CruiseMates Cruise Community and Forums

CruiseMates Cruise Community and Forums (
-   First-Time Cruisers (
-   -   1st-timers - How Much Research Have You Done (

Paul Motter April 15th, 2015 05:06 PM

1st-timers - How Much Research Have You Done
I recently was asked by a couple (friends) to help them pick their first cruise. Fortunately they had not taken a vacation in 10 years, and so they felt money was no object.

When I sat down with the man to discuss cruise options, after two hours I astounded by how much he did NOT realize about cruises. For example, he thought everyone took the same tour in each port. He thought that "activities" onboard were done one at a time, and then everyone took part -- in other words, a summer camp for adults.

I realized that he had really done NO research into modern cruising - except looking at some destinations - but nothing about ships. If you are now researching your first cruise (or just recently did so) - how much time did you devote to learning about cruising as a way to travel first?

Even if it was no time at all, I want to hear whether you were surprised by what you found onboard.

Trip April 15th, 2015 05:22 PM

Looking forward to hearing the answers....research to me, is part of the fun ! April 15th, 2015 10:33 PM

My experiences are usually just the opposite. I get calls every day from people saying they've spent hours and hours and hours researching and now they're completely confused and have no idea what to do. Of course, my comment is always the same; this is why you should have called me in the first place and saved yourself alot of time and hassle. Then, of course, the one thing I hear alot is they didn't know agents don't charge for their services.

But I'm also always amazed by how much time people will spend researching the same cruise with different websites and agents while trying to save $25 on a $4000 cruise!

It'll be interesting to hear what first timers on here have to say about their experiences.


Paul Motter April 20th, 2015 06:30 PM

I guess all the 1st-timers here are too busy doing research to answer the question. I can see how many people are online in here right now.

seadog2 April 20th, 2015 07:10 PM

Being a former travel agent and cruise specialist, I agree with Trip doing the research is part of the fun. I still enjoy doing the leg work.

Paul Motter April 20th, 2015 07:45 PM

I guess maybe a lot of experienced cruisers might not read this and answer, and 1st-timers might not want to - but there is a big difference between being a first timer doing research and doing it as an experienced cruiser.

OnMyBalcony June 3rd, 2015 06:05 PM

So much research.....
Hey, Paul -

How much research? Lots. My cruise isn't until late November and I can scarcely think of anything else.

So is it the research that attracts me or is it merely obsession?

OK, both.

On what topics have I done my research?
The ports my ship will be stopping at - reviews, maps, etc.
Biodegradable sunscreen
Cruise blogs, cruise line, on board spa services, individual ships and reviews.
Packing tips
Bringing alcohol on board (how much is allowed)

What haven't I found yet?
How to meetup (not necessarily hookup, but not totally discarding that idea, either) aboard ship with other single passengers.
If my ship offers cooking 'classes' with chefs.

I'm sure I'll think of other things, but for now....

First-time cruiser,

Donna June 3rd, 2015 08:20 PM

Hi Gina,
What ship will on in Nov?

Paul Motter June 3rd, 2015 08:29 PM

Thanks Gina - we have a "meetup" section - one is organized by ship here:

and the other would be our singles area: Singles - CruiseMates Cruise Community and Forums

where you can just drop a note saying "I will be on [ship] next November [date] and I would love to meet [people].

Other than that, if you are single look for the singles parties onboard (although there were none on my last carnival trip, they were scheduled, but no singles showed up).

Go to bars, talk to people, go to Karaoke, go on shore tours. Shore tours are actually a good way to meet people - look for someone sitting alone on a bus and sit next to them.

OnMyBalcony June 4th, 2015 11:22 AM

Hello Donna! Carnival's Triumph ~ :)

Sweet! Thanks, Paul!!

Jureld August 18th, 2015 05:21 PM

We just did our first cruise this year and as far as research...we started about 8-9 months in advance.

I'm a research FREAK though. So I'll research something to death if I want to know about it. I looked at each port, the excursions offered through our cruise company, the excursions offered through the third party vendor our TA recommended, read the reviews on here, checked cruise critic, searched for other excursion vendors, searched for good places to eat simply by typing in "port name good place to eat" or "port/city name authentic local food", googled sites to see...etc...etc...etc.

Then when it actually came time for our cruise I picked up a small accordion type folder with like 8-9 dividers. I had each port separated, my airline flight separated, hotel room separated, cruise tickets/info separated...etc...etc.

I also made, and printed, cruise "brochures" for all of the folks going on our cruise. On the cover page was a picture of the ship, the name of the ship, our cruise date, and everyone going on it. The second page was our itenerary, the times we would be in port, our dinner times, what dining options were included, what ones would cost extra...etc. The next pages was information about the port we would be in and the excursion info. The last page was important phone numbers...drs, cruise line number, TA number, embassy numbers, travel insurance number, health insurance number, emergency contact information...etc...etc..etc. I had so much fun putting this together!

Yea, I'm a research freak, but while on vacation I didn't worry about a thing because I already knew what to expect.

Fern August 18th, 2015 08:17 PM

Our first cruise was memorable for many reasons! (Some of you may remember this story.)

We were invited by the company my DH worked for when someone else couldn't go. We had less than two weeks notice! I wasn't even sure I wanted to go. We had to fly and I was scared of flying. I'm still not thrilled about it, but... .

I was much more "body conscious" than I am now and took all the wrong clothes (jeans, jean jumpers, long pants, heavy shirts :shock:) ! I nearly had heat stroke! I brought one of those old type "sparkly" tops for formal night and had "sparkles" all over me and everything and everybody near me!

We knew nothing about Room Service until more than halfway through the cruise, when we heard someone mention getting a grilled cheese from Room Service. There was no Room Service book or Continental Breakfast menu in our cabin and we didn't know to ask. We didn't know we could eat in the Buffet for any meals, so we ate in the Dining Room all the time.

We didn't know about Shore Excursion's and the couple we hung out with stayed on the ship most of the time (they'd cruised a lot)so we missed doing any!

Even with all of that, we had a wonderful time and have been happily cruising ever since :) !

lamac4 September 22nd, 2015 11:01 PM

First Time Cruiser
My husband and I are going on our first cruise in Dec along with my WHOLE family, many of them first time cruisers as well. We booked this cruise back in January and I have researched like crazy! I felt like I already knew a lot just from other friends and family that had been, but since booking I have done tons of research. It is part of the fun, and when I'm stressed at work it can be a good dose of escape to do some research and remind myself that I get to be in the Caribbean in 81 days! Haha, but who's counting, right! I wish there were interactive and detailed maps of the ports to give me an idea of where things are (we are going to St. Marteen and St. Thomas). I want to know where they drop us off, what we can walk to and how far the drives are to each of the places we want to go. We are trying to save money and not do an excursion. Anyway, I appear to be asking more questions instead of answering them, but yeah.

LisaMarie October 13th, 2015 12:29 PM

I recently booked my first cruise, and I did a bunch of research beforehand. I have read a lot of forum posts and reviews, read about ports and excursion options, read about ships and activities available on board. We used a travel agent to book, and I was hoping she would be more helpful about answering our questions, particularly when we find out where on the ship our room is, and if/when we need to get dressed up for dinner or can that be avoided. I'm still researching, even after paying in full.

Donna October 13th, 2015 02:17 PM

Welcome Lisa Marie,
When is your cruise and what ship and port will you be stopping at? I am sure there are people that can answer some of your questions....

LisaMarie October 14th, 2015 09:30 AM


Originally Posted by Donna (Post 1525596)
Welcome Lisa Marie,
When is your cruise and what ship and port will you be stopping at? I am sure there are people that can answer some of your questions....

Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas, Nov 21-29 out of Baltimore to Orlando, Nassau, CocoCay, and Key West.

Minkster1973 October 18th, 2015 08:43 PM

My first cruise was on Glory in January of 2013. My BFF and his significant other I went with needed a fourth to room with the significant other's mom. She and I had never met so I was kind of nervous about how she and I would hit it off. I decided to do tons of research so I could go off and do stuff on my own. Not knowing my cabin mate at all, being significantly younger than her as well, and then my BFF being a couple made me feel it was necessary to make sure I could go it alone if need be.

At the time, I was in a place where I needed to be very conscious about how I spent money. I had researched local deals at all the ports that included coupons and such, cheap/free options on and off the ship, and activities on the ship that I was interested in and was comfortable doing alone.

The BFF's S.O. and his mother were seasoned cruisers and the BFF had been on one other cruise, so I was the only cruise virgin. The expectation was that I would just go along with whatever they were doing. Yea, that's not me.

First, they vacation by spending lots of money. They don't look at prices, they just do what they want and pay the credit cards off later. I don't live like that. I do my very best to never live beyond my means, and I work to pay for a vacation before I go. Plus, I never want to pay interest on a vacation/entertainment. Ever.

There was a little bit of drama when I had made plans to do something on my own. They made Steak House reservations without telling me and I had made plans to hang out with some new friends I made on board without telling them. Feelings were hurt. This was after I disappeared on them in St. Thomas because I was sick of their bickering. I ended up scampering off and finding a local bar with $3.50 margaritas and made some phone calls back home.

In the end, I didn't do nearly as much as I had planned on doing on that trip. I didn't see nearly as much of the ship as you would think, and the activities didn't reel me in like I thought they would. My time that week was spent hanging out in the sun with new friends (my old friends joined me quite a bit), eating in the MDR three times, relaxing while looking at the water, and nice walks at each port.

I was actually over stimulated by all there is to do on the ship, which resulted in me not doing much because the calmness of the ocean was much more needed for me at the time.

In February of 2016, my dearest friend of 30 years and I are going on Freedom out of Galveston. She has never left the country before, which means this is her first cruise. After much discussion and a lot of research on the itinerary, we have decided to not do any planning at all. It's a Blogger cruise, so we are a part of that group, but we're not reserving anything at all because we don't want to be committed to anything.

She and I travel so well together and we have chosen to celebrate 30 years of friendship on Freedom doing whatever we want, whenever we want. If we are in the mood to doll ourselves up and partake of copious amounts of alcohol while dancing the night away in the club, then that is what we will do. If we decide to enjoy Bingo or an art show, we're in. And if we just want to sit in lounge chairs on the deck while cute young men bring us umbrella drinks while we giggle about where we are in life, then that is what we will do. It's a vacation, and nailing down a schedule for seven days in paradise and then trying to keep up with it all is too much for the two of us.

seadog2 December 17th, 2015 12:55 PM


Originally Posted by ealltech (Post 1528177)
I guess maybe a lot of experienced cruisers might not read this and answer, and 1st-timers might not want to - but there is a big difference between being a first timer doing research and doing it as an experienced cruiser.

I believe that you are right. I remember doing research on my first cruise. I didn't know what to do or look for. I kinda' bumbled around. A friend of mine gave me some pointers and that gave me a direction. It's like anything else that takes research, you have to do it.

SunnyGent January 5th, 2016 06:56 PM

How do I start? I am wishing to go on a 'relocation' cruise from Florida to UK at the beginning of May. Where do I go to make my offer and to look to see if anyone is making a similar offer, please?

Donna January 5th, 2016 07:48 PM

You can look through all the major cruiselines and see what routes they offer for your time frame and go from there. Also, contacting a good cruise travel agent can help a lot...Best of luck finding that cruise.

John&Dawn January 6th, 2016 11:34 PM

Anniversary Cruise
My wife and I have decided to go on a Cruise for our 30th anniversary in June of 2017. It is my first cruise and my wife' second. She has convinced me that I can handle it. and still raves, as do many of our friends, about her cruise experience. I am looking forward to it, but have a lot of questions. The only things that we have decided on are where to cruise out of, New York City, and where to cruise to, Bermuda.

My main obstacle right now is price. I see a huge difference in the prices for cruises leaving in 2016 and 2017. I don't want to over pay and want to know what the best strategy is for getting the best price and still being able to get a comfortable cabin with a balcony. I should tell you that I have gotten a bit sea sick on smaller vessels in past. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. January 7th, 2016 02:24 PM

While I always suggest doing your research and asking alot of questions, at the same time you also need to be careful about some of the information you're receiving.

In other words, if you call a cruise line, obviously they're going to tell you how great they are. You wouldn't expect anything different. They will also not be able to tell you about any other cruise line. So, then you call another cruise line and get basically the exact same information about them. Since all this information is one-sided and biased, it becomes very hard to compare them so you can find the right one for you.

Friends and family are the same way. They have every good intention, but their information is also one-sided and biased based on what they've done (or haven't done) and what they like (or don't like).

As I say, what one person loves, another will hate. So recommendations are always going to be slanted based on what they like or don't like, which make selecting something for you difficult because your likes and dislikes could be completely different. This is also why I always say if you're working with an agent and they start recommending, run the other way. A good agent is not there to recommend something; their job should be to provide unbiased information so that you can make the right decision based on your requirements, lifestyle, and budget. But obviously, I still suggest using a reputable agent because their expertise can be invaluable in answering your questions and giving you the information to help you make the necessary decisions.

With all that said, the question still remains; how does a first-time cruiser find the best cruise for them?

There is no real easy answer for this question, because everyone is different. To some people, cost is the most important aspect in their decision making process. They see one cruise line offering a cruise for x-amount of dollars and another cruise line offering the exact same cruise for a higher price, and make a decision based solely on that information. They figure the difference in price can't justify choosing a different cruise line since there can't be a big difference in them. Of course, those of us who have been on all the major cruise lines knows that's not true. As with most things in life, quality is very often associated with price.

While some are fixated on cost, others prefer to research quality to insure the cruise they select meets their lifestyle. This is where selection becomes more difficult as it's not as clear-cut as the difference in price. People quantify what they consider to be good and bad quality differently.

Yes, we want to hear what others have to say about a product, whether it be a cruise or something else we want to purchase. But after all is said and done, we need to make a decision on what to buy based on what we want and what we feel comfortable with. Hopefully, we make the right decision, but sometimes we realize afterwards we should have made a different decision. That's where cruising becomes such a challenge, but at the same time it also makes it more fun and exciting.

What I tell new cruisers is that they should try cruising with an open mind. Pick one that you think is best for you, have fun, don't let the small things ruin your vacation, take notes on what you like & what you don't like, and then decide what you'd like to try for your next one.

And that's the great thing about cruising; there's something out there for everyone and half the fun is trying them all until you find the right one for you. Just don't go into cruising thinking you'll only try one and then make up your mind whether you like it or not. The thing to remember is that the first choice you make on where to begin cruising is not the most important choice, it's just a beginning.

There's a big world out there and traveling is never a waste of money.


SunnyGent January 7th, 2016 05:08 PM

Thank you. Finding a cruise is not my problem, there seem to be millions of them, finding a cruise/cabin mate is my challenge.

John&Dawn January 9th, 2016 06:21 PM

When to book
This will be our first cruise together and we have decided to take a cruise in May or June of 2017 and would like to hear some advice on when to book. We have chosen to get a balcony and would like to get the best bang for our buck. We are open to the idea of using a travel agent, but don't want to be pushed into booking early at a higher price just so their commission is a bit higher. Any advice will be appreciated.

Donna January 9th, 2016 08:26 PM

It really doesn't cost you any more to book through a travel agent, in fact, they can save you some dollars sometimes. It is good to have someone to call and help with any problems that may happen, over the cruise line themselves. Do you have any idea what line you want or ship and to where. It helps to do a little research yourself before talking to an agent, just so you have some ideas of what you want....,but be sure to talk to an agent, you will not be sorry. January 9th, 2016 08:37 PM

As Donna pointed out, a good reputable agent will not charge you any extra fees for their services, so it makes sense to utilize their expertise. Plus, they will charge you the exact same amount the cruise line will charge you and will provide the same amenities being offered. Sometimes, then may even get a better deal or more amenities.

As for when to book, I get asked this question all the time and I always give the exact same answer. The best time to book is as soon as possible.

The reason being is that right now could be the best price offered and it could go up from here. If you book now and the price goes up, you're protected. If the price goes down, your agent can get you the the lower price.

And to insure you do get the lowest price, I always suggest watching the rates and if they do go down, then notify your agent immediately as it could possibly be a short term sale.

Talk to your agent ahead of time and make sure they don't charge any fees, including fees for changing or canceling your reservation. If they do, then look for another agent. Interview your agent; find out how long they've been in business, how many cruises have they been on, what cruise lines have they've been on, how many clients do they have, etc. Check out their website; is it a professional site? And best advice is don't book directly with the cruise line, because if you have any problems, who do you think they represent? And often, these big online sites are monitored by people that are hired to sell and are not certified travel agents, so they have no vested interest in what's best for you.

And lastly, don't listen to these advertisements that say, "Save up to 85% on last minute cruises." It's false advertisement. What they sell it for, any agent can get you. And booking last minute is definitely not the best advice as it could end up costing you more money, the cruise could be sold out, you may not get the type of cabin you want, etc.

So, book with an agent, book early, and watch the rates. That way you can relax and plan ahead of time so your vacation can be as hassle-free as possible.


Truck Cruiser January 13th, 2016 01:42 PM

I made the mistake on our first cruise of doing no research! We were cruising with my cousin and his wife who were seasoned cruisers so I figured they would show me the ropes as we went along. 3 days before the cruise my cousin was hospitalized and couldn't make the cruise. We were locked in and couldn't get our money back so we went on the cruise anyway. LOL...thinking back we can laugh now, but it wasn't fun then! We didn't discover the adult pool area on the ship till the 4th day of a 7 day cruise. We had a decent time but it would of been a lot better had we done more research!

Lakers Fan January 13th, 2016 03:00 PM

Our first cruise was in 1973.There was no such thing as the internet .We went to a neighborhood travel agency and Bermuda was the suggestion for a first cruise .
We LOVED it.

John&Dawn January 19th, 2016 08:24 PM

How can I find a cruise specialist close to home?
We are going to follow your advice, and consult a cruise specialist before booking our anniversary cruise. We had two people in mind, but just found out they both retired. How can we find a reputable cruise specialist close to home?

Fern January 19th, 2016 09:13 PM


Originally Posted by John&Dawn (Post 1529438)
We are going to follow your advice, and consult a cruise specialist before booking our anniversary cruise. We had two people in mind, but just found out they both retired. How can we find a reputable cruise specialist close to home?

I'd suggest that you search "cruise specialists New York" if you want to find someone close to you. Otherwise, I'd suggest you book with a cruise specialist from anywhere (even on here)! These days you really don't need to have a TA who is close to you or in "brick and mortar".
Our TA book's cruise's for client's who live all over the US.

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 01:07 AM.