Hello, I'm brand new to cruises. My fiance and I have decided to do our first cruise and honeymoon to Alaska. Now I'm trying to figure out the details and what not. Looked around this board and a few others, but I'd like some direct advice from people who are familiar with this industry and who have experience.
First, our wedding is September 1st, 2010. Second, my aunt referred me to vacationstogo.com for cheap cruises, so that is what I'm basing prices from (if you know anything else or cheaper, please let me know!).
So searching the cruises, there are a few within our time frame. We don't mind staying in Seattle a few days because we might want to possibly move there in a few years. Seattle also works for us because it is cheap to fly. So any cruise from the 3-5th will work and there are quite a few.
I looked up all the cruise lines and ships that we could go on. I read what people recommend (seeing Glacier Park seemed to be the overall best suggestion) and narrowed it down to Princess - Golden Princess and Norwegian - Norwegian Pearl. Both of these are "inside Alaska" cruises and visit Glacier Park. They also have identical itinerary except for the docking times.
This being our first cruise, I would like our experience on the ship to be the best it can be. I'm 28 and she is 24. We are laid back people who enjoy nature. We aren't really partiers and don't really care about any type of night life. But we would still like to be entertained a decent amount and not get bored on the ship.
Also, our budget is fairly limited. We'll have roughly $2-3k total for everything. We would really like a balcony, but probably won't be able to afford it.
I called Morris travel agency to see what kind of deal they would have, but they seemed to be much more expensive than the website. She also said that the Holland America - Oosterdam is a step up compared to the other two. But looking at the plan for that cruise, it isn't "inside Alaska" and that is a letdown. It also seems to focused on seniors and we could get bored easily.
With all that said, I'm open for any advice people can give me. Anything will help as I'm a complete newbie to this. Thank you for your time reading this and any response you can give.
It sounds like you have really done your homework. Either Golden Princess or Norwegian Pearl will give you a wonderful experience.
Someone said on this site that if you want to know if a particular ship or cruiseline would be a good fit, look at their advertising and ask yourself, "do I/we look like the people in those ads?" At 28 and 24 I think you will find Norwegian Pearl to be a better fit. My personal choice would be Princess; but then I'm 67 :-)
I wouldn't get caught up in the term "inside Alaska". Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway, are pretty much the meat of an Alaska cruise. Glacier Park is the most popular, but if you visit Hubbard glacier you probably won't even know the difference.
For most people, Alaska cruises are more about the destination and not the ship. Based on your description above, any of the cruise lines will provide good entertainment, service and food. However; based on your age the NCL Pearl may have more activities that interest you during the non-port time.
I understand you have a tight budget. It is rather low for an Alaska cruise. Especially if that is including airfare. Balcony cabins are highly recommended for an Alaska cruise and they cost much more because of the demand. You may have to go with an inside or outside which is better than not going at all. You also need to consider what you may spend on shore excursions, on board expenses of gratuities, drinks, casino, spa, and gifts.
When comparing cruise prices it is very important you are comparing apples to apples. This is why using a good cruise agent is important. They can help you pick the right ship, the right cabin and location, and the right itinerary. They can also point out pros and cons. Websites like VTG can be appealing with the word "cheap", but "cheap" can be deceiving.
Thanks for the info everyone. It sounds like Pearl is the way to go.
So we're better off with using an agent rather than buying the tickets online? For the inside cabins, it is almost a $500 difference (both of us combined). I'm not understanding why buying online "cheap" is discouraged? We could put that $500 to an excursion or something.
Hi Javrixx, welcome to Cruise-Chat! Congratulations on your up-coming wedding/honeymoon and cruise! I really believe that a cruise is the best value of any packages. I also agree with Cruise Fanatic, that a "GOOD" travel agent can be your best advocate.
I also agree with F-Mattox and Cruise Fanatic that NCL might be a better fit for y'all. I prefer Princess, but I'm 57. I started cruising Princess when I was in my early 40s. They're my favorite, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy other cruise lines as well. In fact, I'll be on the NCL Epic in October and on Carnival's Valor in 2 weeks. NCL is a little more laid back than Princess. However, the service, food and ships are great!
Please let us know what you decide to book! May you and your new wife have a wonderful life together and a fantastic honeymoon!
Sorry, Javrixx, I must have been typing at the same time you were. The $500 difference might not actually be the truth. Make sure with the on-line booking that their price includes all the port taxes and fees. Sometimes they only quote the cruise fare and then tack on the port taxes and fees, then it ends up being the same. You can call the cruise line directly, too. They will give you the best price they have and you can compare, travel agent, on-line, and cruise line prices.
As Penny says, you have to go through the whole booking to make sure all port fees, taxes, and service fees are in the total. I mentioned earlier you have to be very careful you are comparing apples to apples. You may see an inside cabin on line at $XXX, but is it a bunk bed inside or two lower beds that convert to a King? All cruise lines use categories, ie; "K", "J", BA, etc. or 1A,4A, 4B,8A , etc. If you are absolutely sure you have an apple to apple and it's truly $500 cheaper, than no one can blame you for wanting to book on line. Some on line agencies discount or rebate, and provide little service. If something goes wrong will you have support? Be cautious.
These peoples advice is good. We have been on Princess cruises, and we are going on a Celebrity in a couple of weeks. But again, we are in our upper 50's lower 60's group. I did all the checking into prices etc. for what we are interested in this time around, and found some online cheaper also, but it did not include port taxes, so they are correct, be careful. Almost none of the info I had checked had included port taxes, and the difference was about $500. We ended up with a travel agent in the end because it was easier, and ended up about the exact same price. A lot of areas have little cruise info days with several cruiselines at your fingertips with info, etc so watch your weekend newspaper travel pages, this can also be helpful with someone to directly talk to and they may give some discounts to. Good Luck and Congratulations on your upcoming marriage.
I would also look at the cruiseline website,they offer specials...also, if I see on online travel agency price,will call the cruiseline toll free number and ask if they will match it...most do..
Also, check sites like Kayak.com for your own airfare..often less that what is offered by cruise or online travel sites....plus you will then deal with airline directly and know FOR SURE you indeed are booked,,,I always check the online travel website and find what city they are based out of and search the Better Business ratings ...often MANY complaints.....many swear by these sites, but Im always wary,,,if site shuts down,many do, what do you do??
As for ship, whatever itinerary you like best should determine,I think ships pretty much the same...we took our first Alaska cruise in our 30 s and had a great time,no matter the other passengers onboard,esp..on your honeymoon..congats....