Is this a good cruise choice? Plus a couple budget questions
With some help derived from my other post I've narrowed down cruise choices and I think I've made a selection, I just want to see if it's the best one for me and ask a couple budgeting questions as well. I know cruises are about having a great time and not worrying about money, but I need to be able to budget it out decently well. I've chosen a cruise out of Galveston because that saves the hotel costs (some friends live about an hour away) and the plane trip cost (Prolly $300 a person). And cuts it down to $70 Gas and $80 for parking ($75 a person). Which is a big savings. It does limit choices quite a bit though for destination and lines. I basically have to choose Carnival or Royal Carribbean.
I am looking at the Royal Carribbean Rhapsody of the Seas Western Carribbean 7-night cruise. It visits Key West, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman islands, with several nights at sea (a big plus for me). It totals $599 per person $660 after fees. So here's my questions....
1) Is this a good enough time of the year to cruise? (second half of Sept)
2) Is $599 for an Oceanview a good deal, and how long will it probably last? (When do I need to book by)
3) Is the (I) Oceanview cabin on Deck 4 a good choice, it's cheaper and above water, I was leaning towards this, is it a good location?
4) Is this a good experience? Good Boat/Good Locations etc.
5) I'm a first time cruiser what might surprise me? I've read most of the first timer guides, just looking for any other suggestions?
We're going as a group of two. I am trying to budget things out approximately, and I know it's largely up to the person how much it costs but tell me if I'm in the right ballpark here?
That totals about $1400 and my goal was to stay under $1500 a person, this should run $2750-3000 if my budget is pretty close and that's affordable. Please give me all your thoughts, I'm a little nervous and want to make sure I've covered everything and made a good choice. Thanks so much for your help!!
I've cruised both lines and like both for different reasons. I like the room size and food better on Carnival and the service, upscale feel to the ship and entertainment better on RCL. I don't think you can go wrong with either line.
1. By cruising during the second half of September you are still in hurricane season. While you may have clear sunny days and smooth sailing, be prepared for itineray changes and bad weather. I cruised the last week of August 2005 and was in the gulf when hurricane Katrina hit. While we had mostly smooth seas as the captian went out of his way to avoid the hurricane, instead of returning to Tampa we returned to Fort Lauderdale. The cruise line then bussed everyone back to Tampa. Make sure you buy travel insurance that will cover you in case of a hurricane.
2. Cruise prices are constantly changing. I was looking into a cruise before Christmas and by the time I called the price changed dramatically upward! If you're comfortable with the price book it. Any time I can cruise for less than $100/pp per day I consider it a bargain.
3. You should plan $10/pp per day for tips which is $140.00 per week for a 7 day cruise for 2. A 15% gratuity is automatically added for all bar drinks. As for you shopping/shore excursion budget, those vary by person. I've cruised and spent very little on both of those and then on other cruises have spent quite a bit depending on what we decided to do and whether or not I bought jewelry!! I plan $100/pp per day for tips, alcohol, shore excursions and shopping and most always bring money home.
I can't comment on the ship as I've never sailed her, but have been to all the ports and enjoyed them all.
Hope this helps and if you have any questions feel free to email me.
I just printed out my insurance policy for our 2-5-06 cruise. Some of the items covered by the policy are:
Baggage and personal effects
Rental car damage
Medical and dental expense
Air flight accident
Emergency medical evacuation
All of these may not apply to you, but many may. We always buy the insurance, but have never had a claim (thank goodness). The price was $172 for two of us. It's sort of like car insurance - you better have it when you need it.
If they cancel the cruise you will get your money back, but if there is an itinerary change and you incur costs your travel insurance may, depending on what you buy for insurance, reimburse you for extra hotel charges, meals, flight changes, etc.
I have been on the Rhapsody twice and going again week after next. We love the ship, matter of fact, it is our favorite out of the five that we have been on. We have had ocean view on both the third and fourth deck, and they are both good rooms, we prefer the fourth deck to the third. If you get an ocean view, be aware that you may just get a porthole on the second deck. For parking, check out EZ cruise parking in Galveston, they are cheaper than the main cruise ship parking, they charge 55 dollars for a seven day cruise, and they will shuttle you AND your luggage to the ship. From what I have heard, their service is excellent. We were booked in September of last year, and hurricane Rita kind of messed up our plans. The cruise lines gave us a letter of credit for another cruise which we are taking in 10 days. I have never been on Carnival, but am sure you will love the Rhapsody. I would also strongly suggest you get the insurance, because you can never tell what may happen. It really isn't that expensive. There may be something come up that you have no knowledge of now.
My family of 4 sailed on the Rhapsody in June 2005. We had connecting oceanview rooms on Deck 4. We booked in April 2005 for the June cruise and paid $1250 pp, so the fare you're seeing now is great, however, you are going when all the kids are back in school while we went during the peak of summer cruising season (and we paid the price). This was our first cruise in over 20 years (had previously sailed with Carnival on two of their older ships that are not even in service anymore). We had a wonderful time, our teenager daughters had a blast. We loved it so much we are booked on the new Freedom of the Seas next July. The Rhapsody is a fine ship, very classy and more upscale than what I've heard about Carnival, even their newer ships.
September seems to be the most active month for hurricanes, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. Keep that in mind! We sailed in late June. We were very lucky. Our cruise week seemed to fall in between 2 major storms. We had smooth seas the entire time. It was wonderful. We especially liked to lie on the top deck at night under the stars and watch for shooting stars.
Also, the ship (and I'm sure all the others, too) are cash-free. The only time you need cash on board is in the casino. When you check in at the pier, you'll need a credit card to cover your incidentals (much like when you check into a hotel). All your drinks and purchases on board are charged to your room and you'll get a bill at the end of the cruise. Even your gratuities can be charged to your room. We didn't realize how much we were spending, especially when all 4 of us were "charging things to our room." It adds up! Let's see ... the drink of the day (several times), bingo, pictures, t-shirts, Ben & Jerry's ... you get the picture.
EZ Cruise parking is the way to go in Galveston. Google-search them and if you pay on-line in advance they give you a discount. Their parking lot is only a block away from the pier.