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Deciding On The Best European Cruise For Two

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Did you know there were over 14 million cruise passengers last year?  Perhaps you were one of them.  Cruise vacationing isn’t for everyone but a lot of people who think they won’t like cruising end up loving it once they actually try it.

I’ve taken several 7-to-9 day cruises with family and friends and had a blast with each one.  I also gained a ton of weight in the process too, thanks to the 24-7 meal offerings, but that’s another story.  As part of my goal to live a better lifestyle, I’m planning a two-week cruise for two to the Mediterranean and need your help in the evaluation process.



You wouldn’t believe how many choices are out there, but I’ve finally narrowed it down to two ships and two itineraries.  I love to travel but ironically hate to do the actual planning and research before hopping on a plane.  That’s a big reason why I love cruises.  Once you pick a cruise and get on board, the rest is easy!

THE JOY OF CRUISING

You only have to unpack once and don’t have to worry about figuring out train schedules or finding the right bus tickets to get from one city to another.  There are always tons of excursions to choose from on board, albeit at premium prices, as well as free info sessions and maps on local attractions if you prefer to save some money and go explore on your own.

If you enjoy watching shows, you’ll get to be entertained every night by a new one.  If you enjoy the casinos, you’ll undoubtedly find a craps table to play on.  The spas are amazing and so is practically everything else you can imagine.

The only negative some have is that each city visit only lasts 6-8 hours.  For example, it’s practically impossible to take in all of Rome in 8 hours, let alone a couple days.  Meanwhile, just 3 hours in other cities is more than enough.  By the time I’ve spent that many hours touring around,  I’m happily exhausted and eager to get back on the boat to go jump in the jacuzzi!  Plus I love being able to see so many cities and countries in one trip.



I’ve cruised around the Western Mediterranean already and now am looking to visit the Eastern half.  There are a whole host of ships and itineraries to choose from, and I’ve narrowed them down to two choices.  I’ve tried to be as thorough as possible with the itineraries, ports, and prices.  Now I need your help to choose which one!

HELP US CHOOSE WHICH CRUISE TO TAKE

SHIP SPECS

Option 1: Holland America’s ms Nieuw Amsterdam (HAL)

  • ~2100 passengers
  • Ship built in 2010 i.e. new
  • Rooms and public areas look modern and elegant
  • 2(+) jacuzzis, 2(+) pools (not sure if there are more than 2 each)
  • Spa and Fitness center
  • Culinary arts center w/ cooking lessons
  • $3 million art collection
  • Basketball and volleyball court

Option 2: Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas (RCL)

  • ~2100 passengers
  • Ship built in 1996, refurbished in 2006 i.e. outdated and headed for decommissioning w/in several years.
  • Rooms and public areas look a bit tired
  • 4 jacuzzis, 2 pools that are not as big
  • Spa and Fitness center
  • Rock climbing wall
  • 18 hole mini golf


DESTINATIONS (Our most important criteria)

Option 1: Eight cities, 4 countries (HAL)

  • Istanbul, Turkey / overnight stay
  • Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey
  • Venice, Italy / overnight stay
  • Athens, Greece
  • Santorini, Greece
  • Mykonos, Greece
  • Katakolon, Greece
  • Korcula, Croatia
  • 3 days at sea

Option 2: Six cities, 5 countries (RCL)

  • Istanbul, Turkey / overnight stay
  • Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey
  • Venice, Italy / overnight stay
  • Athens, Greece
  • Split, Croatia
  • Kotor, Montenegro
  • 3 days at sea

COST (Big difference for cruise.  Not so big difference for total cost.)



Option 1: $2800/person for 12 nights in a Balcony stateroom (HAL).  Add on two round trip tickets for $3,000 and $1,500 total in spending money we get $10,100.

Option 2: $1400/person for 11 nights in a Balcony stateroom (RCL).  Add on two round-trip tickets for $3,000 and $1,500 total in spending money we get $7,300.

PASSENGER REVIEWS – PROS & CONS

Option 1: (HAL)

+  Food selection & quality
+  Staff service
+  Boat is new & clean
+  Entertainment & shows
+ Ports & excursions
–  Amount of smoking in public areas
–  Internet speed and cost
–  Longer wait time for folks not booked on excursions
–  Cabin walls are thin



Option 2: Royal Caribbean

+ Staff service
+ Ports & excursions
+ Price of cruise
–  Boat is showing it’s age
–  Food quality & variety
–  Dining areas are small for the # of passengers
–  Internet speed and reliability

PERSONAL FINANCE ASSUMPTIONS

– Will pay for the entire cruise by credit card for the points and then pay it off in full at the end of the month.

– Believe that experiences trump material things 9 out of 10 times.

– I don’t get fired from now until then, but even if I do, what a great trip take!  Might even have to extend it to 3 months while collecting unemployment benefits.

– Not using my side business to pay for the cruise, although I should consider since I might meet some clients in Europe.



– Can save for the entire vacation for two in 1-12 months, excluding the use of any year-end bonus.

DECISIONS DECISIONS

There is a big price differential between the two cruise options, and besides the 2 extra port stops on Holland America, I wonder why it’s 100% more expensive.  Usually you get what you pay for though, so maybe the HAL cruise really is that much better eg mainly better food, nicer amenities, and a different clientele.   Or perhaps they just raise their prices to target wealthier people who care less about cost and more about exclusivity, while aggressively trying to recoup their building costs as the ship is only one year old and costs a fortune.

I’ve never been on a HAL or RCL ship so it’ll be a surprise either way.  Judging by the fact that the RCL cruise has mini golf and a climbing wall, my guess is RCL is more catered to families with young kids and HAL probably has more couples and families with teen/adult children.  Who is on board doesn’t really matter to me though as long as I’m not stuck with noisy neighbors.  Unfortunately, that’s the luck of the draw just like sitting next to a beast on a plane who takes your arm rest.

HAL goes to Santorini and Mykonos which are 2 places I’d love to see in Greece after Athens.  The stops that I don’t know much about and are rather indifferent about visiting are Korcula and Katakolon (Option 1) and Split and Kotor (Option 2).  Have you guys been to any of these places?  Neither cruise is bad choice, but if I’m going to spend two weeks and the money, I might as well be as thorough as possible with the decision process.

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