Good news! The Deal Detective is now sleuthing out new bargains every week. Look for a new case each Thursday in SmarterTravel.com’s Deal Alert newsletter.
Dear Deal Detective:
My daughter and her husband and a group of friends would like to go on a cruise next winter (2009) to celebrate their 35th birthday. These couples all live in the New York City area, hence are used to terrific food and upscale living. My son-in-law has never been on a cruise. He would like: rock climbing, golf, lots of fun on-board activities. My daughter once went on a Royal Caribbean cruise with us and hated it. She felt like a “herd of cattle.” Hence she is not too excited about this cruise idea—but will go along with the group decision. Also, she gets seasick quickly, so the cruise should not have many consecutive days at sea. They are happy to leave from Puerto Rico, hoping the water will be calmer. Any ideas and suggestions you can give would be most appreciated.
Your daughter is a trooper for agreeing to this cruise. She and her husband may need to compromise. The ships with the most onboard amenities, such as rock-climbing walls, also have the most people and “herd of cattle” atmospheres.
My top choice for this group is [% 12025 | | Norwegian’s %] Norwegian Gem or the Norwegian Pearl. These ships have many onboard amenities (rock climbing, bowling, etc.) as well as a ton of bars and restaurants. Alternately, if they don’t mind flying, an all-Hawaii cruise on the Pride of America can be fabulous with lots of land time.
Runner-up would be a [% 15420 | | Royal Caribbean %] Voyager-class ship (Adventure, Explorer, Mariner, Navigator, and Voyager of the Seas). These ships have lots of onboard amenities, but not quite as many people as the Liberty and Freedom of the Seas, which are enormous. The ships are still big, though, and can have lots of kids on them. I think the food would be better on Norwegian than RCCL (if nothing else, there are more choices).
If your son-in-law is willing to compromise activities in favor of a less crowded environment, I’d recommend [% 14665 | | Celebrity %], which is a little more sophisticated and upscale than the first two lines. All cruise lines these days seem to cater to golfers. Holland America has very nice ships and food, but the clientele is mostly seniors.
As for itinerary, the Norwegian Pearl has a nice seven-night out of Miami to Central America with two days at sea. The Adventure of the Seas has a seven-day out of San Juan to the southern Caribbean, again with two sea days. Celebrity’s southern Caribbean cruises out of San Juan have fewer sea days, just one on a seven-night cruise and two on a 10-night cruise. The best time to cruise to avoid kids and crowds would be between Thanksgiving and Christmas and early January. I hope this helps!
Letter of the Week
This week’s reader suggestion comes from Karen P. Anderson of Morgan Hill, California. Responding to last week’s topic ([% 2513305 | | tropical getaways that don’t require a passport %]), Karen says:
“Beth and her boyfriend should take a cruise for a week. Lots of choices in the Caribbean area out of Florida. No passport needed. We just took a family of 19 on Carnival Glory and spent just over $20,000, not including air, as we used frequent flyer miles. On March 8, they can get a balcony for around $900 each on Carnival Glory. For $600, an inside cabin. We bought outside cabins which are larger than balconies. We were never in the cabin except to sleep.
“Also, we used Priceline for hotels before and after which cost about $50/room near Orlando Airport in a two-and-a-half-star hotel. Check out successful bids at BiddingForTravel.com. My daughter used SkyAuction.com and got a condo in the Disney area for $120 for a week with another $100 for a restaurant coupon back home in San Francisco—total $220 for the package.
“Beth or her boyfriend could amuse themselves on dark cold winter nights in Detroit by joining FlyerTalk and learning all their travel tips. Airfare with various carriers, departing March 6 and returning March 16, would be about $350 each. So, three nights’ hotel for $75 each, $900 for the balcony room on [% 11986 | | Carnival %], $300 for excursions, $22 transportation to the ship, a $15 rental car, $350 for airfare … Lots of money left for Disney and mai tais!”
Have a question for the Deal Detective? Please email him your request. Be aware that due to the volume of requests I receive, I cannot personally respond to every email. The more compelling your question, the better the chance you’ll be selected for an upcoming case.
All prices, dates, and booking details listed here were valid at the time of publication. Some information may have changed since that time.