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Old September 16th, 2011, 09:58 PM
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Default Cruising for first time ever in November. Questions and advice?

Hey everyone!

I will be going on my first ever cruise in November to the eastern Caribbean. I booked this special cruise through the Cruise Authority. I say special because it's called the cruise with the writers and editors of National Review, so it's a get together for political discussions, plus other events(dining with the the speakers and editors, get togethers, etc). I will be sailing on Holland America, on the MS Eurodam.

Just wondering what to expect on a HAL cruise? The cruise goes to Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. I guess some of the questions I would have(at least for now)

How is the food?
How is the service?
Does the ship offer wifi in the rooms and cellular service? But more importantly if so, what is the cost?
What's the check in process like and what does it involve before leaving the port?(Port Everglades by the way)
How do you go about booking any shore excursions, spa treatments, specialty restaurants, etc?

I'm sure I will think of more questions as the cruise date gets closer. Any help and/or advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Old September 17th, 2011, 07:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ace71 View Post
Hey everyone!

I will be going on my first ever cruise in November to the eastern Caribbean. I booked this special cruise through the Cruise Authority. I say special because it's called the cruise with the writers and editors of National Review, so it's a get together for political discussions, plus other events(dining with the the speakers and editors, get togethers, etc). I will be sailing on Holland America, on the MS Eurodam.

Just wondering what to expect on a HAL cruise? The cruise goes to Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. I guess some of the questions I would have(at least for now)

How is the food?
How is the service?
Does the ship offer wifi in the rooms and cellular service? But more importantly if so, what is the cost?
What's the check in process like and what does it involve before leaving the port?(Port Everglades by the way)
How do you go about booking any shore excursions, spa treatments, specialty restaurants, etc?

I'm sure I will think of more questions as the cruise date gets closer. Any help and/or advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
You will find a wide variety of opinions on the food. Most will be in the good to excellent range. One nice thing about HAL is that they offer the full main dining room menu for in room dining during dinner hours.

Service is overall excellent. You will find reports of a bad cabin steward or waitperson but you will find these reports for all ships and all cruise lines.

You will have Cellular@Sea service on all ships and the cost will be $2.95/minute. Text service is in the .25-.50 range per text. When you are in port the ship shuts down its cellular service and the local cellular provider takes over. I would advise you to turn your phone off while at sea and disable data if you have a smart phone or you will rack up charges for data. Check with your cellular provider to determine what your data rate will be while you are using SeaMobile or Cellular@Sea. All of the major websites, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc. list the rates. Also, you will need to contact your carrier and have International Roaming enabled for your phone.

Wifi is available in all cabins on, I believe, all ships and in the Internet Cafe (Explorations). The last time I check the cost was 75 cents per minute if you do not buy a package and package rates were 100 minutes for $55 and 250 minutes for $100. This may have changed since the last time I sailed.

The check-in process will be fairly easy. Just remember to go online to HAL.com, do your online check-in and print out your documents and luggage tags (unless your agent will do that for you). Bring these, along with your passport when you arrive at the port. The port is a short $15, with tip, taxi ride from the FLL airport. It is close and convenient.

To see how to book shore excursions, Pinnacle Dining reservations, etc. just go to HAL.com and do the registration. All of that information will be available once you complete the registration.

Take care and have a wonderful cruise.
Mike
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Old September 17th, 2011, 12:03 PM
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Talking First cruise

Ah, your first cruise! You will love it!

Absolutely the best advice I can give you is to READ EVERYTHING TWICE. You will get lots of documents and there is a huge amount of information available on the HAL website. Read it all! You will find more information in your cabin when you arrive. Read it all!

You are going to find that the food is wonderful, from the Main Dining Room to the bountiful buffet to the burger grill on deck. The dining room and cabin stewards are Indonesian, and are out to please. Ask them for anything you need.

Wifi and cellular service is something that is constantly changing. At the very least there will be a good internet cafe. The service is satellite and is much slower than DSL or cable so it can be frustrating. The charges are per minute and you can buy packages of 100 minutes or more at discount rates. Cell service on board gets mixed reviews, and depends very much on what kind of package you have with your provider as some of them surcharge the already high shipboard charges. This is something to check on board.

The check in process is relatively simple. You may be overwhelmed by long lines, but they have a lot of temporary help to do the check in and the lines move quickly. Many people like to check in about noon and thus be on board and at the buffet early! Others like to wait until about 2:00 when the lines will likely be shorter.

The food in the main dining room is so good that it is not really necessary to book the specialty restaurants, but the Pinnacle Grill is indeed a step up and a great dining experience.

There are so many choices for shore excursions. You need to learn to read the descriptions carefully as exactly what they say is exactly what you get. If it says "See..." that probably means you drive by. If it says "Stop at..." then you get a 10 minute photo op. If it says "Inside visit..." then you get to go in!

Grand Turk is the least frequented of your stops, but is still a pretty touristy place. San Juan is a fascinating old city and touring El Morro the fort is very interesting, as is the trip to the rain forest. St. Thomas is the tourist trap of the Caribbean, with every tacky thing you could possible want. You can spend the day at the beach, drive up to Drake's Seat for the great view, take the submarine, or just spend the day shopping for t-shirts, liquor or diamonds! Half Moon Cay is a day at the private beach.

I know you will have a GREAT cruise!
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Old September 17th, 2011, 07:39 PM
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The above info is so great, I can only add a few things....Do dine at the Pinnacle Grille, and, my advice would be to book a couple of nights, and cancel one, if you decide on other options. The food and service was impeccable.

When you see Half Moon Cay [pronounced Key] you will swoon! Is is a postcard come to life. If you are so inclined, get a cabana. We had the orange one, which was well placed by the food pavillion, and restroom. You can also get a clam shell on the beach, to be covered while you sun bathe.

Grand Turks, is also a beach or pool day. There is a Margarittaville,and shops, as well as a large Carnival, shop, filled with goodies that they sell on the ships, but with better quantity.

Before you know, you will cruising in style, and, want to book another! Enjoy!
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Old September 18th, 2011, 10:34 AM
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Thumbs up Half Moon Cay cabanas

Indeed the cabanas at Half Moon Cay are truly the luxury way to go. For someone cruising in November, they may in fact be already booked up, but you could check.

Here is a page on the cabanas.

HAL Half Moon Cay Cabana

Have a GREAT cruise!
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Old September 18th, 2011, 11:37 PM
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Thanks for the info so far guys! Just curious... since this cruise was booked through the cruise authority and it says they will mail me the documents about 3-4 weeks before departure. Does it have a confirmation number on there so I can do online check in or book any shore excursions, etc? Or does the cruise authority pretty much handle your check in stuff? As you can imagine since this is my first ever cruise, I'm still pretty confused and overwhelmed by a lot of things that involve a cruise
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Old September 19th, 2011, 08:21 AM
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Call them and ask for your booking number, you then will be be able to access your cruise page. You are responsible for entering the info they will ask for.

Here is a site I found this morning for another question, but, since you are going to Grand Turk, check this out..looks interesting!

GRAND TURK CRUISE CENTER| Docking | City Map
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Old September 28th, 2011, 08:17 PM
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When you get to Grand Turk, it is so great to just get off the ship, go to the beach area, grab a lounge chair and veg. No need to spend big bucks. Also, in San Juan, if you have the time, the forts and rainforest are something to see.

Have fun!
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Old October 8th, 2011, 08:34 PM
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You should have your confirmation number. Call and ask for it.
You should do any pre-booking you wish on the HAL site or call Ship's Services (800-541-1576). Anything you pre-book will be charged immediately to your credit card. You can book shore excursions, specialty restaurant reservations, bottles of liquor/soft drinks for your cabin, flowers etc

We have sailed Eurodam six cruises and love that ship. She's beautiful with a wonderful crew. We hope to sail her again soon.
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Old October 24th, 2011, 12:18 AM
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Hey everyone! Just an update... sorry, job has been real busy lately which is good... means more money Got the online check in completed and everyone was right... it was simple and fast. Also got my shore excursions reserved and I was able to snag one of the cabanas at Half Moon Cay! Those look like they will be a great time to relax and do stuff at your leisure or do nothing at all. Really looking forward to this cruise, sailing in 19 days! Cheers!
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Old October 24th, 2011, 10:39 AM
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Talking Cabanas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ace71 View Post
Hey everyone! Just an update... sorry, job has been real busy lately which is good... means more money Got the online check in completed and everyone was right... it was simple and fast. Also got my shore excursions reserved and I was able to snag one of the cabanas at Half Moon Cay! Those look like they will be a great time to relax and do stuff at your leisure or do nothing at all. Really looking forward to this cruise, sailing in 19 days! Cheers!
Wow you are lucky to get a cabana at this late date! You will love it!!

Have a GREAT cruise!
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