I cruise infrequently but am looking to do my 4th cruise (Caribbean) next spring. I'd like to get an info update on the popular cruise lines in general, not specific ships quite yet.
For instance, Carnival vs RCCL vs NCL: what are the pluses and minuses of each of these lines, especially newer annoying issues. Is there a website that anyone knows of that covers these issues? Thanks!
We've done Carnival in '97 and NCL a couple years ago, plus another defunct line way earlier. They were all good cruises mostly.
Looks like we'll probably do Carnival again next May since many lines bail out of the Caribbean when it warms up nowadays. That's good because Carnival has bigger cabins I think; the one on NCL was like a large closet.
The worst part of the last cruise was the friggin lines trying to get processed in San Juan before we could get on the ship. Things were good after that.
So please tell me that boarding procedures in Miami have been greatly expedited, taking no more than 15 minutes max now, with proper documentation. Thanks...
I would love to tell you that MIA embarkation is swift and smooth - but I can't. There are too many variables that go into that whole procedure. I have sailed out of Miami and been onboard within minutes of arriving at the port and other times it has taken hours (no matter what cruise line I was sailing). As for options in the Caribbean in May, I think you will find just as many RC ships sailing out of Miami as you will Carnival - particularly since so many of the larger ships have been built exclusively for the Caribbean market.
Unfortunately, Nancy is right. With the current security and immigration laws, embarkation can be painful. Here are a couple of tips to make it less so.
Get to the port EARLY. By arriving early, you will be some of the first folks processed onto the ship and can be enjoying your vacation while everyone else is standing in line. Also, the FLL and MIA ports have motor coaches that bring folks in from W. Florida and they arrive quite early, as the motor coach then takes the debarking passengers back to the west coast.
Try getting to the port around 10 am to be one of the first. Be sure to carry on your bathing suit and first night's change of clothes and your toiletries and you will be set to have fun.
I can tell you that I love the Freestyle Cruising aspect of NCL. For the life of me I can't imagine why anyone, except a single, wouldn't like it. You can eat when it suits you- who can complain. I guess it would get a bit lonely as a single eating alone, but better that than eating at a table with people you don't wish to be with every night. Anyway, as a single one always meets people quickly and finds dinner companions soon. Also, I believe that NCL has the highest staff to passenger ratio. I think that is somewhat misleading as the vast majority of the crew is behind the scenes, but I will say that every time I turned around there was someone waiting to assist me on NCL. The value was exceptional as well.
Read my review if you like (NCL Spirit Southern Caribbean 3/27/05).