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Help! info on cruising

PClapham

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We have never been on a cruise ship and want to do the Baltic cruise visiting the capitals and St. Petersburg. What do we need to know about expenses, what to do when, what to take (what kind of clothing), etc. We are looking at an Oceania cruise fronted by the U of Chicago and comparing that with a Norwegian cruise which appears much cheaper but on a larger boat. I don't even know how to begin to understand what other costs there are besides the stated cost of the cruise!
Please, any advice!

thanks

Anita ::wall:

ps has anyone combined this kind of thing with a timeshare either before or after?
 

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x3 skier

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Probably the first thing to check is the cost of shore excursions. The small boat, more expensive cruises usually include the cost of the excursions while the large ships charge for each tour ashore. So, depending what you want to do on the shore, big boats can be cheaper if you DIY tours or more expensive if you sign up for many shore tours.

After you figure that out, it's basically do you want lots of people and things to do aboard or smaller crowds with fewer amenities shipboard.

My personal preference has been big ships and DIY ashore. YMMV

Cheers
 

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Check the comparative itineraries between your U of C cruise and the "normal" cruises you're comparing against.

The big cruise lines typically do NOT include shore excursions in their pricing. If you want to take any tours at your ports of call (and you're taking the cruise to see those places, so you typically want to tour) they typically are all at additional cost. These can be significant additions beyond the charged cost of the cruise itself.

The smaller lines like Oceania may well include some or all of your port of call tours. I know Viking, for instance, includes a tour at each port at no extra cost. Or your U of C tour may have been put together with shore tours included.

Also check whether your U of C tour includes pre-paid gratuities. This can make a big difference also.
 

Passepartout

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We did the Celebrity equivalent of this cruise last Spring. It was an outstanding way to get a glimpse of this part of the world. It is VERY port-intensive. A new one every day. With a different currency and language. So while the Oceania cruise is on it's surface, a good bit more expensive, iirc, all (or most) shore excursions are included. Of the lines mentioned, NCL is our least favorite.

You should go to www.cruisecritic.com and join (or look over the posts in) the 'Roll Calls' for those cruises. These will give you insight to the actual people you would be cruising with.

Clothing and the like will be a bit dressier than at home, and formal wear will be required a couple of nights in the dining rooms.

Yes, it's a great plan to combine a timeshare stay with a cruise when you can make a plan come together. It isn't easy to do, especially in Northern Europe.

Jim
 
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LannyPC

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I don't even know how to begin to understand what other costs there are besides the stated cost of the cruise!

ps has anyone combined this kind of thing with a timeshare either before or after?

I have only been on the major cruise lines with the larger ships as opposed to Oceana but here are some other gotchas to watch out (and budget) for:

1) Gratuities. The major cruise lines will usually charge about $15 per passenger per day. Of course, like at any restaurants, you can adjust accordingly. Those are only "suggestions". Then there are tips for the baggage handlers when you arrive at the embarkation port. General guideline is about one dollar per bag.

2) Getting to and from the port. How do you intend to get to and from the port? Taxi? Shared van? Limo? Or is there a passenger transfer included in the package you purchased?

3) Drinks on board. Cruise lines tend to rake in the dough for booze. Their drinks appear to be more costly than what you would pay at your neighbourhood pub. Plus, they tack on a 15% gratuity. It's not just booze. Many lines are charging for soft drinks and certain fruit juices.

4) On board activities. If your itinerary includes some full days at sea, you will likely want to do some activities. Some are free, some are not. Interpret that as you see fit.

5) Other non-essentials. While they are not necessary, the cruise lines seem to constantly advertise many goods and services to buy on board including (but definitely not limited to) spa services, salon services, fitness activities, Bingo and casino, photos, etc.

So when budgeting your cruise, please consider all these factors.
 

Luanne

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A couple of quick things I learned when booking our cruise.

We used vacations to go on the recommendation of another TUGGER. What I learned is that no one can charge less for the cabin than what the cruise line is charging. What the discounters can do is give you additional perks. So you may want to look around and see who is offering the best perks for the cruise you want.

And sometimes the perks might not be worth it.

The price of the cabin for our cruise dropped between the time we made the reservation and now. We were able to get that amount reduced from the balance we have due. Another perk came up through the cruise line offering a free drinks package. For us that would have meant cancelling our booking and then re-booking. Overall it would have cost us more, especially since we most likely won't be drinking enough to make a free drinks package worth it. That's what I mean by the perks not being worth it.
 

beejaybeeohio

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We have never been on a cruise ship and want to do the Baltic cruise visiting the capitals and St. Petersburg. What do we need to know about expenses, what to do when, what to take (what kind of clothing), etc. We are looking at an Oceania cruise fronted by the U of Chicago and comparing that with a Norwegian cruise which appears much cheaper but on a larger boat. I don't even know how to begin to understand what other costs there are besides the stated cost of the cruise!
Please, any advice!

thanks

Anita ::wall:

ps has anyone combined this kind of thing with a timeshare either before or after?

Like Passepartout, we did the Baltic on a Celebrity ship- this line's S-class which holds @2800 pax has an ambiance of a smaller vessel. You can book using a Go Big-Better-Best option which provides between one and four perks such as prepaid gratuities, shipboard credit, unlimited drinks or unlimited internet. Your main expense will be shore excursions, but for our Baltic cruise we only did one- a private 8 person two-day tour of St. Petersburg which cost @$150 per person for both days 5 years ago. The remaining ports I researched and we explored them planfully on our own.

On that trip we added a timeshare stay in Hungary via plane from London. We took a Norwegian Fjords cruise this past May out of Southampton and added 2 timeshare weeks- 1 in Yorkshire & the other in the Lakes District of England, using a combo of train and car rental to travel there.

It's up to you if you feel that the university-affiliated cruise can offer you a more specialized experience at a price you're willing to pay, but as for me, I peruse those brochures we seem to get in the mail monthly, look at the pricing and toss 'em away!

BTW we book through Costco and receive ship credit from them as well as perks from Celebrity. Once we even got some unused Costco credit refunded to our credit card at the end of the cruise!
 
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elaine

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many travel agents now charge a change/cancel fee ($25-$100). Make sure to ask. If you buy travel insurance within a short time of your deposit, many will cover pre-existing illnesses--including elderly parents not going on the cruise.
We have been on 4 European cruises. Any medium ship 80K tons or smaller will be just fine--not too big. Take a private tour in St. P. there are 5 or so similar STP tour agencies. You can form a small group in Meet-Mingle section of cruise critic and charter a group tour. We did this with 12 persons.
Some cities are easy DIY, like Tallin--read cruisecritic to get more info.
The univ sponsored trips are probably good for extra companions, but if you are fine to chat up others on the ship or just engage with your spouse, no need. DH and I usually go alone or with family.
We get an oceanview cabin. For a 1st cruise, get OV or balcony, as some find interiors too confining, and you won't know until you are in the room. We have had balconies and don't really use them that much, so we typically don't pay much extra for one or just get an OV. Plan to fly into your departure city at least 1-2 days early and explore the city.
good luck. We usually pay around $2K PP or less for a European/Baltic summer cruise. Elaine
 
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PClapham

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Wonderful help! It's very difficult to step into the mire of all those possibilities and not just give up.
Now for a picky question- dress code! I note that on the Celebrity cruises there are often dress nights-my husband considers old blue jeans the uniform of his profession- bio/geo professor- and won't like this. How rigid are these dress up times? Are they common on other cruise lines? Holland America and Oceania are both listed on Cruisecritic as appropriate for our age group, for example.
Many thanks!

Anita
 

Luanne

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Wonderful help! It's very difficult to step into the mire of all those possibilities and not just give up.
Now for a picky question- dress code! I note that on the Celebrity cruises there are often dress nights-my husband considers old blue jeans the uniform of his profession- bio/geo professor- and won't like this. How rigid are these dress up times? Are they common on other cruise lines? Holland America and Oceania are both listed on Cruisecritic as appropriate for our age group, for example.
Many thanks!

Anita

Anita, your dh and mine would get along.

I don't know how rigid dress codes are, but on the Princess cruise we're taking it says slacks and shirts for casual nights, and a tux or suit for formal nights. He will be taking slacks and a sport coat, and that is as "dressed" as he will get. I've been told by friends who are more experienced cruisers that he should be fine. They may draw the line at jeans on dress night though. :D

Funny story, when my younger dd graduated from high school it was a very formal affair. The students (all girls) wore long white gowns. Dd begged me not to let her dad come in jeans. He didn't. However, he did wear jeans to older dd's wedding (very informal). She was fine with it, it's what she expected from him.
 

elaine

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what is your age group? RCCL, NCL, Celebrity, Princess will also have plenty in the 50-70 range for a Baltic cruise. Just b/c there's a rock climbing wall doesn't mean you have to do it. The older/smaller RCCL are not nearly as jazzed up as the ones you see on TV. If you are not at European holiday time or shoulder season, there will be even more in the 50-70 age. Summer is winter in Australia--we had many 70+ Aussies and few children even on an Aug. Princess cruise. I like Celebrity, Princess, and my all time fav Disney (which has a July 6 Baltic cruise). Disney is not just for kids--the food, service and entertainment is excellent, IMHO (but we are huge Disney fans).
Dress code--or rather what you can get away with and not feel out of place:
no jeans at dinner, fine for day time. DH wears olive/khaki pants with knit polo to dinner except for formal nights, when he wears an oxford and a tie--sometimes he takes a jacket and sometimes he doesn't. A tweed blazer would be fine. I wear capris/pants/skirt and Ann Taylor sweater set. I might wear a skirt and a dressier top for formal, or just add some flashy costume jewelry. Our last cruise, we packed in 2 carry-on rolling suitcases, a totebag and back pack. You will see dinner jacket/long/cocktail dresses, but certainly on Celebrity, Disney, NCL and RCCL the above is totally appropriate.
 
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MuranoJo

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That's one of the things I loved about our Tauck river cruise: No snooty 'highly recommended' dress codes...just options for a few dressier nights, which you could reject and you'd still be treated first class. DH is definitely not a suit & tie guy--and we were totally comfy and felt at home every night. (And we weren't alone--there was a mixture of dress and we all got along well, but it was a small boat with ~100+ passengers.)
 

beejaybeeohio

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Blue Jeans on Celebrity

Wonderful help! It's very difficult to step into the mire of all those possibilities and not just give up.
Now for a picky question- dress code! I note that on the Celebrity cruises there are often dress nights-my husband considers old blue jeans the uniform of his profession- bio/geo professor- and won't like this. How rigid are these dress up times? Are they common on other cruise lines? Holland America and Oceania are both listed on Cruisecritic as appropriate for our age group, for example.
Many thanks!

Anita

Except for formal nights, jeans without holes are acceptable on Celebrity along with a collared shirt, e.g. golf shirt. On formal nights, your DH can dress as above in any of the specialty restaurants, the buffet or order room service.
 

pedro47

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We have never been on a cruise ship and want to do the Baltic cruise visiting the capitals and St. Petersburg. What do we need to know about expenses, what to do when, what to take (what kind of clothing), etc. We are looking at an Oceania cruise fronted by the U of Chicago and comparing that with a Norwegian cruise which appears much cheaper but on a larger boat. I don't even know how to begin to understand what other costs there are besides the stated cost of the cruise!
Please, any advice!

thanks

Anita ::wall:

ps has anyone combined this kind of thing with a timeshare either before or after?

To the OP. There is a Thread on Cruise Critics web. site under "Community"... Celebrity Cruise Lines on a Baltic cruise and St. Petersburg. It is "Outstanding."

The title is "Total Eclipse: A Pictorial Review of the Tradewinds Transatlantic Crossing 2015." You will loved all the amazing pictures of the new Russia and St. Petersburg.
 

lvhmbh

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Most cruise lines ask that you NOT wear jeans in the evening. Shore excursions and all drinks are included on Regent. They don't have formal nights although on longer cruises they have one night that is "formal optional". They do, however, specify no jeans after 6 p.m. anywhere on the ship.
 

Luanne

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Most cruise lines ask that you NOT wear jeans in the evening. Shore excursions and all drinks are included on Regent. They don't have formal nights although on longer cruises they have one night that is "formal optional". They do, however, specify no jeans after 6 p.m. anywhere on the ship.

When I was looking at our cruise it did look like there were places you could eat at night where you could wear jeans. This wouldn't be in the dining rooms, but there are casual dining spots and also room service. So if someone was really opposed to wearing something other than jeans, they could do it.
 

pedro47

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When I was looking at our cruise it did look like there were places you could eat at night where you could wear jeans. This wouldn't be in the dining rooms, but there are casual dining spots and also room service. So if someone was really opposed to wearing something other than jeans, they could do it.

You can always order room service to your cabin on a cruise ship.
 

Luanne

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Karen G

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My husband and I have booked a Viking ocean cruise in May 2016 on a new ship named the Viking Sea. Viking ocean ships carry about 930 passengers and all cabins have verandas. There are no interior cabins.

There are excursions available in every port that are included in the price of the cruise. You can also purchase additional excursions. Beer, wine, and soft drinks are included as well as wi-fi throughout the ship. Often these items are not included in the price of a cruise.

The cruise we're taking is called Viking Homelands and starts in Stockholm and ends in Bergen. It overnights in Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Bergen.

This will be our first European cruise, but we've done several other cruises including Alaska, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, and Bermuda. It will be our first experience with Viking. We're really looking forward to it.
 

Karen G

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We have never been on a cruise ship and want to do the Baltic cruise visiting the capitals and St. Petersburg. What do we need to know about expenses, what to do when, what to take (what kind of clothing), etc.
Rick Steves has a great resource book: Northern European Cruise Ports.
 

Passepartout

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Very nice cruise, Karen. It will be unforgettable!

Jim
 

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I agree. Dh and I are taking our first cruise together after almost 30 years of marriage and this site had been very beneficial.

DH and I have been on 5 cruises over the last few years. Cruise Critic is a valuable resource. We have owned our timeshare since 1999 and I just found this site today. I starting thinking if there is a forum for cruising there must be one for Timeshare owners-any advise from seasoned TUG members? Specifically, we would like to know how to rent our reservation in Cocoa Beach in December. This site seems a bit more confusing than cruise critic or perhaps I'm just not used to it yet.
TIA,
Kim
 
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