Could use some advice.

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#1
4 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
Hello, apologizing in advance as most of this has probably been answered before.


My wife and I are looking to depart around April of 2018. We are looking at Carnival due to the affordability. We are finding conflicting answers on most of our searches due to the nature of them being opinionated answers. Would anyone here be willing to assist with this list of questions and provide some much needed insight from past experiences to help us out? Here is a list of our questions or advice requests:


- Is April a good time of year to go to the eastern Caribbean or Bahamas? we will be sailing out of either Florida or South Carolina. Also is April a good time to avoid to many children? We do not mind children as we have four of our own, just trying to take a vacation for us.


- Are suites worth the money to upgrade over a balcony? We are really interested in going for a suite because they look nice, but is it really worth it?


- Should we buy the carnival drink package? I keep seeing really mixed reviews on it, we plan on having 3-10 drinks each a day.


- Are there meetings with people taking the cruise before hand so that we can get to know a few of the people we will be sailing with before debarkation?


- Are the gyms normally good quality? We do HIT most of the time, and it can require a lot of space, or should we switch to doing cardio machines while one the cruise?


- Should we expect rude people? We have read many horror stories of terrible staff members, crew members, and just outright rude people being on the cruise, is this common or is it something that happens infrequently but stands out to people who let it ruin their cruise?


- Are the early embarking packages worth the price?


- Lastly, Travel agent or no? the one I have talked to locally did not seem to have many answers for my questions and it has kind of made me a bit leery of their services.


Thanks for taking your time to read this, hopefully, after our cruise, we can answer questions like this for other people.
#2
4,299 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
Welcome to Cruise Critic. Since most of your questions are Carnival related, you might wish to ask on the Carnival board.


The issue with April is that its still Spring Break. So yes, you might see a decent number of younger cruisers.


Since cruisers come from all over the world, its not likely there will be meetings ahead of time. Join the roll call for your cruise, and you can "talk" to your fellow cruisers.


You are asking a lot of pointed questions. TAs may not have the answer. If you aren't comfortable, don't use the TA. Its always ok to shop around.
#4
Northern California
1,375 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Originally posted by santacruisestoo
Hello, apologizing in advance as most of this has probably been answered before.


My wife and I are looking to depart around April of 2018. We are looking at Carnival due to the affordability. We are finding conflicting answers on most of our searches due to the nature of them being opinionated answers. Would anyone here be willing to assist with this list of questions and provide some much needed insight from past experiences to help us out? Here is a list of our questions or advice requests:


- Is April a good time of year to go to the eastern Caribbean or Bahamas? we will be sailing out of either Florida or South Carolina. Also is April a good time to avoid to many children? We do not mind children as we have four of our own, just trying to take a vacation for us.
Should be calm waters during that time.Spring break varies, ours is the first week of April. There will be more kids during Spring Break weeks. If you take a cruise longer than 7 days you will likely have less children. We've not been bothered by children during Spring break, even when we haven't cruised with ours during a spring break week.

- Are suites worth the money to upgrade over a balcony? We are really interested in going for a suite because they look nice, but is it really worth it?
No opinion. A balcony is nice. Suite is bigger, more perks.

- Should we buy the carnival drink package? I keep seeing really mixed reviews on it, we plan on having 3-10 drinks each a day.
This is up to you. The Cheers! package includes drinks up to $49, but I didn't find any more than $10 I really tried. It's nice to not think about the cost of the drinks with the package, but I find I drink more with the package, to justify the purchase price of it.
At 3-10 drinks per day, you might be better off paying as you go.

- Are there meetings with people taking the cruise before hand so that we can get to know a few of the people we will be sailing with before debarkation?
Look up your roll call. There will be people talking about your cruise. Some roll calls are busier than others.

- Are the gyms normally good quality? We do HIT most of the time, and it can require a lot of space, or should we switch to doing cardio machines while one the cruise?
Sure, they are fine. There are times of the day that are busier than others.

- Should we expect rude people? We have read many horror stories of terrible staff members, crew members, and just outright rude people being on the cruise, is this common or is it something that happens infrequently but stands out to people who let it ruin their cruise?
People are usually not rude. We just tend to talk about the rude ones more than the nice ones


- Are the early embarking packages worth the price?
Again, it's up to you. Do you want to rush to get on board? If so, yes it's worth it. Plus, if you book a suite, this is included.

- Lastly, Travel agent or no? the one I have talked to locally did not seem to have many answers for my questions and it has kind of made me a bit leery of their services.
A good TA is hard to find. I like the idea of being able to contact the cruise directly if I have an issue or concern, but it doesn't sound like you are too pleased with the one you've found. Shop around or go through the cruise line.


Thanks for taking your time to read this, hopefully, after our cruise, we can answer questions like this for other people.

I've made some comments in red.
Good luck on planning your cruise.I'm sure you will have a great time
#5
Central Ohio
1,922 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
Welcome to CC! See my answers below.


Originally posted by santacruisestoo
- Is April a good time of year to go to the eastern Caribbean or Bahamas? we will be sailing out of either Florida or South Carolina. Also is April a good time to avoid to many children? We do not mind children as we have four of our own, just trying to take a vacation for us. Depending on how early you travel in April, you will still be in spring break season. The earlier in the month, the more kids you can expect to see.
- Are suites worth the money to upgrade over a balcony? We are really interested in going for a suite because they look nice, but is it really worth it? That's one that only you can answer. Personally, I get inside cabins and save my money for something else. It's all about your priorities.

- Should we buy the carnival drink package? I keep seeing really mixed reviews on it, we plan on having 3-10 drinks each a day. Cheer! would have to be purchased by everyone over 21 in the room. The break-even point is somewhere around 6 drinks each (higher for lower cost beverages, lower for higher cost beverages). If you think you would at least hit the break-even point, you should go for it.

- Are there meetings with people taking the cruise before hand so that we can get to know a few of the people we will be sailing with before debarkation? No meetings. Join your roll call on here and if there is a group on that other site of faces, join that as well. Sign up for your CC meet and greet.

- Are the gyms normally good quality? We do HIT most of the time, and it can require a lot of space, or should we switch to doing cardio machines while one the cruise? Sorry, I can't help with this.

- Should we expect rude people? We have read many horror stories of terrible staff members, crew members, and just outright rude people being on the cruise, is this common or is it something that happens infrequently but stands out to people who let it ruin their cruise? A cruise ship is just like everywhere else. Yes, you will encounter rude people, just like you would at Disney or anywhere else where there is a large number of people in a confined area.

- Are the early embarking packages worth the price? The value of FTTF is pretty individualized. If you feel that the benefits are worth the cost, then it is worth it. We always purchase it to have our room ready when we board and not have to wait until 1:30 to drop things off. There are other benefits, though, that may be important to you.

- Lastly, Travel agent or no? the one I have talked to locally did not seem to have many answers for my questions and it has kind of made me a bit leery of their services. Your choice. I don't use one. Some people use them for the perks. The drawback is that once you book with a TA, Carnival will not deal directly with you. All price drops, changes, updates, etc will have to be filtered through your TA.
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2015 - Carnival Paradise
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2012 - Carnival Sensation
#6
Midwest USA
1,832 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
How long a cruise do you plan on taking? The shorter cruises attract the younger crowd all year. During spring break the 7 day cruises attract the younger crowd also. The weather in April can be a bit on the cool side. Once you get to the Caribbean it gets warmer. The Bahamas are in the Atlantic, could be cool.


The suite is a personal preference, we get an ocean view on our cruises. A balcony is usless to us, we never will use it. And never had a suite.
An average drink is around $10.00. If you each have at least 5 drinks a day its worth it.


Cruise Critic is a good place to start. The site covers cruises from a to z. There is a forum called roll calls, where you can converse with people on specific cruises.


The gym facilities are excellent on Carnival.


We have sailed on Carnival 11 times and never had a problem with any of the crew. They are all really nice people. They will go out of thier way to hrlp you. There are rude cruisers everywhere, they complain about every trivial thing.


The FTTF, early boarding is again your personal preference. FTTF allows youto check in and board at anytime, and drop your luggage off In your cabin before the usual 130pm time. Without it you will pick a time from a list that you would like to check in and you will not be allowed into the terminal until that time.


We have only used a travel agent once, we book directly with Carnival. For your first cruise a travel agent is a good idea. Ask family or friends if they might know a good one. Be aware, that all changes to your cruise must go through the T.A.


This is all based on Carnival because its the only cruiseline we have sailed. Hope I was able to help. Tried to be straight forward with no opinionated answers. If you choose Carnival and go to the Caribbean, love the beach, dont miss Half Moon Cay. Whereever you choose go have a great family cruise.
#7
Fredericksburg, va. USA
82,539 Posts
Joined May 2001
April is our preferred cruise time....Nice and hot...and since all the ships sail full ALL THE TIME, there's no difference in the number of passengers.


Suites on Carnival only get you more space. Carnival has the WORST "suite perks" going.
#8
South Carolina
27,611 Posts
Joined Dec 2001
Welcome to Cruise Critic!
Spring is a great time to go to either the Eastern Caribbean or the Bahamas. Good weather in both that time of year.
Depending on the ship, you may need to book a suite to get a cabin with a balcony.
We think FTTF is worth it.
Hopefully, you'll check around a bit and find another travel agent who will get to know you and spend the time to answer all of questions. We use our long time travel agent. Having a good TA is quite helpful.
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#9
Nebraska
1,416 Posts
Joined May 2011
First, almost every question asked has already been asked before. No worries. I can't answer most of them but I would encourage you to join a roll call. Get to know the people on line and then meet them on the ship.
Rude people. I have only been on 4 cruises and I have not met rude people or staff. Sure people might shove into an elevator or cut in line. Doesn't bother me, I'm there to have a good time.
Also, I understand wanting a low number of children on a cruise. I love kids, I have 5 of my own. I also worked in a preschool. When I went on a cruise I didn't want a lot of kids. But since I worked at a school I vacationed when they did. I however never had a problem with children running everywhere or being unsupervised. I think that is another case of - if your looking for a problem you will find it, if your there to relax and mind your own business you will have a blast.
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#10
Western Washington
5,014 Posts
Joined Aug 2001
Main benefit from early boarding is being able to get a seat a little easier at a venue for lunch. Also more time to explore the ship and check out places like the main dining room and specialty restaurants. Drink packages are usually pretty easy to calculate the break even point and when estimating daily consumption it is better to pad that by a drink or two since it is vacation and normal patterns go out the window.

Roll calls are hit or miss but it pays to check for your ship and sailing date and see if one has been started. Longer and more unique cruises - like transatlantics - have much higher participation. Roll calls are the best route to organizing a pre-cruise meetup, whether in your area or at the port city. We've arranged to meet people at a restaurant the night before sailing in the port city. It's a lot of fun and you already have people to say "hi" to onboard.

Rude staff and crew are pretty unusual and if really bad we make sure someone knows AND we can provide clear details so the exact circumstances are known. Rude passengers are in the eye of the beholder and some people are more sensitive than others to what may be local or cultural differences in the places people have traveled from. Cruises (like popular tourist destinations, think Disney) attract a pretty wide variety of people with different expectations for what "acceptable" behavior is. If we don't like we just roll with it and don't let it ruin our cruise.

TAs that specialize in cruises tend to take a lot of cruises (often free from the line) and "know the drill". Just asking up front how many cruises an agent has taken can shed light on that.
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#11
15,002 Posts
Joined Aug 2013
We always travel to the Caribbean in the months of March or April. it is basically for the weather conducive to water activities, warmer than ours here in the northeast.
#12
Washington
6,005 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
If you are going to get a suite, you should really look at NCL ships such as the NCL Getaway - the suites on that ship are a major step up. Since it is just for you and your wife, consider getting a The Haven Spa Suite - you get a large suite with a jetted tub for 2, large walk in shower for 2, double trough sink, butler service, concierge service, free room service, special restaurant for suite guests, special bar for suite guests, special pool for suite guests only, welcome aboard flowers and sparking champagne, sea shell bath salts, in room coffee maker (make cappuccino, tea, etc.) pillow menu, afternoon hors d'ouerves. They have a great gym - it is huge and the spa is the best at sea and included with The Haven spa Suite. Price is similar to a suite on Carnival. They also have a drinks package. Book directly with NCL for the best prices.

On Carnival, all you get with a suite is more room and a bathroom with a shower/tub combination.
#13
North West NJ
4,440 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
People WAY over think things. If it weren't for this website......people would have a great time instead of reading the dumb complaints people make.
#14
SoCal Gal
5,125 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
Hello, apologizing in advance as most of this has probably been answered before.


My wife and I are looking to depart around April of 2018. We are looking at Carnival due to the affordability. We are finding conflicting answers on most of our searches due to the nature of them being opinionated answers. Would anyone here be willing to assist with this list of questions and provide some much needed insight from past experiences to help us out? Here is a list of our questions or advice requests:


- Is April a good time of year to go to the eastern Caribbean or Bahamas? we will be sailing out of either Florida or South Carolina. Also is April a good time to avoid to many children? We do not mind children as we have four of our own, just trying to take a vacation for us.
***It would be best to find out when spring break is in your area. I've found the prices jump a bit when spring break rolls around. I wouldn't cruise during spring break only because of all the kids (and even rowdy college kids) on board at that time.


- Are suites worth the money to upgrade over a balcony? We are really interested in going for a suite because they look nice, but is it really worth it?
***We will book a suite for location and a larger room and balcony. There are no suite perks to speak of on Carnival. Suites also have a bathtub, which we don't care about but others do. Which ships are you considering? Class of ship would also be an indicator as to whether or not I'd book a suite.


- Should we buy the carnival drink package? I keep seeing really mixed reviews on it, we plan on having 3-10 drinks each a day.
***No opinion as I don't drink and my husband is a very light drinker.


- Are there meetings with people taking the cruise before hand so that we can get to know a few of the people we will be sailing with before debarkation?
***There is such a thing as a Roll Call on Cruise Critic. Once you book your cruise you can join your roll call and get to know some of the cruisers before you board the ship. You can check out roll calls right now if, for nothing else, to see what they're like and what a roll call has to offer.


- Are the gyms normally good quality? We do HIT most of the time, and it can require a lot of space, or should we switch to doing cardio machines while one the cruise?
***What's HIT? Some ship gyms might have space and some might not, depending on the particular ship. I've found all the gyms to be of a high quality with good equipment in good condition.


- Should we expect rude people? We have read many horror stories of terrible staff members, crew members, and just outright rude people being on the cruise, is this common or is it something that happens infrequently but stands out to people who let it ruin their cruise?
***I've been on about 20 cruises and I can count on one hand the number of memorably rude people I've encountered. The crew are typically wonderful, though on a very few occasions I've found a few crew members who might be more distracted or not into their jobs compared to others. Your fellow passengers are going to be as excited as you to be on a cruise. I've found the first night of cruising may create more drunken passengers than subsequent nights if only because the party atmosphere is really on a roll (this in regard to Carnival. I haven't noticed it as much on the two other lines I've sailed). On the other hand, the 3-day cruises will always have a good number of passengers who seem very intent on drinking as much as they possibly can. I've never seen fighting or scary behavior and hope I never do.

- Are the early embarking packages worth the price?
***If you're talking about Faster to the Fun, that depends on how you'll use it. Not only do you get early embarkation, you get a dedicated line at guest services and priority tendering to ports (but not returning from ports). Some people love FTTF, some scoff at the extra cost. If you choose to get it, it's one price per cabin and not per person.


- Lastly, Travel agent or no? the one I have talked to locally did not seem to have many answers for my questions and it has kind of made me a bit leery of their services.
***I didn't use a travel agent until I signed up for a mileage credit card through my preferred airline. I now use that airline's travel agency for the purpose of receiving more mileage points when I book cruises through them. I've managed to get several awards flights this way for my husband and I. I did just fine booking on my own prior to that.

Thanks for taking your time to read this, hopefully, after our cruise, we can answer questions like this for other people.
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#15
In the Valley, CA
22,949 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
Originally posted by santacruisestoo
...
My wife and I are looking to depart around April of 2018. We are looking at Carnival due to the affordability....
Also is April a good time to avoid to many children? We do not mind children as we have four of our own, just trying to take a vacation for us.
If you're talking about this year, Easter is on April 16. Probably most colleges may have already had their spring break (my daughter's is in March), but you may find many younger kids on the ship in April because some school districts (for example the Los angeles Unified, the second largest district in the country, always takes the week off leading to Easter -- back when I was a kid and currently), But Carnival has a pretty good kids' program so most of the kids should be kept busy.

- Are suites worth the money to upgrade over a balcony? We are really interested in going for a suite because they look nice, but is it really worth it?
We do insides or OVs. We just prefer to be out and about the ship, and to save $.

- Should we buy the carnival drink package? I keep seeing really mixed reviews on it, we plan on having 3-10 drinks each a day.
check the Carnival website for prices and details about the packages. You have to decide what works for you. If you can wait until you get on board, check the bar menus to get an idea of individual drinks.

- Are there meetings with people taking the cruise before hand so that we can get to know a few of the people we will be sailing with before debarkation?
As others have said, look for the roll call section of this site and for your sailing when you decide on a cruise. usually there aren't precruise meets, even though most people know to arrive at least a day ahead of their cruise and stay in a hotel. But you can ask on the roll call if others will be at the same hotel and maybe arrange to have a drink together. There's usually on board meetings set up by the roll callers.

- Are the gyms normally good quality? We do HIT most of the time, and it can require a lot of space, or should we switch to doing cardio machines while one the cruise?

I never heard of HIT. sometimes the gym can get busy during the day on sea days. My hubby is the one who usually tries to go just about every day (our last three cruises had at least ten sea days, which we love, each.) but I may go for a treadmill session.
- Should we expect rude people? We have read many horror stories of terrible staff members, crew members, and just outright rude people being on the cruise, is this common or is it something that happens infrequently but stands out to people who let it ruin their cruise?
Usually if you encounter anyone rude on a ship, it's a passenger, but hopefully they will be few on your cruise.

-....

- Lastly, Travel agent or no? the one I have talked to locally did not seem to have many answers for my questions and it has kind of made me a bit leery of their services.

Some TAs aren't knowledgeable about cruises. Ask friends, family members, co-workers if they've been on cruises (you'll be surprised at how many have) and if they could recommend theirs. Our first few cruises we went with a TA, but after that we were pretty knowledgeable enough to feel confident in booking through the cruise line. I would guess that many of the online agencies have bookers who have never seen the ocean, much less been on a cruise. For your first cruise, try for a TA who can help you with any questions you have (besides this site and the cruise line website).

Thanks for taking your time to read this, hopefully, after our cruise, we can answer questions like this for other people.

I would suggest going with a positive attitude, don't sweat the small stuff, don't try to do everything whether on board or in port, fly in at least a day ahead of your cruise.
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Patty the Cruisin' Chick (may all your cruises be smooth sailin')

Hoping for another trip to the land of Aloha!

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#16
Texas
609 Posts
Joined Apr 2015
Regarding kids, in Europe it's common for kids to be off school for 1/2 weeks around Easter. It's possible that there will be more kids on the Florida cruises around that time because of that.
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#17
4 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
I want to thank each and everyone of you for commenting on this and helping shed some light for me. Our plans have changed as the only person we would trust with our kids for that long backed out so we will now be cruising with them. I believe we will have to stray from carnival due to there being 6 and from what I can find on their site while trying to book, they only allow 5 per room. Might also have to change the dates due to needing to save up some more for it.
#18
Central Ohio
1,922 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
Originally posted by santacruisestoo
I want to thank each and everyone of you for commenting on this and helping shed some light for me. Our plans have changed as the only person we would trust with our kids for that long backed out so we will now be cruising with them. I believe we will have to stray from carnival due to there being 6 and from what I can find on their site while trying to book, they only allow 5 per room. Might also have to change the dates due to needing to save up some more for it.
You might want to do some more investigation. It may cost less to spread the six people out into 2-3 cabins, rather than trying to fit them all into one. In some high capacity seasons (spring break, summer, NYE, etc), it is possible for the 3rd, 4th, etc persons to cost as much as the 1st and 2nd in a cabin. Also, think about all 6 people in a small area all trying to get ready for the day or dinner at the same time with one bathroom.
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2016 - Carnival Sunshine (CA/NE)
2015 - Carnival Paradise
2014 - Carnival Elation
2012 - Carnival Sensation
#19
Texas
609 Posts
Joined Apr 2015
That's what we do, 2 connecting cabins for 4 people is almost always cheaper than squeezing into 1 cabin, at least on the dates we sail.
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#20
4 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
Originally posted by Schoifmom
You might want to do some more investigation. It may cost less to spread the six people out into 2-3 cabins, rather than trying to fit them all into one. In some high capacity seasons (spring break, summer, NYE, etc), it is possible for the 3rd, 4th, etc persons to cost as much as the 1st and 2nd in a cabin. Also, think about all 6 people in a small area all trying to get ready for the day or dinner at the same time with one bathroom.

I will look into this, is cruising with younger children hard? we will have 2 10 year olds, a 6 year old, and a 3 year old, a little worried that it might be more stress than just staying at home.