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I have decided to take my wife of 20 years on our very first cruise not only together but for each of us. She is in her mid 60s and I 10 years her junior. I like to drink and her not so much. Her walking is somewhat limited and I like to venture around. Other then that, we both are so looking forward to this and I understand that I have some researching and planning to do beforehand.  

 

The plan is to take a cruise sometime in the fall of 2020. My birthday is in October so I thought this would be a good time but am flexible with this. I gave started a club account at my financial institution and will be socking away any and all the funds I can in anticipation of our fantastic voyage.  

 

We live in Alabama and expect to depart from New Orleans as I see nothing of interest departing out of Mobile. I would like to book a 7 day cruise so we can get the full cruise experience as suggested by a fellow co-worker and frequent cruiser. Our destination is still undecided but if going to the Caribbean I would rather be on a cruise that does NOT stop in Key West. I was born and raised in South Florida and have gotten burnt out on the whole Keys thing. Nothing for me to see it do there. 

 

At any rate,  any tips, hints, suggestions, and or comments anyone feels I might benefit from, please leave them and I will be forever grateful you did. Should I go with a travel agency?  Do I have to get a drink package for her if she is only drinking water? Are you allowed to smoke? Just a couple of the many questions I have now. I am sure there will be more. 

 

Thank you all for your time. 

 

God Bless You All. 

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On all lines, Ice water, coffee, tea (iced or hot), lemonade, milk and juice at breakfast are included in your fare.  Most lines say that both adults in a cabin must buy a drink package, either one alcoholic and one of a "non-alcoholic" package....but sometimes, once onboard, they will let only 1 of you buy it.  You CAN buy anything without a package, so you can still drink and just have the drinks added to your bill.

 

Most ships have limited smoking areas...but you can light up.  Just not in your cabin, balcony or other inside areas.

 

Whether you use a TA or not is up to you.  They can certainly help you narrow down your choices, if you aren't sure about which line, ship or destination is for you.  If you already know those things, there's nothing wrong with booking on your own.  ALWAYS have the deck plans in front of you when booking so you know what cabin you're paying for!

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For your very first cruise, go to a travel agent. They don't cost you any money. The cruiseline will pay them a commission.

 

Get travel insurance. Medicare is not valid outside the US and most likely, neither is any work provided medical insurance.

My recommendation only, don't get travel insurance thru the cruiseline or thru your TA. Coverages are very limited and too expensive.

Consider checking out https://tripinsurancestore.com/

Read thru the FAQs and familiarize yourself about travel insurance

 

Depends on what cruiseline you go with regarding Drinks Packages. Some REQUIRE both to purchase if one purchases it, Some will allow one to purchase the drinks package if the other purchahses a soda package IF you call and ask nicely.  (The problem is that people will try to scam the system and only buy 1 package and then share the package. The cruiselines caught on and put a stop to it.)

Edited by klfrodo

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I agree with klfrodo that as a newbie you are better off with a travel agent. Preferably one with experience with cruises. The fact is you often dont know what you don't know. A good TA will walk you through all of your options; and there are a LOT of options. And I agree about the insurance. Get it, but not from the cruise line. As well as the previous site suggested, you can look at insuremytrip.com.

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Another question concerns the Passport thing. Am I understanding right thinking that all I have to get for us are Passport Cards? Also they are coming out with new Drivers Licenses that have a star on it. Would these be sufficient enough for having on a cruise or do I still need to obtain a passport? 

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If it’s a “closed loop” cruise, one that leaves A US port and returns to the same port, then you only need a State issued certified birth certificate and a State issued ID with photo.

Passport card would work but most of us recommend a passport book. You cannot fly with a passport card. If you miss the ship and need to fly back, you’ll just have bigger issues. Plus, your next cruise will be Europe and you’ll need a book for that one.

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11 hours ago, klfrodo said:

If it’s a “closed loop” cruise, one that leaves A US port and returns to the same port, then you only need a State issued certified birth certificate and a State issued ID with photo.

Passport card would work but most of us recommend a passport book. You cannot fly with a passport card. If you miss the ship and need to fly back, you’ll just have bigger issues. Plus, your next cruise will be Europe and you’ll need a book for that one.

 

Just to add additional clarification as the OP is a first time cruiser, the US based closed loop ID requirements apply only to US citizens, of which I would think the OP and his wife likely are. 

 

But once they decide on a cruise line they also will need to confirm what that cruise line's boarding policies are regarding ID as some lines, even with the closed loop exemption, require a passport regardless of itinerary.  A travel agent would be able to answer that up front with their research.

Edited by leaveitallbehind

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One more of many questions. What about cell phone service. Is there and would it cost me extra to get it if available? 

 

Your replies are very helpful to me and will help in putting this fantastic voyage together. Thank you all very much for sharing this valuable information.  

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1 hour ago, simplynewt said:

One more of many questions. What about cell phone service. Is there and would it cost me extra to get it if available? 

 

Your replies are very helpful to me and will help in putting this fantastic voyage together. Thank you all very much for sharing this valuable information.  

 

On board cell use vary by cruise line but there will be cell service available via the ship satellite service and it will be at an extra charge.  If you do not arrange for a specific on board plan - most have WIFI, etc.,  - and leave your cell phone on (and not in airplane mode) you will be charged for data and cell connection, which will be very expensive. You will want to avoid this at all cost.

 

Check with your selected cruise line for their specifics.  But most carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) have "at sea" programs where by cell and text plans are available - typically for 1 month - covering the time you are at sea - which are usually reasonable in cost.  I would contact your carrier once you decide on a ship and itinerary and discuss options with them as well as look at on board programs.

Edited by leaveitallbehind

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1 hour ago, simplynewt said:

One more of many questions. What about cell phone service. Is there and would it cost me extra to get it if available? 

 

Your replies are very helpful to me and will help in putting this fantastic voyage together. Thank you all very much for sharing this valuable information.  

Do things incorrectly and you'll come home to a $500 to a $1000 bill.

Do things correctly and you won't even know the difference.

 

First, find out what the terms and conditions are from your carrier regarding international travel. (Mine has unlimited data and texts in over 150 countries)

Second, do you have a "smart" phone. If No, leave it at home. If Yes, put it in "Airplane Mode" as soon as you board the ship.

Third, purchase a "wifi" package on the ship and connect to it

Fourth, Put your smart phone into "wifi calling" mode.

Fifth, order up a beverage of your choice and start browsing the web or calling your friends back home and rub it in that you're on a cruise.

 

In case you're wondering what the wifi calling is all about.....

https://www.cnet.com/news/what-is-wifi-calling-tmobile-verizon-att-google-fi-sprint-setup-faq/

 

If you need more help, ask one of the kids or grandkids. You've been helping them for years guiding them through life. They would love to help guide you through technology.

Edited by klfrodo

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23 hours ago, simplynewt said:

I have decided to take my wife of 20 years on our very first cruise not only together but for each of us. She is in her mid 60s and I 10 years her junior. I like to drink and her not so much. Her walking is somewhat limited and I like to venture around. Other then that, we both are so looking forward to this and I understand that I have some researching and planning to do beforehand.  

Congratulations.  If your wife's walking is limited you might want to check the Disabled Cruise Travel sub-forum for advice.

 

The plan is to take a cruise sometime in the fall of 2020. My birthday is in October so I thought this would be a good time but am flexible with this. I gave started a club account at my financial institution and will be socking away any and all the funds I can in anticipation of our fantastic voyage.  

 

We live in Alabama and expect to depart from New Orleans as I see nothing of interest departing out of Mobile. I would like to book a 7 day cruise so we can get the full cruise experience as suggested by a fellow co-worker and frequent cruiser. Our destination is still undecided but if going to the Caribbean I would rather be on a cruise that does NOT stop in Key West. I was born and raised in South Florida and have gotten burnt out on the whole Keys thing. Nothing for me to see it do there. 

It looks like you don't want to fly.  Seven day sailings from the Gulf Coast will almost certainly be Caribbean (maybe include Bahamas which is technically North Atlantic), but if you have an itinerary you like for everything except Key West you could always have Key West be a day you stay on a nearly empty ship and enjoy less crowds and possible some port day sales.

 

At any rate,  any tips, hints, suggestions, and or comments anyone feels I might benefit from, please leave them and I will be forever grateful you did. Should I go with a travel agency?  Do I have to get a drink package for her if she is only drinking water? Are you allowed to smoke? Just a couple of the many questions I have now. I am sure there will be more. 

You mentioned a fellow co-worker who also cruises - I would start there for travel agent advice. 

No one has to get a drink package, but if you get one you will likely both need one.  If you would drink enough on your own to make up for her then it might make sense, otherwise you could just apply the amount of the drink package (or any other figure you decide) to your account instead of purchasing it.  When you purchase your drinks it will be charged against that money first so you still wouldn't have a bill (or very small) at the end, and might even have some funds left over.

There are generally designated outdoor smoking areas and also often in the casino while using the machines/tables.

Thank you all for your time. 

 

God Bless You All. 

My comments above and below

15 hours ago, simplynewt said:

Another question concerns the Passport thing. Am I understanding right thinking that all I have to get for us are Passport Cards? Also they are coming out with new Drivers Licenses that have a star on it. Would these be sufficient enough for having on a cruise or do I still need to obtain a passport? 

If you do not already have Passport Cards I wouldn't get them.  They can be useful for people who do frequent land travel between Mexico or Canada (border states) and might not want to always carry the book.  While you likely can travel with just a driver license and birth certificate - US citizen, closed loop cruise - it is generally wise to have a Passport Book.

28 minutes ago, klfrodo said:

 

If you need more help, ask one of the kids or grandkids. You've been helping them for years guiding them through life. They would love to help guide you through technology.

image.png.ae178ac7c788fb1d8dffcbb8f2bd67de.png

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1 hour ago, klfrodo said:

First, find out what the terms and conditions are from your carrier regarding international travel. (Mine has unlimited data and texts in over 150 countries)

 

Fourth, Put your smart phone into "wifi calling" mode.

 

If you are with T-Mobile, that is over 240 countries now. 🙂

 

You need to enable and setup wifi calling BEFORE you board.  You must be connected to your cell phone carrier the first time.  Once set up, you will be fine with wifi calling anywhere you have wifi.

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As far as the cell phones, keep in mind that while your provider may offer free calling and texting in other countries; that wouldn't apply while you are at sea, only in port. The first thing you need to do is find out what your provider offers with your plan. Then determine what you needs are for using your phone.  You will want to put your phone in airplane mode to turn off the cellular connection (you can then turn wifi on if you have a wifi plan on the ship) and only turn airplane mode off in port when it will be included in your plan or if you add on an international plan. Always turn data roaming off before you leave home. Having your phone connect to a roaming network for calls and texts will likely only incur costs in the range of dollars to a hundred at the most. Having your phone connect to a roaming network for data can easily run up a bill in the hundreds to thousands. 

 

As far as the drink plan, that will vary by cruise line one whether you can get one for just yourself or will have to purchase one for both of you. If she is drinking only water, most likely you will be better of purchasing drinks as you go than getting a drink plan for both of you. 

 

I think that all ships have some designated smoking areas but smoking is not allowed in cabins or on balconies. Some cruise lines allow smoking in the casino and some don't.

 

Not sure what you mean by a driver's license with a star on it... whether is referring to a REAL ID or enhanced driver's license.  A REAL ID does nothing more than a regular driver's license expect for when they enact the rule that you have to have one to fly domestically in the future. For a closed loop Caribbean cruise you can use a passport, a passport card, an enhanced driver's license, or a regular driver's license (or REAL ID) and birth certificate. I personally would never advise someone to invest in a passport card. They are only good for cruises and crossing at land borders. You couldn't use one to fly home if you needed to. If you have a passport, use that. If you don't it's really up to you if you want to use the free option of using a driver's license and birth certificate or getting a passport which has alot more flexibility if you choose to travel in the future. I have a passport. 

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So I just booked the Cruise through Carnival. We are going to the Western Caribbean in late October of 2020. 

 

I went to look at the Cheers package and with me getting the package for me and my wife, it will run me close to $900 just for drinks. Is that really necessary or would buying beer ala cart be a better option? 

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26 minutes ago, simplynewt said:

So I just booked the Cruise through Carnival. We are going to the Western Caribbean in late October of 2020. 

 

I went to look at the Cheers package and with me getting the package for me and my wife, it will run me close to $900 just for drinks. Is that really necessary or would buying beer ala cart be a better option? 

It absolutely isn't necessary, but is a preferred mode for many.  If you can't see the two of you combined spending the cost of Cheers then a la carte would be better for you.

 

Some people worry about having t-rex arms without the package 😉 If you are concerned about limiting yourself due to fear of a large bill, you can always load cash (or gift card, or purchase non-refundable Cruise Cash/Cruise Bar Cash) to your account in the amount you think you would spend.  That still gives you the "freedom" to try new drinks without thinking about the cost, but would probably be cheaper than Cheers if you are light to moderate drinkers.

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2 hours ago, simplynewt said:

So I just booked the Cruise through Carnival. We are going to the Western Caribbean in late October of 2020. 

 

I went to look at the Cheers package and with me getting the package for me and my wife, it will run me close to $900 just for drinks. Is that really necessary or would buying beer ala cart be a better option? 

Ship prices are resort prices. Not your local beer joint prices. I don't drink much but what little I do is close to total package. Even if I come up $100 short on drink value, it's worth the upfront cost to not worry about ordering a drink each time as to ensure my end of cruise bill isn't hitting the $1000 mark.

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Since this is your first cruise and you've booked with Carnival here's a quick run down of how your room key works - it may save you a little time figuring things out on the ship and you can impress your wife by knowing how things work 😜

 

 

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