We are about to book our first cruise leaving out of New Jersey to the Eastern Caribbean on the Explorer of the Seas. We are planning on booking through AAA and have some questions. We are booking a balony stateroom, any suggestions on location, floor, right or left side of ship, etc. Would you recommend the early or late dining time? I am looking forward to attending the evening shows so which dining time would best fit the show schedule. How much does the daily tips usually run per stateroom? Can we start adding extra funds to our account to take care of our on board activities or would you recommend setting up our acct when we arrive on the ship. Any suggestions on overnight hotels near the ship that will let us keep our car in their lot, that also have a shuttle to and from the ship. Any other suggestions or recommendations would be appreciated.
Welcome to the world of cruising...I hope you become an addict like most of us....Early or Late dinning....I always try to eat early which is around 6:00...you still have time to do your excursions and get back to the ship and freshen up for dinner....you will then attend the late shows and have time afterward to roam the ship for other entertainment....If you like eating late...then get the later seating...which is round 8:30...you would then attend the first show....it's a personal choice I would have to say...I just don't like eating that late, besides, I like coffee and dessert around 10.....You will set up your account when you board the ship...fill out your preboarding information on line and you will be ready to go once you get there....you will present a credit card and they will issue you a Ships Card which serves as your room key and for any purchases on board...only place you can use cash is in the casino...as for my room...I don't have a preference...just as long as I'm on the ship...Someone else will help you out on this issue...Just have a smashing good time.....
Is a date somewhere in your plans? Some sailing dates book up faster than others and you may not have much of a choice when choosing a stateroom. Our last few staterooms have been on deck ten near the forward elevator. I've grown fond of that location because I like walking up just one flight of stairs and I'm at the mineral spa and workout area. If I take the elevator down to the 5th floor I'm at the Cafe' Promenade, where the coffee machine is. I also prefer a bump out balcony when one is available. I don't like the cabins at the stern of the ship (the very back). This is only true of the "Voyager" class ships because of the support structural steel that blocks about 10% of the view. The plus side of the back cabins is the huge balconies.
Late or early seating depends on whether you like to eat a large meal around 6pm or 8:30pm. You still get to see all the shows—they have the same show for each seating. Seeing how it's your first cruise, it doesn't really matter which seating you pick, because you won't have a preference until you cruise a couple of times. My wife and I are close to 50 cruises, and sometimes we still don't know what we want.
When you are at the terminal you will be issued a seapass card before you can board the ship. This is your most important item while you're on your cruise! It will be your credit card, key card, and the only card that will let you off and on the ship. If you have a good travel agent, he or she should answer any questions you have. After you book your cruise you'll think of tons of questions, and we here at Cruise-Chat love questions.
1) Book directly with RCI. I am sure their rate will be as good or better than AAA.
2) There is more up and down motion if your cabin is forward. There is also more motion the higher up you are. The center of the ship is ideal to minimize motion sickness if anyone is prone to it. Aft cabins can sometimes feel vibration but are the most stable for any movement.
3) Before you call to book go online and pull up the deck plan for your ship. You can find them on RCI's website. When you book directly with the cruise line they will tell you immediately what cabin they are going to assign you. Find it on the deck plan. If you aren't happy ask for something more to your liking. You'll find this very difficult when you use a TA or another third party. Also when you book ask if they are offering any promos ie senior discount, veterans etc.
4) Regarding dining, RCI's now offers a choice to dine when you want instead of having a fixed time for the entire cruise. I think they call it MyTime dining. You must prepay your gratuities for MyTime dining when you request it but it's no big deal as you would pay them at the end of the cruise anyway. You can then choose a table for two or four depending on how many are in your party. Or you can choose to be seated with others. It's the same dining room as those with fixed seating and much more convienient. If you choose MyTime you will want to make reservations if you want a specific time. Otherwise you may need to wait like you would at any restaurant you showed up at on a busy night.
5) Gratuities are around $9.75 per day per person. That covers the room steward and dining staff. If you order cocktails or other drinks you'll have the tip added on when you sign the receipt. Someone else will have to help you with the hotel issue in New Jersey.
Hope this helps.
My advice is to book your cruise with someone you are comfortable with using. RCI's official policy is a cruise booked with an agent will be the same price as one booked directly with the cruise line. Actually, an agent can often offer cheaper prices since they may have group space booked on a particular cruise and those prices can be less than an individual booking - even those offered directly with the cruise line.
Dave is right about booking with a travel agent that you're comfortable with—someone that specializes in cruise vacations.
If the water gets really rough, it doesn't matter where you are on the ship—you're gonna feel it moving. Believe me, I've been in staterooms in front, back, and middle of a ship, and only thing that matters is how high the waves get. You don't want to book a cabin on deck two in the middle of the ship, because you think it will be a smoother ride. By the way, any travel agent can tell what cabins are available. Prices will vary according to the category.
Royal Caribbean is experimenting with any time dining, but only on a few of their ships. I don't believe the Explorer is one of them. You can call Royal Caribbean and ask about that.
What a lot of information to take in. I have been working with an AAA agent, been asking lots of questions, found she did tell me wrong on a couple of them, she's new and still learning herself. I'm willing to give a new agent a chance, but I will keep up on her as well.
Ok, is there an advantaged of booking directly with the cruise line vs an agent? I personally don't mind doing the work myself, just never booked a cruise before, so didn't know where to begin.
I'm so excited I just booked our first cruise. I decided to call RC directly in order to ask a couple of questions and decided to go ahead and have her book the cruise for me last night. Now I can't wait to go. I decided to contact RC because I asked my TA another question last night and once again she gave me wrong information, that's been about 3-4 times since I've been working with her. I would asked her a question and she would give me an answer that just didn't sound right so I double checked and discovered her answer wasn't right. I tend to do lots of research when planning vacations. Because of this I decided to keep control of the reservation myself instead of going through a third party.
This is our first cruise, so I'm sure I'm going to have lots and lots of questions for you guys as the year goes on. Thanks so much for all your help.