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Random thoughts/rants of a first-time cruiser (long)


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I just returned with my family from a 5 night Western Caribbean cruise on Navigator of the Seas. It was our first cruise, and our trip was part amazing and part nightmare. I spent a lot of time on this site (and others, but this site was a truly valuable resource) trying to become as informed as possible, but some things just can't be learned until you experience them yourself. I'll share some of my thoughts/experiences here.

  1. When people say to fly in at least a day before because things happen, believe them! We booked our flight 2 nights before our cruise was to leave. I spent weeks watching flight prices to try to get the lowest price. I compared leaving out of Newark or Philadelphia, and flying into Miami or Fort Lauderdale. I finally purchased tickets for the 6 of us out of Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale. I booked long-term parking, a shuttle through SAS Transportation from Fort Lauderdale to our hotel in Miami. Everything was set, and we were to spend the day before our trip exploring Miami. On the way to the airport, I received a text alert that our plane was delayed from 6:20 pm to 7:00 pm. No big deal. As times approached, we proceeded to get 8 separate text alerts with further delays. The plane finally arrived around 10pm, and we were able to board around 11. We left the gate, started heading toward the runway, and received a message from the captain that all flights to South Florida were grounded because of storms, and that we'd be heading back to the gate. We were then told that we'd be getting off the plane and to await further instructions. About a minute later, we got a message for everyone to sit down, that they were looking for another set of captains to take over the flight, and that it would be at least another 15 minutes. When everyone was acting confused, it was explained that the current crew had 'timed out', and that by law they couldn't fly us because they were already on duty for all the hours of the delay. In the meantime, I received a text saying our flight was cancelled. I feel like we were being lied to, because the story changed many times. We all got off the plane and were told to go to a ticket booth to find out our options, and then to get our baggage back. Our options included: 13 flight choices, the earliest of which would have gotten us to Fort Lauderdale at 11 am on Sunday, when we were supposed to be on the ship in Miami at noon, or to wait on standby. There were no flights available out of Philadelphia on Saturday. We were told that the odds of 6 of us getting a plane on standby was extremely small, because all the flights were completely full. We started looking for other flights from other nearby airports, and all along the east coast that we could drive to. We found flights out of Atlanta that would have cost $655 per person, and would have required us to drive 2/3 of the way. We decided our only option was to drive from Philadelphia to Miami. Now, we are no strangers to driving. We've done the drive from New Jersey to Disney many times. But we always prepared for the long drive. My wife works nights as a nurse, and always works the nights before we leave so she can sleep all day and take the night shift driving. It works out well for us. This time, she worked the night before but only took a 3 hour nap before having to go to the airport and spend 7 hours there. And we had no blankets, pillows, DVDs for the kids in the car that we would have had if we had been expecting to drive. Nonetheless, we left Philadelphia at 1am and arrived at our hotel at about 7:30 pm on Saturday. We got to eat dinner in the outdoor marketplace then crash in our rooms. Now, I have to figure out how to get our money back for the flights, and if we can get our timeshare points back for the night in the hotel we didn't use, and if SAS will return our money for the shuttle ride we didn't take. The parking lot didn't charge us. But we are still out the luggage checking fees ($30 X 2 bags), the tip we gave the porter, the tip we gave the parking lot shuttle driver to and from Philadelphia airport...I don't know how airlines can run a business that way. How they can leave people stranded without any options. They should work to get a suitable replacement flight, or buy you tickets on another airline, or guarantee tickets for another flight at the same price. I will never use American Airlines again after feeling lied to so many times. Ironically, if we had booked only one day in advance from the start, we would have been fine, as the weather was fine that day. But if we had only booked one day in advance and the flight was cancelled, we wouldn't have had the option to drive, and we would have missed the cruise. 
  2. My Time Dining. The first thing we got hit with when boarding the ship (after going through security) was the My Time Dining people. They wanted to book us for the same time every night. I had gone with the MTD because we like to have flexibility and didn't want to be locked in to the same time every night. Because of our group size (6), they told us that we should book the same time every night or we might not get a table, and that the only times available for a table of 6 were 5:30 or 8:15, almost identical to the non-MTD times. We took the 8:15. We ended up canceling 3 of the 5 nights and going to the Windjammer instead because the kids didn't really like anything on the menu in the Main Dining Room. Maybe the My Time Dining would work out well for a smaller group, or for people who don't like the 5:30 or 8:00 options, but it really didn't work out for us.
  3. Food. Overall, the quality of the food available ranged from ok to excellent. We could always find something we wanted in the Windjammer, and the Promenade Cafe was a nice option for snacks/pizza. El Loco Fresh was also good, as was the soft-serve ice cream. We were always stuffed, and I don't think I want to eat for the next week and a half. 
  4. Layout of the ship. I had done my research and thought I was prepared for the size of the ship, as well as knowing where things were, but it still took some time to find our way around. For example, made the mistake a few times of going to our floor (2nd floor) in the front half of the ship, not realizing that you can't get to the rear of the ship from the front, and have to go to the back elevators to get to the rear of the 2nd floor. Also, we learned that if we wanted to get to the Royal Theater on the 4th floor, it was best to get off the elevator on the 5th floor and walk to the stairs, or else we'd have to walk through the smoky casino (YUCK!). There are parts of the ship that we never did make it to, such as the Helipad, the shuffleboard, the arcade.
  5. Entertainment options. We found the entertainment options to be very good. We went to see the ice skating show, a couple of comedians, 2 singing/dancing productions. Our family also really enjoyed the trivia/name that tune games that they held, and we won the 80s name that tune game show. The keychains weren't exactly 'life-changing' as the host of the game show said, but they were a nice souvenir. 
  6. Scheduling. This was by far the hardest part for us. Not only agreeing on things all 6 of us wanted to do, but also making sure all 6 of us were showered and ready, and that we scheduled things around our meals. We often found ourselves rushing from one thing to the next, or missing the first few minutes of something. Not the ship's fault, it was totally our fault. 
  7. Outdoor activities. The deciding factor for this ship for us was the water slides. And ironically, all of us went on one of the slides exactly once, and only 2 of us went on the other slide at all. The pool area was nice, but often crowded. We only used the pools one day, as it just didn't seem worth the hassle of dealing with wet bathing suits and not having a place to dry them. 
  8. Staff. The staff was pretty much amazing overall. Our room attendant, the wait staff, everyone was very attentive. Our cruise director, Hugo, was unbelievable. He was everywhere, and his energy level was always at an 11. The only problems we encountered was a language barrier at times, as it seemed there was no one who didn't have an accent and they didn't always understand us (or us them). 
  9. Nassau. When looking for suggestions online for things to do in Nassau, I came across many people recommending to 'stay on the ship'. I couldn't understand that, our kids had never been to the Bahamas and we wanted them to experience it. We didn't book any excursions, because we couldn't all agree on any. I wasn't spending close to $1,000 for Atlantis when some of the people aren't really into waterslides, or for a dolphin experience when some of the people think it is cruelty to animals. So we decided to spend our money in Labadee, and just wing it in Nassau. We ended up taking a taxi for $4 per person to Cabbage Beach, then spending $40 on 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella. Then we had to put up with people trying to sell us coconut drinks, or hair braiding, or parasailing, or banana boats, or wooden flutes, or wooden turtles every 30 seconds. The beach looked beautiful, but the water was extremely rough. I was the only one who went out into it. I wasn't planning to go above my waist, as I'm not a swimmer, but a big wave came and toppled me over. I honestly believed I was going to die, and I lost my glasses into the Caribbean forever. One hour and $100 later, and we were back on the ship. This was the day that we ended up doing the pool and the waterslides. I would definitely recommend booking one of the excursions if you plan on getting off the ship in Nassau.
  10. Labadee. Labadee was beautiful. We spent the extra money that we didn't spend in Nassau to get an over-the-water cabana in Nellie's Beach and to do the Dragon's Breath zip-lining. 
    • Cabana - not cheap at all, but I am glad we did it. My wife wasn't too happy with the location of ours as it was close to the beach, but we didn't get off the ship early enough to get our pick. I actually preferred the location, as the stairs didn't let out into deep water as some of the others. Having an attendant to get us drinks was nice. She was nice, but made sure to make it clear right away that she didn't work for Royal Caribbean, and worked for tips. Having shade when we wanted it was nice, as many of us were burnt from the day at Nassau/in the pool. We also had a golf cart driver who would take us where we needed to go (zip-lining, lunch, etc).
    • Dragon's Breath zip-line - it was a fun, exhilarating experience. Also, not cheap. Just know that if you are planning to do it, it will eat up about 90 minutes of your day for 50-60 seconds of zip-lining. 90 minutes because you have to fill out waivers, get fitted for your straps, wait for other people in the group to show up, go to a smaller practice zip-line to learn how to do it, take a truck up to the top, then finally get to do it. It was still worth it to me, and everyone in our family loved it.
    • Food - the food was decent, barbecue style food. It was nice that it was included, and that our drink package worked here.
    • Artisan's market/village - by no means should you go here. They swarm like vultures on an animal carcass. Ruined the end of an otherwise perfectly nice day.
  11. Drink package. Our group got 5 refreshment packages, and my wife got the Deluxe Beverage package, as I don't drink at all. We were booked into separate rooms because we were the only ones over 21, so we had to split us up on the reservation to book 2 rooms, so it wasn't an issue just getting her the deluxe package. Honestly, I'm not sure if we drank enough to make it worth the cost. But personally, I liked having the peace of mind knowing it was paid for already, and not having to worry about how much money was being added to our tab throughout the cruise. Nevermind that soda costs pennies a serving, and charging $600 for 5 people to be able to drink soda for 5 days seems outrageous, that is an argument for another day. Also, having access to the Coke Freestyle machines was nice, but there are only 2 locations on the whole ship, and only 1 at times when the Windjammer is closed. You either have to carry your cup around all the time, or risk not having it and having to go back to your room to get it if you decide you want soda. The cups we got were the old variety. On day 5, they brought out the new style cups with the handles and straws, that you could buy for $8.95 to use for the rest of the trip.
  12. Gratuities. Even though we prepaid gratuities, and the drink package also had 18% added, we always felt the need to be pulling out cash for people. The whole trip, in fact. Baggage handlers, shuttle drivers, cabana attendant, golf cart driver, waiters in the main dining room. And it hardly seemed fair that many of the people, like the people serving food in the Windjammer, weren't getting tips even though they were working just as hard. We tipped our room attendant on the first day as a sign that we'd take care of him, and it was nice that we were able to charge additional gratuity to the room by going to guest services and filling out a paper.
  13. Misconceptions. I had several misconceptions going in from reading these message boards, that I was surprised about when on the cruise. First, I thought there would be 24 hour self-service soft-serve ice cream available. Not only was it not available 24 hours, but it also wasn't self-service. I'm assuming that the standard 'only available on Oasis or Quantum class ships' answer applies here. Second, I thought there was a pizza restaurant called Sorrento's on board. I had read how people thought it was awful. I looked around for a Sorrento's and never found one, the only pizza available was at the Promenade cafe, and it wasn't bad. Third, I thought that cabin-door decorating was a 'thing'. I only saw one door decorated on the entire cruise, and that was only on the last night for someone's birthday. 
  14. Length of cruise. For us, I think the 5 night cruise was just right. We chose this length because of work and school schedules, but I honestly believe any longer would have been completely exhausting for us. I can't imagine keeping up that pace for 9 or 10 nights, not to mention the amount of food,. The 3 night cruise that includes Coco Cay sounds nice, but I'm not sure it would be worth the drive down there (or risk trying to fly again).

That's all I can think of at the moment. I'll add more below if anything else comes to me. Overall, it was a fun experience, even though we had to drive, and lost out on a free day in Miami before the cruise and a free day in Fort Lauderdale after the cruise because we had to drive instead of flying. Now I'm going to go collapse from the drive home and the mountain of laundry.

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Hi!  I can't quite tell if you liked the cruise or not!  I hope if you cruise again you will be prepared in your expectations.  I did want to suggest that next time you go on the cruise planner and book your my time dining ahead of time.  I've never had a group of 6, but I would still think you can book ahead.  I think the ice cream depends on the ship... It has frequently been self serve on our ships we've been on, but never 24 hrs.  

   Anyway, I'm so sorry about your flight... That just sucks.  I'm very surprised that American couldn't get you on another flight.  Did you have travel insurance?  Not sure it would have helped...  If the flight thing stresses you out, you can buy your flights through royal and they guarantee they will get you there.  Hope you get all your money back!  Jane

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7 hours ago, mom2mybugs said:

Hi!  I can't quite tell if you liked the cruise or not!  I hope if you cruise again you will be prepared in your expectations.  I did want to suggest that next time you go on the cruise planner and book your my time dining ahead of time.  I've never had a group of 6, but I would still think you can book ahead.  I think the ice cream depends on the ship... It has frequently been self serve on our ships we've been on, but never 24 hrs. 

   Anyway, I'm so sorry about your flight... That just sucks.  I'm very surprised that American couldn't get you on another flight.  Did you have travel insurance?  Not sure it would have helped...  If the flight thing stresses you out, you can buy your flights through royal and they guarantee they will get you there.  Hope you get all your money back!  Jane

Overall, we loved the cruise. I would definitely do it again, but not 100% sure my wife feels the same way. The kids loved it. There were parts that weren't great (Nassau, the market in Labadee), but it was a nice getaway. I just wanted to share our experiences with other first-time cruisers. The flight thing definitely put a damper on everything, and made us miss out on 2 relaxing days in Florida.

As for the My Time Dining, booking ahead would still have defeated the purpose for us. We like having flexibility, and don't like to be locked in to a time. Otherwise, we would have just picked one of the two standard times. Without having access to the daily schedules ahead of time to see what activities we would be interested in, it would have been impossible to select a set time for every night. It was just a misunderstanding on my part on what the My Time Dining was all about. No big deal. The two meals we had in the main dining room were very good, but the flexibility and food options of the Windjammer just worked out better for us. 

As for the flight, we booked it through our timeshare company. We paid a majority of it with our timeshare points (using all of our points for the year), plus about $1,000 cash. I did purchase the insurance at the end of the transaction. I'm not sure if we would be able to reclaim our points, but I suspect that answer is no. I won't find out until I'm able to call them tomorrow (not even sure who I need to call - timeshare company, insurance company, airline?). I suspect I'll be on the phone a good part of the day tomorrow dealing with this. 

 

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NCL does MTD really well; they basically only offer MTD.  If it's something that your family would strongly prefer, then that might be a better cruise line fit for you.  My family really prefers Tradtional dining, which is one of the reasons I've been avoiding NCL for family cruises.  On the other hand, at least Royal tries to offer MTD.  If you had picked a Disney cruise, it wouldn't even be an option.

How old are your kids?  One of the things I like about cruise vacations is that not everyone has to do the same thing all the time.  This might be something that resolves itself when your kids get older and don't need to be with you all the time, or if you can bring other family members.  For my upcoming cruise on Symphony of the Seas, at one point my wife, son, and I will do the escape room, while my mother and daughter do a cupcake decorating class (my daughter is too young for the escape room, unfortunately).

I always skip the drink packages.  We just drink less soda, and buy a few drinks a la cart when needed.  My son is on a flavored seltzer kick at the moment, so bringing on six cans of selzter for him to drink in the room helped limit complaints.

They recently improved the pizza.  It's still not amazing, but it's much better then it was.

Other cruise lines have 24h soft serve ice cream, but not Royal.  My kids do complain about this flaw. 🙂

Cabin door decorations is more of a Disney cruise line thing.

 

For your next cruise you will all be experts, and the best way to cure the post cruise blues is to book a new one.  What ship is next? 🙂

 

 

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6 minutes ago, karl_nj said:

 

NCL does MTD really well; they basically only offer MTD.  If it's something that your family would strongly prefer, then that might be a better cruise line fit for you.  My family really prefers Tradtional dining, which is one of the reasons I've been avoiding NCL for family cruises.  On the other hand, at least Royal tries to offer MTD.  If you had picked a Disney cruise, it wouldn't even be an option.

How old are your kids?  One of the things I like about cruise vacations is that not everyone has to do the same thing all the time.  This might be something that resolves itself when your kids get older and don't need to be with you all the time, or if you can bring other family members.  For my upcoming cruise on Symphony of the Seas, at one point my wife, son, and I will do the escape room, while my mother and daughter do a cupcake decorating class (my daughter is too young for the escape room, unfortunately).

I always skip the drink packages.  We just drink less soda, and buy a few drinks a la cart when needed.  My son is on a flavored seltzer kick at the moment, so bringing on six cans of selzter for him to drink in the room helped limit complaints.

They recently improved the pizza.  It's still not amazing, but it's much better then it was.

Other cruise lines have 24h soft serve ice cream, but not Royal.  My kids do complain about this flaw. 🙂

Cabin door decorations is more of a Disney cruise line thing.

 

For your next cruise you will all be experts, and the best way to cure the post cruise blues is to book a new one.  What ship is next? 🙂

 

 

Our kids are 17, 15, and 11 and our son's 18 year old girlfriend came with us also. We kept telling them that they didn't have to stay with us and could go off on their own, but we're a tight family and we couldn't shake them. 

The escape room was one thing I forgot to mention. They are kind of our 'thing', we do them everywhere we go. Our youngest was too young (will be 12 next month and her birthday party will be at an escape room). We would not do it without her. We tried talking to them to see if there was any way they'd book us and make an exception for her (Longshot, but doesn't hurt to ask). It was disappointing, but they lost out on the money for 6 people doing it. 

I don't regret getting the drink packages. It was nice for everyone to get whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, including frozen mocktails, and not having to worry about how much it was choosing because it was already paid for, was worth it for us. 

As for our next cruise, we'll see. Our son starts college in the fall, so in addition to new monetary concerns, it will be harder to align schedules, unless we go without him which just wouldn't feel right. This may have been our last true full family vacation which is kind of bittersweet. 

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7 minutes ago, JerseyJoe said:

Our kids are 17, 15, and 11 and our son's 18 year old girlfriend came with us also. We kept telling them that they didn't have to stay with us and could go off on their own, but we're a tight family and we couldn't shake them. 

The escape room was one thing I forgot to mention. They are kind of our 'thing', we do them everywhere we go. Our youngest was too young (will be 12 next month and her birthday party will be at an escape room). We would not do it without her. We tried talking to them to see if there was any way they'd book us and make an exception for her (Longshot, but doesn't hurt to ask). It was disappointing, but they lost out on the money for 6 people doing it. 

I don't regret getting the drink packages. It was nice for everyone to get whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, including frozen mocktails, and not having to worry about how much it was choosing because it was already paid for, was worth it for us. 

As for our next cruise, we'll see. Our son starts college in the fall, so in addition to new monetary concerns, it will be harder to align schedules, unless we go without him which just wouldn't feel right. This may have been our last true full family vacation which is kind of bittersweet. 

Yeah, my daughter isn't happy about the escape room age issue.  We did ask her if she would be OK missing it, and she was very kind to say yes.  I'm glad I was able to schedule an alternate "special" activity for her to do with her grandmother at the same exact time.  And I told her we would all go to one on land again soon.

There is certainly an advantage to having a "cost ceiling" set with the drink package.  I remember my mother being in shock when she saw the final bill and how many virgin Pina Colada's I had ordered on our first cruise when I was a kid back in the 80's.

I did miss a family vacation when I was in college (a cruise on the SS Norway) due to scheduling conflicts, but once I graduated it was easier to align schedules again.  But I just had one sibling, so there was only one school calendar to deal with.  Perhaps this will just be a short pause in family vacations.  It seems like cruise vacations are a great choice for family vacations with kids in their 20's.  My wife's parents took her and her sister on many cruises once they both graduated from college.  It was a once a year thing for many years.  Too bad it was on NCL and not Royal, otherwise we would already be at Diamond or Diamond+ level 🙂

 

 

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40 minutes ago, JerseyJoe said:

 

As for our next cruise, we'll see. Our son starts college in the fall, so in addition to new monetary concerns, it will be harder to align schedules, unless we go without him which just wouldn't feel right. This may have been our last true full family vacation which is kind of bittersweet. 

Bummer they wouldn't make an exception for the escape room!!!! 

I just noticed your kids are spaced just like ours...we have a 22, 20 and 16 year old.  We have had to get past the schedule thing...my husband and I teach in two different districts, and our 2 college students and high schooler are at different places.  Spring break has become impossible, and summer really isn't better.  So we are slowly adapting to mini vacations with one kid or the other.  The family ones are to treasure for sure!!! Jane

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1 hour ago, JerseyJoe said:

Overall, we loved the cruise. I would definitely do it again, but not 100% sure my wife feels the same way. The kids loved it. There were parts that weren't great (Nassau, the market in Labadee), but it was a nice getaway. I just wanted to share our experiences with other first-time cruisers. The flight thing definitely put a damper on everything, and made us miss out on 2 relaxing days in Florida.

As for the My Time Dining, booking ahead would still have defeated the purpose for us. We like having flexibility, and don't like to be locked in to a time. Otherwise, we would have just picked one of the two standard times. Without having access to the daily schedules ahead of time to see what activities we would be interested in, it would have been impossible to select a set time for every night. It was just a misunderstanding on my part on what the My Time Dining was all about. No big deal. The two meals we had in the main dining room were very good, but the flexibility and food options of the Windjammer just worked out better for us. 

As for the flight, we booked it through our timeshare company. We paid a majority of it with our timeshare points (using all of our points for the year), plus about $1,000 cash. I did purchase the insurance at the end of the transaction. I'm not sure if we would be able to reclaim our points, but I suspect that answer is no. I won't find out until I'm able to call them tomorrow (not even sure who I need to call - timeshare company, insurance company, airline?). I suspect I'll be on the phone a good part of the day tomorrow dealing with this. 

 

Ugh... So hope you get some credit back.   I've decided to be very grumpy about insurance companies!  

   We are becoming less and less of a main dining room family.  It's a long meal to do night after night and we like some of the specialty dining.  I expect that during our 12 night Mediterranean cruise we will windjammer a lot.  We have booked all different times to eat at my time... If they work, we will go and if there is something better, we will skip.  That is an option too... You can book my time looking ahead at the cruise compasses and still wing it and go to windjammer anyway... The you have a backup plan!  

   I went on my first cruise in 2015 and loved it.  My husband likes it ok if he has lots of books, but it isn't his thing like mine.   Thankfully there is enough for him to do.... But with 3 cruises scheduled in 13 months, I'm going to have to schedule Disney after that!!!  Jane

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@JerseyJoe,

Just a few thoughts and than throw them in the circular filing cabinet/can.

1. MTD 

The thing with that is many people book their times on the cruise planner, especially for bigger ships where they have the broadway style productions.  We have done both MTD and traditional.  Typically we do MTD on port intensive cruises where we have excursions planned.  IE we know our excursion won't get back until 5 p.m., so we may decide that 7 p.m. is the prefect time for us and we will see the late show.  If it is a sea day, we may decide that we want to eat at 5:30 to see the early show, or 8 and see the late show.  If our plans change from when we booked on our planner, than as soon as we get on the ship, we go and ask to change the times, it can be a hit or miss that they will do it, but at least we had that popular time locked in.  Honestly, we tend to like traditional better, but we also purchase some specialty dinners as our splurges. The specialty allows us that MTD option. 

2. 5 day cruise out of NJ

Just out of curiosity.  Why didn't you sail on Anthem to Bermuda?  Anthem is bigger, and maybe for your kids ages they would have liked it more, the Flowrider, NorthStar and Ifly, plus it docks overnight in Bermuda, which impo is a much nicer port.  Anthem will be replaced with Oasis in 2020.  Same size ship, just different amenities.  My husband and I prefer going out of NJ, because we can drive there.  We will be doing an 8 night on Adventure in July out of Bayonne.  We just feel that it is less stressful and less expensive to drive to NJ from VA, than fly to FL, even if the sailing costs more for the cabin, once you add in the flights, and a hotel, plus more days off from work, we are usually better off.  Granted you won't get Coco Cay on a 5 night, but it is a nice sailing.  On our 8 night, we sail on Friday, and arrive back home Sunday.  As a NJ resident you would only need to take 6 days off from work because you will be back at your house Sunday by noon.    When we did the 5 night on Anthem we got on Sat. and debarked by 8:30 a.m. (not self assist).  We were back at my brother's home (exit 7A) by 10.  He and his wife work from home, but they went straight to their offices in their house to start work for the day.  My 2 cousin, reported to work at noon for their jobs.  My hubby and I were back home in VA by 1 pm.  Just saying that there are perks to sailing closer from home, even if the cabins cost a tad more.

3. Sorrento's and ice cream

As others have said Sorrento's is just what many people call the pizza on board.  IE on Anthem there is an actual Sorrento's pizza parlor, however, on other ships you will just find it to be with the café promenade. 

The ice cream as far as I know it has never been 24/7,  just like there is no 24/7 dining options, unless you consider room service.  I have noticed in some recent posts that it appears that they maybe moving away from self serve, but towards an attendant doing this at the machines.   For me I hope this is the way they are going to go in the future.  The main reason is what I typically see happen is a child will try to make it as big/tall as they can(think 4-5 inches high), and inevitably as soon as they turn to leave the machine, it collapses, and they start the entire process all over again.  Repeat this with the next child.  Than add in Mom/Dad getting 5 ice cream cones.  Add in a couple of singles in front of you.  So although when you entered the line and you thought there were only 5 people in front of you,  it could take you 5 mins to get to the ice cream machine.   Plus, now when you get there the machine is empty, so no ice cream for you.  Having an RCCL staff member be in charge of this, it will impo make customers happier.  

 

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1 hour ago, JerseyJoe said:

As for our next cruise, we'll see. Our son starts college in the fall, so in addition to new monetary concerns, it will be harder to align schedules, unless we go without him which just wouldn't feel right. This may have been our last true full family vacation which is kind of bittersweet. 

I feel your pain.  My oldest is graduating high school in a few weeks.  She is going to collage in the fall as well.   We are going on Harmony for a week after graduation to celebrate.

  We are a big Disney World and Cruising family.  We have been going on cruises and Disney vacations since she was 3.  I will miss our vacations together. 

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We really like MTD and we do prebook in the cruise planner.  For our family of 6, 6:30 works for us.  We hate traditional dining as the early seating is too early and the late is too late.  If there is some activity that will interfere with our scheduled dining, we just cancel our reservation for the night.  I find it easier to plan the reservation, knowing we can change or cancel it if our plans change for the night.  You can walk up to MTD without a reservation but you can wait a very long time and then become very unhappy which is why they really want you to have a reservation.

Navigator is a Voyager class and Voyager class doesn't have Sorrentos.  Freedom, Oasis and some Quantum class ships have Sorrentos.

Many ships still have the self serve ice cream.  I was another person who saw that after the AMP on Navigator there was no more self serve.  None of the ships have it available 24 hours.  

Glad to see you made it and hopefully still had fun!

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14 hours ago, JerseyJoe said:

I will never use American Airlines again after feeling lied to so many times.

Not to sidetrack the cruise discussion but this is the same experience my sister had flying out of Philly to Key West on American.   Delayed, delayed, cancelled, rebooked 3 days later  on a 5 day trip .  At least they were able to get to Florida later that day (Orlando) and then do the 8-10 hour drive to Key West.    Next time, if it's practical, Southwest out of Baltimore has lots of options to Florida.  Driving from Orlando or Tampa to Miami would have been more palatable than Philly to Miami.

Glad you had a good time.  I feel the same way about the drink package.   Comparing costs for us, I would have broken even but it would have been cheaper for my wife not to have gotten a package.  I just look at it as a convenience  fee to not worry about it during the trip, why add stress to vacation?!   

 

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I'm wondering if self-serve ice cream is going to start being phased out due to hygiene concerns.  I believe they changed it on Navigator during the amplification.  I wish they'd done that on Mariner because it was just a gross mess with children attempting to serve themselves, ice cream not ending up in the cones, and their sticky, dirty, hands all over everything. I got one once, and it all just grossed me out so badly that I never went back.

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We were on Indy last week and  there was always an attendant at the ice-cream machine. I think it’s better especially with smaller kids. It wasn’t open 24/7 but that was fine for us. Indy does have its own Sorrentos and my son thought their pizza was great.  I also booked MTD in advance using the cruise planner but only went 2 out of 5 nights. (Sometimes we just wanted a relaxed windjammer dinner.) Using the app, I was able to get an idea of the show times etc and booked our MTD based on that info. The cruise was our first and we also loved it! 😊 Thanks to this site I was really well informed, so a big thanx to everyone! 😘

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1 hour ago, Fuzzywuzzy said:

Nice post. I gotta agree with Pima, the 5 day Anthem cruise to Bermuda from Bayonne is a great "starter cruise".

I'm not sure why we didn't pick that one. We booked very late, less than 2 months before the cruise, and had a very specific window of opportunity based on my wife's work schedule. It could have been that this didn't fit into our window. If we ever book another cruise, we'll definitely look to leave out of Bayonne, it would be much more convenient for us, not to mention cheaper. 

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2 hours ago, MindiLou said:

By any chance did you bring back any Cruise Compass, as I will be on the Navigator May 6th.  If you did, please up load it to that section on this blog.  Would love to see all of the options ahead of time

thanks

I think we did, haven't finished unpacking all the luggage yet. If we did, I will upload them. But if your cruise is not a 5 night, it could be very different, from my understanding. 

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@JerseyJoe,

Anthem sails out of Bayonne all yr.  I would think Oasis will be the same itinerary, but they will not make Bayonne their home port until 2020.  As I have stated we will be going out of Bayonne in 10 weeks, and to say I am insanely excited it would be an understatement.  Adventure does not have the bells and whistles like Wonderland, Bionic bar, I Fly, 270 or kummelwreck sandwich etc.  It does have the ice rink, the miniature golf, the promenade and water slides.  Things I have yet to enjoy.

My big thing that I can't wait for is the sail away.  I get that Adventure is not as tall as Anthem, but still going under the Verrazano is OMG amazing.  Anthem only clears by @ 30 ft.  Guessing Adventure is 50-75 ft.  Anyone from NJ knows this is a WOW moment.   You can hear the roar of the cars speeding over your head as you stand on the pool deck listening to music.    

Adventure is a summer ship.  Come Oct. she will transition to the south and return back to Bayonne in May.  Until now only Anthem was there yr round.  Again, I think Oasis will be yr round out of Bayonne starting in 2020.  I am not a betting woman, but I am willing to bet that Oasis will be booked solid as soon as she hits Bayonne since this is a new ship to the port, and on top of that she will be coming out of dry dock for renovations.  For me 2021 looks like when we will sail on her...family wants to take the Explorer in AK for 2020.

I get the stress.  I get your review.  You did a ton of research, and to me it was like seeing a movie where everyone says YOU HAVE TO SEE IT, IT'S THE BEST MOVIE EVER.  You walk out and say it was EH, because you built it up to this idea that it can never match.  

Our 1st RCCL was on Enchantment we booked it out 60 days prior, spur of the moment. Had I known about the amenities on larger ships, I would have been upset and said eh!.  However, I wasn't.  To us, we loved everything about the cruise.  It was port intensive.  Only 2 of us sailed, MTD.  I would agree that the tables were close, chairs butted up against each other, however, our waitstaff was amazing...by day 2 they had jack and coke for my hubby, and jack and ginger ale for me within 5 mins of sitting down. Had a read posts I probably would have had a negative view before I stepped on the ship. My point is knowing too much could hurt you as much as knowing nothing. 

I would also say, that use a TA the next time.  A TA company usually books cabins in bulk.  They can do wonders.  Our 8 day cruise, Outside Balcony on Adventure was 2248, ports and taxes for 2,  I look on the RCCL site weekly and I have yet to see anything close to it when I do a fake booking. Better yet, the TA threw in OBC and a specialty dinner.  @JerseyJoe you know in July, there is no way on earth you could rent a decent beach house for that amount of money.

I hope you give RCCL another chance.  If not, depending where you are in NJ.  NCL sails out of NY also.  Maybe NCL is more your kind of thing.  

 

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55 minutes ago, Pima1988 said:

@JerseyJoe,

Anthem sails out of Bayonne all yr.  I would think Oasis will be the same itinerary, but they will not make Bayonne their home port until 2020.  As I have stated we will be going out of Bayonne in 10 weeks, and to say I am insanely excited it would be an understatement.  Adventure does not have the bells and whistles like Wonderland, Bionic bar, I Fly, 270 or kummelwreck sandwich etc.  It does have the ice rink, the miniature golf, the promenade and water slides.  Things I have yet to enjoy.

My big thing that I can't wait for is the sail away.  I get that Adventure is not as tall as Anthem, but still going under the Verrazano is OMG amazing.  Anthem only clears by @ 30 ft.  Guessing Adventure is 50-75 ft.  Anyone from NJ knows this is a WOW moment.   You can hear the roar of the cars speeding over your head as you stand on the pool deck listening to music.    

Adventure is a summer ship.  Come Oct. she will transition to the south and return back to Bayonne in May.  Until now only Anthem was there yr round.  Again, I think Oasis will be yr round out of Bayonne starting in 2020.  I am not a betting woman, but I am willing to bet that Oasis will be booked solid as soon as she hits Bayonne since this is a new ship to the port, and on top of that she will be coming out of dry dock for renovations.  For me 2021 looks like when we will sail on her...family wants to take the Explorer in AK for 2020.

I get the stress.  I get your review.  You did a ton of research, and to me it was like seeing a movie where everyone says YOU HAVE TO SEE IT, IT'S THE BEST MOVIE EVER.  You walk out and say it was EH, because you built it up to this idea that it can never match.  

Our 1st RCCL was on Enchantment we booked it out 60 days prior, spur of the moment. Had I known about the amenities on larger ships, I would have been upset and said eh!.  However, I wasn't.  To us, we loved everything about the cruise.  It was port intensive.  Only 2 of us sailed, MTD.  I would agree that the tables were close, chairs butted up against each other, however, our waitstaff was amazing...by day 2 they had jack and coke for my hubby, and jack and ginger ale for me within 5 mins of sitting down. Had a read posts I probably would have had a negative view before I stepped on the ship. My point is knowing too much could hurt you as much as knowing nothing. 

I would also say, that use a TA the next time.  A TA company usually books cabins in bulk.  They can do wonders.  Our 8 day cruise, Outside Balcony on Adventure was 2248, ports and taxes for 2,  I look on the RCCL site weekly and I have yet to see anything close to it when I do a fake booking. Better yet, the TA threw in OBC and a specialty dinner.  @JerseyJoe you know in July, there is no way on earth you could rent a decent beach house for that amount of money.

I hope you give RCCL another chance.  If not, depending where you are in NJ.  NCL sails out of NY also.  Maybe NCL is more your kind of thing.  

 

Pima.. Oasis is only going to be home-ported in Bayone for the Summer 2020.. Then in either October or November she comes back to Florida.. She is only home porting there for the summer because Anthem is going to be in Dry dock in Europe.. 

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I just wanted to say I'm so sorry you had to make that drive.  As a fellow NJ gal I've made that dreaded car ride to FL many times and I can't imagine having to do it last minute.  

Thanks for the tip on the layout of the ship.  I still carry a map in the Disney parks and manage to get turned around.  I'll probably bring smaller versions of my cheat sheets to have on hand.

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19 hours ago, JerseyJoe said:

I'm not sure why we didn't pick that one. We booked very late, less than 2 months before the cruise, and had a very specific window of opportunity based on my wife's work schedule. It could have been that this didn't fit into our window. If we ever book another cruise, we'll definitely look to leave out of Bayonne, it would be much more convenient for us, not to mention cheaper. 

I don't think the Anthem sailings to Bermuda start quite as early as you sailed. I'm assuming that your sailing started somewhere around April 22, but the first Bermuda sailing I see for this year is a May 4, 2019 on Anthem. Next year is more limited since Anthem is overseas; first sailing is on Adventure in late May.

Bermuda's cruise season is generally early May through mid-October. I definitely recommend that 5-night sailing, it's a great way to sample Anthem and is also good if your vacation time is more limited. Those sailings always depart on a Saturday, so you only lose 3 work days (4 if you can't work from home or get to the office quickly enough when the ship returns on Thursday). My wife and I did the next-to-last sailing in early October last year, and are doing the last sailing of the year this year.

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