Well........ Once we decided that we didn't really want to go to California I started to think that maybe a cruise wouldn't be so bad after all. Cody was on board with the idea pretty quickly and we started doing some research into it.
And I was right about my original assumption that doing research into cruises is hard work. I can't believe how many HOURS Cody and I have spent looking into different cruise options. I don't think that I have ever researched a trip so thoroughly. But I think that might be because I've learned the hard way from the past that you need to make sure that you are getting a good value before you go on a trip.
But besides that... cruises are a different beast for me. I've been on a quite a few guided tours, I've book plenty of hotels and flights but lets be honest it's not too hard to pick one hotel room vs. another. But cruise lines? Holy cow there is a LOT to consider. Since this is both of our first cruises neither one of us have ever on a big ship before and we really had to educate ourselves on what to expect. And the variety between cruise lines is astonishing. I've literally spent the past 5 days reading and reading about different cruise lines and ports. We decided pretty early on that we didn't want to book our flight through the cruise line, because they charge about $800 for a round-trip flight per person!!! Which we thought was ridiculous!
Sooo there started the research. At first we were going to go on a 5 day cruise, and I spent probably 5 hours looking at various travel websites and comparing different upgrades/perks that they offered that the cruise line didn't offer... and after that I found some good deals and I thought we were going to book. But then Cody mentioned well... why don't we look for a 7 day cruise. And really that made a lot of sense because it was only a little bit more than the 5 day cruise. A huge expense with the cruise was the flight anyway so why not go for a couple more days.
This opened up a WIDE variety of cruises. I guess a lot of cruise lines don't go to a lot of ports/offer just 5 day cruises. But once we started looking for 7 day cruises a lot of possibilities opened up. It almost got frustrating at times, and we seriously talked about not doing a cruise at all... but actually going back to California. In the end we realized it wasn't that much of a price difference once you took the flight, hotel, rental car, food, and entertainment into account. So after exploring those options... we were back to the cruise idea. This took us about a day to decide.
I really liked a cruise out of San Juan Puerto Rico, but plane tickets cost about $700 so that plan got scraped in the beginning stages of planning. But maybe someday we'll plan far out in advance and go there if we like the cruise we go on this time.
Another option we were seriously considering on taking a Norwegian cruise out of Miami which seemed like a great ship to us, but once we tried to book our plane ticket flights from Miami increased from $440 on Monday to $530 on Tuesday! Oh I was soooo mad about that!!! I considered staying in Miami an extra night and flying out of Miami on a Monday instead of Sunday but in the end we decided to just scrap the idea of a cruise out of Miami.
SO after 5 intense days of research and planning and re-planning WHERE did we finally decide upon??
The winner is....
Carnival Legend leaving out of Tampa Florida on March 4th 2012 and returning on March 11th 2012. A big factor into choosing this ship is that it has recently been refurbished, and I've heard reviews that it is supposed to be really nice. I'm happy that we ended up choosing Carnival. I'm hoping that we will be able to meet some people our age to hang out with while we are there. And I feel like Carnival is probably one of the best cruise lines to meet younger people on. However, my research showed that Norwegian Cruise lines often have younger people on them too. Heck if anyone needs advice on booking a cruise let me know! I'm practically an expert haha.
On the cruise we will be going to the following ports:
- Grand Cayman, Cayman Island
- Cozumel, Mexico
- Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan
Like I said, Cody and I have never been on a cruise before and we've never been to any ports before. We figured that any port in the Caribbean would be nice so we weren't too concerned about which ones we went to this time around. If we decide to go on a cruise in the future we'll probably factor in that we've already been to these ports. If anyone has any suggestions for us about what we can or what we should do at these ports please let us know!! We are looking for cheaper excursions that the ones that cruise ship provides.
After evaluating all of the bonuses and offers that different websites provided we decided to book with Expedia because they are going to give us $75 on board credit and a room upgrade. There is a law that says that sites like Expedia, Priceline, and Bookit can't make an offer lower than the cruise lines price. So every website had the same price as the cruise lines website. Just the other sites offered some extras like room upgrades so we thought that it was a better value to book with Expedia than Carnival itself.
And our highly influential flight was booked through Orbitz.com and we will be flying with United Airlines. I'm quite proud that we found $420 tickets! I felt like I had a deal after the whole Miami mess.
Overall I'm really excited about our decision. Cody and I really put our homework into this. Cody is great, I think he is the first travel companion that I've ever had that is an active participant in trying to book things. Most people that I travel with don't want to get wrapped up in the research and logistics behind the trip, and I end up doing most of the leg work, and they just come along. But not Cody, he's really been working hard and staying up until midnight with me trying to get this all settled and booked. I think we are both relieved that this is finally done! All we've been talking about for weeks is this trip, and I know that I'm sick of looking into it. I'm just excited that we only have to wait just over a month to go on the cruise!! YIPPEE!!! Expect massive updates then!