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Newbie first time cruiser seeking advice from seasoned cruisers


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Greetings! Huge multi-family get together booked on Allure of the Seas for an Eastern Caribbean fun time 04/23/17-04/30/17.  Please bear with me as some of  these questions might be redundant to past posts.  I have scoured this site and read as much as I could and am grateful for the assistance thus far.  Here are my questions...

 

1. I did sign up to be a Crown Member (I see future cruises on the horizon) should I wait to get on board to see if there is a bigger discount for the deluxe drink package?  Right now  there is the usual 20% and the currently advertised Sip and Stream (which is a great bundle) but I am holding out for a 30% discount.  I have a group of 10 confirmed and possibly another 10 to join in the next two weeks.  Is there a group discount?

 

2. How are you chosen to get an upgraded room and when do you find out?  One of my sister and I have booked larger interior rooms while the other one (more fancy one) has a balcony room.  We did link our reservations together and hopefully can all get on the same deck but as of today's post we are all on separate decks since we book own our own.  Do I just call RCI to see if they can get us together?

 

3. I would like to book excursions on my own and not through RCI.  A co-worker who has cruised in the past says to just wait to dock and there should be many tours trying to make a sale but I am a planner and need to know who is meeting me and what my plan is for the day.  IS IT better to wait to port or find a guide in advance.

 

4. Is it recommended to get day passes for resorts in St. Thomas and St. Maarten?  Are there not free public beaches?  I have looked on resortsforaday.com and feel $100/person for a few hours is not worth it.

 

5. The Nassau 7am-2pm stop is relatively short.  Is it possible to get a city tour and beach time in?  Please share your Nassau tour guide info.

 

6. Looking for a tour guide recommendation in both St. Thomas and St. Maarten as well.  Would like to see the cities and log in some beach time for both stops.  I understand I can't do everything but would like to try to do as much as possible.

 

That's all for now.  Nevertheless, I am sure with less  than 60 days to go, I will have additional questions.

 

I AM SO EXCITED!!! Thank you all in advance for your responses!

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Greetings! Huge multi-family get together booked on Allure of the Seas for an Eastern Caribbean fun time 04/23/17-04/30/17.  Please bear with me as some of  these questions might be redundant to past posts.  I have scoured this site and read as much as I could and am grateful for the assistance thus far.  Here are my questions...

 

 

Hi there !  So glad you found this site.  It is such a wonderful resource...particularly for new cruisers.

 

My first bit of advice to you is....you really should have used a Travel Agent !  It is probably too late now as it would appear that your final payment date has passed and generally you have to transfer a booking to a TA within 60 days of your original booking so my guess is, it's too late to do that...but you would have had a number of big advantages if you had used a TA including, but not limited to, receiving a group rate, not to mention potential Onboard Credit.

 

So...I would #1, check it out and see if it's too late to enlist the help of a TA (I always recommend MEI but you can certainly contact anyone else you know, if you want to try.  Michelle Cunningham at 703-986-0661 )

 

#2, if you cannot use a TA at this point, I would contact the Group Desk at RCI and see if they can do anything to help you get a group rate, at this point.  My guess is no, b/c final payment has passed, but I don't know the rules about groups very well.  It's worth a shot.  I do not have a phone number for the Group desk at RCI, sorry.

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1. I did sign up to be a Crown Member (I see future cruises on the horizon) should I wait to get on board to see if there is a bigger discount for the deluxe drink package?  Right now  there is the usual 20% and the currently advertised Sip and Stream (which is a great bundle) but I am holding out for a 30% discount.  I have a group of 10 confirmed and possibly another 10 to join in the next two weeks.  Is there a group discount?

 

 

 

You will not get a better discount once onboard.  The Sip and Stream is an excellent discount and will not be available onboard.  I recommend you JUMP on this ASAP as it may well disappear as quickly as it appeared.

 

There are no group discounts on things like packages.  As I mentioned above there is a very slim chance that you might still qualify for a group rate for the fares but I think it's highly unlikely since the final payment date has passed.  If there are additional people coming onboard (I think it takes 6 double occupancy cabins to qualify for a group rate) these newcomers may qualify for a group rate though.  Talk to a TA !!

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2. How are you chosen to get an upgraded room and when do you find out?  One of my sister and I have booked larger interior rooms while the other one (more fancy one) has a balcony room.  We did link our reservations together and hopefully can all get on the same deck but as of today's post we are all on separate decks since we book own our own.  Do I just call RCI to see if they can get us together?

 

 

 

Upgrades are extremely rare, even for those of us who have senior loyalty status.  I have only had 1 such upgrade in my 10+ years of sailing with RCI.

 

For those who do get lucky enough to get an upgrade, it can happen in a number of ways.  Some have no idea they've even been upgraded until they get to the port and just find that they have a different room than they thought they did.  Some get a call from RCI prior to the cruise to inform them that they are eligible for an upgrade and ask if they want to be upgraded (this was my experience) and some just notice in their cruise planner that the room number has been changed.

 

Since your cruise is less than 90 days away I wouldn't hold my breath on getting your rooms changed to accommodate proximity.  It should be fairly easy to look online and see what rooms are still available.  If you want to switch rooms and remain within your room category it's fairly easy to do.  Just call the CS number and ask.  My guess is that your sailing is probably pretty well sold out at this point and moving cabin locations is going to be fairly difficult, I would think.  But you never know !  Maybe a couple of you may be able to move and get closer to one another.

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Upgrades are extremely rare, even for those of us who have senior loyalty status.  I have only had 1 such upgrade in my 10+ years of sailing with RCI.

 

For those who do get lucky enough to get an upgrade, it can happen in a number of ways.  Some have no idea they've even been upgraded until they get to the port and just find that they have a different room than they thought they did.  Some get a call from RCI prior to the cruise to inform them that they are eligible for an upgrade and ask if they want to be upgraded (this was my experience) and some just notice in their cruise planner that the room number has been changed.

 

That's good to know about the upgrades. Personally, I'm wishing on a star that as our cruise gets closer (still a little over 400 days away!) we'll be told that a JS with connecting balcony has magically opened up and that we could switch to that for just a couple hundred more than our current booking in two connecting Superior Balcony rooms. Or they magically moved us to that because they saw on our reservations that it's our 20th wedding anniversary and older daughter's HS graduation. (and hadn't booked the room anyway, or had a last-minute cancellation ;))

 

Of course, I'd be happy to just get bumped up from the "steerage" line for boarding, given it's our first cruise and we have no loyalty buildup yet. After hearing Matt say how he got that surprise perk for one of his earlier cruises after the line attendant saw his wife's "Just Married" shirt, I had my wife order us a pair of custom "20th Wedding Anniversary" shirts. Cause hey, you never know! ;)

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3. I would like to book excursions on my own and not through RCI.  A co-worker who has cruised in the past says to just wait to dock and there should be many tours trying to make a sale but I am a planner and need to know who is meeting me and what my plan is for the day.  IS IT better to wait to port or find a guide in advance.

 

 

 

This is a matter of personal preference and $$

 

Booking through the cruiseline gives you a couple of advantages - #1, you know up front what you are doing and the cruiseline does all of the coordinating for you.  They will get your tickets to you and give you a time and place to meet your tour.  The biggest advantage to using the cruiseline for excursions - IMO #2 - is that you are guaranteed that the ship will NOT leave without you if you are booked through the cruiseline.  If you are on a private tour and the bus gets a flat tire and you miss "all aboard" you are SOL.  The ship WILL sail without you and then it is up to you either catch up with the ship at another port or get home on your own.  BUT, the excursions are more expensive when booked through the ship.

 

The advantages of booking on your own...obviously, you can save $$.  Also, there are often more choices in excursion options, depending upon the port.  The bigger ports (Cozumel, Cayman Islands, Jamaica) will have lots of vendors around the docks that will sell you a tour.  Some of the smaller ports do not have such a selection.

 

I will offer one big piece of advice. If you are considering going to one of the ruins in Mexico, I would NEVER advise you to use a private tour company for this.  Those excursions involve very long bus, and in some cases, even boat rides and are up to 8 hours in duration.  There are just too many things that can go wrong while you are away on a trip like that.  Pay the extra money and go with the ship on those long, complicated excursions. If you want to go snorkeling on Cayman or Cozumel or want to take an island tour on Aruba, sure....go get a local tour.  My rule of thumb is, if the excursion involves long distances or complicated transportation, stick with the safety of the ship.

 

...and many people don't do organized excursions at all !  They just go out and explore downtown or go find a beach somewhere and don't even do an excursion.  But be careful where you choose to do this.  I would not recommend it in Jamaica. I would recommend it in Cozumel.

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4. Is it recommended to get day passes for resorts in St. Thomas and St. Maarten?  Are there not free public beaches?  I have looked on resortsforaday.com and feel $100/person for a few hours is not worth it.

 

 

 

Again...matter of personal preference and $$

 

There are absoLUTELY plenty of free (or small fee) beaches in St. Thomas and St. Maarten !  The "resort thing" is not necessary - at all.

 

There are many others who can give you better recommendations for eastern Caribbean islands than me.  I much prefer western and southern Caribbean to the east and it's been a while since I've been to either of these islands.  Hopefully someone else can give you some good recommendations.  Orient Beach is one on St. Maarten.  Can't remember the name of the big one on St. Thomas.  Meagan's Bay, maybe ??

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5. The Nassau 7am-2pm stop is relatively short.  Is it possible to get a city tour and beach time in?  Please share your Nassau tour guide info.

 

 

 

I'm sure you can find a tour for Nassau for the time you will be there.  The one and only tour I ever did in Nassau was a water tour.  They took us by some of the monster estates owned by American celebrities.  I also took an excursion to Atlantis once.  It's a beautiful property but the Atlantis excursions are very crowded and they have cut back where you can go and what you can see to the point that it really isn't worth it anymore, IMO.

 

Nowadays, if I am going to Nassau I just choose to stay on the ship but I would definitely say you should go out and see something if you've never been there before.  I would definitely NOT pay for an expensive beach experience.  #1, you aren't going to be there long enough and #2 it probably isn't going to be warm enough in the Bahamas to really enjoy the beach in April - at least, for me.

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6. Looking for a tour guide recommendation in both St. Thomas and St. Maarten as well.  Would like to see the cities and log in some beach time for both stops.  I understand I can't do everything but would like to try to do as much as possible.

 

 I've already admitted that I am not the best one to advise on this.

 

When I go to St. Thomas it's to buy jewelry !  LOL  I don't do the beach thing much anywhere !

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5. The Nassau 7am-2pm stop is relatively short.  Is it possible to get a city tour and beach time in?  Please share your Nassau tour guide info.

 

Having been to Nassau a couple of times, I would not book anything.  When you get off the ship and out of the port area head left.  Its a bit of a walk but you can go to an area call the fish fry.  It is an area with a bunch of restaurants.  Its great.  Most offer a free Bahama Mama or rum punch or something when you order.  Go have some fresh conch or other seafood, a nice free drink, so wi-fi if you need it and then on the way back you pass Junkanoo beach.  Its a free beach and the water is beautiful!  Stop for a swim and then you can hit some shops on the way back if you still have time.

Enjoy!

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It's cheaper to order drink packages ahead of time. 

 

As to onshore excursions ... my husband and I went on an Eastern Caribbean cruise a couple of years ago.  We are not big beach people and just wanted to tour the island.  On each island, there are a multitude of taxis / vans waiting to take you and your group on a tour.  All of our tour guides were amazing and we saved a ton of money off what the RCL rates were.  The cruise lines all say you're safer to book your excursions through them b/c then you're guaranteed transport back to the ship if you miss the sailing.  My experience is that all of the tour operations in ports of call are well aware of each cruise line's sailings & schedule.  They can tell you exactly what day Princess, Carnival, RCL, etc pull into port, what time & what time they leave.  They all make their living off the tourists, and they will make sure you are back to the ship on time.

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That's good to know about the upgrades. Personally, I'm wishing on a star that as our cruise gets closer (still a little over 400 days away!) we'll be told that a JS with connecting balcony has magically opened up and that we could switch to that for just a couple hundred more than our current booking in two connecting Superior Balcony rooms. Or they magically moved us to that because they saw on our reservations that it's our 20th wedding anniversary and older daughter's HS graduation. (and hadn't booked the room anyway, or had a last-minute cancellation ;))

 

I'd recommend reaching out to your travel agent (you are using one right?) and tell them this is your desire. That way when there's a sale going on you can ping your agent to double check if something has opened up. If you've got connecting rooms there's literally 0 chance you'll get an upgrade. The people that get upgrades are the ones that book "at least this X category room" and those bookings aren't available for connecting rooms since you don't get your room assignment until very late in the process.

 

I will also echo the likelihood that RC will upgrade you is slim. My wife and I have been doing this for 10+ years now and we go multiple times a year and the only time we got an upgrade was on our honeymoon.

 

Sorry to be a bit negative but I figured its worth a dose a reality. Your best chance is that a sale lines up and your agent can change your booking.

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I'd recommend reaching out to your travel agent (you are using one right?) and tell them this is your desire. That way when there's a sale going on you can ping your agent to double check if something has opened up. If you've got connecting rooms there's literally 0 chance you'll get an upgrade. The people that get upgrades are the ones that book "at least this X category room" and those bookings aren't available for connecting rooms since you don't get your room assignment until very late in the process.

 

I will also echo the likelihood that RC will upgrade you is slim. My wife and I have been doing this for 10+ years now and we go multiple times a year and the only time we got an upgrade was on our honeymoon.

 

Sorry to be a bit negative but I figured its worth a dose a reality. Your best chance is that a sale lines up and your agent can change your booking.

 

Yup, we are absolutely using a TA (Heather from MEI). I had actually told her, albeit half-jokingly, that we'd love if a sale brought the price of that room pairing within reach for us. Her response at that time was, "If that happened, I'd be coming with you guys." So I figured it's pretty much a snowball's chance in Hell. :) But given how much money was lopped off of our original booking when the WOW sale came along at the beginning of the month, I maybe should have asked her at the time to check and see if ( a ) there was a connecting JS and superior balcony available right then, and ( b ) if the price of that pairing was close enough to our original booking price that we were already prepared to pay that it might have been worth it.

 

I'm not really sure what you meant by "those bookings aren't available for connecting rooms since you don't get your room assignment until very late in the process". Did you mean that upgrades are only given to people who book a "Guaranteed X room", where they get at least that category but could get higher for the price they paid? And that because that assignment doesn't typically come until very close to sailing, that's where the connecting rooms become impossible?

 

[Edited at 6:28 PM]

Well, I took a look on Royal Caribbean's site and did a mock booking, just to see if there even were any JS rooms with a connecting balcony still available. And while there are exactly two such room pairs on the entire ship (both on deck 9, port and starboard at the very front of the hump), neither was available. And in fact, there is only one JS available at all now for my sailing. So we will be keeping our two connecting balconies at the front of Deck 8 and just looking out for alerts from our TA about any further price cuts.

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