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Cruise Virgins. Advice needed on what cabin to choose

(33 Posts)
Whattheydonttellyou Tue 04-Aug-15 22:41:13

We have never cruised before and husband and I have big birthdays coming up! We have decided on a cruise on Britannia next April to mark the occasion.
We want a balcony but there is so much variation in price between grades of cabin with balcony.
Husband cannot believe that Britannia will have any rubbish cabins so wants to go for the cheapest balcony cabin. Our travel agent's quote for a top grade balcony cabin is considerably more, almost half as much again. Husband says we could save money on the cabin and go for the cheapest and use what money we save for excursions etc
My question really is whether it is worth paying the extra for the top grade of cabin vs the cheapest grade of cabin if both have balconies.
Any advice would be helpful as neither of us have ever set foot on a cruise ship before!

ilove Tue 04-Aug-15 22:46:19

I agree with him. You'll spend very little time in your cabin - we actually had an inner cabin without even a window. All we did was shower and sleep in it!!!

Whattheydonttellyou Wed 05-Aug-15 10:13:37

Thanks ilove. We love the idea of Britannia. The travel agent got more excited than we did whilst we went through options and I think she got carried away a bit with price and grade of cabin. Husband is not actually mean, more careful as he thinks the money we could save (£800 each) could be spent better on a lovely weekend away in London seeing a show and also new curtains for the lounge. £1,600 saved is a lot of money and we would still have our cruise on Britannia (just not in the poshest balcony cabin).
I just wanted some wisdom as to whether we would always regret saving the money as we will be first time cruisers.
ilove - where abouts on the ship was your inner cabin? Are there any positions we should avoid? Any advice?
We are both quite fit for our age (both approaching the big 60!) so walking is not a problem and we do a lot of stairs at work.

nmg85 Wed 05-Aug-15 10:23:06

Balcony cabins are priced in grades for a reason. The lowest grade(s) usually offers some kind of obstructed view e.g lifeboats, window cleaning equipment the amount your view is obstructed will vary from ship to ship. The higher grades and varying prices will determine location. For example the cheapest fares will be at the far ends of the ship with the most expensive in the middle. This is due to movement of ship & location of cabin to amenities.
Always when booking a cabin try to choose one that has cabins above & below it, this prevents you getting noise from any public areas / staff areas.
Any reason you have chosen that ship? It has very mixed reviews.

Whattheydonttellyou Wed 05-Aug-15 15:32:49

Nmg85 - It chose us really as we need to sail from our local port which we can get to easily. The dates are perfect to guarantee us both getting the time off work (outside school holidays).
Finally, and most importantly, we love the idea of a British ship with a proper cup of tea laid on in the room each morning. Our friends who have cruised a few ships (but not Britannia) say American cruise ships are not that bothered about a proper cuppa, although American ships have other qualities. They have cruised Celebrity among others. To us a proper cuppa in bed when you wake is one of life's great pleasures!
The travel agent who listened to our wish list suggested Britannia and it did seem to tick the boxes for us.
Do you have any suggestions for what we should be looking out for?
Tbh we sleep through anything and are pretty easy going and laid back so noise (unless ridiculous and relentless) would not bother us too much.
I guess we will know so much more about our likes and dislikes when we have done our first cruise. Tbh this is the most money we have ever spent on a holiday and I don't want to mess up!

ShelaghTurner Wed 05-Aug-15 15:53:13

I'd say as long as you've got some sort of outside view it's fine. Inside cabins are grim and you spend more time in them than you think. But anything from a porthole upwards is fine. It helps if you can see sky!

And midships if you're unsure about what sort of sailors you are.

nmg85 Wed 05-Aug-15 15:58:56

It would be worth reading the traveller reviews for any ships you are looking at going on a web site called cruise critic this is how I choose which ship to travel on once I have a shortlist although as always take things with a pinch of salt :-)
If tea is that important to you then I guess you have chosen a suitable line, most american cruise ships that leave the UK do now provide a kettle as well and you could take your own tea bags if you are picky (just another option).
I haven't travelled P&O for about 16 years so I can't comment personally on the ships but I did work in the cruise industry and people were very mixed about their experience.
Have you decided 100% you want a balcony? We always have one as we find it gives you access to private outside space if you want it. I wouldn't necessarily go for the most expensive but then I probably won't go for the cheapest due to wanting no obstruction. If your travel agent is an experienced cruise agent then they should know which cabins are obstructed or should know where to find this information out. Having had a quick look it looks like an HF grade is the cheapest non obstructed but these are located underneath one of the main public decks so noise may be an issue.

Whattheydonttellyou Thu 06-Aug-15 23:12:01

nmg85 - We have booked a cruise now for 7 nights to Norway. I read the reviews and it seems that Britannia has some excellent and some not so excellent reviews. I think we will go with an open mind and as we have never done a cruise before we will just absorb the lovely atmosphere, scenery and total experience.
ilove & ShelaghTurner - we have booked a basic balcony midships cabin so have gone for the best we could afford. I was very strict on the budget with the travel agent and have saved saved money on the original quote by taking an early bird saver with no on-board spend. An amazing saving and almost halved the price whilst still giving us that balcony view. We don't drink alcohol and I probably won't do the spa so this was a much better option. I am starting to feel a bit more savvy and a lot less overwhelmed so thank you for all the advice.

nmg85 Fri 07-Aug-15 09:34:41

Good decision on the balcony and well done for being strong and avoiding the up sell. Have an amazing time, I am heading to the fjords in a couple of weeks for my 5th time. If you would like any port advice let me know :-)

ilove Mon 10-Aug-15 06:44:33

Sorry I just saw you asked me a question, I've been ridiculously busy this week and only just logged back in again!!

From memory (15 years ago) we were about 7 floors down and het he middle of the ship. It wasn't noisy at all, no bad motion, the cabin didn't feel dingy and dreary. Like I say we were on deck or in one of the restaurants or lounges for 90% of the time. It really was the most amazing holiday. We sailed from Southampton and did the Baltic cruise - 14 nights stopping at Oslo, Copenhagen, St Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm.

Have a wonderful time!!!

Clubclassic Mon 10-Aug-15 07:03:56

Went on our first cruise, with P&O, this year. We took 3 kids so had to book 2 cabins, an inside & a balcony. The balcony was better, I was ill & stayed in my cabin 1 day, the inside one would have felt a bit like a cell for any length of time. Having said that it was perfectly comfortable. The TV had a channel which showed the view from the mast & it was nice to have that on as the view.

Loved P&O, can't understand the negative reviews & we were on an older ship, Oceana, lt was amazing value for money, staff were great. I have allergies & they were so accommodating I have never experienced service like it.

Going to go on a Caribbean cruise on brittania next year. Cannot wait.

Whattheydonttellyou Mon 10-Aug-15 11:33:13

Oh wow! I am so happy now that we made the right decision to mark our special year with a cruise.

I hope it is the start of an amazing new style of holiday for us.

Thank you all.

NMG85 - if you are able to find this thread again to update us on the ports and anything we need to know I would be grateful. We are happy to skip organised trips and find our own way around locally if it is just the local town and port we are exploring. We probably won't stray too far until we are experienced cruise lovers! But there may be an organised off-ship trip that it would be difficult (as novices) to do ourselves and would be daft to miss. We would happily pay for that excursion. Your opinion on an unmissable excursion would be most valuable, as would those we could happily do ourselves. Thank you so much.

nmg85 Mon 10-Aug-15 11:45:39

Which ports are you going to as they all vary a little :-)

Whattheydonttellyou Mon 10-Aug-15 14:10:04

NMG85 - much appreciated! The destinations are:

Bergen, Alesund, Stavangar and Flam. Looks like each port is an early morning arrival and early evening/late afternoon departure.

Hope I spelled them right!

nmg85 Mon 10-Aug-15 14:37:31

You did:-) I have been to all before and I am heading to all again in a few weeks. All are easy to do on your own and no need to pay for expensive shore excursions if you don't want to however be aware that if you are not on a ships excursion and you are late back to the ship it will not wait for you. This can frighten some people but to be honest this would really only be an issue for those areas where you are driving a few hours away and could for example get stuck in traffic.

Bergen - There are a number of places where you could dock, some are within walking distance of the city centre and others aren't however a port bus is provided and drops you in the centre (about a 5 min drive each way). You have the area of Bryggn which is all the colourful wooden houses you see when you see images of Bergen, this is a lovely area to walk around with a number of craft shops etc. The fish market is also a famous area to walk around, also free (last year anyway) toilet near the tourist information centre. Many people also like to take the funicular up the hill to the view point and walking trails at the top. This can get VERY busy so either go very early or later in the day. Sail away / arrival also involves going under what seems like a low bridge so worth being on the very top deck for this.

Alesund - This is a pretty sail in / away along some fjords. This is a pretty little town to walk around with an small tourist train which you can buy tickets for which takes you around town and to the viewpoint (the walk to this is quite a few stairs). I believe you can also book boat tours to see the birds in the local area and also in peak season they have walking tours of the town. This may be a good place to hire a car as you don't seem to be going to geiranger and this is a beautiful fjord and from what I understand a good day trip (the ship may do an excursion).

Stavanger - This is a lovely town where you dock right in the centre of town. It is a pleasant enough town to walk around with the white houses of the old town on one side of the dock and the newer town on the other. Some people do a boat tour along the Lysefjord to the pulpit rock which takes 3 hours. It books up quickly so do book in advance if this is something you want to do... Do NOT take a ships excursion for this as they charge nearly double.

Flam - Lovely fjord for sailing in / out of. Most famous here is the Flam railway which goes up to Myrdal in the mountains. Takes about 50 min each direction and most people get the same train there and back as not much at the top. Again this sells out so book in advance and DO NOT book the ships excursion as again they double the price. The ship docks / tenders depending which yours does about a max 5 min walk to the station. Last time we were here we hired bikes for a couple of hours and cycled to a nearby waterfall, this is also easily walked to and you can get maps at the tourist information centre.

I hope this helps and makes sense, sometimes my brain works at a different speed to my fingers. Any specific questions let me know. :-)

Whattheydonttellyou Mon 10-Aug-15 17:43:50

Thank you so much for the port by port advice. I think we can make further savings by doing the sightseeing off-ship under our own steam. Actually, we would enjoy this more as we are both keen explorers (and husband will be happy to save some more pennies!). Excellent advice to seek out the tourist information offices for each town as soon as we reach land (and toilets!).

ClubClassic and NMG85 - best wishes for a brilliant cruise holiday to you both!

iklboo Mon 10-Aug-15 17:49:29

We're off to the fjords on Saturday on the Azura. Really looking forward to it. We'd originally booked an inside cabin but were recently upgraded to a outside cabin with no obstructed view (not a balcony though).

iklboo Mon 10-Aug-15 17:52:39

We're doing Stavanger, Skjolden, Geiranger & Bergen. Kayaking down Geirangerfjord on one of the days.

This week I shall mostly be making lists & packing smile

nmg85 Tue 11-Aug-15 09:39:43

You will have a lovely time!

iklboo Tue 11-Aug-15 09:45:29

Thanks nmg!

Whattheydonttellyou Tue 11-Aug-15 12:07:08

Just one last (probably silly!) question that experienced cruisers would know in an instant.

I noticed that cruises are "cash free" zones and everything is charged to a card. I don't have a credit card (never used it so paid it off and closed the account many years ago). Will I need one or is my bank card ok to use? Husband has his own credit card so he may have to bankroll me but I would rather be independent and sort out my own spend.

poocatcherchampion Tue 11-Aug-15 12:14:21

I recall you can pay in cash but can't remember the actual process. We went on azura.

The website will tell you.

nmg85 Tue 11-Aug-15 12:32:29

You can sometimes put cash on your account but this is much more complicated to sort out. You can't use a debit card. It would be worth researching this before you get there. You can attach the same credit card to both accounts and then anything you spend on your cruise card gets sent to the same account which is sorted a few days after you get off.

nmg85 Tue 11-Aug-15 12:38:06

Actually P&O do allow debit cards -

iklboo Tue 11-Aug-15 13:02:20

My folks travel with p&o and always pay cash as they don't have credit cards. They put so much onto each ID card when they board and monitor their spend on the onboard account checker. Check the FAQs pages - we've found them really helpful.

FOUR SLEEPS!!!! grin

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