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TotalF

Norwegians going to Orlando and Harmony

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Hi all,

And what a treasure trove of information this blog/community is!! I almost feel like firing our travel agent but Matt seems to lik'em so I guess we'll give her a shot.

We are going from Norway to Orlando in february 2020 to cruise on Harmony for seven days and we're practically giddy with expectations. However, I have some questions/musings that I would really appreciate if you would help me sort out.

 

1. Tipping. In Norway we rarely tip, except for at restaurants. But I get the sense that you tip everyone, and their grandmother, in the US. And I get why, with minimum wage being what it is and all. But, I would really like some useful hints at who and how much I should be tipping when we are vacationing in the US. Not just when we are on Harmony, but really society-wise.

 

2. We begin our trip with four nights at the Universal Cabana Bay Resort where we plan to spend two whole days visiting the parks. One day is reserved for visiting, preferably just one, large shopping mall/outlet in the area surrounding the hotel (the wifey and two girls aged 11 and 13 love shopping for clothes, sigh). Any suggestions for shopping malls where we can spend an entire day? And also, suggestions on how to get there and back to the hotel? Rental car? Taxi? Uber?

 

3. How do you go about asking the hotell staff for available, and free, room upgrades? Is that really a thing or just something that exists in the movies?

And now for some Harmony-related questions.

4. Shore excursions. I've tried to read up on those but it's a jungle. Are we better off going with the RCCL approved ones or should we branch out and find local ones? How does one go about doing this?

5. We are not big drinkers, the wife and I, so we're not really interested in the drinks packages. However, I guess I wouldn't mind at least one beer, or drink, once in a while. Are there any free alcoholic drinks included or are we gonna be paying for those? Any particular bar onboard that you would recommend?

6. Poker. I enjoy the occasional home poker game and recently found out that poker might be available onboard Harmony. It's not really that I want to spend the entire cruise gambling but it could be a fun divertion, some day at least. Any input on how the poker games work onboard would be helpful. I know my way around a poker game but I rarely set foot in a casino.

7. Any other tips or hints that you think could be helpful for a couple of Norwegian first time cruisers would be most appreciated!

 

And as always, beware the møøse bites. They can be really nasty.

/TotalF

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I will let others tackle your other questions, but I recently came across this pretty comprehensive chart on tipping so I thought I would share. There’s some instances that aren’t covered here, but it tackles the things most common to traveling. I’d imagine you don’t need to know customs for a haircut or a nail salon. 

The bathroom attendant one is rarely a thing anymore so don’t stress about that one. It refers to if you are in a very, very nice restaurant or hotel who would have someone who stands there and hands out towels or small toiletries. Even then, I’ve been told you only tip if you use any of the things that they hand out. I’m in my early 30s and I’ve only seen this a handful of times. I believe it used to be more common. Honestly, when in doubt do a quick google search “do you tip X” with X being the thing you are unsure about. Like “do you tip hotel check in” (no). I’ve spent my whole life here and have done that a couple of times. Our country can be very confusing when it comes to tips!! 

54d3c4736da811ec718b4568-750-1250.jpg

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15 hours ago, TotalF said:

Hi all,

And what a treasure trove of information this blog/community is!! I almost feel like firing our travel agent but Matt seems to lik'em so I guess we'll give her a shot.

We are going from Norway to Orlando in february 2020 to cruise on Harmony for seven days and we're practically giddy with expectations. However, I have some questions/musings that I would really appreciate if you would help me sort out.

 

1. Tipping. In Norway we rarely tip, except for at restaurants. But I get the sense that you tip everyone, and their grandmother, in the US. And I get why, with minimum wage being what it is and all. But, I would really like some useful hints at who and how much I should be tipping when we are vacationing in the US. Not just when we are on Harmony, but really society-wise.

 

2. We begin our trip with four nights at the Universal Cabana Bay Resort where we plan to spend two whole days visiting the parks. One day is reserved for visiting, preferably just one, large shopping mall/outlet in the area surrounding the hotel (the wifey and two girls aged 11 and 13 love shopping for clothes, sigh). Any suggestions for shopping malls where we can spend an entire day? And also, suggestions on how to get there and back to the hotel? Rental car? Taxi? Uber?

 

3. How do you go about asking the hotell staff for available, and free, room upgrades? Is that really a thing or just something that exists in the movies?

And now for some Harmony-related questions.

4. Shore excursions. I've tried to read up on those but it's a jungle. Are we better off going with the RCCL approved ones or should we branch out and find local ones? How does one go about doing this?

5. We are not big drinkers, the wife and I, so we're not really interested in the drinks packages. However, I guess I wouldn't mind at least one beer, or drink, once in a while. Are there any free alcoholic drinks included or are we gonna be paying for those? Any particular bar onboard that you would recommend?

6. Poker. I enjoy the occasional home poker game and recently found out that poker might be available onboard Harmony. It's not really that I want to spend the entire cruise gambling but it could be a fun divertion, some day at least. Any input on how the poker games work onboard would be helpful. I know my way around a poker game but I rarely set foot in a casino.

7. Any other tips or hints that you think could be helpful for a couple of Norwegian first time cruisers would be most appreciated!

 

And as always, beware the møøse bites. They can be really nasty.

/TotalF

Hello and welcome!

I cannot disagree that tipping is out of hand ( as you point out, when it’s a minimum wage worker I am happy to tip, when it’s the independent hairstylist who just charged me $250 I am far less pleased). I will answer what I can of your questions, I am sure others will pipe in as there is a lot of knowledge here. 

On excursions – we use a combination of independent and ship sponsored excursions. Often the same ones the ship offers are offered independently with a lesser price and fewer people packed in. Those who prefer the ship based ones often point out that if you are late the ship is obliged to wait on you. Trip Advisor and the various boards are the main way that we search for quality excursions. 

On the poker – in my experience, although not a poker player, the casinos on the ships are just like the casinos anywhere else (with the main differences being in minimums and payout rates).  There are people on this board who are very familiar with casinos and I’m sure they will be willing to help.    

On upgrades -  these have gone the way of airline upgrades, that is they don’t exist. At least free ones do not exist. They now give you the option to bid for upgrades and a great many people try to do that. I have no clue how successful they usually are on average.

Open shopping – remember that Orlando has a lot of traffic, so getting from one place to another may not be as easy as it would seem on a map. There’s also not going to be a great deal of discount shopping in that area since there’s a lot of money there already and visiting. If you can’t find this information from someone who is shopping in Orlando often, message me and I will ask my sister who lives in Orlando for some suggestions. Note. I do not know this particular hotel location.

Alcoholic drinks - in general there’s no free drinks. But, they are not much more expensive than you would find them anywhere else.  The caveat is it if you were sailing in a suite, a grand suite or above, there are likely free drinks at the lounge for suite’s guests (not the higher priced drinks, but beer, wine, and basic mixed drinks are free during certain hours).

 General tips - I am an overpacker and an overplanner, so I don’t know if I’m a good one to give advice! I would say in general do your best not to sweat the small stuff. There is nothing that you must see or do to have a great vacation. You can have a perfectly wonderful vacation without taking an excursion and without going to any specialty restaurants. I’m not familiar with this ship, but in my experience the shows in the evenings are typically very much worth the effort to see them. And I would also suggest taking advantage of the “formal night” - it’s a good chance to have a special evening, it is fun dressing up with everyone (or most), and even the photo opportunities on that night can be great fun (and can be quite good, those give us the photo for our holiday cards every year now!)

I’m headed to my office, and that’s all I can think of this morning, but I wish you happy sailing! And feel free to ask any questions – the people here are very friendly 🙋🏼‍♀️

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5 hours ago, TotalF said:

2. We begin our trip with four nights at the Universal Cabana Bay Resort where we plan to spend two whole days visiting the parks. One day is reserved for visiting, preferably just one, large shopping mall/outlet in the area surrounding the hotel (the wifey and two girls aged 11 and 13 love shopping for clothes, sigh). Any suggestions for shopping malls where we can spend an entire day? And also, suggestions on how to get there and back to the hotel? Rental car? Taxi? Uber?

If you are not renting a car for any other reason in Orlando, just take an Uber or Lyft to do the shopping.  If you want a mall with higher-end stores, I would suggest The Mall at Millenia.  If you click on that you can see what stores are there.  Otherwise the Orlando International Premium Outlets has a lot of variety in outlet stores.  These two are reasonably close to your hotel.  Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets  is a little further out but may have a different store selection that interests you.

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We did the drink package once; however, we did not come close to getting our monies worth.  We usually get one or two of the drink of the day which is cheaper.  I did once get the refreshment package for $18/day on the Oasis in 2017 and I did get my monies worth out of that.

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Yes, Harmony has poker.  The Oasis ships generally have 2 tables but almost never have both of them going at the same time.  Generally, 1 is for playing tournaments and the other will be for cash games which seem to happen only at night, generally after 9PM.  Whether or not they play a cash poker game depends largely on the poker crowd of the individual cruise.  I have been on cruises where we could never get a game started and I have been on cruises when there was a huge waiting list every night to get onto the table.  It just "depends".

Most Royal cash poker games have gone to a $2/$5 game so be prepared for some rather large pots, especially if you get bullies in the game. The house takes a 10% rake of all called pots up to a $15 max per hand.  The rake can be brutal.

They also run the "Royal Poker Tournament" satellite games on every cruise.  The winner of this satellite tournament is invited (free stateroom and entry) into the Royal Poker Tournament Finals which is held annually in early December on one of the big ships (not sure which one it's on this year).  Buy-in for the satellite tournaments is usually $100 but I have seen the buy-in go down to $75 on some ships.  If they do not get enough participants (meaning, if the buy-in purse is not big  enough to cover their costs) they will give away a cash prize versus the free room and final tournament entry AFTER taking their "rake" out of the buy-in purse.  Dan won one of the satellites a number of years ago and we went to 1 of the finals....but rarely even enter the tournaments these days.  We do play in the cash games though.

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Welcome and good luck planning, since you have almost a year you should be well prepared.  Here are a couple of quick notes on some of your items.  

One of the PP mentioned the Restroom attendant and it is very rare but if you are traveling through the Charlotte airport you will encounter them as they are common there.  

The Universal resort is pretty convenient to shopping.  For regular retail stores the Florida Mall is not too far but a better choice would be Mall of Millenia.  Millenia has a few better dining choices.  There are two outlet malls very close to the resort Orlando Premimum and Orlando Prime.  To us the Premimum is a little nicer but the Prime mall is closer to the Universal property.  Transport to either should be pretty easy via taxi or Uber/Lyft but traffic can be heavy even though it is not far.  If the family plans on shopping make sure to account for room in the luggage or getting an extra suitcase to fill if needed.

 

ETA - saw the earlier post and the outlet names are correct there, sorry I am not the “shopper” in the family so i’m a little behind on the name changes.  

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2 hours ago, spiralqueen said:

I will let others tackle your other questions, but I recently came across this pretty comprehensive chart on tipping so I thought I would share. There’s some instances that aren’t covered here, but it tackles the things most common to traveling. I’d imagine you don’t need to know customs for a haircut or a nail salon. 

The bathroom attendant one is rarely a thing anymore so don’t stress about that one. It refers to if you are in a very, very nice restaurant or hotel who would have someone who stands there and hands out towels or small toiletries. Even then, I’ve been told you only tip if you use any of the things that they hand out. I’m in my early 30s and I’ve only seen this a handful of times. I believe it used to be more common. Honestly, when in doubt do a quick google search “do you tip X” with X being the thing you are unsure about. Like “do you tip hotel check in” (no). I’ve spent my whole life here and have done that a couple of times. Our country can be very confusing when it comes to tips!! 

54d3c4736da811ec718b4568-750-1250.jpg

Thank you for that one! I am building a travel guide for myself and the family and a laminated copy of this has surely earned its place somewhere in there 😀

1 hour ago, 2Beeze said:

Hello and welcome!

I cannot disagree that tipping is out of hand ( as you point out, when it’s a minimum wage worke I am happy to tip, when it’s the independent hairstylist who just charged me $250 I am far less pleased). I will answer what I can of your questions, I am sure others will pipe in as there is a lot of knowledge here. 

On excursions – we use a combination of independent and ship sponsored excursions. Often the same ones the ship offers are offered independently with a lesser price and fewer people packed in. Those who prefer the ship based ones often point out that if you are late the ship is obliged to wait on you. Trip Advisor and the various boards are the main way that we search for quality excursions. 

On the poker – in my experience, although not a poker player, the casinos on the ships are just like the casinos anywhere else (with the main differences being in minimums and payout rates).  There are people on this board who are very familiar with casinos and I’m sure they will be willing to help.    

On upgrades -  these have gone the way of airline upgrades, that is they don’t exist. At least free ones do not exist. They now give you the option to bid for upgrades and a great many people try to do that. I have no clue how successful they usually are on average.

Open shopping – remember that Orlando has a lot of traffic, so getting from one place to another may not be as easy as it would seem on a map. There’s also not going to be a great deal of discount shopping in that area since there’s a lot of money there already and visiting. If you can’t find this information from someone who is shopping in Orlando often, message me and I will ask my sister who lives in Orlando for some suggestions.

Alcoholic drinks - in general there’s no free drinks. But, they are not much more expensive than you would find them anywhere else.  The caveat is it if you were sailing in a suite, a grand suite or above, there are likely free drinks at the lounge for suite’s guests (not the higher priced drinks, but beer, wine, and basic mixed drinks are free during certain hours).

 General tips - I am an overpacker and an overplanner, so I don’t know if I’m a good one to give advice! I would say in general do your best not to sweat the small stuff. There is nothing that you must see or do to have a great vacation. You can have a perfectly wonderful vacation without taking an excursion and without going to any specialty restaurants. I’m not familiar with this ship, but in my experience the shows in the evenings are typically very much worth the effort to see them. And I would also suggest taking advantage of the “formal night” - it’s a good chance to have a special evening, it is fun dressing up with everyone (or most), and even the photo opportunities on that night can be great fun (and can be quite good, those give us the photo for our holiday cards every year now!)

I’m headed to my office, and that’s all I can think of this morning, but I wish you happy sailing! And feel free to ask any questions – the people here are very friendly 🙋🏼‍♀️

I mean... I'm not really sure where to start. A great, big thank you for that post!!

When it comes to shopping. We live in a small, rural community with roughly 20k people in our general vicinity. There really aren't a lot of shopping opportunities around here, to put it mildly. We had our best shopping experience when we visited New York a couple of years ago and took a trip to the Woodbury Common Outlet and spent a day rummaging around the stores there. We are basically looking to ape that experience, if available. If you wouldn't mind asking your sister for advice I sure would appreciate it 😃 

And on a side note, if people are as friendly on the Harmony as on this board, I guess we're in for a great time 😎

1 hour ago, AshleyDillo said:

If you are not renting a car for any other reason in Orlando, just take an Uber or Lyft to do the shopping.  If you want a mall with higher-end stores, I would suggest The Mall at Millenia.  If you click on that you can see what stores are there.  Otherwise the Orlando International Premium Outlets has a lot of variety in outlet stores.  These two are reasonably close to your hotel.  Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets  is a little further out but may have a different store selection that interests you.

Wow, thanks for that advice! I googled for those outlets and parking seems to be a hassle, am I right? We are visiting in the middle of february. Could that make a difference or is tha parking an issue all year round?

1 hour ago, whitsmom said:

We did the drink package once; however, we did not come close to getting our monies worth.  We usually get one or two of the drink of the day which is cheaper.  I did once get the refreshment package for $18/day on the Oasis in 2017 and I did get my monies worth out of that.

Well, the refreshment package, you say?!? That looks like something I should look into! Thanks a lot!

45 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Yes, Harmony has poker.  The Oasis ships generally have 2 tables but almost never have both of them going at the same time.  Generally, 1 is for playing tournaments and the other will be for cash games which seem to happen only at night, generally after 9PM.  Whether or not they play a cash poker game depends largely on the poker crowd of the individual cruise.  I have been on cruises where we could never get a game started and I have been on cruises when there was a huge waiting list every night to get onto the table.  It just "depends".

Most Royal cash poker games have gone to a $2/$5 game so be prepared for some rather large pots, especially if you get bullies in the game. The house takes a 10% rake of all called pots up to a $15 max per hand.  The rake can be brutal.

They also run the "Royal Poker Tournament" satellite games on every cruise.  The winner of this satellite tournament is invited (free stateroom and entry) into the Royal Poker Tournament Finals which is held annually in early December on one of the big ships (not sure which one it's on this year).  Buy-in for the satellite tournaments is usually $100 but I have seen the buy-in go down to $75 on some ships.  If they do not get enough participants (meaning, if the buy-in purse is not big  enough to cover their costs) they will give away a cash prize versus the free room and final tournament entry AFTER taking their "rake" out of the buy-in purse.  Dan won one of the satellites a number of years ago and we went to 1 of the finals....but rarely even enter the tournaments these days.  We do play in the cash games though.

Wow, great info there! I guess I'm mainly interested in cash games but I'm usually up for whatever is available. Good to know that the option to have som fun, pokerwise, is there 😃 I guess the stakes are larger than what I'm usually playing but when in Rome...

39 minutes ago, ScooterScott22 said:

Welcome and good luck planning, since you have almost a year you should be well prepared.  Here are a couple of quick notes on some of your items.  

One of the PP mentioned the Restroom attendant and it is very rare but if you are traveling through the Charlotte airport you will encounter them as they are common there.  

The Universal resort is pretty convenient to shopping.  For regular retail stores the Florida Mall is not too far but a better choice would be Mall of Millenia.  Millenia has a few better dining choices.  There are two outlet malls very close to the resort Orlando Premimum and Orlando Prime.  To us the Premimum is a little nicer but the Prime mall is closer to the Universal property.  Transport to either should be pretty easy via taxi or Uber/Lyft but traffic can be heavy even though it is not far.  If the family plans on shopping make sure to account for room in the luggage or getting an extra suitcase to fill if needed.

 

ETA - saw the earlier post and the outlet names are correct there, sorry I am not the “shopper” in the family so i’m a little behind on the name changes.  

Thanks a lot for the information! I mean, it looks like our travel agent has booked a car for us for 4 days. Since we are gonna be spending two days in the Universal Parks I do not really see the need for a rental for the entire stay. I mean, taxis should get us to the malls/outlets without major hassle, right? And on the plus side we don't have to worry about parking etc.

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54 minutes ago, TotalF said:

Wow, thanks for that advice! I googled for those outlets and parking seems to be a hassle, am I right? We are visiting in the middle of february. Could that make a difference or is tha parking an issue all year round?

I think more in terms of $$ than hassle.  Parking at the outlets and the mall is free, but it's not worth renting a car just for the sake of going shopping.  I believe you also have to pay for parking the vehicle at Cabana Bay.  It doesn't make sense to pay for a car rental and parking for days that you wouldn't be using the car at all.  But if you have the car rental anyways, for convenience just drive yourself to shopping.  Parking really is not the hassle..dealing with congested tourist areas with a lot of people that aren't sure where they are going is much more of a hassle.

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1 hour ago, TotalF said:

 

When it comes to shopping. We live in a small, rural community with roughly 20k people in our general vicinity. There really aren't a lot of shopping opportunities around here, to put it mildly. We had our best shopping experience when we visited New York a couple of years ago and took a trip to the Woodbury Common Outlet and spent a day rummaging around the stores there. We are basically looking to ape that experience, if available. If you wouldn't mind asking your sister for advice I sure would appreciate it 😃 

Thanks a lot for the information! I mean, it looks like our travel agent has booked a car for us for 4 days. Since we are gonna be spending two days in the Universal Parks I do not really see the need for a rental for the entire stay. I mean, taxis should get us to the malls/outlets without major hassle, right? And on the plus side we don't have to worry about parking etc.

We personally would love to hear where you are from, we had cruise stops in Oslo, Kristiansand and Stavanger and loved all of them and would like to explore more of Norway in the future.  There’s just not enough time.

If you are doing the parks for a couple days and shopping for one day, the car may not be as useful as perceived.  For one the Parking at the outlet malls can be difficult depending on the day and time.  At the resort you will have parking fees but note if you are taking the most direct route to the resort from the airport there will be tolls.  It is not a lot of money but if you do not get a toll pass (possibly another extra charge) as part of the rental, traffic can backup at the tool booths.  

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  To start with I would like to comment on Norway.  Several years go we had a stop in Oslo on a Baltic Sea cruise.  We were amazed at the beauty of your country and the wonderful friendly people we interacted with in Oslo.  If given another chance I would go back there in a heart beat.

It seems like the tipping question was answered well with the tipping chart

One thing to add about shopping is to check with the front desk at your hotel.  It would also help to ask other personnel at the hotel about shopping.  The locals would probably know better than anyone.

For your shore excursions I would stick to RC tours.  Like someone else mentioned,  if your RC tour is late coming back for some reason the ship will wait for you.  I don't think you would want the stress of not getting back on time with a private tour.  Most of the people on here that use private tours are long time cruisers and know which ones to pick and have been to most of the islands in the Caribbean 

If you are not big drinkers I wouldn't worry about getting the alcohol package.  It shouldn't be anymore expensive than buying drinks on any big vacation

I played poker in the military, college, and with guys I used to work with.  We played the usual 7 card stud,  draw poker, etc.   Now it seems that the only poker being played in the casinos is Texas Holdem.  The only  table game I play on the cruises is blackjack.  If you want to play the Texas holdem I would get a "how to" book or research it on the internet before jumping into one of the games

Relax and have a good time!  Remember your on vacation.  Don't try to do too much!

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Orlando local here. Yes parking at the Outlet stores is terrible unless you are willing to pay the upcharge for reserved or valet. Grab an Uber from your hotel. It will be less expensive than parking. 

Parking at the Millennia mall or Florida Mall is easy and plentiful. 

If you keep your rental car you can also drive to Disney Springs. It's basically an outdoor upscale mall now too. 

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2 hours ago, AshleyDillo said:

I think more in terms of $$ than hassle.  Parking at the outlets and the mall is free, but it's not worth renting a car just for the sake of going shopping.  I believe you also have to pay for parking the vehicle at Cabana Bay.  It doesn't make sense to pay for a car rental and parking for days that you wouldn't be using the car at all.  But if you have the car rental anyways, for convenience just drive yourself to shopping.  Parking really is not the hassle..dealing with congested tourist areas with a lot of people that aren't sure where they are going is much more of a hassle.

You make some valid points, for sure! I feel more and more confident that skipping the rental for the first few days is the right decision!

2 hours ago, ScooterScott22 said:

We personally would love to hear where you are from, we had cruise stops in Oslo, Kristiansand and Stavanger and loved all of them and would like to explore more of Norway in the future.  There’s just not enough time.

If you are doing the parks for a couple days and shopping for one day, the car may not be as useful as perceived.  For one the Parking at the outlet malls can be difficult depending on the day and time.  At the resort you will have parking fees but note if you are taking the most direct route to the resort from the airport there will be tolls.  It is not a lot of money but if you do not get a toll pass (possibly another extra charge) as part of the rental, traffic can backup at the tool booths.  

Oslo is a beautiful place to visit, no doubt about that! And nice to hear that you enjoyed your stay in our country 😃 We live a couple of hours drive north from Oslo, near a small town called Røros - most known for it's inclusion in the World Cultural Heritage Foundation - it's an old copper town with lot's of history, old buildings and a beutiful church. And if you love you som swedish children literature in the form of Astrid Lindgren - most of the outdoor scenes from the Pippi Longstockings movies were filmed in Røros in the 70s 😁

Norway is a beutiful country to explore, but it can get expensive...

2 hours ago, MikeK said:

  To start with I would like to comment on Norway.  Several years go we had a stop in Oslo on a Baltic Sea cruise.  We were amazed at the beauty of your country and the wonderful friendly people we interacted with in Oslo.  If given another chance I would go back there in a heart beat.

It seems like the tipping question was answered well with the tipping chart

One thing to add about shopping is to check with the front desk at your hotel.  It would also help to ask other personnel at the hotel about shopping.  The locals would probably know better than anyone.

For your shore excursions I would stick to RC tours.  Like someone else mentioned,  if your RC tour is late coming back for some reason the ship will wait for you.  I don't think you would want the stress of not getting back on time with a private tour.  Most of the people on here that use private tours are long time cruisers and know which ones to pick and have been to most of the islands in the Caribbean 

If you are not big drinkers I wouldn't worry about getting the alcohol package.  It shouldn't be anymore expensive than buying drinks on any big vacation

I played poker in the military, college, and with guys I used to work with.  We played the usual 7 card stud,  draw poker, etc.   Now it seems that the only poker being played in the casinos is Texas Holdem.  The only  table game I play on the cruises is blackjack.  If you want to play the Texas holdem I would get a "how to" book or research it on the internet before jumping into one of the games

Relax and have a good time!  Remember your on vacation.  Don't try to do too much!

I actually wrote the hotel today and asked about shopping and transportation 😃 And as we are inexperienced RC'ers I guess we ought to stick with the "official" tours. From what I've read so far that will do plenty for us. Thanks a lot for the other tips!

33 minutes ago, OrlandoC said:

Orlando local here. Yes parking at the Outlet stores is terrible unless you are willing to pay the upcharge for reserved or valet. Grab an Uber from your hotel. It will be less expensive than parking. 

Parking at the Millennia mall or Florida Mall is easy and plentiful. 

If you keep your rental car you can also drive to Disney Springs. It's basically an outdoor upscale mall now too. 

All the advice point to the same conclusion, skip the rental! And I guess we've now narrowed it down to either Millenia or the Orlando Premium.

 

I gotta say, I'm a bit overwhelmed of all the friendly advice. Thanks a lot guys and gals 😃

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7 hours ago, TotalF said:

You make some valid points, for sure! I feel more and more confident that skipping the rental for the first few days is the right decision!

Oslo is a beautiful place to visit, no doubt about that! And nice to hear that you enjoyed your stay in our country 😃 We live a couple of hours drive north from Oslo, near a small town called Røros - most known for it's inclusion in the World Cultural Heritage Foundation - it's an old copper town with lot's of history, old buildings and a beutiful church. And if you love you som swedish children literature in the form of Astrid Lindgren - most of the outdoor scenes from the Pippi Longstockings movies were filmed in Røros in the 70s 😁

Norway is a beutiful country to explore, but it can get expensive...

I actually wrote the hotel today and asked about shopping and transportation 😃 And as we are inexperienced RC'ers I guess we ought to stick with the "official" tours. From what I've read so far that will do plenty for us. Thanks a lot for the other tips!

All the advice point to the same conclusion, skip the rental! And I guess we've now narrowed it down to either Millenia or the Orlando Premium.

 

I gotta say, I'm a bit overwhelmed of all the friendly advice. Thanks a lot guys and gals 😃

Just my opinion, but Millennia mall (my sister recommended  this when I just called her) is likely to be more interesting.  Most of the outlet mall stores are not selling the same items that are sold at the same named non-outlet stores, but are instead creating lower quality items just for the outlets (unless you luck across something like a Macy’s or Dillards outlet and those are never at the outlet malls). The Chicos, Talbots, Coach, and many of the other outlets stores at the “outlet malls” are selling completely different items and most are of a lower quality. Not to say that you can’t find something you like, it just is not likely to be as good a bargain as it might seem.  The bargains of factory stores are for the most part a thing of the past (since so much manufacturing left the US in the 80’s). 

 I very much hope that you have a wonderful trip! Safe travels 😊

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Consider this blog post when avoiding the drink package:

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2018/03/06/6-alternatives-royal-caribbean-drink-package

For hotel upgrades they usually go to the elite in the reward or loyalty system.  However with a smile on your face it never hurts to ask.  The worst they can say is "no".

For Harmony itself, well that just happens to be @Matt's favorite ship!

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/harmony-of-the-seas

 

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Remember that when you buy a cruise via the Scandinavian website gratuities are already included (you have paid 18 %). Do therefore not feel obligated to tip any further when onboard

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  On your shopping ventures you might look into what the particular store would charge for shipping your clothes back to Norway.  It could be cheaper to ship than the extra weight you would pay the airline

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On 3/21/2019 at 11:43 PM, 2Beeze said:

Just my opinion, but Millennia mall (my sister recommended  this when I just called her) is likely to be more interesting.  Most of the outlet mall stores are not selling the same items that are sold at the same named non-outlet stores, but are instead creating lower quality items just for the outlets (unless you luck across something like a Macy’s or Dillards outlet and those are never at the outlet malls). The Chicos, Talbots, Coach, and many of the other outlets stores at the “outlet malls” are selling completely different items and most are of a lower quality. Not to say that you can’t find something you like, it just is not likely to be as good a bargain as it might seem.  The bargains of factory stores are for the most part a thing of the past (since so much manufacturing left the US in the 80’s). 

 I very much hope that you have a wonderful trip! Safe travels 😊

Thank you very much! It's equally about the experience as much as the shopping itself so I'm sure Millenia will do just fine (I've looked it up online). The thing is, here in Norway, clothes are expensive. A good pair of Levis can run you between $100-200 and if I remember correctly from our last trip to NY - clothes where much cheaper than that. 

On 3/22/2019 at 12:12 AM, twangster said:

Consider this blog post when avoiding the drink package:

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2018/03/06/6-alternatives-royal-caribbean-drink-package

For hotel upgrades they usually go to the elite in the reward or loyalty system.  However with a smile on your face it never hurts to ask.  The worst they can say is "no".

For Harmony itself, well that just happens to be @Matt's favorite ship!

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/harmony-of-the-seas

 

Thank you for that! Great read 😃

On 3/22/2019 at 9:15 AM, boomle said:

Remember that when you buy a cruise via the Scandinavian website gratuities are already included (you have paid 18 %). Do therefore not feel obligated to tip any further when onboard

Really? Gotta remember to ask our travel agent about this. We actually put down the deposit yesterday, so... yay!!

On 3/22/2019 at 2:02 PM, MikeK said:

  On your shopping ventures you might look into what the particular store would charge for shipping your clothes back to Norway.  It could be cheaper to ship than the extra weight you would pay the airline

Wow, never heard of that?!? That's good to know, for sure 😃

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On 3/21/2019 at 3:19 AM, TotalF said:

Any suggestions for shopping malls where we can spend an entire day? And also, suggestions on how to get there and back to the hotel? Rental car? Taxi? Uber?

The Orlando Premium Outlets is where a lot of folks from overseas like to shop: https://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/orlando-vineland

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