Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one. – Benjamin Franklin
We are pretty much budget conscious cruisers, which is why we are very careful when we book cruises to get the best deal available. I pour through cruise.com to find out which cruise lines have the best deals, and then I go to the cruise line’s website to see what I can find that matches up with the cruise we want to take. So, why in the world would I voluntarily forfeit my $100 non-refundable cruise deposit? Read on…
We’ve been wanting to do a Cuba cruise for quite some time, and with the way things are who knows how long ships will be allowed to sail to Cuba? I spent weeks researching different cruise lines for the best price for an April 2019 cruise, and finally settled on the Carnival Paradise, which I’ve never sailed before. Now, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that we had to settle with Carnival. At one time we’d been a loyal Carnival Cruise line customer, with many cruises with them under our belt over the years. We’ve been on the Carnival Dream, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Magic, and Carnival Victory over the years, to name a few. However, Carnival hasn’t been my favorite cruise line for quite a while now, not since they took away all the incentives that we were given as Gold card VIFP members, and replaced the good incentives that we worked for and loved with less than satisfactory incentives. That didn’t seem like a way to appreciate loyal customers and keep them coming loyally back, so we have been sailing with Royal Caribbean for a couple of years and we love them and their customer service. We spent three wonderful cruises with Royal Caribbean between Oasis of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas.
So…not seeing an option and wanting to visit Cuba, we booked an interior room on the Carnival Paradise for a five day cruise to Cuba, Key West, and Cozumel, because that was the best buy at that time. Actually, to be fair, Carnival interior rooms aren’t bad. They’re much bigger than cabin rooms on other cruise lines. So, we didn’t have a problem with the room size, or even the ship. Our problem with Carnival, besides the way that they cut out incentives to VIFP members, is that so much of the entertainment is the same on multiple ships. We’ve even started skipping some of the shows because we’ve seen them multiple times. Plus, lately, the customer service on the ships has been nowhere as good as it used to be. It’s almost like they know they’re going to sell out their cruises, so they stopped trying to take care of loyal repeat customers. And the last room steward that we had on a Carnival cruise never once smiled or attempted to learn our names, so we also felt that the crew was becoming more overworked and unhappy. It’s been getting stale.
Then yesterday I got bored and started checking out other cruise lines online, just for the heck of it. I looked once again at Royal Caribbean to see what deals they had on Cuba Cruises for April 2019 to see if prices had come down. And I did find a much better deal than they had before for a five day cruise to Cuba and Key West. With that deal I’d save $200 over the Carnival Paradise cruise that I had booked.
Okay, now what? If I cancelled my Carnival cruise I’d lose my deposit. That’s kind of annoying for sure. I hate wasting money. Plus, the interior room that we had booked on Carnival Paradise was so much bigger than the interior room that we could get on the Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas. I mean… that Empress of the Seas interior room was so TINY, only 117 square feet, compared to Carnival’s 185 square feet. But the Empress of the Seas cruise included $100 in onboard credit on top of the cheaper price, which would offset the $100 deposit that we’d lose if we cancelled our Carnival Paradise cruise.
My husband and I discussed it, and we watched YouTube videos of both ships. If you ever want to learn more about cruising, definitely check out the various YouTube videos. There are videos for every ship out there. In watching the videos, Carnival Paradise was somewhat bigger, although still a small ship. It had more activities such as waterslides, kids areas, miniature golf, and pools. But since we never use the waterslides, kids areas, or pools, and since the time we’ll be cruising is right around Spring Break, we thought that maybe the Carnival ship would be attracting way more kids and teens than we’d like to be around. I am The Quiet Cruiser, after all, not a party cruiser. It’s just not our thing, and I cruise for peace and relaxation. We would miss Guy Fieri’s burger joint though, they have the best burgers ever. Then we looked at the Empress of the Seas. She seems like a very small ship, but classy. No waterslide or miniature golf, and a small pool. Her cabins are tiny, but they were adequate for our needs. We knew that the entertainment would be different from what we’ve seen before, not the same old same old that we get on Carnival. It would still be a five day cruise, but we’d be missing one port of call, Cozumel. To be honest, I’d rather have a day at sea than another day in Cozumel. We’ve been there enough. Plus, because of missing Cozumel, we’d have more time in both Key West and in Cuba. But the Paradise sails out of Tampa, which would be easier for us, and the Empress sails out of Miami, and I really hate driving there. This was not an easy decision to make. Definitely pros and cons.
We finally decided, after much thought and deliberation, to go with Royal Caribbean and Empress of the Seas and cancel our Carnival Paradise cruise. Saving $200 won out over the small room size of the Carnival Paradise. Then came the hard decision of which cabin to book. We always book directly with the cruise line on their website, mainly because I’m a control freak. We had a choice between the third and fourth deck. We decided on the third because the fourth was right below the theater. Who knows how loud those rooms would get? Then we saw a few that looked just a bit bigger than the 117 square feet, so we chose one of those. Hopefully we’ll find a deal later in the year and manage to upgrade to a window cabin before April. And if not, we’re really going for the destination, not the ship, so we’ll make do with a smaller room. And it’s only a five day cruise.
And I’m glad that I booked when I did. I checked again today and the Onboard Credit went from $100 a cabin to $50 a cabin overnight. Cruise prices and perks change so quickly, so if you see a good deal, it’s best to book it as soon as possible. You can always go back to the cruise line and request a discount if you find a better deal later. I’ve had a lot of luck doing that if it’s before I’ve made my final payment.
And now we need to learn lots more about traveling to Cuba, since this will be our first time there. I know that the ship will provide the Visa that we need to get in for an extra $75, and that I have to have a passport. I know that it’s best to take a ship excursion since there are only certain reasons that you can legally tour Cuba. And I can’t wait! April seems like such a long way off. Lots of time for research.
And I just got an email from Carnival saying that I could use my $100 forfeited deposit on a future cruise…minus a $50 a person fee. Seriously Carnival? Why bother sending the email?