Connect with us

BEFORE YOU GO

17 Cruise Booking Mistakes to Avoid

Published

on

The first step in planning a great cruise is also the most important one: booking it. Vacations can be made or broken based on how good a job you do when booking. No pressure, right? Fortunately, we’ve got a whole slew of cruise booking tips guaranteed to help you navigate these most treacherous of waters! Here are 17 cruise booking mistakes to avoid.

1. Booking based on price alone.

cruise booking

Photo: Royal Caribbean

Let’s be real, if you’re simply booking a cruise to get away and truly don’t care where you go, this probably wouldn’t be a mistake.  But for the vast majority of us, ports of call matters a lot, and so does the ship and cruise line we choose.  These are all factors to take into consideration, so look at which ports and ship you think will be a good fit, and go from there within your means.

2. Not discussing the cruise with people going.

If you’re taking your spouse and two kids on your cruise vacation, you should probably get at least a bit of their input on it (especially your spouse!).  Is there an excursion that half the family wouldn’t be interested in?  Is there a particular experience someone wants to have, or a ship they’re dying to sail?  The ages of any children sailing with you will somewhat determine how much involvement they have.  But as much as possible, try to include everyone.

3. Not researching the ship.

cruise booking

Norwegian Escape in Nassau.

What happens if you and your family love water parks, thrill experiences, or Broadway-style shows and you board your ship onto to find out they’re just not there?  Or what if you’re looking for a relaxing, luxurious experience and end up on a ship filled with kids and family activities?  Neither of these things would automatically mean you’re going to have a horrible time, but it probably means you didn’t do your research.  Looking online is the best place to find up-to-date info on all of the lines and ships that are a possibility for your destination and budget.  That way, you’ll find the ship that works best for your personal preferences.

4. Researching TOO much, leaving nothing to the imagination.

On the flipside, spending every waking evening watching every video and reading every article about your ship is overkill.  Research enough to feel confident that the ship is right for your family, and that you’ve made your list of must-do’s while onboard (as well as pre-booking any dining or entertainment experiences that need that) but once all of the essentials are covered, take a step back.  The less you know about your cruise ahead of time, the more surprised you’ll be once you’re actually on it.

5. Booking the wrong type of cruise line.

This also would occur due to a lack of research.  Each cruise line is known for different amenities, experiences, and target audience.  Depending on whether you have kids or not, whether you desire luxury or are on a tight budget, and whether you’re okay with spending more while onboard will help determine which cruise line is right for you.

6. Not factoring extra costs.

Photo: NCL

Don’t make the mistake of thinking once your cruise is booked and flights scheduled, you’re scot-free with the price of your vacation.  There are so many other variables to consider that will probably come out of your wallet: shore excursions, specialty dining, spa treatments, alcoholic beverages, onboard shops, and gratuities are almost universal extra charges.  Factor in everything you can think of when planning around your budget.

Read More: 5 Reasons Cruises Are Budget Friendly

7. Thinking it’s all-inclusive.

Going along with the last point, most cruise lines are not going to be all-inclusive.  I can only think of a couple ocean cruise lines that are.  In general, your cruise will include your accommodations, main dining room, buffet, and (most) room service meals, and most activities, entertainment, and amenities onboard (like the water park, stage shows, and group games).

Sponsored Link

8. Selecting the wrong cabin type.

cruise booking

Most potential guests understand the basic cabin categories available – interior rooms with no windows, exterior with a window or porthole, balcony rooms, and suites.  While it is indeed important to figure out which of these types of rooms works best for you and your family, your stateroom location can also be important.  The best example of this is probably for guests with motion sickness issues, and noise tolerance.  Some cabins are directly below busy nightclubs or main decks, which means some thumbing nights and loud mornings.  Be aware of your ship’s deck plans when choosing a cabin.  For those that easily become seasick, it’s best to book a lower cabin toward the middle of the ship.

9. Assuming the price will drop. Book what you can afford and hope for the best, but don’t assume the price will drop significantly.

Not every voyage will drop in price, and many that do only drop a few percentage points.  Instead of gambling with your hard-earned money and booking a cabin you can’t afford, just choose something in your price range and then be extra thankful if it does drop in price.  After all, any money saved can go toward a future cruise!

10. Not taking advantage of credit card points.

Before you book your cruise check your credit card points. With my card, I have the option to use my points for air miles, cruises, hotels, rental cars, and vacation packages. Double check your credit card rewards before booking your cruise.

11. Missing your final deposit date.

The minute you put the deposit down for your cruise, make sure you mark down when the due date is. If you miss your final payment, there’s a good chance you’ll forfeit your deposit and will lose your spot. Make multiple notes around your house, in your phone, and set a calendar reminder on your computer. If you think you may forget it, set reminders everywhere!

12. Not knowing the cancellation policies.

Make sure you know the cancellation policy for the cruise line you’re booking. Some cruise lines will refund your cruise if you cancel within a certain time period, some won’t. Every cruise line plays by their own set of rules. Be confident you know the cancellation policy and penalties.

13. Not leaving enough time when booking air.

cruise booking

This point is twofold.  First, lots of guests make the mistake of booking an early-morning flight, only to have it severely delayed and miss their ship when it sails out of port.  It’s always best if you’re driving a long distance to your embarkation port or flying, to come in the night before and stay at a hotel.  The other part of this point can be simply waiting too long to even book your flight to begin with.  You may come to realize that your ideal flight is now full, or the price has gone through the roof since it’s last-minute.  Book your flights as soon as possible – that way you’ll have peace of mind.

14. Not buying travel insurance.

Travel insurance is important. You never know when that winter storm will delay your flight or when the unexpected will happen on your cruise. For a few percentage points of the cost of your cruise, it’s worth it. The last policy I bought from TripInsurance.com cost $33 and covered my air, cruise, and transfers.

15. Not taking advantage of your roll call.

Whether it’s on Facebook, ShipMate app, or Cruise Critic, you can get some very valuable info from people who’ve been on the ship and know its secrets.

16. Not knowing the liquor policy. The last thing you want is to have all your booze confiscated because you’re only allowed one bottle of wine.

Almost every cruise line out there has a limit to the amount of alcohol you’re allowed to bring aboard during embarkation.  They also have restrictions on the type of alcohol allowed – for example, most only allow sealed bottles of wine or champagne.  If you’re planning to bring a special bottle or two onboard with you, be sure to check your line’s specific policy concerning them.

17. Disregarding the upgrade schedule.

Just like your car gets routine maintenance, ships do the same thing. Don’t let the current features on a ship steer you away from booking it. Check to make sure that ship isn’t going into dry dock to get upgraded before you decide on another ship.

Search: Cruise Ship Dry Dock Schedules

What cruise booking tips do you use?

Pin this!

Advertisement

BEFORE YOU GO

12 Differences Between Carnival Horizon and Carnival Vista

Published

on

Just because two ships are in the same class doesn’t mean that they are exactly alike. After all, even twin sisters have differences — some subtle, some blatant. In the case of ships, changes can be made for numerous reasons. Perhaps a new feature is being added, or the initial design didn’t work out quite the way everyone imagined it was. Each new ship in a specific class is like a chance to enhance on what came previously.  So it’s not surprising that when Carnival Horizon was being built, the company incorporated lessons learned from the first-in-her-class Carnival Vista while also adding completely new elements to the already successful formula.

So what differences have we noticed so far between the two ships? Take a look at our list below, and then hit the comments if you’ve spotted other differences between the sibling ships.

1. New Lighting in the Atrium

Carnival Horizon

Chances are good that upon entering the atrium, your eyes immediately will be drawn to the Dreamscape funnels and their beautiful, constantly-changing imagery. But take the time to really look around the atrium. You’ll notice that between each of the three levels, there’s a circle of track lighting which not only helps create the illusion of a bigger space, but adds an additional design element which is somehow subtle and striking at the exact same time.

2. Tap Entry to Staterooms 

Carnival Horizon

Your sign-and-sail cards now have RFID technology which allows you to enter the room without sticking your card into the slot. If you look closely, you’ll see a small wire running along the outer edge of the card that lets it communicate with your stateroom door when you get close. This is the same concept utilized by Royal Caribbean for their WOW bands and Disney — both in the parks and on their ships — with the Magic Bands.

3.  Bonsai Teppanyaki

Carnival Horizon

One of the biggest and most noticeable changes is obviously the Bonsai Teppanyaki restaurant. Based on our experience and the difficulty people have had in booking the space (which has limited seatings available), we won’t be a bit surprised if this restaurant is not only included on future builds, but perhaps even added to other ships in the fleet when they go through refurbishments.

READ MORE: Bonsai Teppanyaki Review 

4. The Speeds Bumps are Gone 

Carnival Horizon

On the Carnival Vista there were several areas on decks three, four and five which had slightly-raised edges around the fire doors. Anyone dragging their feet (or using a cane or other mobility device) would definitely notice (and possibly trip over) them. On Horizon, however, they seem to have addressed the potential problem.

5. There are More Havana Suites 

Carnival Horizon

As soon as renderings of the Carnival Vista began circulating, people went nuts for the new Havana Suites and their lanai-like balconies. Not surprisingly, once the ship was actually introduced, the entire Havana area — including the aft area which is reserved for Havana guests during daytime hours — proved crazy popular. So it’s not surprising that when it came time to parse out staterooms on Horizon, they added a few extra cabins in this category.

Read More: Carnival Horizon Trip Report: Embarkation Day

6. The Pig & Anchor Smokehouse

Carnival Horizon

Yes, the RedFrog Pub is gone… but before you get your knickers in a knot, know that the Pig & Anchor Smokehouse/Brewhouse is most definitely a worthy replacement. The food is amazing, there’s plenty of cold beer on tap and entertainers keep your toe tapping. This is a very welcome addition to the Carnival fleet… so much so that I actually heard people say the Pig & Anchor alone could sway them to choose Horizon over Vista.

READ MORE: 35 Tips For Sailing The Carnival Vista

7. Entertainment In The Steakhouse

Carnival Horizon

Sometimes, the smallest ideas can have the most surprising results. Who would have thought that simply flipping the locations of Piano Bar 88 and The Library Bar would make such a difference? But because the piano bar is now directly next to the steakhouse, diners can enjoy the smooth sounds of someone tickling the ivories while they enjoy their meal. And as far as I’m concerned, the more live entertainment, the better.

8. The New Doors 

Carnival Horizon

You know how sometimes when you would go outside on deck 5, there’d be a gust of wind and the door might actually be hard to open? Sometimes, depending on the weather, you could hear doors slamming all day and into the night. Well, thanks to the airlock-style doors installed, it’s now a much smoother inside-to-outdoor transition. It may seem like a minor change, but it makes life easier, and isn’t that what we all want out of a vacation?

9. Taste Bar is Gone 

Carnival Horizon

Change is good… usually. But the jury’s still out on this one. Word is that Taste Bar will eventually be eliminated fleet wide. On Horizon, it’s already a gone pecan. You can still grab some limited food here at breakfast time, and on sea days they set up a salad bar, both of which help disperse the crowds at the Lido Deck Marketplace. Personally, I’ll miss the Taste Bar, which often offered samplings of foods from some of the specialty restaurants on board.

1o. A Larger Guest Relations Area 

Carnival Horizon

Frankly, we hope that you never have to visit the Guest Relations deck… at least not because you’re having trouble on your cruise. But if you do, the expansion of this space on deck 3 is a good thing, as it’s created more work stations at which the crew can try and make right whatever has gone wrong. Not only is the space larger, but it has a much more open feel did the same area on Carnival Vista.

11. Additional Seating Outside 

Carnival Horizon

A big reason many of us cruise is to connect with the ocean. There’s something about sitting outside — whether reading, eating or napping — and feeling the sun on your face as you gaze off into the distance that’s about as peaceful as life gets. So it’s only fitting that on a ship named Horizon, they’ve created a lot more spaces from which to… well, gaze at her namesake.xThis is especially true on the starboard side of deck 5, which on Carnival Vista was home to Guy’s Pig & Anchor. Here, the space has been freed up for more seating. In fact, that’s something we noticed at every turn on this ship: There are all sorts of areas, both indoors and out, to sit, whether by yourself or with a group. There are cozy nooks and loungers and quiet corners everywhere.

12. Smart Elevators

Carnival Horizon

Sponsored Link

Carnival Horizon rolled out smart elevators that are often used in busy land-based buildings. These elevators eliminate the stop-and-go at every floor. Instead, you walk up to the elevator and push which floor you’d like to go. From there, the elevator’s brain picks which lift is quicker for you and assigns your an elevator. The new elevators also expedite disembarkation by moving 1,000 guests per hour. The new elevator system is scheduled to be implemented on Carnival Panorama and eventually retrofitted to Vista.

Have you noticed any other differences between the Carnival Horizon and the previous ship in her class? With the Carnival Panorama currently being built, are there any changes you’d like to see implemented on her? 

SaveSave

SaveSave

Continue Reading

BEFORE YOU GO

Everything Carnival Horizon, Part 5: The Bars

Published

on

A word of advice: When traveling on the Carnival Horizon, don’t make plans with your friends by saying, “I’ll meet you at the bar.” Why? You might never find one another! Heck, even saying, “I’ll meet you at the bar by the pool” could lead to confusion, because there’s more than one… actually, there’s more than one pool and more than one bar! But never fear, because in Part 5 of our series exploring everything about this massive ship, we’re finally getting around to doing a bar crawl.

The Perfect Place To Start

Carnival Horizon

The Atrium Bar.

For a lot of cruisers — us included — the first thing they do upon boarding a ship is grab a drink with which to toast the beginning of their vacation. On the Carnival Horizon, a lot of people wind up doing so at the Atrium bar… which makes sense on a lot of levels. After all, those gorgeous Dreamscape funnels are the first thing you see, and they draw us in like moths to a flame! And while we’re big fans of everything about the atrium, we suggest coming back later. Why fight the crowds when there’s a whole big ship — jam-packed with bars — waiting to be explored?

Carnival Horizon

Pig and Anchor aboard Carnival Horizon.

Our suggestion?

Head to the Pig & Anchor! After all, it’s not just a smokehouse, but a brewhouse, too… and in fact, takes the place of the beloved RedFrog Pub on this ship. For many cruisers, ourselves included, heading to the Pub to kick off the vacation is a long-standing tradition. Well, trust us… the Pig & Anchor is a fine, fine substitute. (This is also a great place to hit after dark, especially if you prefer your music on the more countrified side.) Lest you think a brewhouse has nothing but beer on tap, belly up to the bar and take a look at the specialty cocktails such as the Blackberry Bourbon Fizz or the Smoky Manhattan (and yes, it automatically became our favorite because it’s topped with a crispy slice of bacon and everybody knows bacon makes everything better).

Lounging By The Pool

Carnival Horizon

Lido deck on Carnival Horizon.

Pick your poison: Tequila or rum? Whichever you prefer, you’ll find a potent potion available at the BlueIguana Tequila Bar or the RedFrog Rum bar, both conveniently located within shouting distance of the main pool. And if you’ve opted for the quieter Tides pool — located at the back of deck 10 and offering killer views of the wake — there’s always the appropriately named Tides Bar. And if you want to get away not only from the typical poolside madness but kids altogether (hey, no judgment here!), there’s a nice little bar up on the Serenity Deck where you can grab a cocktail and then meander over to one of the very, very comfortable loungers, clamshells, or hammocks. (Although careful, because after a couple drinks, those hammocks can be downright dangerous… especially when trying to get out of one!)

A Drink Before Dining

Carnival Horizon

Alchemy Bar on Carnival Horizon.

The pre-dinner (or pre-show) cocktail is, for us, one of the joys of cruising. And if you want to elevate it to the next level, the best place to do so is the Alchemy Bar. A word of warning, however: Don’t go here looking for a beer or a soda, as you will be politely but firmly sent elsewhere.

Sponsored Link
Carnival Horizon

The Alchemy Bar has the cure for what ails you.

This spot is all about the hand-crafted cocktails lovingly prepared by lab coat-wearing mixologists. Another word of warning: Many of the drinks on this limited menu are as potent as they are delicious. Looking to ease your way in? Give the refreshing (and popular) Cucumber Sunrise a try. And if you can’t find something on the menu that sounds appealing, tell the mixologist what ails you (and what you think might cure it), and they’ll whip up something specifically for you.

READ MORE: 5 Reasons To Visit Carnival’s Alchemy Bar

Carnival Horizon

Casino Bar on deck 4.

Alchemy is also a great bar to hit up after dinner and before a show. But you could also swing by the casino bar (home to a second Dreamscape funnel, which comes as a surprise to many people) to get your literal pre-game on. Need to check on the latest sports score? The Skybox Sports Bar, located just off the casino, is a safe bet. (Sports… bet… see what we did there?)

Carnival Horizon

Sports Bar on Carnival Horizon.

After dark, all of the ship’s bars come to life, many featuring live entertainment. If you feel like grooving to a Latin rhythm (or simply watching others do it while you sip a Cuba-inspired drink), hit the Havana Bar. Had a few cocktails and feel like singing (but not quite brave enough to attempt karaoke)? Hit the piano bar, where the only person required to have talent is the piano player, while everyone else can sing along with no fear of judgment from their fellow crooners.

Now that you’ve figured out all the best spots to get your drink on, let’s take this in an entirely different direction. Here’s hoping you don’t have too much of a hangover, because we’re going to be dealing with kids — and all the ways to keep them occupied — in our next entry.

Read our past entries:

Continue Reading

BEFORE YOU GO

Carnival Horizon Bonsai Teppanyaki Review

Published

on

When Carnival rolled out the Horizon, it didn’t just introduce a new ship to its fleet… it also introduced a new dining option into its rotation. Already having had great success with their Bonsai Sushi restaurant, they expanded the brand by introducing Bonsai Teppanyaki. So how does the restaurant stack up to some of the other specialty restaurants on board? We swung by to check the place out, and here’s what we found.

A First For Carnival Cruise Line

Given that cruise ships have a limited amount of space available, the decision to devote prime real estate to something new —as opposed to simply sticking a tried-and-true venue into the spot — is not undertaken lightly. That is especially true when the restaurant in question is a revenue-generating specialty venue, requiring that guests be willing to pay for the experience. So clearly, Carnival had both a lot on the line and complete faith in the idea of a Teppanyaki-style restaurant.

Teppanyaki restaurants are nothing new. On land, Benihana has been using the concept of knife-wielding chefs putting on a show while making a delicious meal since 1964. Variations on the theme have also been introduced on cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, over the past few years. So while Carnival’s not necessarily breaking new ground, it’s managed to turn Bonsai Teppanyaki into a pretty sure-fire hit by using the laws of supply and demand: The restaurant only holds 16 people per seating, meaning that on any given sailing, a relatively small number of passengers will have the opportunity to try the hot spot.

It’s that intimacy which also makes Bonsai Teppanyaki a special experience, and one particularly suited to families and groups of friends. Which, again, means this is one of the first reservations you should make when planning your cruise. You snooze? You will definitely lose… your opportunity to eat here.

About The Dining Experience

Carnival Horizon

From the moment you enter, you’ll be caught up in the aura of Bonsai Teppanyaki. The decor plays on that of Bonsai Sushi, yet steps everything up a notch. This is an absolutely gorgeous space, dominated by warm orange and red colors. Upon arriving, you’re greeted by the chef who’ll be both cooking for and entertaining your table, as well as the server who will provide everything not dished out by the chef.

After the introductions are made, our chef — Edgar, from the Philippines — did a quick check to see if anyone had allergies, and then they took our entree order. This is a seven-course meal, so there’s pretty much always food in front of you. And although it is all prepared at the same time, this is not served family style. (Although if someone in your party isn’t into rice or vegetables, it means you can score some extra… but be quick to stake your claim.)

Remember, this isn’t just dinner… you’re getting a show, too. From the moment we sat down, Edgar had our entire group laughing (and occasionally gasping at some of his knife play).

What’s on the Menu?

Carnival Horizon

As mentioned above, the meal is served in seven courses, but don’t think this means you’re going to spend a lot of time hemming and hawing over what to get… six of those courses are basically pre-determined, with the entree being your only big decision. So what’s on tap?

You can view the full menu here.

Course 1: Teppanyaki White Shrimp

Carnival Horizon

Course 2:  Pork Belly Yakitori

Carnival Horizon

Course 3: Spicy Tuna on the Rocks

Carnival Horizon

Course 4: Miso Soup

Carnival Horizon

Course 5: Salad with Ginger Dressing

Carnival Horizon

Course 6: Here’s where you make your big decision between the various options available for your main course.  I went with the Steak and Shrimp, which is served with fried rice and grilled vegetables. There are also three sauces for dipping: a mayo-based shrimp sauce, ginger sauce, and a Worcestershire-based sauce.

Carnival Horizon

Course 7: Dessert, a chocolate bento box with ginger ice cream.

Sponsored Link

Carnival Horizon

Is it Worth the Cost?

With a cost of $25 to $30 per person — depending on the selected entree — this is a pretty great bargain, especially since you’re getting dinner and a show. With the 15 percent added gratuity, my bill came out to be $34.50. As always, you’re free to bump-up the gratuity if you’d like to show the service team a little extra love.

The focus here is amazing food that is perfectly seasoned and entertainment that will have you laughing long after the meal is over.

Final Thoughts 

Carnival Horizon

After we’d finished eating, I asked everyone around the table what they thought of the meal and the experience. The consensus was that a good time was had by all. (One thing several people mentioned was that their water glasses were constantly kept full… something that’s been a little lacking in some venues around the ship on our sailing.)

It is worth noting, however, that since there’s a price tag attached to the meal — and the menu is somewhat limited in options — you should make sure everyone in your party knows what they’re walking into. This might not be a great spot for picky eaters.

Carnival Horizon

It’s worth stressing again that Bonsai Teppanyaki should really be booked in advance, because with only three seatings per night and 16 guests per seating, this place fills up quickly.

Forget to book in advance? Check the Hub app to see if any slots open up. It’s rare, but hey… it happens. This is especially true on days where the ship has a long day in port. People sometimes come back later than they thought they would (or fuller, having sampled the local foods) and wind up cancelling their dinner reservations.

Would I do this restaurant again? In a heartbeat.

SaveSave

Continue Reading

Sponsored Link

ads

Sponsored Link

Stay in the Know with Cruise Radio

Send this to a friend

Hi, this may be of interest to you: 17 Cruise Booking Mistakes to Avoid. This is the link: https://cruiseradio.net/17-cruise-booking-mistakes/