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New to the cruise world - need help!

New to the cruise world - need help!

Old Jan 10, 11, 11:08 am
  #1  
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New to the cruise world - need help!

Here are the details:
- 4 couples (one with infant under 2)
- # of Rooms - 4 rooms OR a 2 bedroom suite (that can fit 4 adults+infant)+2 Rooms
- Destination: Alaska
- Month: Mid August (12,13,14 departure)
- Cruise Preference - Luxury
- Cabin - Balcony/Suite
- Port of Departure - Seattle

Questions:
- Which cruise line would be suggested. In my research I found Celebrity and NCL as the two best options. Which one of these 2 cruise lines is a better value for money?
- Which one of the cruise lines are more Kid Friendly. I heard some cruise lines charge Adult fare for infants?
- Should I book online or through a travel agent? Any suggestions on travel agents or online sites would be very much appreciated.

Thanks in advance for the help.
thestallion123 is offline  
Old Jan 10, 11, 1:14 pm
  #2  
 
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Comparing X (Celebrity) and NCL is like comparing apples and oranges. As your dates are not too flexible I'd search which cruise ships depart from Seattle on 12 - 14 August and then price each cruise that you are interested in, read reviews on Cruise Critic (www.cruisecritic.com) and decide which option is best for you.

As for X and NCL, I wouldn't consider either to be luxury cruises, both are mainstream cruise lines. I've travelled on X but not on NCL. If you're looking for luxury cruises take a look at Crystal, Silversea, Oceania, Cunard, Regent Seven Seas, Windstar and Azamara. I'm not sure which of these cruise lines offer cruises in Alaska in August, 2011. Obviously, all these brands will cost more than X or RCL.

AFAIK, none of the suites on X or NCL will have two washrooms, and I doubt 4people sharing one washroom would be pratical, especially on days when the ship is in port.

You should consider the hidden costs of cruising, drinks, onboard gratuities, shore excursions, etc can add up quickly.
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Old Jan 10, 11, 2:16 pm
  #3  
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None of the "premium" lines sail to Alaska from Seattle in that time frame. If you're willing to sail out of Vancouver, there are a couple of one-way sailings in August on Silversea or Regent, but at 3x the cost of the mass-market operators. (Note Seattle sailings are all round-trips to Southeast Alaska; due to federal law none of the big operators can do one-way cruises to/from Alaska to/from Seattle.)

Frankly, with your group I'd look most closely at Princess rather than Celebrity or RCI. Princess' product is comparable to Celebrity's, but one of their routes (Golden Princess, Aug. 13) goes to Glacier Bay while the Celebrity and RCI sailings that weekend don't. Princess has done leisure cruises to Alaska longer than anyone else, and IMO their route is equal to or better than the competition's.

As for accommodations, I think you'll be happier with 4 separate cabins, maybe 2 sets of 2 adjoining ones (most ships have a large number of balcony cabins with adjoining doors.) I think you'll find the per-person prices on those to be cheaper overall then one of the big suites, plus the privacy will be enhanced.

Regarding direct bookings vs. TAs, the cruise industry is the last bastion of traditional agents, who get commissions that would just be additional profit to the cruiseline if you book direct. TA's can sometimes help you get bonuses (e.g. shipboard food/incidentals credits) or other perks that the cruiseline itself won't give you. It's a fertile field for comparison shopping - someone local to you, or the big online TAs like cruise.com, etc. You're not asking for anything exotic; it shouldn't be too big a challenge for anyone with a modicum of experience.

Oh, and check out the boards at www.cruisecritic.com - the be-all and end-all of cruise chat.
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Old Jan 10, 11, 4:12 pm
  #4  
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Look at Disney
http://disneycruise.disney.go.com/cr...|S||6458467083

Has been voted best service by many and lots of people even without kids love it.
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Old Jan 10, 11, 4:14 pm
  #5  
 
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To narrow down all your possibilities for the limited time-frame, one of the best search engines is at www.vacationstogo.com
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Old Jan 10, 11, 4:47 pm
  #6  
 
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You should also look at InnerSea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises. Personally, I think American Safari is the best way to cruise Alaska's Inside Passage since the yachts are so small (Safari Spirit only holds 12 passengers, Safari Quest = 22, and Safari Explorer = 36) and the onboard naturalists are fantastic.

Both of these lines share the same parent company, but InnerSea Discovery is premium while American Safari is top luxury. This spring/summer is InnerSea's inaugural season in Alaska so there are some good deals to be had.

http://www.innerseadiscoveries.com/

http://www.americansafaricruises.com

Embarkation won't be from Seattle in August, but it will be worth the extra flight leg.

If I had to choose between Celebrity and NCL, I would definitely go with Celebrity.

Happy sailing!
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Old Jan 10, 11, 4:53 pm
  #7  
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Originally Posted by meisterau View Post
Look at Disney
http://disneycruise.disney.go.com/cr...|S||6458467083

Has been voted best service by many and lots of people even without kids love it.
Disney only departs from Vancouver. We would like to depart from Seattle only. Thanks.
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Old Jan 10, 11, 5:45 pm
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Looking at the list provided at Vacations To Go, I would reiterate some of the things posted above.

* Neither NCL nor Celebrity offer "Luxury" cruises - if you want luxury cruising in (roughly) your time frame, take the Crystal Symphony out of San Francisco on the 13th for 12 days, for ~4 times the price of a typical Seattle departure on a less-luxurious line during your time frame.

* Assuming that you don't want to do the above, most cruisers I have talked to (including my mom, who is on her 51st cruise as I type this) prefer Celebrity over NCL for the quality of food, shows, and overall vacation enjoyment - however not everyone would agree with this. Mom was on an NCL trip in November, using up the last of her points earned by the now-defunct NCL credit card - she says she doubts she will sail with them any more, all things remaining equal.

* Infant charges vary by line, but (to my knowledge) all require two fares per cabin to be at adult rates before any discounts for 3rd/4th passengers per room are applied - so if you tried to book a room with only two people, one of whom is an infant, yes you would be charged full fare for the infant. I have little specific knowledge of having infants onboard beyond this. Celebrity has a kids program, but I don't know how young a child they will accept; I'm sure any kid must be toilet-trained for them to use their kids program. Most ships nowadays also have baby-sitting services available.

* I recommend separate rooms, mostly for bathroom access. The idea to have two pairs of adjacent rooms connected by an inner door is also good - I have done that when traveling in a large group and it helped to be able to share bathrooms when dressing for dinner, etc.

* Find a travel agent - cruisecritic has some recommendations (IIRC). They don't cost you anything, and can usually get you at least a small sweetener (onboard spending $) and possibly more.

Good luck - let us know how you make out!

Last edited by HPN-HRL; Jan 10, 11 at 5:46 pm Reason: spelling
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Old Jan 10, 11, 7:18 pm
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Holland America Lines has it all for Alaska with the best cabins of all the mainline fleets. Pick a cruise that also includes Hubbard Glacier, which gets even better reviews than Glacier Bay itself. Expect rough waters leaving from Seattle, no matter what line you choose.
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Old Jan 10, 11, 9:40 pm
  #10  
 
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Cruise Critic (cruisecritic.com) has tons of of information. It also has IIRC about 60,000 cruise reviews written by travelers.
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Old Jan 11, 11, 7:51 am
  #11  
 
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Originally Posted by HPN-HRL View Post

* Find a travel agent - cruisecritic has some recommendations (IIRC). They don't cost you anything, and can usually get you at least a small sweetener (onboard spending $) and possibly more.

Good luck - let us know how you make out!
CruiseCritic has a few agents that advertise with them, but members of CC are not ALLOWED to post names of, or experiences with agents -- either good or bad. I had my "hand slapped" once for disregarding this rule and trying to help a fellow poster with some information. IOW, you are not allowed to mention any specific agent or agency.
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Old Jan 11, 11, 10:09 am
  #12  
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Thanks everyone for your help and responses.
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Old Jan 14, 11, 12:13 am
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I don't know the Celebrity product as well as NCL, so I cannot comment on them.

I wouldn't discount NCL quite yet. They've turned things around in the last couple of years (more awards won, better, more consistent reviews) in terms of the soft product and the hard product is very very good. Of course, the ship as a whole is mainstream, but they have a range of suites in the "Courtyard" area of Norwegian Pearl which may suit as well as Owners Suites, Penthouses & so on. In addition to the Courtyard Villas and Penthouses etc, there are also the 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom Garden Villas which vary in size from about 3300 to 5700sq ft depending on which ship you are on. I believe that these are still the largest suites afloat. The advantage of the Courtyard / Penthouses / Garden Villa is that you have the "ship within ship" feel - lots of privacy, many additional amenities (such as exclusive access to restaurants for breakfasts, concierge, butler etc), plus all of the facilities of a big ship, something that you may not get with a smaller, luxury ship.

I would agree that neither NCL nor Celebrity are truly luxury products, but from first hand experience, I can say that NCL's best is indeed very good.

Hard to say which are better value as it's so subjective. Cruising represents, in general, excellent value. As with most things, you will usually get what you pay for. NCL's true differentiating point is the Freestyle concept - no fixed dining times and resort-casual dress throughout. Having said that, certain restaurants lend themselves to more elegant dining and perhaps dressing up a bit more, just as you would at home. There are certain rules regarding the wearing of jeans and shorts in the restaurants in the evening, but other than that, you can pack what you wish. They'll have a optional formal night on a 7nt cruise that will take place in one of the main restaurants, but attendance is optional. I've found also that Le Bistro (French Classical) and Cagney's (Steakhouse) in particular see people dressed a little smarter than other restaurants. There are around 10 different restaurants on most NCL ships (Norwegian Epic excluded) which will be more than the Celebrity Infinity. Around half of these restaurants will have a cover charge from approx $10 - $25pp.

Freestyle suits me perfectly - I hate the mad rush at the dinner gong and don't want to be tied to a schedule (I'm on holiday!) but each to their own.

For the kids, both will be suitable for kids. My gut feeling would be that NCL would probably attract more families because of the flexible nature of the product, but I don't have any experience to back that.. just a hunch.

Happy choosing - let us all know what you end up with.


Mark
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Old Jan 17, 11, 10:06 am
  #14  
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Originally Posted by mjgodden View Post
I don't know the Celebrity product as well as NCL, so I cannot comment on them.

I wouldn't discount NCL quite yet. They've turned things around in the last couple of years (more awards won, better, more consistent reviews) in terms of the soft product and the hard product is very very good. Of course, the ship as a whole is mainstream, but they have a range of suites in the "Courtyard" area of Norwegian Pearl which may suit as well as Owners Suites, Penthouses & so on. In addition to the Courtyard Villas and Penthouses etc, there are also the 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom Garden Villas which vary in size from about 3300 to 5700sq ft depending on which ship you are on. I believe that these are still the largest suites afloat. The advantage of the Courtyard / Penthouses / Garden Villa is that you have the "ship within ship" feel - lots of privacy, many additional amenities (such as exclusive access to restaurants for breakfasts, concierge, butler etc), plus all of the facilities of a big ship, something that you may not get with a smaller, luxury ship.

I would agree that neither NCL nor Celebrity are truly luxury products, but from first hand experience, I can say that NCL's best is indeed very good.

Hard to say which are better value as it's so subjective. Cruising represents, in general, excellent value. As with most things, you will usually get what you pay for. NCL's true differentiating point is the Freestyle concept - no fixed dining times and resort-casual dress throughout. Having said that, certain restaurants lend themselves to more elegant dining and perhaps dressing up a bit more, just as you would at home. There are certain rules regarding the wearing of jeans and shorts in the restaurants in the evening, but other than that, you can pack what you wish. They'll have a optional formal night on a 7nt cruise that will take place in one of the main restaurants, but attendance is optional. I've found also that Le Bistro (French Classical) and Cagney's (Steakhouse) in particular see people dressed a little smarter than other restaurants. There are around 10 different restaurants on most NCL ships (Norwegian Epic excluded) which will be more than the Celebrity Infinity. Around half of these restaurants will have a cover charge from approx $10 - $25pp.

Freestyle suits me perfectly - I hate the mad rush at the dinner gong and don't want to be tied to a schedule (I'm on holiday!) but each to their own.

For the kids, both will be suitable for kids. My gut feeling would be that NCL would probably attract more families because of the flexible nature of the product, but I don't have any experience to back that.. just a hunch.

Happy choosing - let us all know what you end up with.


Mark
Thanks Mark. I have looked the pricing, availability and schedule and I'm most likely going to book the NCL Pearl (4 separate Cabins). I have read up the reviews on Cruisecritic and nothing really made me change my mind. Hoping for the best
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Old Jul 17, 12, 3:47 pm
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Originally Posted by AndreaRH View Post
You should also look at InnerSea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises. Personally, I think American Safari is the best way to cruise Alaska's Inside Passage since the yachts are so small (Safari Spirit only holds 12 passengers, Safari Quest = 22, and Safari Explorer = 36) and the onboard naturalists are fantastic.

Both of these lines share the same parent company, but InnerSea Discovery is premium while American Safari is top luxury. This spring/summer is InnerSea's inaugural season in Alaska so there are some good deals to be had.

http://www.innerseadiscoveries.com/

http://www.americansafaricruises.com
I know this is an old thread, but there's so little on here on the small-ship cruises that I wanted to add another recommendation for Innersea Discoveries. We just took their Ketchikan to Juneau itinerary and loved it. We knew that much of Alaska was best seen by cruise ship but everything we read about big ships was a turnoff. This trip exceeded our expectations. Everyone's experience will vary given the capricious nature of weather and wildlife, but I got to snorkel in 42-degree waters outfitted like Jacques Cousteau, and my less-active husband enjoyed the skiff tours and a couple of less-strenuous hikes. We're already looking forward to taking the reverse itinerary in 2014.
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