This is our very first cruise. So I thought maybe I will share the experience of booking the cruise for the very first time and without knowing squat about cruising. In the beginning we had many questions, so naturally we visited a travel agent. All About Cruises in Burlington NC helped us out tremendously and answered a lot of questions.
Booking through a travel agent did not save us any money, at least not at first. It also did not cost any extra, the fair was the same as it was on Royal Caribbean's website. But there were major benefits with booking through a travel agency and utilizing their vast experience. They knew what type of family we were and what we wanted to achieve. For example - we have one teenager that is 15 years old, he is very laid back and loves to experience new things. So Disney was not a choice because it would have been too many very young children not his age. Trish (our travel agent) picked Royal Caribbean for us based on what our adventure expectations were. She was also very familiar with cruise ship state rooms and their locations. She chose a location that was away from the casino, not near a dance floor, or places that would have high traffic and possibly be annoying at night. This is something we didn't even think about! Trish also kept abridge of any sales that were going on with the cruise, and a month later she emailed us to say she saved several hundred dollars on our booking, awesome!!
Now that the cruise is booked, it was time to figure out the rest of the logistics, like how in the world do we get there! After doing some research, I think I came up with a plan. I will let you know how it works out. Here is the short of it, we are flying into MCO Orlando the day before the cruise. From the airport I am picking up a rental car and driving to Port Canaveral. We made reservations at a local hotel to stay the night. The rental car company has a facility in Port Canaveral that will allow us to return the car the next morning and will shuttle us to the ship's terminal. I think this will work out well because it will allow us the freedom to explore the area the night before. The return trip from the cruise will be the same, we are picking up a rental car, driving to Orlando, exploring then staying at a hotel near the airport.
Now that we had our travel plans together, it was time to get our documentation ready. Traveling on a cruise ship to the Caribbean does not require a passport, but it is recommended and is supposed to make checkin go faster. There are two types of passports, a passport book and a passport card. The passport card is pretty cool because it was designed to be used specifically for cruise ships, and is only $30! But wait, there are restrictions. You can only travel on a ship with a passport card, so if something happened in port and you missed the cruise ship, you are stuck until the next ship comes by. A passport book allows many more options like land and air, so it is definitely a safer options, even though it is much more expensive. So we opted for the passport books. If you plan to do that, get it done early in case there are any anomalies with your application.
Now that the planning stages are complete, it is time to plan the fun stuff.. We looked at tons of options like excursions, shopping, beaches, etc.. But because we are inexperienced with the Islands, we decided to book our adventures on the ship so we can get the advice of more experienced members. For St. Thomas and especially St, Martin, I think we are just going to explore the Island. I would hate to miss the adventures on land and in stores while we were doing something else somewhere else.
Well, we will let you know how it all works out!!
Bon Voyage :-)