Western Caribbean Cruise - First Timer Qs
My family is considering taking a Western Caribbean Cruise out of New Orleans. I believe the ship is the Norwegian Spirit. None of us have been on a cruise before and I was hoping to get some help with questions:
1) My children are 13 and 10. I see Carnival has a similar cruise. Should I look into that before we book?
2) I believe my family will love snorkeling. Should we bring our own snorkeling equipment? --- I know there are activities available--and we will probably do some of that. But won't there also be just beach time where my children ( who LOVE the water) will can and will want to swim on their own?
3) What are the "must do" shore activities from this cruise?
4) Any general words of wisdom? (since, as you can tell, I know nothing about cruising)
Thanks in advance!
Welcome to Cruise Reviews. Both cruise lines would be good for you and your family. They both will have activities for your children. I would look at both cruise lines and compare not only by price, but by the itineraries and length of time in each port. The NCL Spirit is doing a more exotic itinerary going to Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya, and Cozumel. The Carnival Conquest is doing a more traditional Western Caribbean going to Jamaica, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman. If this is your first cruise you may enjoy the traditional better especially with the children. Grand Cayman has the Swimming with the Stingrays which is very popular and Seven Mile Beach. In Jamaica, Dunn River Falls is the most popular with an opportunity to walk up the falls. Snorkeling is great in all three of the traditional Western Caribbean ports. Cozumel has many beaches to choose from. Many like Paradise Beach and there would be water toys for the children.
If you are driving to New Orleans then you may want to take your snorkel equipment. If you're flying then consider all the room they will take up and cost of checking luggage. The ships do offer snorkel tours which will include the equipment and also your transportation to and from the beaches. With a family of four it may add up to be pricey booking through the ship. However; keep in mind the cost of the transportation included and the security of booking through the cruise ship. If you take a taxi and go off on your own you must be aware of allowing enough time to get back to the ship. The ship will require you to be back 1/2 hour before it sails and they will not wait! When you book shore excursions through the ship they will hold the ship if the tour you're on is running late.
Agree with above....google each port
to see what it s like,,can determine which looks best to you and family.
We did W.Carib. last yr...by husband just rented snorkel and scuba equip...I went off on my own,,enjoyed the airboat tour in Belize,,but not a port I d go to again,Sadly,very poor and would not feel comfortable wandering around on own.
In Costa Maya,,we visited the Mayan ruins with ships tour.But again,port is fenced in and ID required to get in and out...sort of out in boonies.Again,would not feel safe outside port area since in the middle of nowhere and really NEED to book some excursion there.
Cozumel has best beach areas,,,and I also took bus tour of island to get overview,,again,,with ship..Some people rented cars,mopeds,etc...but as said above,,MUST be sure you can get back to ship,,,or it really WILL sail without you..
So,,do research and that ll help...you ll love cruising ,,,by grandkids have been on numerous ones and have a ball..so much for them to do..and you can relax too.Any specific questions re above ports,,,I ll try to help...
Hi Bocraw, welcome to CruiseReviews! The western Caribbean has some great ports, you'll probably be visiting Costa Maya, Cozumel, Roatan and Belize. The snorkeling in all of those ports is fabulous. We always bring our own equipment. I don't bring fins because I usually don't need them unless the current is strong, then I use a pair of fins from the excursion. We've sailed on both lines and have enjoyed them equally. Our last NCL ship was the Epic and it was one fabulous cruise. Our last Carnival ship was the Valor and it was equally fabulous. Each cruise line offers its own personality and you'll have a great time with either one. To me, snorkeling is the "must do" in all of the ports I've listed.
Please let us know when you've booked!
I did that exact cruise a few years back but on the NCL Sun. It's a wonderful itinerary!!
1) There is a great "kids club" on NCL. They cater to the various age groups so your "tweens" will have a blast. The only complaint I ever heard was "but we don't want to hang with you guys, we want to stay in the kids club!"
2) You can surely bring your own gear. And for best fit, it's advised that you do, but any excursion (ship or otherwise) will offer gear. Depending on your ports is the answer to your question about the beaches. When I sailed the ports were Santo Tomas, Costa Maya, Belize City and Cozumel. The first three are NOT good ports to just get off the boat and snorkel the beach. You will have to take an excursion to get to decent snorkeling locales. Cozumel is the one place you can just get off and hit a local public beach. As was suggested before, do some research. If you want some contacts that I used in those ports, let me know.
3) Must do? Well, what are you ports? :) If it's my same cruise.... have fun, and do anything you want...but in Santa Tomas I would do anything that includes a visit to the Mayan children's school. Back school supplies or toiletries in a back pack and give it to the kids. It will warm your heart and allow you to "give back" from your abundance. It will humble you to see their faces light up with a simple tooth brush "just for them", as you get off and on your luxury cruise ship. I can point you to a great man that can arrange a wonderful day in Santa Tomas for you that will include that. Post here if you want that info...or email me.
4) Words of wisdom: Relax. You are on vacation. Let things evolve and happen, don't take your rabid "American" routine with you.
Take a good bug repellent like REI's "Bug Juice".
Pack sunscreen that is "paba free" as many snorkel/dive operators are helping to preserve the reef by requiring organic sunscreens. Don't get sucked into buying $20 organic sunscreen either...it just needs to be "paba free".
Pack a power strip as there are not enough outlets in your cabin.
Remember to turn your cell phone to "airplane" mode, or make sure you speak with your provider to make sure your settings are correct for international.
If not, then all your "notifications" and push-functions will be costing you the price of another cruise as you are naively unaware of them ticking the dollars up.
If you are on NCL, then be sure to eat in the specialty restaurants a few times, and don't let the up charge scare you...the price is WELL worth it!
Thanks to all for excellent advice.
Booked. "Outside Quad" room.
I have taken the consensus advice and ordered snorkeling equipment for the family. And I have been goggling the ports.
I understand the advantages of booking excursions through the cruise line. But I guess I still don't get the "vibe" of how they work.
For Costa Maya for example---is it the type thing where it is critical to book excursions ahead of time? Or can you window shop once you get off the boat? Or in between?
I am a sponge for advice! Thanks!
This is very subjective..and may take a bit of research as well.
Start by finding how many ships are in port on the day you will be there. The more ships, the faster things will fill up.
Study the ports and see what the consensus is as far as safety...for example many people feel safe in St. Thomas and take a taxi, many people don't feel safe in Jamaica and prefer to book with the ship.
If you opt to book with a private tour provider, find out their cancellation policy. The cruise line often lets you cancel if it's within 24 hours. If one of you is ill, sunburnt or just change your mind, can you cancel a prepaid cruise? Or what if your ship misses that port altogether.
As far as 'must do's' that is very personal for each cruiser.
One bit of advise....don't walk in with the 'once in a liftime' attitude and overspend like crazy. When your family sees how easy, relaxing, and affordable cruising is, you'll be hooked like the rest of us. You will be back especially if a particular port is really a positive experience for you.
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