I am currently in the process of organizing a group of approximately 10-15 friends for a 7-day Caribbean cruise in June of '09. I am trying to decide on a lot of similar cruises, and it seems the specific ships may be the deal breaker.
More than likely, we'll choose the Western Cruise of Labadee, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. We have three ships with nearly identical itineraries (Liberty, Freedom, and Mariner). I understand that Liberty and Freedom are the same class of ships, so there may not be much difference. However, Mariner is cheaper and departs from a closer port. Still, I don't want to choose based on money if the two larger ships offer an exceptional cruise.
For a large group of first-timers, can anyone give personal recommendations? Are we likely to even notice a difference? Thanks!
The only way you'd ever know the difference is to sail both classes of ship. They're all great ships and all three offer similar food, service, entertainment and other amenities onboard. Liberty and Freedom simply are a little larger and have a few more bells and whistles added. If Mariner is closer to you, a similar itinerary and saves you money, I don't see how you could go wrong. If you want to be on the largest and newest ships in the fleet and it's worth the difference in cost and travel time and expense, head to Miami. Either decision you make will not disappoint. I don't know when the dates are you're looking at but don't wait too long to decide and get it booked. These are all very popular ships, cabin selection, pricing and just availability can go change or go away very quickly if you're not planning very far ahead. If you'll need any of the cabins to accommodate more than two passengers, you really need to plan ahead. Triple and quad cabins go first and fast. For most dates this summer, you're already too late for cabins of more than double occupancy on these ships.
I'm planning for next summer, so hopefully cabins will be available. We'll probably want a couple quad cabins and three or four doubles. I've sort of given everyone an ultimatum of August 1st to get their deposits down to save spots.
Will this be timely enough or should I rush it more?
Go on the Mariner - most people LOVE that ship, it's closer, and cheaper. Seems like an easy decision to me. Spend the extra money on excursions, drinks, gifts or save it for a future cruise.
You can't be disappointed in your ship choice if you have nothing to compare it to. Plus, even if you could compare, I doubt the cruise would be a disappointment - the Mariner is supposed to be a fantastic ship. If you want, try the Freedom or Liberty next time - from what I hear, the differences won't be all that noticeable.
Although I agree with the selection of Mariner, isn't she going to the left coast in April, 2009? I thought Freedom was taking Mariner's slot at Port Canaveral?
Anyhow, you can all get Balcony cabins next to each other, and the balconies connect with each other IF the partition can be left open-each balcony is seperated from the other by an opaque panel similar in look to a shower door. I assume (which makes an a__ out of you and me) that one of the cabin stewards can open the panels if requested-that way the entire group can be connected (sort of). Each cabin's balcony has curtains on the inside which can be used to limit other's views of your cabin insides. You have nothing to loose by asking someone on the ship, or a TA, who may have the answers.
Trust me, and others here when I say, booking a cruise a year in advance is NOT that far of an advance. I booked my Sept,2009 cruise on Liberty last April, 2008-many of us book early, and then use the time to save and pay for the cruise. Good Luck-as said before, is you choose MAriner, you'll Love Her!!
Jim's right by the way, Mariner will no longer be in Port Canaveral in summer of 2009. It'll be Freedom of the Seas from this port.
August of this year should be fine for still having availability on quads. Very good plan to have everyone in your party commit by a certain date. Keeps the indecisive people, and there always are some when you're planning a group cruise, from ruining availability and pricing changes that may affect your entire group if you delay too long. Put your group together and get your cabins selected based on what everyone wants and wants to spend. Then, those who didn't/wouldn't commit can make their arrangments on their own and try to get together with the group if possible later. Be sure you request that all the bookings be "cross referenced" for dining so you all can eat toghether. Be sure the folks needing the quads know, those cabins go first and will need to be booked early. Also quads tend to climb in price more quickly as you get closer to the date and begin becoming rare.
Just one more tip, keep a close eye on the cruise rates even after you book. RCCL is one of the lines that protects your pricing both directions even after the penalty period begins. If the rates climb after you book, you're protected. If they fall, a quick call to your T/A will result in the price being lowered for you, even after you book it. If it happens after final payment and penalties begin some lines give you onboard credit for the difference, RCCL refunds your credit card for the difference! There are a couple of promotions that they exclude from this policy but they are very rare. Always call if you see it lower and ask.
I would check with RCCL, I know a couple who are sailing on the Mariner Jan.4, 2009 to the west coast. As Sonny says the Freedom is supposed to take her place in Port Canaveral. If Port Canaveral is handier that's the port to leave from.
Yes, RC is sending Mariner around South America to Mexico, but will be heading back through the NEW canal mid April and doing caribbean again.
For new cruisers, any assortment of ships will be spectacular for them! Go with the Mariner if your looking for affordability. And the option of Promanade Cabin (its an inside that has`a window that overlooks the massive promanade...great for ppl watching)is a good deal.
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RCI Brilliance Of The Seas March/08 - Here We Go Again
RCI Vision Of The Seas Dec/08 - Joining Sis On Her Redneck Honeymoon in Mexico