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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cruising

I just have to say - Cruises are the best vacation for families.

You go. You unpack once. You travel to various locations. You eat at various restaurants (and as often as you like, I might add). You have a children's program available to entertain your children.

What's missing?

Cooking, Cleaning, Scheduling, Entertaining, Planning, Driving....What did I miss? Oh yeah - you don't even have to make the beds or turn them down at night.

I've been on several cruises and I can honestly say that it is the absolute best vacation and value for the money that you pay. The fees you pay include nearly everything for your entire trip. The only extras are the gratuities paid to the staff, alcoholic beverages, sodas and specialty drinks, souvenirs, and shore tours. Of course, each cruise line has their own system for dealing with these extra charges so if you decide to cruise be sure to read all the information about the cruise line's policies.

I'm going to offer a bit of advice for those of you who may wish to cruise from a port here in the USA. I've traveled on three different cruise lines over the years and each line has their own special feature. In my opinion, your vacationing desires should determine which line you choose to cruise with. Here's my own personal opinion about the cruise companies I've traveled with.

Carnival Cruise Line is all about the party life. Their ships generally have several night clubs with various types of music themes. Whatever your party style may be, you're likely to find it on a Carnival ship.

Norwegian Cruise Lines has a wonderful freedom of choice. They call it Freestyle Cruising. Basically, you are not required to choose a dining time. This is perfect if you are traveling with children who may or may not be hungry at any given moment (or every given moment if they happen to live with me...because mine are ALWAYS hungry). Other lines typically require you to specify a preferred dining time for eating in the finer dining rooms. This dining time also dictates the times that you would be expected to attend certain shows and entertainment events. Most other lines also assign you to a specific table and wait staff for the duration of your cruise. NCL does not have any type of specified seating or timing for the dining rooms. The Freestyle Cruising concept allows you to avoid the horror of being stuck with undesirable dining partners for the duration of your cruise. (It also keeps you from being stuck with a wait staff that you are displeased with...not that it happens often.) NCL doesn't even require you to sit with anybody other than those people traveling with you. The other lines I've been on tend to have larger tables that seat several people. Thus, you end up sitting with people you've never met before the first night of your cruise. You might like them. You might not. Who knows...until that first night. AND...you might even end up sitting at a HUGE table all by yourself because nobody else bothers to show up for dinner in the fancy dining room. It is really NOT fun to sit at one of those HUGE tables all by yourself.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has the most amazing food. Now, don't get me wrong, all the cruise lines have great food. But when it comes to the best of the best, Royal Caribbean is IT. Their food is exceptionally good. Even their hot dogs are better. Yeah, don't ask me to explain that...it just is. Royal Caribbean also falls somewhere in the middle with its party scene and family scene. There is a happy medium between the two extremes. The casual dining food is just as good as the fine dining food. (In fact, the ship we cruised on had the exact same menu in one of their casual dining venues as the formal dining room menu. I haven't seen that on any other ship I've been on.)

Now, all three of these cruise lines have the same basic amenities and services. They all have kid's programs that are wonderful and keep the kids entertained into the late hours of the night. They all have food that is available at any given moment through a multitude of dining options (casual or fine, even room service). They all have the night life party scene. They all have Broadway style shows and other entertainment events. They all have Bingo, gift shops, and an assortment of on-board activities. Even with all these thins in common, they are each different from the other. Each has its own certain specialty. The prices are basically the same throughout the industry. The season and the itinerary largely determine the price of your trip, so choose your line based on what you want to get out of your trip. Shop around for pricing and ship amenities because the ships vary greatly.

If you're planning a family trip this year and you're just not sure where to go, consider cruising. If you add up the entire cost of a one week trip to any other locale - including food, lodging, driving expenses, etc. - and compare that to the cost of a cruise, you'll find that the price of cruising is similar or better than the cost of driving to other popular family vacation spots.

One more thing --- cruising is great for Moms because it lets us get some relaxation, too. Moms are usually in charge of planning, cooking, entertaining, arranging, cleaning, ... ... ... all the necessary day to day tasks of any vacation. On a cruise, moms don't have to do any of that stuff because somebody else does all the work and there are few decisions to be made. Hey, you don't even have to decide which main dish to eat with dinner. If you can't decide between the lobster and the prime rib --- have both. YES, I SAID BOTH!!! The staff is accustomed to having their guests order multiple dishes (and desserts). **This is especially true if you happen to be cruising Norwegian Majesty this week because you can be sure that there was at least one certain guest that ordered multiple main dishes most nights and even multiple desserts on one or two occasions.**

6 comments:

Petula said...

Good review of cruising. I've only been on one cruise, but I really enjoyed myself and would like to do another one. I think my favorite vacation though is all-inclusive resorts.

The Mind of a Mom said...

Welcome Back we missed you!

Sherrie said...

Excellent review. And -- we've yet to venture on a cruise. But -- when we do, it will either be NCL (they hook me each time I see the commercial with the freestyle cruising) OR a Disney Cruise. The little guys would love that, but I don't know that I would. Thanks again for the review (and thanks for the Entrecard tips). :)

Liss said...

Sound like you had a great time. I all for vacations that all us Mums a bit of a rest.

Crista said...

Welcome home! I've been on one cruise (Royal Caribbean) and you hit this one on the head - while I didn't take my kids, it would have been a great whole family vacation - and someday we will attempt it with all our kids! This was a great read!

Mom said...

To Sherrie - I've never done a Disney Cruise. It just isn't my thing. But NCL is great. Their kid's program is awesome no matter what the age of the child.

To Christa - Yes, cruising is a wonderful family vacation. I've even seen "family reunion" types cruising where multiple families book the same cruise - same floor, etc. - and cruise together as an entire family unit. I actually got married through the Royal Caribbean weddings program and some of our wedding guests were cruising with us. It was wonderful.

To Liss, Pet, and Toni - I just want to tell you how much I appreciate your loyalty and continued presence here. This is my year of growth for this site and I don't want you to feel lost while I focus on growing and adding to my reader base. I truly enjoy your continual input. Thank you. (yeah yeah - enough sappy stuff...)