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stuntman_mike87

First time cruiser - February 2020 cruises!

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Hi everyone,

 

I've never been on a cruise before (obviously, from the title!) and I'm looking to book a cruise for me and my girlfriend for next year, ideally February 2020. There's a couple of reasons behind the choice of time - her birthday is just before Christmas so this is a great gift, she's always wanted to go on one and February is the month we got together, plus, the latter part is pretty significant as I'm planning something for the trip that you can probably work out!:classic_tongue:

 

Anyway, putting my little life story aside, I'm looking for some good cruise options for next year. I'm looking for a shorter cruise, 2-5 days, because this is our first time and around Europe and at a reasonable rate if possible. I appreciate cruises aren't "cheap" but from the research I've done so far there seems to be lots of deals out there but there's such little background info behind them, so I've got a few questions if anyone's able to help....

 

I'm guessing that Amsterdam/Belgium are probably the best European choices for shorter cruises that time of year? I know there's Canaries on offer but we're going there in May, and the Caribbean is out of my price range and time constraints currently, plus it's a heck of a cruise to jump into first time! I've had a friend of a fried recommend P&O cruises from Southampton, I've also had Marella recommended as they're "all inclusive" completely (is this true?) but they don't seem to go to European cities and I've looked at Fred Olsen etc.

 

So....

 

- Which cruise liners and deals should I be focusing on and what price per person should I be expecting to be looking at, before any additional costs, or including an average if you know?

- My girlfriend is not a huge fan of formal events, whereas I don't mind them. If you are on a cruise liner which offers formal evening events, do you have to attend them or are other restaurants/bars open for smart/casual attendance?

- What kind of dining experiences do you tend to get for these kind of cruises? From what I've seen there is a multitude of restaurants and different dining experiences, is that correct? I'm guessing there are some that charge additionally?

- Is the extra expense for an outside view, or balcony cabin worth it? From the deals I've looked at so far, the increase is so minimal which seems strange to me, am I missing something here?

- I know that food is all inclusive on most cruises, but how do drink work? I know that soft drinks/hot drinks are all inclusive, but is a drinks package for alcohol beverages worth it on a shorter cruise? My girlfriend is not much of a drinker (she'll have a couple of cocktails across a few days sort of things) so am I better just paying at the time if I can, or is that ludicrously expensive and a package more beneficial? 

- I understand tipping, like in the US, is expected, not really optional, which is fine. What's the average a day?

- Can anyone explain any additional costs to me and how they work like the port taxes and daily charges? I've seen these referred too but have no understanding of them.

 

I'm genuinely interested to hear anyone's experiences for February cruises in the regions I'm looking at. If I book, I'm probably going to go completely off someone's recommendation so this would be much appreciated. As much info as possible would be great.

 

Thanks in advance.

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Posted (edited)

If you want to cruise in that area in Feb, you will have very little choice.  There are a few short cruises from Southampton.  That is not cruise season in northern Europe.  You don't say where you will be leaving from...UK?  You might have better luck if you fly to a Med. port, but short cruises are not prevalent in Europe.  Go to www.cruisetimetables.com and search by departure port to see what is available. 

 

Northern Europe in Feb. is a waste of money.  EM

Edited by Essiesmom

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My best suggestion to you would be to find a travel agent you are comfortable working with, and letting them make suggestions. As a first time cruiser there are a lot of variables to juggle such as itinerary, ship, cabin selection, etc. Someone who knows what they are doing could help you have an excellent holiday. At least here in the US, there is no charge for their service as they get their commissions from the cruise lines.

 

Best of luck to you.

 

Neal

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3 hours ago, Essiesmom said:

If you want to cruise in that area in Feb, you will have very little choice.  There are a few short cruises from Southampton.  That is not cruise season in northern Europe.  You don't say where you will be leaving from...UK?  You might have better luck if you fly to a Med. port, but short cruises are not prevalent in Europe.  Go to www.cruisetimetables.com and search by departure port to see what is available. 

 

Northern Europe in Feb. is a waste of money.  EM

 

 

Oops...meant to say a balcony in Northern Europe in the winter is a waste.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, stuntman_mike87 said:

Hi everyone,

 

I've never been on a cruise before (obviously, from the title!) and I'm looking to book a cruise for me and my girlfriend for next year, ideally February 2020. There's a couple of reasons behind the choice of time - her birthday is just before Christmas so this is a great gift, she's always wanted to go on one and February is the month we got together, plus, the latter part is pretty significant as I'm planning something for the trip that you can probably work out!:classic_tongue:

 

Anyway, putting my little life story aside, I'm looking for some good cruise options for next year. I'm looking for a shorter cruise, 2-5 days, because this is our first time and around Europe and at a reasonable rate if possible. I appreciate cruises aren't "cheap" but from the research I've done so far there seems to be lots of deals out there but there's such little background info behind them, so I've got a few questions if anyone's able to help....

 

I'm guessing that Amsterdam/Belgium are probably the best European choices for shorter cruises that time of year? I know there's Canaries on offer but we're going there in May, and the Caribbean is out of my price range and time constraints currently, plus it's a heck of a cruise to jump into first time! I've had a friend of a fried recommend P&O cruises from Southampton, I've also had Marella recommended as they're "all inclusive" completely (is this true?) but they don't seem to go to European cities and I've looked at Fred Olsen etc.

 

Northern Europe in Feb??????

The English Channel and North Sea don't appeal to me at that time of year.

You might be lucky with the weather (like we all were this Feb), but you probably won't.

And P&O's short (2 - 3 nights) cruises are generally regarded as "booze cruises".  Great if you like a very lively party atmosphere, but it won' be a "typical" cruise. Americans talk about short cruises out of Florida as being much the same.

 

P&O, Marella and Fred Olsen are all Brit-orientated. Generally not as glitzy as US or Italian ships, but a good choice for a Brit's first cruise line - lower on-board costs, ship's currency is sterling, Brit attitudes and follow-passengers. (nothing wrong with trying a US ship - but mebbe not first-time)

Fred is particularly popular with recently-retireds.

 

 

Quote

 

So....

 

- Which cruise liners and deals should I be focusing on and what price per person should I be expecting to be looking at, before any additional costs, or including an average if you know?

- My girlfriend is not a huge fan of formal events, whereas I don't mind them. If you are on a cruise liner which offers formal evening events, do you have to attend them or are other restaurants/bars open for smart/casual attendance?

 

All three of those cruise lines have formal nights, tho mebbe not on a 2-3 nighter. No need to attend on formal nights, there'll be no dress code in the buffet. On P&O the dress code is usually required in some bars on those nights, but still plenty of choice.

 

Quote

- What kind of dining experiences do you tend to get for these kind of cruises? From what I've seen there is a multitude of restaurants and different dining experiences, is that correct? I'm guessing there are some that charge additionally?

 

Included are all meals in the main dining room and buffet (you can switch between), plus a selection of snackeries. 

There are premium-pay restaurants on almost all ships - from just one on small Marella ships to literally a dozen or more on some US mega-ships. Not such good value as they used to be, and we find included food more than adequate. For us a premium-pay restaurant once in a blue moon for a special occasion.

 

Quote

- Is the extra expense for an outside view, or balcony cabin worth it? From the deals I've looked at so far, the increase is so minimal which seems strange to me, am I missing something here?

 

What you're missing is that you're looking at price differences in Northern Europe in February. :classic_ohmy:

On more suitable itineraries balconies command a good premium. 

Bear in mind also that prices are pp in a double cabin.

 

Quote

- I know that food is all inclusive on most cruises, but how do drink work? I know that soft drinks/hot drinks are all inclusive, but is a drinks package for alcohol beverages worth it on a shorter cruise? My girlfriend is not much of a drinker (she'll have a couple of cocktails across a few days sort of things) so am I better just paying at the time if I can, or is that ludicrously expensive and a package more beneficial? 

 

Drinks packages aren't usually offered on 2 - 3 night cruises. There's a clue in "booze cruises" above.

You can only figure your likely spend & decide whether a package is worthwhile. More worthwhile with lots of sea days, less worthwhile if it's port-intensive.

 

Quote

- I understand tipping, like in the US, is expected, not really optional, which is fine. What's the average a day?

- Can anyone explain any additional costs to me and how they work like the port taxes and daily charges? I've seen these referred too but have no understanding of them.

 

 On US, Italian & some Brit ships a daily charge is added to your on-board account. Broadly averages $14 per person per night, And a mandatory gratuity (wonderful use of the English language) of 15% to 18% on drinks. Broadly no need to tip on top.

But no gratuity added to bar bills on P&O or Marella or Fred (and their bar prices are lower - about the same as provincial pubs). No daily charge on Marella. A few years back daily charges were introduced on P&O by their American masters, very very unpopular, and now been discontinued. Not sure about Fred. Without those charges, most passengers put their hands in their pockets at the end of the cruise for their cabin steward and waiters - no recommended figure, each to their own.

Broadly, on US ships go with the American flow. 

 

Quote

 

I'm genuinely interested to hear anyone's experiences for February cruises in the regions I'm looking at. If I book, I'm probably going to go completely off someone's recommendation so this would be much appreciated. As much info as possible would be great.

 

I think you know my views on cruising Northern Europe in Feb. 

Go stand on Beachy Head for a few days this month - and remember Beachy Head is stable.:classic_wink:

 

Quote

Thanks in advance.

 

JB :classic_smile:

Edited by John Bull

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Posted (edited)

John has provided a really comprehensive response, but if you want to proceed, here are a couple of options.

 

Both P&O and Fred Olsen have short cruises in Feb 2020

 - P&O departs Feb 7th for 4 nights. Visits Amsterdam. Ship - Ventura. Prices from UKP 529

 - Fred Olsen departs Feb 14th for 5 nights. Visits Amsterdam & Antwerp. Ship Black Watch. Prices from UKP 499

 

The P&O ship Ventura is a Grand Class ship, which is a platform shared with Princess Cruises. Built in 2008, it caries about 3,000 passengers. Never sailed on her, but have said on a number of the Princess equivalent ships and they are reasonable ships.

 

The Fred Ocean Black Watch was built in the early 70's as the luxury ship Royal Viking Star. Although I have never been aboard she was a stunning and very spacious ship when built. My dad sails with Fred Olsen frequently and the Black Watch is one of his favourites.

Edited by Heidi13

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I can't add much to what has been said, except tips on Fred O are £6 per day; Marella and P&O don't have any tips; the 3 lines mentioned charge pub prices for drinks (or Costa Coffee prices for special coffee). Fred and Ventura have coffee bars as well- on Ventura it actually is a Costa Coffee bar.

Check the dates of half term... we were coming back on Ventura from the Caribbean one Feb, and the head chef was saying that he would have 800 children on board on his next cruise so his menus would have to provide fish fingers and beans! We had only 12 children on board for that cruise...school aged children aren't allowed time off for holidays now.

I agree that a balcony isn't much use in Feb, but if it's so reasonable- why not?

We've been happy cruising with all 3 lines, but do have a special warmth for Ventura.

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