer work at the local hospital three days a week, plays the violin in a community orchestra (has been doing that all his life) and has memberships in several senior organizations. He even still drives, and is a pretty good driver ... you just can't talk to him when he's driving cause he has to "concentrate." I only wish he would let me take him on a cruise ... but he keeps saying no one's getting him on "no damned boat!"

I don't think a 22 day cruise is too long at all. Believe me, once you get onboard and get into the rhythm of shipboard life, the time will go very quickly. You and your mom will dread when the day comes to get off. Cruises are great for people who need to take it easy. The entire experience is so relaxing, yet with plenty to do when you want to. I honestly don't believe you will be overwhelmed at all.

As for dress, don't let all the talk here and on other boards worry you. Just dress nicely and there will be no problem. If you don't have gowns or really "formal" clothes, then just wear a nice blouse and dressy pants or a black skirt and you will be fine. Believe me, I don't get into the crazy formal thing either ... and I've never drawn a second look on formal nights. In fact, I see lots of people in that dining room who did not even bother to dress as nicely as I did ... and many times all I am wearing is a pair of black velvet pants and a tee-shirt ... yes, a black tee-shirt with multi-colored reinstones around the collar and down the front! Works for me.

As for expenses, you will be billed $10 per day/per person for gratuities, so budget for that. As someone else said, you can bring wine onboard with you, so if you like to have a drink before dinner, yet don't want to spend money 22 evenings to do so, some nights you can enjoy your pre-dinner drinks right in the cabin.

As for shore trips, you can do a lot of them far more cheaply yourself than going through the ship, though the ship's tours will probably be easier with your mom since the bus will pick you right up at the pier and then return you there. With doing things on your own, you may have to walk a bit and then hunt down a taxi.

As for how quickly onboard expenses can add up due to the ease of charging everything to your cabin, I don't think it's any different than with a credit card on land. Just be aware of what you are charging, and every few days or so, go down to the purser's desk and request a printout of your onboard statement to date. By tracking your charges every few days, you won't get caught by surprise at the end of the cruise ... and can adjust your spending habits on the fly if you see the charges are going up faster than you would like.

Personally, though, I wouldn't even worry about expenses too much. Just go and make up your minds that you are gonna use this trip to make some wonderful memories with your mom. Even if you spend the next three years paying off all the bills, so what? Those memories will be priceless.

Blue skies and have a great cruise!

--rita
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Old August 15th, 2007, 09:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kryos
Quote:
Originally Posted by Only1Cruise
Hi Nita,
The reason behind the long cruise is because my mother is slowly descending into early dementia and I want her to have that last huge adventure. I will take a million or so photos with her in them and hopefully that will help her recall in the years to come. If somehow she manages to do another cruise in the near future, I'd be ecstatic!
Your mother is so lucky to have a wonderful daughter (son?) like you. And, you never know ... the "descent" into dementia can be a very, very slow one ... so at her age I wouldn't be surprised if she had many, many more wonderful years ahead of her. My dad lives with me. He's going on 94 in January, is sharp as a tack, and active as all get-out. Does volunteer work at the local hospital three days a week, plays the violin in a community orchestra (has been doing that all his life) and has memberships in several senior organizations. He even still drives, and is a pretty good driver ... you just can't talk to him when he's driving cause he has to "concentrate." I only wish he would let me take him on a cruise ... but he keeps saying no one's getting him on "no damned boat!"

I don't think a 22 day cruise is too long at all. Believe me, once you get onboard and get into the rhythm of shipboard life, the time will go very quickly. You and your mom will dread when the day comes to get off. Cruises are great for people who need to take it easy. The entire experience is so relaxing, yet with plenty to do when you want to. I honestly don't believe you will be overwhelmed at all.

As for dress, don't let all the talk here and on other boards worry you. Just dress nicely and there will be no problem. If you don't have gowns or really "formal" clothes, then just wear a nice blouse and dressy pants or a black skirt and you will be fine. Believe me, I don't get into the crazy formal thing either ... and I've never drawn a second look on formal nights. In fact, I see lots of people in that dining room who did not even bother to dress as nicely as I did ... and many times all I am wearing is a pair of black velvet pants and a tee-shirt ... yes, a black tee-shirt with multi-colored reinstones around the collar and down the front! Works for me.

As for expenses, you will be billed $10 per day/per person for gratuities, so budget for that. As someone else said, you can bring wine onboard with you, so if you like to have a drink before dinner, yet don't want to spend money 22 evenings to do so, some nights you can enjoy your pre-dinner drinks right in the cabin.

As for shore trips, you can do a lot of them far more cheaply yourself than going through the ship, though the ship's tours will probably be easier with your mom since the bus will pick you right up at the pier and then return you there. With doing things on your own, you may have to walk a bit and then hunt down a taxi.

As for how quickly onboard expenses can add up due to the ease of charging everything to your cabin, I don't think it's any different than with a credit card on land. Just be aware of what you are charging, and every few days or so, go down to the purser's desk and request a printout of your onboard statement to date. By tracking your charges every few days, you won't get caught by surprise at the end of the cruise ... and can adjust your spending habits on the fly if you see the charges are going up faster than you would like.

Personally, though, I wouldn't even worry about expenses too much. Just go and make up your minds that you are gonna use this trip to make some wonderful memories with your mom. Even if you spend the next three years paying off all the bills, so what? Those memories will be priceless.

One final thought ... don't be surprised if you have such a wonderful time on this trip that there are many, many more cruises in your future ... and perhaps even your mom's.

Blue skies and have a great cruise!

--rita
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Old August 15th, 2007, 11:54 PM
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Hi Rita, yes, I'm a daughter. I don't know how wonderful I am, but I'm doing my best. Mom just moved in with me about 6 weeks ago so I can more easily look after her. My kids are now grown up so I have the room.

I'm truly hoping she does stay mentally strong for a while longer. She's really having some major memory issues and has started being taken advantage of by scammers so I felt it was time to step in. I'm happy to hear your dad is doing so well! It gives me hope!

I'm feeling better about the formal thing after reading all these responses. I decided to take Mom shopping after work tomorrow just to get some "fun" things to wear....lots of after summer sales right now....perfect timing! I like the idea of the sparkle tops, that sounds pretty and easy to do. Plus, when I just mentioned it to my mother she lit up! She's from that era where you wear your clothes until they're threadbare and then some! I swear I saw clothing she had when I was a kid 40-some years ago in her closet earlier this evening. Amazing!

We're starting to feel excited now. I think it's about 44 days before we leave and all of a sudden that seems close! WAY too late to lose the extra weight as I'd planned....sheesh!
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Old August 16th, 2007, 09:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeeDee
You said "I thought a trip to the town/city for a postcard and a picnic lunch in a park, weather permitting, would do us just fine." Just so that you know, you are not allowed to take food off the ship - crackers and cheese maybe, but the ship will not pack a lunch for you and really are not allowed to take any fruit off the ship. I think it would be better & safer if you came back to the ship and had lunch there.
I don't know about that. My TA once told me that room service would be happy to pack you a lunch if you requested it. Of course, I am sure there are some food items that may not be allowed ... like maybe fruit ... but I can't understand why you could ask to have a few sandwiches packed for a picnic lunch. After all, if you were staying onboard, you'd be eating the ship's food. So, what's the difference?

Blue skies ...

--rita
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Old August 18th, 2007, 11:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kryos

I don't know about that. My TA once told me that room service would be happy to pack you a lunch if you requested it. Of course, I am sure there are some food items that may not be allowed ... like maybe fruit ... but I can't understand why you could ask to have a few sandwiches packed for a picnic lunch. After all, if you were staying onboard, you'd be eating the ship's food. So, what's the difference?

Blue skies ...

--rita
It got me thinking about the ports that the OP will be visiting and looking at the itinerary of the 2 ships leaving Vancouver thru the Canal to FLL, I see that they are all ports where the weather is extremely HOT. We did that trip a number of years ago and believe me it was HOT, HOT, HOT.

Would you really want to carry around a lunch of sandwiches all morning that hasn't been refrigerated? I wouldn't...... I'd be afraid of samonella. I'd rather go back to the ship and eat in comfort.

I asked a friend who works on one of the the ships and she said she sometimes puts cheese and crackers from the Lido in her purse, but that a lot of the ports (didn't know which ones) were very particular about taking food off the ship - she said they will be told on the ship which ones do not allow food.

Yes, The OP can ask for a picnic lunch, and all they can do at room service is say, NO! sorry we can't do that.
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Old August 18th, 2007, 11:55 AM
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The TA who said that room service will pack you a lunch is spot on wrong.

Most countries, and even states like Hawaii, forbid bringing fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy products into their country from outside. Only pre-packaged food like cereal and packs of crackers can be taken off the ship.

If you want to do a picnic lunch, you're doing to have to get off the ship and purchase food items from a local store or vendor.

And the point about the heat is another factor.

Shelby
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Old October 19th, 2007, 10:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Only1Cruise
I decided that my mother should have one final adventure as she is 74 and really starting to wind down after a life of drop-of-a-hat traveling.

We talked and neither one of us had ever been on a cruise so that's what we're going to do. It's a 22 day trip from Vancouver through the Panama Canal with a flight home from Ft Lauderdale.

Just wondering if anyone has done this trip and has any suggestions as to how we can keep our costs down and still have fun. We won't do any planned shore excursions as Mom just won't be able to manage. I thought a trip to the town/city for a postcard and a picnic lunch in a park, weather permitting, would do us just fine.

After spending the last few weeks reading the MANY posts on this site, I'm feeling a bit concerned that we may have gotten in over our heads. Formal nights? Dress codes? HELP!!!

We did this cruise on HAL in Sep 06 . Most ports have a number of tourist

places near the port . We where warned not to eat local food

as the source was unreliable. You can't take a sandwich of the ship due

to health restrictions. Most of the ports we visited ther weren't any parks

close by.
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Old November 7th, 2007, 10:50 AM
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I think this sounds like a fabulous cruise and I wish you and your Mother a GREAT cruise. 95% of people that take their first cruise return for more, so that shows what the odds are that you will enjoy it!

I too would not take any food off of the ship and I would be careful what I eat on shore. Any bottles water that is sealed we have purchased and not had a problem, usually we purchase one on the ship to start us out.

I have not sailed with HAL as yet but other cruise lines that I have sailed with will allow you to purchase a bottle of wine with dinner and what you do not drink they re-cork for the next evening. Does HAL do this? I think that this is a great way to save money. If you are someone that only wants 1 or 1 1/2 glasses of wine with dinner this works out to a much lower cost than buying it by the glass each evening. You also only have to pay the automatic gratituty once.

I also agree that it is not necessary to do a lot of shore excursions. My DH and I often do not do shore excursions. We will just get off of the ship and either take a cab (always ask BEFORE you get in what the cost will be) into the town or to a beach, or on a mini-tour, or just walk around the port area. If it is a larger area we want to see we have found that often a cab drive will take you on a mini-tour for a lot less than a shore excursion, make sure he speaks your language, most do.

HAVE A GREAT TRIP!
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Old November 8th, 2007, 07:27 AM
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I have not sailed with HAL as yet but other cruise lines that I have sailed with will allow you to purchase a bottle of wine with dinner and what you do not drink they re-cork for the next evening. Does HAL do this? I think that this is a great way to save money. If you are someone that only wants 1 or 1 1/2 glasses of wine with dinner this works out to a much lower cost than buying it by the glass each evening. You also only have to pay the automatic gratituty once.

Yes, HAL allows you to do this but you can also buy a wine card - don't know if this is cheaper than buying a bottle and having the wine steward pour you a glass every night, but check it out when you get on board. The wine stewards all have the cards and the first couple of days they will be "pushing" them & soda cards.
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