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Where to book?

Where to book?

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Old Aug 17, 17, 9:24 am
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Where to book?

I'm thinking about taking a cruise next year on NCL. We've only cruised once before, 20 years ago, and may try it again. We did not like the formal night & assigned dining times and from what I've been told, we don't have to do either.

Anyway, I looked at their website and I do get some sort of a discount for being a past cruiser because I joined latitudes at that time. They also give some other incentives for booking directly with them.

Is there a better place to book? I don't have a TA and really never felt the need to use one. The first cruise was booked via AAA travel, who was holding block space. How is Costco for booking? The UR travel portal? UA travel? Somewhere else?

We're looking at mini-suite and above categories.
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Old Aug 17, 17, 1:08 pm
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Originally Posted by Mary2e View Post
I'm thinking about taking a cruise next year on NCL. We've only cruised once before, 20 years ago, and may try it again. We did not like the formal night & assigned dining times and from what I've been told, we don't have to do either.
Most of the mass market cruise lines have adjusted their dress codes in response to NCL. Holland America, once considered one of the more formal lines, doesn't even call them "formal" nights any longer, but rather "Gala" nights. For men, collared shirts and slacks are required. For women, dresses, skirts, and slacks are all acceptable. That's the extent of the requirement. And it only applies in the full-service dining rooms; the rest of the ship is casual dress permitted.

And Holland America offers Open Seating dining as well as set-time dining. You choose when you book.

So don't limit yourself to NCL just on account of dress code or set-time dining.

Originally Posted by Mary2e View Post
Anyway, I looked at their website and I do get some sort of a discount for being a past cruiser because I joined latitudes at that time. They also give some other incentives for booking directly with them.
Both are good reasons to go with NCL, but only as long as you're not compromising on the itinerary you want.

Originally Posted by Mary2e View Post
Is there a better place to book?
I prefer to book with the cruise line. Others have other preferences which they may choose to share.
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Old Aug 17, 17, 1:12 pm
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I've booked several cruises with www.vacationstogo.com, and have been happy with the results. They don't do much in the way of hand-holding, but the two times I've had issues that needed to be corrected, they got the job done quickly and easily. I find their web site particularly easy to use.

I also don't care for the assigned dining times/tables either, and usually just eat from the buffets and other food opportunities elsewhere on the ship. Works better for me. I think it is Celebrity that has a "Spa Dining" area where meals are lighter and healthier. Still lovely presentation of the plates, but lower calorie simple things. NCL may well have something similar if that would appeal to you.
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Old Aug 17, 17, 1:37 pm
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Thank you both. I did a bit of research on the Costco travel site and the prices are identical, though booking thru NCL gets me a few other things.

I'll also start broadening my horizons.

Thank you again
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Old Aug 17, 17, 1:39 pm
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Prices are likely to be nearly the same, but some agents give bigger "kickbacks" in terms of onboard credits, etc., out of their commissions.
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Old Aug 17, 17, 1:41 pm
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Got it... so this is more difficult than finding good F space
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Old Aug 17, 17, 3:49 pm
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Originally Posted by Mary2e View Post
Thank you both. I did a bit of research on the Costco travel site and the prices are identical, though booking thru NCL gets me a few other things.

I'll also start broadening my horizons.

Thank you again
Generally you can't look at an Internal site and get the best offer. Most cruise lines, in fact all that I know of, have come down on Internet travel agencies/agents and won't do business with an agency that openly advertises their discounts. It came about by traditional brick and mortar agencies/agents threatening to not steer customers to cruise lines that let Internet agencies/agents advertise their discounts. For instance, I deal with an Internet agency that gives me 10-12% cash discounts but if you look up a cruise on their site it's the same price as the cruise lines. So I send my agent an email and she comes back with a price and the discount I'll receive.
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Old Aug 17, 17, 4:54 pm
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Originally Posted by Mary2e View Post
Got it... so this is more difficult than finding good F space
Do you have a route & time frame in mind?

Cruisefish and Cruise Plum are useful for comparing prices on the same route on different days and show historical prices.

Not all ships are equal, even within the same cruise line. NJ has RCCL's Anthem of the Seas and NYC has NCL Breakaway. Both are newer larger ship builds with plenty of dining options. Celebrity Summit also sails from Bayonne and is an older refurbished ship with a quieter atmosphere, but still offers "My Time Dining" and a dedicated spa class restaurant "Blu" for spa cabin guests which is also anytime resort casual dining. RCCL is also adding Rhapsody of the Seas from Bayonne.

Seascanner is useful for seeing cabin class availability for specific sailings as some cabins have more desirable layouts, locations, or balcony sizes. It isn't as good as seatguru but at least you can eyeball the deck plan and make sure you don't end up under the pool deck, next to the elevator, or over the nightclub if you're sensitive to noise.
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Old Aug 18, 17, 6:10 am
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Many, many thanks. I was thinking of NCL from NYC in January for 10 or 11 days. I figured it would be a nice easy vacation. I can deal with being chilly for a day or two.
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Old Aug 18, 17, 8:00 am
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NCL Breakaway has two itineraries from New York in January: A 14-Day Southern Caribbean cruise, and a 14-Day Western Caribbean cruise.

If you are considering the Southern Caribbean itinerary, without saying that you should reconsider, I would like to share with you our 2008 experience cruising from New York. We were on Holland America's ms Noordam, which also left from New York with the first port-of-call being San Juan PR, and also returned from the Leeward Islands to New York. I encourage you to draw a straight line between New York and San Juan, and between Antigua and New York. Both lines make very clear that between New York and the Leeward Islands is... The Atlantic Ocean. The open ocean is prone to rough seas at times. On the Southbound portion of our cruise, the ocean was so rough that it - the movement of the ocean and nothing else - practically emptied the Lido pool.

I don't want to be alarmist. This doesn't happen often, but it happens. Our trip back from the Leeward Islands was rough but the pool stayed filled.

Just something to keep in mind.
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Old Aug 18, 17, 8:17 am
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Thanks. If we go that route, I planned on taking Bonine daily

In any event, NCL has several cruises in Jan, including a 10 & 11 day in addition to the 14 day.
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Old Aug 19, 17, 11:26 am
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I was happy to find this thread as I posted a similar question elsewhere with no real result. I'm very surprised with all the point/miles tracking there is not even a portal to do this with that I've found.

Different note: I've done Carnival (hated it) and RCCL twice and had a good time. I was really hoping to do Seabourn this time...smaller ship, gourmet meals, few announcements in your room, bigger baseline cabins. However, hubby says looks pretentious (having the staff stand in the water to serve you caviar and champagne is a bit over the top). Wondering what your thoughts were about other lines that would be worth checking out.
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Old Aug 20, 17, 8:16 am
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Originally Posted by ButterflyVioletta View Post
Different note: I've done Carnival (hated it) and RCCL twice and had a good time. I was really hoping to do Seabourn this time...smaller ship, gourmet meals, few announcements in your room, bigger baseline cabins. However, hubby says looks pretentious (having the staff stand in the water to serve you caviar and champagne is a bit over the top). Wondering what your thoughts were about other lines that would be worth checking out.
While we've never been on Seabourn I would take the caviar and champagne being served in the water with a bit of the grain of salt. I'm not saying it hasn't or doesn't happen but photos like that are typically PR or advertising setups and not the norm. We cruise almost exclusively with Silversea which is a fairly similar product and experience to Seabourn. If you look at their ads or visit their website you see some of the same kind of thing like a line of butlers standing on the dock greeting passengers or white gloved service of coffee on your verandah. Again, not to say that doesn't or can't happen but it's mostly hype.

The thing to remember is Seabourn, Silversea, or any the other upscale cruise lines are not the same product as a mass market line like Carnival, RCCL, etc. They're all cruises but there is generally a very distinct difference in the level service, food, and ambience between the mass market and all inclusive luxury lines. I would hesitate to call the difference over the top or pretentious.
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Old Aug 20, 17, 4:05 pm
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A word about pretentious...

Any cruise line that requires people to dress for dinner and also has a "tux" level formal night, in my book, is pretentious.

Translation - if they don't want me as I am, they don't want my money either. Too bad. I keep looking at the higher end lines and I always close my browser when I see the dress requirements. And yes, I know I can eat in my cabin/suite. Why should I have to?
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Old Aug 20, 17, 6:30 pm
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Originally Posted by ButterflyVioletta View Post
I was happy to find this thread as I posted a similar question elsewhere with no real result. I'm very surprised with all the point/miles tracking there is not even a portal to do this with that I've found.
For whatever reason, the cruise section on FT has always been extremely quiet. I suppose most of the people who take cruises regularly prefer cruisecritic.com or some more niche forums focusing on one particular cruise line.

In terms of booking, the main options are:

1) booking via a large (online) travel agency such as Expedia, AAA, Costco - which may offer discounted rates or additional amenities; deals seem to be most common for the entry-level cabins (inside staterooms); and you obviously shouldn't expect much in terms of customer service or advice

2) online travel agencies which rebate part of their commission; with most cruise lines offering discounts is a severe contract violation, but some agencies still engage in this practise

3) a reputable travel agent affiliated with a major consortia (e.g. Virtuoso, Travel Leaders Group etc.) who would hopefully offer some decent advice, and in addition often can arrange additional benefits such as onboard credit, drinks packages, spa treatments etc.

The more high-end the stateroom and cruise line, the more likely a good TA will be able to arrange additional benefits.
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