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  1. It’s been mostly Carnival, but there are a few stops in Progreso scheduled by Royal Caribbean as well as Disney. It’s a deep port built on a 5 mile long pier. I hope that Progreso doesn’t become another Cozumel. I was very skeptical about going there after reading many reviews saying that it’s a dump and that there’s nothing to do there. But we were there in February and I absolutely LOVED it. What people mean by dumpy and boring really means that it’s authentic and not overly exploited, commercialized, and Americanized. It was wonderful. It reminded me of what Cozumel used to be like 20 years ago before it got way too crowded.
  2. Respectfully, I have a differing take on the sentences above. I appreciate your wealth of information and expertise, but I just see things differently than you so I wanted to share my opinion. - True, if I’ll be visiting Alaska multiple times in my life, what I miss on my first trip, I can see on the next, and the next, so itinerary wouldn’t be as important. But if my cruise to Alaska is a once in a lifetime experience (as it is for many), then I would be more discerning about itinerary and find one that visits the specific places that I’m most interested in. - Price and convenience to a certain degree. I wouldn’t sacrifice a wonderful itinerary in favor of price and convenience, unless the one that I truly want is prohibitively expensive . - We took an Alaska cruise with 14 family members. We were all on different budgets (from stateroom category selection to excursion budget). Long story short, we all came home with absolutely fantastic memories even though our activities ashore varied greatly. Yes, it would’ve been amazing to go flight seeing in a helicopter and dog sledding on a glacier, but what we did do on a budget was still wonderful. Yes, set a budget for excursions, but more important than that, I’d say to do a lot of research in advance which will cut down on the amount of money required for excursions. We visited glaciers, hiked through a national forest, saw bald eagles up close, and explored through land and sea among other activities, all without spending a dime on an organized excursion. - True, some waterfronts are lined with your typical cruise line shops, in places like Juneau and Ketchikan (Ketchikan in particular made me think of an Alaskan themed Nassau 😂). But not all ports are the same (Sitka in particular is one of my favorite party because it doesn’t have any of the chain stores referenced above). In any case, your observation should be an encouragement to explore beyond the port area, otherwise it’s true that they can all feel the same. - Yes, seas can be rough as we’ve also experienced, but going back to the “price and convenience” comment above, I wouldn’t go for cheapest midship. I agree that the best sightseeing from the ship is done by walking around out on open decks, but there’s still a large percentage of time spent in the stateroom. Some of my most breathtaking views of Alaska have been from my stateroom balcony, early in the morning when I wake up. I’ll take a more expensive balcony stateroom forward than a cheaper inside stateroom midship. - As far as ship size goes, I love big ships and I cannot lie, but in Alaska I wouldn’t place ship size in favor of itinerary for the sake of a smoother ride. In Alaska, usually larger means more limited and crappier itineraries.
  3. We just sent a screenshot of the log in page showing the loyalty number. That was sufficient. Have a great time on your MSC Cruise! We sailed on them in the Mediterranean last November and had an absolutely fantastic time!
  4. We sailed on the Disney Fantasy. Our lowly standard stateroom was $3,000 cheaper than what we are paying for a Haven forward penthouse suite aboard the Norwegian Encore. Needless to say, Disney was a one time cruise for us. But the vast majority of fellow cruisers we met onboard will ONLY sail on Disney. Everything else is crap and they’ll gladly pay extra for the Disney experience.
  5. On our last Carnival Cruise, our steward try to ask if we wanted “morning OR evening”, to which I replied “BOTH”. I could tell that he didn’t like that answer. He stopped smiling and gave me the evil stare. 😂
  6. In general, I absolutely love the larger and newer ships. I am mesmerized by the technical aspects of the big, modern ships. But I dislike that, in the most part, they only visit a limited number of ports. We are booked on Norwegian Encore in 2021, and it’s because it’s a brand new ship and because we found a killer deal on a Haven suite. But if my main focus is destination, then the ship and cruise line are secondary. We sailed to Cuba last year and it was aboard the old and small Empress of the Seas, but it was a memorable Cruise because of the destination. Same thing when we sailed to Alaska on the Westerdam. That cruise was all about the destination and very little about the ship. Last year I was able to combine a brand new ship with a wonderful destination when we sailed on the MSC Meraviglia in the Mediterranean. One of my best cruises ever.
  7. MSC limits their announcements since when, they do make one, they are doing so in 6-7 languages. If I recall correctly, they only do so when it’s something important, like to announce muster drill, not to promote bingo. Overall, MSC limits anything verbal. For example, welcome aboard announcements during the show are brief and to the point. Not a lot of joking around because there’s a good chance that a lot of people won’t get the jokes in a different language. But they still push sales quite a bit. You can be walking down the ship and you’ll get hit multiple times with a sales pitch for perfume, watches, specialty dining, drink packages, etc. They just don’t use loudspeakers as much to do so.
  8. Awesome, thank you for that information. That was my gut feeling. Glad to get some reassurance!
  9. Thanks for that info! Right now I’ve pinpointed 2 cabins within the specific category that I want. One is midship, but you can see the lifeboats a couple of decks straight down, and the other one is towards the very aft but with no lifeboats. I’m wondering if it’s better to sacrifice the midship location in order to have a straight down unobstructed view. Any suggestions? Thanks!
  10. We made an 8:45am flight out of FLL when we sailed on the Divina. No, we didn’t book a flight that early. We just got to the airport so early that we were able to standby on that 8:45am flight.
  11. That sentence alone explains why this topic of gratuities never dies. Some people who haven’t worked in the service industry simply lack the knowledge to understand how the system works. OP: Restaurant waiters distribute a percentage of their tips among “behind the scenes” workers, like cooks, bussers and food runners. Same concept applies to the way cruise ship gratuities are applied. On a cruise ship, If you choose to remove the auto gratuities and then tip in cash, those who receive your tips directly are still expected to distribute part of them with the people that you’re trying to avoid. In your effort to only “reward” those who served you directly, you’re making their lives harder because now they have to do manually what the auto gratuities do for them automatically. The only reason why someone should consider removing automatic gratuities is if they are planning on either under tipping or not tipping at all.
  12. I also found Holland America to be blissfully free of incessant announcements and hard sells for things like $10 sales, gold by the inch, liquor tasting, auctions, or to encourage people to attend bingo, art auctions etc. Announcements were kept to a minimum. They trusted that people could read the daily program and figure out on their own what they wanted to do. Do keep in mind that, as you move up to more premium and upscale cruise lines, the overall cruise experience tends to be more sedate. Entertainment is more cerebral. You may be replacing activities like hairy leg and bar tending competitions, as well as silly pool games and loud music with lecturers and culturally enriching experiences. And with that, you can also expect an older demographic. But it seems like you’re at a point in your travels where you’re ready for that. We are in our 40’s, and although we were “young” compared to other cruisers when we sailed on Holland for the first time, we had an absolutely wonderful experience. We appreciated all the little details and the more polished experience. We are now scheduled to sail on Holland again in a few months
  13. On Disney, our kids wore a wristband. Their location could be pinpointed with accuracy. If we were picking them up at the kids club, the staff could tell us specifically where our kids were located. I don’t know however if their location could be pinpointed if they left the facilities. To the OP: How old are your children, and would you trust them to have a phone? One thing that we did use on our last cruise (on Carnival) to stay in touch with our kids was the texting function on the Carnival app. We gave our oldest son a phone and that way we could communicate with each other. If we dropped the kids off at the kids club, we could text with them and check if they wanted to stay longer or if they were ready to be picked up. They were not allowed to check themselves out or roam the ship unsupervised, but having the ability to communicate with them gave us a certain degree of reassurance that they were where they were supposed to be.
  14. For our upcoming cruise during my kids winter break, I was running into the same issue. $600-700 roundtrip from ATL to FLL. I started pricing out one ways using different airlines and airport combinations. We will be flying down to PBI on Delta at $66 and returning from FLL on Spirit at $59. Another thing we were running into was expensive hotels in the Ft Lauderdale area. Even a crappy Ramada was over $250pp plus taxes, making it close to $300 a night. Hotels along the lines of Hilton/Marriott etc were pushing $400 a night. Since we are flying into PBI, I looked at hotels up there and booked the Embassy Suites by the PBI airport for $125 plus taxes. Get creative. Good luck!
  15. Armonia will be the equivalent of sailing on a Carnival fantasy class ship. She’s one of MSC’s oldest and smallest ships, so keep that in mind. The reason why she’s performing 7 night itineraries out of Miami is because she was originally used for Cuba cruises until the plug was pulled on those sailings, leaving her without a long term commitment. First pointer: Don’t compare MSC to Carnival. One of the complaints that I heard from some fellow cruisers the first time that I sailed on MSC was that “it’s not like Carnival” or “these burgers aren’t as good as Guy’s Burgers” or “there’s no Punchliners comedy club”, etc, etc. Don’t be that person who can’t appreciate beyond what their preferred cruise line offers. There will be many similarities, but there will be several differences, in great part because it’s a European cruise line. - Expect a more international mix of passengers and culturally diverse experience, including announcements made in several languages. - Expect customer service to appeal to a more European clientele, but don’t think of it as being unfriendly. It’s just different than what Americans would expect. - Expect entertainment to be less verbal. No comedians, no dueling pianos, etc. Once again, entertainment is geared to appeal to a broad multi-lingual clientele. - Expect some idiosyncrasies to be different than what you’re used to. For example, you need to set up your onboard account yourself at one of the self service kiosks onboard. - It’s true. There’s no Guy Burgers or equivalent on MSC. But expect food to be a bit more diverse, with a heavy selection of Italian Entrees. Go with an open mind, and welcome all the things that differentiates MSC from American cruise lines. Understand that you’re sailing aboard one of MSC’s oldest ships, but that this cruise line has one of the fastest growing, most modern, and technologically advanced fleets at sea. So if you don’t like the Armonia, you can always give MSC a try again aboard one of her newer ships that better reflect what MSC truly has to offer. Have a great cruise! Enjoy!
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