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Help to choose a first cruise


jimbo1683
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It's my 40th in 2023 and I would like to celebrate with a cruise for me and my husband. I'd prefer to go in the first half of the year as my birthday is February, although that seems to rule out New England/Canada cruises.

 

Ideally we will sail from Southampton (UK) but I don't mind flying to a European port.

 

I had been hoping to take the QM2 transatlantic, however I'd really like to do that in a grill suite and the cost may be out of reach this time around. From what I've read I don't think the Britannia Club is going to be what we're looking for.

 

So the alternatives I am considering are P&O cruises 12 days to Norway. The ship is the Aurora. The itinery looks great but the ship itself looks very dated so I'm worried about that.

 

The other is Fred Olson around the Faroe Islands, but again from what I've seen it looks comfortable but not luxurious.

 

I've had a look at NCL and they seem good valur especially where they include the drinks package.

 

I'm interested in any Northern European and Canada and New England cruises. Budget is around £5000 for both of us and we would want at least a balcony cabin.

 

Hoping you might be able to help with ideas and suggestions. Thank you

 

 

 

 

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Jimbo,

What surprises me about your varied cruise line suggestions is the luxury variation spread,  Cunard very formal even in Britannia but then you suggest a grill suite, P&O about Britannia level but not quite as formal, NCL the most laid back informal experience available then Fred Olsen which is a bit basic but good three star sort of level.

 

Cruise lines have a distinct circuit and the North America Canada season really is to see the natural beauty of the fall colours of autumn hence the time of year they are restricted to.  Cruise lines often do the world cruises over our winter to get to the sunny ports of the Southern Hemisphere and return to Europe for the Mediterranean season roughly May onwards but avoid Mediterranean high summer as it is too hot and do Fjords Norway etc. at that time.

 

I had a look at Cunard and QM2 7 April 2023 does Cape Town to Southampton in 16 days stopping at Namibia and Tenerife. This is last leg of world cruise lots of sea days similar to a Transatlantic. Queen Victoria 3 April 2023 does Dubai to Southampton over 20 days transiting the Suez Canal with more ports of call.

 

What is your main focus?  Itinerary, date, level of luxury.  Princess is a more similar line to P&O and I would group Cunard with them as a decent level. I would avoid fred Olsen and NCL if you want formal type of voyage myself.

 

Regards John

 

 

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8 minutes ago, john watson said:

Jimbo,

What surprises me about your varied cruise line suggestions is the luxury variation spread

 

OP, I agree with this poster.  Your cruise ideas are "all over the map".  Maybe need to refine your thinking a bit?

 

8 minutes ago, john watson said:

I would avoid fred Olsen and NCL if you want formal type of voyage myself.

 

Have not sailed on Fred. Olsen, but, from what I have learned on their CC Message Boards, I think they offer a good cruise product.  Their recent acquisition of two former HAL ships (Rotterdam and Amsterdam) has upgraded their fleet, I think.  

 

NCL:  unless one would book The Haven, I don't think you will experience the type of "luxury" experience you would like to have if you would book a Grills accommodation on any of the Cunard Queens.  

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Thanks for your responses.

I've largely focussed on searching for sailings from the UK which unless I'm missing something leaves me with a fairly limited range of options hence the mixed bag of service levels I mentioned. Plus never having cruised before I didn't know that NCL was the least formal.

 

If we sail on the QM2 then I want to go all in and want the luxury formality. If we go elsewhere then I'm not looking for that same experience - I appreciate other cruises will be very different to Cunard.

 

For personal reasons I won't visit the middle east - Dubai isn't an option.

 

Since I posted earlier today I have found a 7 day Norway cruise on Celebrity Silhouette which interests me and seems good value, and an 11 night on NCL Prima from Southampton to Reykjavik. Any thoughts on those?

 

I will have a look at Princess too.

 

Maximum lengtb of cruise will need to be 12 days.

Edited by jimbo1683
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Royal Caribbean International have a bit more select cruise line called Celebrity Cruises and Silhouette is doing a seven day round trip four Norwegian ports cruise.  Prices per person will be £1000 to £5000 per person. Norwegian Cruise Line is doing four days longer but the itinerary looks a lot more interesting. It looks a more up to the minute radical new design ship and per person should be £1500 to £3000.  You obviously need to fly home and price that in but also factor in that if you drive to Southampton and park the plane probably does not fly to Southampton airport. Overall the longer cruise could work out cheaper.

 

Regards John

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I personally enjoy the Celebrity experience. 

One thing about European cruises, they tend to be more port heavy, where you spend more time in the ports than on the ship. This is versus the Caribbean, where you will see more sea days and possibly less time in port. 

Just something else to take into account.

In all honesty, your best bet would be to find a travel agent to discuss your options with.

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I have done 36 cruises all over the World

For me ‘a real’  cruise is a Caribbean cruise. You should consider a Caribbean cruise from Cape Liberty (Bayonne, New Jersey  - Newark airport) to reduce flight time - other alternatives are from Bahamas or Miami/Fort Lauderdale. I prefer January to March when weather is not too good at our latitude. 
if not Caribbean cruise consider a western Mediterranean cruise in the autumn. From Southampton I suggest a Norwegian Fjords cruise in June.

My preferences for cruise lines are Royal Caribbean or Celebrity.

For your inspiration link to a Caribbean cruise from Cape Liberty or Western Mediterranean Cruise.

 

Let us know when you have decided and use all the resources at this cruise forum. Enjoy your cruise.

Edited by hallasm
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Hello.  My suggestion is to find a good local TA who specializes in higher end or luxury cruised and see if there is a way to find something in your budget.  You might be surprised at how expensive many of these cruises are.  Give some thought to a premium line like Oceania which can be, but is not always slightly cheaper.  Generally speaking the higher the price the more that is included but this can be a grey area.  Size of ship is also a key factor for many people and of course ports.  Remember that it is very difficult to compare prices from line to line and sometimes even for certain ships or itineraries.  A good TA should be able to help in this regard and of course these boards can be very helpful.  Also remember that being from the UK there ate different prices as well as laws and rules which need to be specified.  I am from the US and find CC to be mostly US but with enough UK cruisers to answer your questions.  Never assume most of what you read will pertain to you specifically.  

What is important to you?  Ports, the ship, food, Entertainment, value, will you drink much

, take tours, included flights?  Slot of details which add up and can break your budget quickly.  Also, if trying to get value, think of expanding your time beyond the time around your birthday.  

We have never taken a cruise and have reserved a 2023 Oceania Caribbean cruise as our first.  Many factors including cost went into our decision.  For example we don't drink much and live with lots of easy access flights (and friends) to our port.  In our case the ship, the food and the smaller passenger count was key for us.  Figure out what is key for you then the individual cruise line threads here will be a big help.   On the plus side you have plenty of time (although with vivid who can say) to make your decisions.  

Good luck.

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Just one question: How do you know you will enjoy cruising enough to be locked in to a longer length cruise? I believe you indicated you had never cruised, and, some who thought they would like cruising found out it was not for them. We were totally hooked after our first cruise to the Caribbean in 1997 and have been happy cruisers ever since. So, hopefully, you will get the benefit of much fun and excitement from your investment!

Edited by Sixtytwo
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2 minutes ago, Sixtytwo said:

Definitely not for those who have the cruise "bug". For newbies...🤷‍♂️

 

The twelve day limit is what was specified together with considering a seven day cruise.  Anything shorter, in particular these three night weekender taster cruises are not a very typical guide to what a genuine cruise will be like and take up a chunk of your cruising budget.  People from the UK have generally got a good idea of whether they will be sick as a dog with sea sickness as they have generally done at least a couple of visits to Europe on cross channel ferry with bad weather and rolling far more than on a cruise.

 

Regards John

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Thank you all for your helpful comments and suggestions.

 

I note the recommendation that I find a good local travel agent. I'm not sure how one would do that and there's certainly no cruise specialists where I live. Perhaps Trailfinders or Kuoni might be appropriate, I don't know of others.

 

How do we know we'll like it? Well we don't but we enjoy travel, good food and nice hotels so wanted to give cruising a go. We've been on plenty of ferries and know that we won't be seasick.

 

We will only have 2 weeks time off work hence the need for it to fit into that time. I'd prefer not to have the complexity of flying and my interest is more in northern climes, landscapes and architecture than in the Carribbean. Being from the UK we are very well versed in the Med hence not looking at those cruises.

 

So I've narrowed it down. I'm pretty certain we will take a Princess cruise for a week to Norway and Denmark, but I'm still tempted by NCL's slightly longer cruise to the Norwegian fjords and Iceland. The only part of that I'm not so sure about is the need to fly home and get transport back to Southampton.

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Hi, Jimbo, and a belated welcome to Cruise Critic,

 

First off, I'm presuming from the content that that you're based in the UK. Most contributors are American or Canadian, hence suggestions about sailing from places like New Jersey to places like the Caribbean. 

A suggestion - when you find the time, add your location to your screen-name. This will help to avoid any inappropriate advice, for instance about visas etc.

 

Kuoni are an excellent holiday agency, but you need a CRUISE SPECIALIST agency.

Naming agents is against Cruise Critic's rules so I can't make any suggestions, but dial "cruise agents UK" into Google & check out the websites - then use the PHONE, not the internet. Cruise agents can help enormously by finding out your preferences & giving you the lowdown on different ships, cruise lines & itineraries, and by addressing some pretty basic matters which you might not know about. When you've settled on a particular cruise, get the best price that you can find (and ask for freebies like upgrades, drinks packages, cruise parking etc). Then phone back to the agent who you have found to be the most helpful and ask them to match it - as a newbie, go with them even if they can't quite match the best deal. They can then guide you through cabin choice (not just category but location too), dining options,  on-board accounts, going ashore, and a thousand other things.

 

Just a few personal opinions based on your posts .................

Cunard No longer British, but the most formal cruise line in the business - for instance jacket & tie at dinner every evening, except in the buffet. currency is USD

P&O also expect standards, but far less-strictly - for instance on formal nights (one or sometimes two per week) dining is a collar-and-tie affair (most, but not all, in DJs) in both the main dining room and some bars,. Again, no such restrictions in the buffet. Tips are included in your fare, though most reward excellent service from cabin stewards & waiting staff. Bar prices lower than most, & no tips added. Bear these things in mind when comparing fares. Some ships (not Aurora) are adults-only - sounds good, but attracts a much higher proportion of  seriously-elderly. P&O is actually American-owned, part of the Carnival stable, but geared very much to Brit tastes. Currency is £.

Royal Caribbean is very American. They do have formal nights but the dress code isn't strictly-enforced and that results in a pretty unhappy mix of DJs and Hawaiian shirts. Other than that, a pretty good cruise line. Currency is USD.

Celebrity is one of the more up-market sisters of Royal Caribbean & a higher proportion of older folk.

NCL are indeed very informal throughout. They do have a reputation for nickel-and-diming and up-selling. They probably have the highest proportion of speciality dining venues, great for a special occasion but expensive if you use them every night - which they'll try to persuade you to do, and with "tips" added to those bills even though you're already paying one of the highest daily service charges in the business!. Don't be put off, but do bear in mind when comparing value for money. Currency is USD.

Fred Olsen is geared very much to Brit recently-retireds.  We've not sailed with Fred, but know many who have. Older ships bought second-hand, but Fred has a very loyal customer-base, and very friendly passengers & crew.. I don't know about tips, currency is £.

Princess was a subsidiary of P&O many moons ago - now it is American, but as "English" as American ships get. Much more refined than Royal Caribbean & NCL, a little more up-market than P&O. Currency is USD.

Oceania is one of those cruise lines I can only dream about, same applies to Azamara, Silverseas & a few others.. They operate smaller cruise ships, vaguely 600 to 1200 passengers.

Viking is a new boy on the block, seems worth considering.

I don't think Marella (Thomson /TUI) or Virgin would suit you, 

MSC and Costa are probably not best for a first cruise, Hurtigruten is very different from standard cruises.

 

I've mentioned currency. Altho ships are cashless, if its not your home currency it can be a bind to mentally figure value-for-money, and there'll be conversion charges to charge your card. (nb don't let the ship convert "for your convenience" - your card supplier will convert at a much better rate

 

Bear in mind the size of ships, they vary from  600 passengers to over 5,000.

We find about 2,000 gives the right balance between crowds and facilities - one reason why Aurora is a favourite of ours.

 

If you want to sail from the UK , I'd strongly recommend the Baltic. 

 

JB 🙂

 

 

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58 minutes ago, John Bull said:

Hi, Jimbo, and a belated welcome to Cruise Critic,

 

First off, I'm presuming from the content that that you're based in the UK. Most contributors are American or Canadian, hence suggestions about sailing from places like New Jersey to places like the Caribbean. 

A suggestion - when you find the time, add your location to your screen-name. This will help to avoid any inappropriate advice, for instance about visas etc.

 

Kuoni are an excellent holiday agency, but you need a CRUISE SPECIALIST agency.

Naming agents is against Cruise Critic's rules so I can't make any suggestions, but dial "cruise agents UK" into Google & check out the websites - then use the PHONE, not the internet. Cruise agents can help enormously by finding out your preferences & giving you the lowdown on different ships, cruise lines & itineraries, and by addressing some pretty basic matters which you might not know about. When you've settled on a particular cruise, get the best price that you can find (and ask for freebies like upgrades, drinks packages, cruise parking etc). Then phone back to the agent who you have found to be the most helpful and ask them to match it - as a newbie, go with them even if they can't quite match the best deal. They can then guide you through cabin choice (not just category but location too), dining options,  on-board accounts, going ashore, and a thousand other things.

 

Just a few personal opinions based on your posts .................

Cunard No longer British, but the most formal cruise line in the business - for instance jacket & tie at dinner every evening, except in the buffet. currency is USD

P&O also expect standards, but far less-strictly - for instance on formal nights (one or sometimes two per week) dining is a collar-and-tie affair (most, but not all, in DJs) in both the main dining room and some bars,. Again, no such restrictions in the buffet. Tips are included in your fare, though most reward excellent service from cabin stewards & waiting staff. Bar prices lower than most, & no tips added. Bear these things in mind when comparing fares. Some ships (not Aurora) are adults-only - sounds good, but attracts a much higher proportion of  seriously-elderly. P&O is actually American-owned, part of the Carnival stable, but geared very much to Brit tastes. Currency is £.

Royal Caribbean is very American. They do have formal nights but the dress code isn't strictly-enforced and that results in a pretty unhappy mix of DJs and Hawaiian shirts. Other than that, a pretty good cruise line. Currency is USD.

Celebrity is one of the more up-market sisters of Royal Caribbean & a higher proportion of older folk.

NCL are indeed very informal throughout. They do have a reputation for nickel-and-diming and up-selling. They probably have the highest proportion of speciality dining venues, great for a special occasion but expensive if you use them every night - which they'll try to persuade you to do, and with "tips" added to those bills even though you're already paying one of the highest daily service charges in the business!. Don't be put off, but do bear in mind when comparing value for money. Currency is USD.

Fred Olsen is geared very much to Brit recently-retireds.  We've not sailed with Fred, but know many who have. Older ships bought second-hand, but Fred has a very loyal customer-base, and very friendly passengers & crew.. I don't know about tips, currency is £.

Princess was a subsidiary of P&O many moons ago - now it is American, but as "English" as American ships get. Much more refined than Royal Caribbean & NCL, a little more up-market than P&O. Currency is USD.

Oceania is one of those cruise lines I can only dream about, same applies to Azamara, Silverseas & a few others.. They operate smaller cruise ships, vaguely 600 to 1200 passengers.

Viking is a new boy on the block, seems worth considering.

I don't think Marella (Thomson /TUI) or Virgin would suit you, 

MSC and Costa are probably not best for a first cruise, Hurtigruten is very different from standard cruises.

 

I've mentioned currency. Altho ships are cashless, if its not your home currency it can be a bind to mentally figure value-for-money, and there'll be conversion charges to charge your card. (nb don't let the ship convert "for your convenience" - your card supplier will convert at a much better rate

 

Bear in mind the size of ships, they vary from  600 passengers to over 5,000.

We find about 2,000 gives the right balance between crowds and facilities - one reason why Aurora is a favourite of ours.

 

If you want to sail from the UK , I'd strongly recommend the Baltic. 

 

JB 🙂

 

 

JB, as always you are a fountain of great information!

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2 hours ago, John Bull said:

If you want to sail from the UK , I'd strongly recommend the Baltic

 

Your entire response to the OP is excellent!  Probably the best short description of the major cruise lines that I have read.  I noticed that one cruise line was missing:  HAL?  What might you say about HAL?

 

The Baltic offers much for the first time cruiser.  Maybe, though for a first time cruiser, a destination overload with so many major ports.  But, all of them well worth a visit! 

 

The Norwegian Fjords as well as Iceland are so different from a Baltic cruise.  It is a difficult choice of itineraries.  

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3 minutes ago, rkacruiser said:

 

Your entire response to the OP is excellent!  Probably the best short description of the major cruise lines that I have read.  I noticed that one cruise line was missing:  HAL?  What might you say about HAL?

 

The Baltic offers much for the first time cruiser.  Maybe, though for a first time cruiser, a destination overload with so many major ports.  But, all of them well worth a visit! 

 

The Norwegian Fjords as well as Iceland are so different from a Baltic cruise.  It is a difficult choice of itineraries.  

 

Hi, rka,

 

We rarely see HAL (Holland-America Line) in the UK.

Have considered them a couple of times for their itineraries off-the-beaten-track in the Far East - Singapore to Aus rings a bell.

We're retired, we like 20 to 30-day one-way cruises for the destinations, and we don't spend a lot per diem - so I think we fit the customer-profile? 

But we've never (yet) sailed with them.

 

My first cruise - if it counts - was to the Baltic. A schools' education cruise on a converted troop-ship, highlight then was Leningrad.

Been back since by "proper" cruise ship, same highlight but St Petersburg very different to the Soviet era Leningrad.

But I see port-intensive as ideal for a first cruise. If you realise too late that you don't like being on a ship, you're ashore most days. But there's no compunction to go ashore - we've repeated a few cruises simply to get in some cheap winter sun and a few lazy beers in port.

 

But of course there are pros & cons to all itineraries.

 

JB 🙂

 

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4 minutes ago, John Bull said:

But I see port-intensive as ideal for a first cruise. If you realise too late that you don't like being on a ship, you're ashore most days.

 

An excellent point.  I had not thought of that.

 

4 minutes ago, John Bull said:

We rarely see HAL (Holland-America Line) in the UK.

Have considered them a couple of times for their itineraries off-the-beaten-track in the Far East - Singapore to Aus rings a bell.

 

I suspected that HAL had few sailings originated in the UK when I wrote my post.

 

The Asia/South Pacific itineraries of HAL are often very attractive ones.  Little often visited ports like in Brunei, in Malaysia, in Australia, Guam, Tonga, etc. are enticing for a cruiser seeking something a bit "different".  

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@John Bull

 

Just to add to your excellent cruise line summary.

 

Ambassador Cruise Line

https://www.ambassadorcruiseline.com/

They are 'risen from the ashes' of CMV. They have not actually sailed yet but some of their offerings do look tempting. Traditional, adults only and onboard currency is GBP.

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1 hour ago, SteveH2508 said:

@John Bull

 

Just to add to your excellent cruise line summary.

 

Ambassador Cruise Line

https://www.ambassadorcruiseline.com/

They are 'risen from the ashes' of CMV. They have not actually sailed yet but some of their offerings do look tempting. Traditional, adults only and onboard currency is GBP.

 

 

Yes, I know from other posts that you've sailed CMV.

We sailed with them just the once - and that wasn't by choice. We'd booked a Black Sea cruise with Voyages of Discovery, but in the meantime they sold their ship, MS Discovery, to CMV.

MS Discovery was our out-and-out favourite for her itineraries (she roamed the seas like a tramp, never repeating a port for many months and you booked two-week segments - we usually cruised 4 weeks but we met folk who'd been on the ship since our previous cruise), her brilliant crew (all from one village in the Philippines), the great on-board camaraderie, and the prices which mirrored those of CMV. MS Discovery was a very tired old ship, but that didn't matter.

Other than the OK but not outstanding crew, our CMV experience on her was almost as good.

 

If Ambassador comes up with any offerings which appeal, we'll give them a try.

But we'll pay by credit card for the obvious reason.😉

 

JB 🙂

Edited by John Bull
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  • 5 weeks later...

You will need to understand that a cruise ship cabin, unless you book an upper level suite, will not have the space of most hotel rooms.   I would first decide WHERE I want to go, and if I wanted to "relax" or sightsee....then I would pick the ship that would allow that sort of experience.

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The QM2 is such an awesome ship, with amazing entertainment and variety. It's not all about the class distinction of Britannia and the Grills. I think you should take another look at it because there's no other ship quite like it.

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From the UK with a bit of formal there's Saga, without formal nights from the UK or short haul there's Viking. 

Cunard have been carnivalised, so are no longer the line we all aspired to sail with. 

We go with Viking, think floating 4/5 star hotel. Only slight flaw is that the food is US rather than UK, but it's not bad. 

 

 

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