Maybe it's just me, but I find the cruiselines' websites to be terribly confusing. I consider myself fairly good at doing things online, but choosing a cruise has just become total chaos to me. Perhaps I'm just not using the search features correctly. All I want to do is find out which cruises go to both Grand Cayman and Montego Bay in January for 6-7 days and leave out of either New Orleans or one of the Florida ports. Any tips on doing this sort of search?
I'm glad I found this site....tons of useful info here. It will come in very handy prior to my first cruise.
I'd say the best way on line would be to go to the cruise line's web site search by date, length and the port (where you want to leave from) and then look at the options. We left the end of Jan 2005 from New Orleans on the Carnival Conquest and the stops were Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, it was a 7 day cruise.
Most cruises that go to Montego Bay go to G. Cayman also.. Look at "Western Caribbean" cruises in the search tool Most of the sites don't have the ability to select multiple ports like that, but if you select Western Caribbean, you should be able to manage finding what you are looking for. As far as Ports, New Orleans is just starting to service ships again. Mobile Alabama has Carnival (at least) Cruising from it. Florida, look at Tampa, Miami and Port Canaveral. All should have a cruise that goes to these ports.
You didn't mention Galveston, Texas, but the Conquest sails to Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Montego Bay from there.
If you have a cruise line preference, the easiest thing is to just dial into their "cruise reservation" line and tell them what you are looking for. Most times they can come up with the matching cruises faster AND they can clue you into any "specials" or dates that are better to go on.
Then just hang around on this site and ask your questions and or read the posts. Most things get covered often.
Thanks for the help. I wasn't aware of Mobile, so I will look into that. We're going to drive to the port, so I had skipped over the Galveston cruises (we're in Indianapolis), but according to mapquest it is closer than Miami and only slightly farther than Tampa. Mobile would be the closest port to me though, so I will check into that one.
Anything I should know about mid-January as opposed to other times of the year? I know the weather leaving port could possibly be cold that time of year (especially from Mobile or New Orleans), but we'd really like to go during the winter at an off-peak time, so I though mid-January would be one of the better times to go.
Galveston should be closer than Miami to you. We drive to Chicago a couple of times a year from the DFW area. It takes about 16 hours. From here to Galveston is about a 5 hour trip.
Mobile does sound like your best bet. Check the carnival web page. I know they sail from there. Its one of their smaller, older ships, but its still a good cruise. If you are looking to go on one of the big new ships you'll need to go to Galveston, NO (not sure what the plans are there yet) or Tampa.
Cruising in Jan. should be fine. The water temp will be a bit cooler, but you are still very far south by the time you hit your first port and the weather should be fine. You won't have to worry about Hurricanes..
Of course an alternative to doing it all online is to consult a cruise-oriented travel agent. There are so many options out there, they can help sort through all the details and find the cruise that best suits you!
I would recommen talking with a cruise oriented Travel Agent. The trouble with booking online, and going straight to the cruise line is they are only taking orders. They don't tell you all the pros and cons of taking one ship over another, or pros and cons of one itinerary over another etc. Mobile may be closer, but you said you are looking at Grand Cayman and Jamaica. The Holiday is the only ship that sails out of there and it doesn't go to either of those ports. The Holiday is the oldest ship in the Carnival fleet, it is very small compared to the newer ships. There's nothing wrong with that if you know what to expect. The Holiday may not offer as much variety of activities, and entertainment as you were expecting. I would talk with a Travel Agent that can match you to the right cruise line and ship to meet your expectations. You want your first cruise to be a good experience.
Thanks again for the info. I'll have to find a good travel agent. Yeah, I'd really prefer a larger ship so I think I'll skip the Holiday for this time around.
I think I finally figured out the search functions better. Anyone know anything about Grandeue Of The Seas? It doesn't go to Jamaica but overall I like the ports it goes to and it leaves from New Orleans. Plus, it's very affordable compared to some of the others, although I wonder about that. A 7-day Western Caribbean cruise for $399 each sounds too good to be true.
The rates often depend on the time of the year, and always depend on whether the ship has had slow bookings. The cruise industry is extremely competitive. Rates fluctuate according to bookings. If you can go at any time, with little advanced notice, you can get great deals. Unfortunately, my husband and I have to turn in our vacation requests in January of each year. We are allowed little variance, so right now cannot take advantage of those deals. I haven't sailed on the Granduer of the Seas, you need SonnyV to jump in. Maybe if you post your question in Royal Caribbean's group, he'll see it. He's been on 30 cruises with them. Best wishes and no matter what ship you choose, have a wonderful time!