Every year we book hundreds of American military and DOD families on European cruises – and save them money!
Here’s why you should book your cruise with us:
- Our rates are lower than the cruise lines’ lowest rates.
- We add a military discount to every cabin in your group!
- You pay in dollars, not Euros.
- Our knowledgeable, friendly American cruise agents are available 7 days a week, 15 hours a day!
- We will monitor the rates after you book, and if a lower rate becomes available to you, we will re-fare your cruise to this new lower rate!*
- We offer a discount on travel insurance, that includes FREE TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR KIDS!
- We’ve been in business for a looooong time. Many thousands of military families know and trust us and you can too.
Click on the destinations below and enjoy seeing all the amazing options!
Then book online, or contact us for assistance.
Please note: the rates shown on our website are already discounted below the cruise lines lowest rate – except for balcony cabins on MSC. We can add an extra discount to the online rate if you call us to book those cabins.
*The cruise lines allow us to do this if it is before your time of final payment and you did not use a non-refundable farecode.
- Where is my cruise terminal? Where do I park?
- Which cruise departure ports are closest to Stuttgart or K-town, Germany? How can I get to my cruise departure port?
- Have kids? Looking for a cruise that is good for kids? Want is there to do for kids on a cruise ship?
- Do you have three or more children? Need a cabin that will hold 5 or more people in one cabin?
- How can I get kid’s cruise free in Europe?
- Where do cruises from Southern Europe go? What are my destination options?
- If you want to cruise to Spain and Greece, read this!
- Spring Break 2018 Cruise Info now available here!
- Traveling from Germany?
Use blue box search tool or click or the links above for the different European destinations to see all your options.
If you have more than 4 people, you will likely need more than one cabin since most cruise ships have very very few cabins for 5 or more.IF YOU NEED MORE THAN ONE CABIN – book one cabin at a time.
If you need more than one cabin, price the cabin with the most number of people first (max is 4 people in most cases).
EVERYONE counts, so make sure you enter kids and infants too!Call or email us if you want us to look for a cabin that can hold 5 or more.
Once you’ve found the specific ship and sail date you prefer, you can book online or if you prefer, you can call or us so we can help find multiple cabins or assist in any way.
Our toll-free number is 866-964-5482 or if you cannot call toll free, our local number is 256-485-6792 or you can skype us at “mycruiseclub.” You can also submit your booking request at holdmycruise.com
What’s the drive time in a car? What are the other ways to get to my cruise departure port?
We used Google maps to see how far all Southern cruise ports are from Stuttgart. If you’re not in Stuttgart, we suggest you use Google Maps or Rome2Rio, so you can get directions and travel times from wherever you are!
Savona, 7 hours
La Spezia 7 and ½
Venice is about 7 hours.
Rome 10 and ½
Palermo 19 and ½
Valencia, 14 hours
Malaga, 20 hours
The TGV high-speed French train runs from Germany through France to Marseille, so if you take the train you can get to the port of Marseille in just seven hours. Driving will take about an hour longer.
For military families in central Germany, Venice is only a 7-hour drive away and Bari is 13! Most people prefer to drive less, so the cruise lines can charge more for those departure ports.
If you are a military couple taking a cruise and have the money to fly, there are direct flights from Frankfurt to Bari. So, if you might be willing to depart from Bari.
We love the website www.RometoRio.com, as it instantly gives you all driving, plane, train and bus options between any two destinations you choose.
Click on the name of the port, then use the table below the map to select the month you’d like to depart from that port and the destination – to see a list of all your options.
Are there any cabins that hold 5 people in Europe?
Yes! Here is the complete list of ships sailing in Europe as of January 2018. Our website generates cabins for up to four people, so if you are interested in booking a cabin for 5 you will need to call us at 866-964-5482 or .
Cabins for 5 and connecting cabins sell out before anything else!
If a cabin for 5 is what you need, it is best to book at least a year in advance, otherwise, your only options will be the more expensive suites or getting two cabins. The most consistently inexpensive cabins for 5 in Europe can be found on Costa’s ships.
There are water-slides, shows, and kids clubs on all of these cruise lines. Kids 11 and under sail free as the 3-5th passenger on almost all MSC European sailings. Costa, Norwegian, Princess, Holland, and Royal Caribbean also occasionally have promotions where the 3rd and 4th passenger sail for free.
$- prices are usually under $5,000 for 5 on a 7-day sailing – see Costa
$$- prices are usually under $7,000 for 5 on a 7-day sailing- see MSC, Holland, Royal, and Celebrity
$$$- prices are usually over $7,000 for 5 on a 7-day sailing – see Norwegian, Disney, and Princess
*Prices and availability are subject to change. While we can give you a range to help guide you, the cruise lines ultimately set the price and they may differ from what you see here.
Where do cruises from Southern Europe go? What are my destination options?
The cruise industry has segregated all Southern Mediterranean cruises into four categories:
However, since the Canary Islands are near the Western edge of the Mediterranean, there are many cruises which include stops in the Canary Islands and Western Med.
And, most Eastern Mediterranean cruises stop at a ports in Turkey, Greece or the Black Sea.
If you want to go to places that are located on the LEFT or WESTERN side of the boot of Italy (Rome, Naples, Sicily, Tunisia, Palma de Mallorca, France, Spain, Portugal and Casablanca, then what you want is a WESTERN Mediterranean cruise.
Cruises that go to the Canary Islands also include the Western Caribbean ports of: Genoa, Savona, Rome, Naples, Naples, Palermo, Messina (Sicily), Livorno (Tuscany); Marseille and Toulon (South of France / Cote d’Azur/ Provence), Monte Carlo; Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga, Tunis, Palma de Mallorca, Ajaccio (Corsica).
If you want to go to Venice, Croatia, Greece, Turkey or Israel, those destinations are Eastern Mediterranean and you should click on those links.
Cruises to the Eastern Caribbean and Turkey, Greece and the Black Sea include the ports of: Venice, Bari, Trieste (all in Italy), Dubrovnik, Split, Koper and Kotor (former Yugoslavia, now Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro), Katakolon, Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos (Greek Islands), Athens; Kusadasi, Izmir and Istanbul (Turkey).
If you want to cruise to Spain AND Greece, read this!
Since Spain is on the far western side of the Mediterranean sea, and Greece is on the far eastern side, they are too far apart for a cruise ship to travel in 7 days!
There are some cruises that go to both destinations, but they are 10 to 14 days long, and usually start at one side and end at the other side of the Mediterranean. so if you drive to the departure port, the cruise will not END at that port. So you’ll need to train or fly all the way back to your car and that adds considerably to the cost of your cruise.
Cruises that begin and end at the same port are called – round trip – just like an airline ticket that you book with a return flight to the same destination you started from.
Cruises that do not start and end at the same port are called OPEN JAW cruises. Those cruises are usually priced lower than roundtrip cruises, as they are less desirable to all the folks who are planning on driving to the cruise departure port.
However, an open jaw cruise allows you to see the maximum number of different ports of call/ cities/ destinations.
And there is a train station in every port city in Europe, so it will be relatively easy and affordable for you to get back to your military base anywhere in Europe.
How could you get from Stuttgart to Venice to depart on your cruise, and then back home from Savona where the cruise ends? We’ve done the research for you- click here to read about all your travel options to and from European cruise ports.
Are there cruises in which kids cruise free in Europe?
Be sure to contact us if you’re looking for a cruise in which kids cruise for free – as new ships and dates are announced all the time, and often the website pricing will not reveal the correct kid-free price!
If you’re a military family in Europe you’re in luck, as kids age 11 and under cruise for free on almost all MSC CRUISES in Europe, (when they are the 3rd and 4th person in a cabin)!
Kids ages 12-17 pay a very reduced rate, sometimes as little as $99 each!!
MSC is top-tier, large Italian cruise line and most of their sailings are in Europe. So if you’re in Germany or Italy, it’s likely you won’t have to fly to an MSC cruise departure port.
MSC has a complimentary kids and teens program with all sorts of fully supervised activities in secured areas starting from early in the morning until late in the evening.
NOTE – there is an additional military and veteran discount available that is often NOT shown in pricing on the website except on inside and oceanview cabins which are already discounted on our site.
So this is what you should do:
- Go to the MSC cruises page,
- CALL US to check for a lower rate applied to the cruise of your choice only if you want a balcony or suite – 866-964-5482.
Norwegian also has the 3rd/4th passenger free as one of it’s Free At Sea incentives on select sailings.
Costa has kids free as a capacity controlled promotion for select cabins on select sailings. Capacity controlled means that once they sell enough cabins, the promotion is over. Move quickly with this one!
Occasionally Kids are free as the 3rd/4th passenger in Holland’s flash fares.
For right now – that’s it! No other cruise lines are offering any kids cruise free deals. However, we know you want that. So we’re constantly on the lookout for it and all other great cruise deals and will let you know as soon as we know.
Want to go from Germany to a cruise port in Southern Med? Here are your options!
Since most of you are in Kaiserslautern (K-town) or Stuttgart, we’ve prepared a detailed list of transportation options from southwestern Germany to cruise ports in the Southern Med.
- Driving your own car
Rome and Barcelona are about a 12-13 hour drive from central Germany. Naples is 15, Marseille is 9. So for those ports, flying or training it may be easier for your family.
This is a good option if your cruise departure port is GENOA, VENICE, SAVONA or LA SPEZIA. Those ports are all around 8-9 hours by car from central Germany.
We used Google maps to see how far all Southern cruise ports are from Stuttgart. If you’re not in Stuttgart, here’s a link to Google Maps, so you can get directions and travel times from wherever you are!
- Genoa is 6 hours and 45 minutes,
- Savona, 7 hours
- La Spezia 7 and ½
- Venice is about 7 hours.
- Trieste 7
- Rome 10 and ½
- Bari 13
- Barcelona 11
- Naples hours
- Messina, 18
- Palermo 19 and ½
- Valencia, 14 hours
- Malaga, 20 hours
There are convenient and affordable parking options at all those ports which costs anywhere from 65 to 95 Euros.
See our cruise port info and parking page for more details.
Our recommendation for travel from Germany to Venice or Milan is the German train company, DB Bahn,
You can get an ICE (intercity express) train from Stuttgart to Venice Italy for as little as 79 Euro and the trip will take 9 hours. These trains go up to 180 mph!
K-town to Marseille by train is only 7 hours and $124 pp (unless it’s a holiday or peak travel time). This makes Marseille the fastest and most affordable port to access by train.
K-town to Milan takes 8-9 hours and costs 83 E on the Bahn.
Stuttgart to Milan takes only around 7 hours and costs 53 E.
(These were the prices for the second week in April when we checked in January, but of course, prices for other dates may differ.)
We recommend using Milan as a midpoint if you’re going to an Italian port.
From Milan, take the Italian train line, Italiarail, to your Italian cruise port.A ticket from Milan to Venice or Genoa is only $13!
Time by train from Milan to port cities in Italy:
One and ½ hours to Genoa
Two hours to Savona
Only 2 and ½ hours to Venice.
Only 3 hours to Rome or Ancona.
Four hours and 40 minutes to Naples.
Seven hours and 45 minutes to Bari.\
Train from Venice to Genoa is 4 and ½ hours, and costs $80, for folks who did the open jaw cruise from Genoa to Venice.
European bus lines: Sena, Baltour or Eurolines
Search them all here: http://autolinee.baltour.it/Home/455-1-en.html
A bus from Stuttgart to Milan only takes 6 hours and 15 minutes and costs $65 or 45E.
Mannheim (near K-town) to Genoa takes 11 and ½ hours and only costs $83
Munich to Rome, by bus, departing at 4 a.m. arriving 18:45, only 110 Euros.
First, you’ll need to know which airports are within driving distance of you.
Below are listed driving distance from K-town to cities in Germany with airports.
Frankfurt Hahn – 1 hour and 15 minutes north
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT FRANKFURT AIRPORTS
There are TWO airports that have Frankfurt in their title, but the HAHN one is actually 1 and ½ hours west of Frankfurt, and it is the one used by Ryan Air.
Other main airlines will use the MAIN Frankfurt airport located in Frankfurt, about one and a half hours northeast of K-town.
Baden-Baden – 1 hour 40 minutes south
Strasbourg, France, 1 hour 50 minutes
Cologne – 2 and ½ hours north
Dusseldorf – 2 and ¾ hours north
Nuremberg – 3 hours east
Brussels, 3 hours and 20 minutes (same as airport near Munich)
Memmingen – toward Munich, southeast, 3 hours, 20 minutes
Dortmund – 3 hours and 15 minutes north
Munster, 3 hours and 45 minutes north
Leipzig, 4 and ½ hours northeast
Bremen – 5 hours due north
Hamburg, 5 and ½ hours north
Berlin, 6 hours
Need flight to Genoa? Closest airport from K-town with direct flights on Ryan Air to Genoa is Brussels.
If you’re planning on flying Ryan Air, READ THIS: Ryan Air is notorious for having additional fees for everything, including steep fees for luggage. No checked baggage is free! See complete list of luggage charges here:
Basically, plan on paying an additional 45 E per checked bag, and it better be under 20k, as you’ll get charged an additional 10 E per kilo of overage.
An aggregator of cheap European flights is www.Skyscanner.com
See at a glance who flies where you want to go in Europe is www.euroflights.info
Direct flights from Munich to Genoa on Germanwings.com
A solid, German-based choice, www.airberlin.com
In England – biggest source of discount flights, http://www.easyjet.com/en/
A search on Travelocity reveals prices on the following airlines:
We found a useful site, called Rome2Rio, that will instantly give you supplier and cost options for driving, bus, train and fly between destinations. See here, http://www.rome2rio.com/
May we suggest:
If you can spare the time, you may want to consider getting a hotel in Milan for one night on the way to your cruise.
If you got on an 8 a.m. train in Germany, you’d arrive in Milan in the mid to late afternoon.The next morning you could get up leisurely, see a bit more of the city, and then take a train to the city of your cruise port.
That way, if their is some hiccup in your travel plans, you’ll less likely to miss the boat! And Milan has the most stunning cathedral I’ve seen in all of Europe. Just something for you to consider.
We hope this helps you find the best option for travel to your cruise port!
We can’t book these travel options for you, but booking them yourself via the Internet should be easy enough.
We’d be interested in hearing how your trip to port worked out for you, if you would recommend your mode of travel to other military families in Europe.
Unable to call toll-free numbers from overseas? Call us at 256-485-6792 or skype us at mycruiseclub. In Italy? Call us locally at 0418520050 or use the Ring Me button below and we’ll call you anywhere in the world!
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Great cruise advice from a military spouse!
Military spouse, Raquel Thiebes, is a cruise enthusiast! She just wrote a great review of the MSC cruise she took recently. Here’s a tiny excerpt:
We just got back from our last MSC cruise in the Western Mediterranean a few weeks ago, and I thought I would share some tips! One of my moderators also returned from her trip on Costa and has some helpful hints below as well. Some of our advice you can apply to the other cruise lines as well. Knowledge is power, right? I’ve taken a few notes and thought these could help the next person:
- Drink packages. Do the math, period. They will try to cajole you and convince you to go with the most expensive package. Do keep in mind that water, tea and coffee will ALWAYS be available 24 hours up in the buffet restaurant on MSC.
If you’re considering cruising Europe on MSC or Costa, you’ll get a lot out of her articles and suggestions.
How I Survived (and thrived) on my First Cruise (on the MSC Divina)
By: Rebecca Forte
- I didn’t know how to get to the port the next morning, so I asked the hotel concierge!
I arrived in my port city of Miami to a wonderful hotel with shuttle service from the airport. I felt like a queen being picked up and shuttled from place to place. It truly made for a more relaxing arrival that you can experience too; many hotels offer airport shuttles.
However, one detail wasn’t yet resolved. How would my royal self make it to the cruise terminal the next day?
So I asked the Hotel concierge. They are willing to call a taxi for you, and my concierge also had a partnership with a $12 dollar shuttle per person. The queen rides again!
- I didn’t get seasick!
I was warned to pick up some Dramamine ahead of time since the seas affect everyone differently. However, I forgot.
Luckily my new friends assisted me with some natural remedies: green apples, and saltines.
Who knew that preventative medicine could taste so good?
If you are just booking and want to prevent seasickness, you can book a room that is on a lower deck and toward the center of the ship. This will lessen the effects of any movement.
However, if you did not book such a prime location, then quickly locate your remedies. Apples are available at the buffet, and Dramamine will be available in one of the shops or at the medical center.
- Cruise food is amazing! I learned the hard way that everyone gains weight, and then loses it quickly on the return.
Since I sailed on the Italian cruise line MSC, I have to rave about the pizza. I have yet to stop thinking about the pizza. It was so thin, warm, and had the perfect sauce-to-cheese ratio.
However, cruisers with more self control around pizza than me also gained weight. Since all of your food is included, you will likely eat far more than you do when you’re not on vacation. There is nothing wrong with this. When you see that key lime pie, treat yourself!
There are some things you can do to make this change a more comfortable one for you.
- Wear your tightest clothes at the beginning of the cruise, and your looser clothes toward the end. Hello, yoga pants.
- Take the stairs. You will get everywhere that you’d like to get faster, and you’ll have the added benefit of free exercise. I was even encouraged to climb from deck 4 to deck 13. That one hurt!
- Give in.
- I knew what was happening without the Internet.
Each morning every stateroom receives a daily cruise program with the day’s weather, activities schedule, sales, and important announcements. When we were approaching Puerto Rico we experienced a time change and had to turn our clocks back an hour, so it was in our programs. When we received our disembarkation locations and tags, there were also detailed instructions in our programs. When our itinerary changed slightly due to an elderly passenger’s medical emergency, the new itinerary was in the program.
Everything is in the program.
However, if you prefer to get your news from the television there is also a morning show on MSC where the cruise director samples different parts of the ship while giving you the day’s news. It is silly, and he eats gelato, and it makes you want to eat gelato too.
However, if you didn’t read your program and didn’t watch the show, you can still get important announcements. On MSC the most critical announcements were broadcast over the intercom in the four most commonly spoken languages. The cruise director then repeated the information before the night’s live show. Important information is also added to most cruise line’s onboard apps.
Also, if you want to get in touch with another cruiser you can call their cabin phone. It will give you fun nostalgia for the 1990s as you twirl the phone cord around your finger.
You will feel disconnected, wireless, and carefree. You will feel relaxed. However, even as you’re relaxing, you will still know what’s going on.
- I wanted a queen bed and I got two twins! So, I got it fixed!
As soon as I met my room steward I reached out and asked for the beds to be moved together. “No problem,” he said! He would be moving bags for the next couple of hours but, “when you go to dinner, then I’ll fix your beds.”
I’m not a patient person. I did not wait until dinner. I tried moving them myself.
“Sugeng! I fixed the beds myself! Now you don’t have to!”
“No you did it wrong. I do it at dinner.”
I did it wrong. When he pushed our beds together he added queen size sheets and a comforter. This turned out to be very comfortable. No need for worrying, just go to dinner and it will be fixed.
- I lost my card, and it was ok.
First I did the panic dance. You know the one. Then I calmly took the stairs down to the main reception. They took my wife’s key card (since both are linked to the same bank account), had us sign on a clipboard that we were getting ours replaced, and handed us shiny new plastic. It really was that easy.
- I bought gelato and it didn’t break the bank.
I was really pleased with MSC that everything was priced fairly. My cruise cabin was the first place I’ve ever seen provide a price list for a mini-bar. Everything on it was what you’d pay to get that item in a vending machine.
All around, the prices were fair. I bought migraine medicine for $2.00 in the sundry shop. I bought a Guess purse for $30.00 in the accessories shop.
There is free soft serve ice cream, but the Venchi gelato beckoned me. I paid $2.50 for a small cup and no regrets. Then I took the stairs.
- I learned the Bachata, Salsa, Merengue, Swing and the Italian Tarantella.
What is there to do on a cruise? I learned how to dance. I played countless hours of difficult trivia. I took Italian lessons. I went to my first Art Auction. I watched a Katy Perry concert, and Pavarotti concert, on the lido deck screen. I tried new foods, and then binged on pizza and gelato. I went in the hot tub.
I dressed up for the formal night, got my jewelry cleaned for free, and then posed for a free photo shoot. I read on the balcony. I went to a Hannukah service and had some fantastic latkes. I tried new fruity drinks. I visited new places.
I people watched from afar, and practiced my spanish with fabulous people at the night time disco. I cheered on a shipboard version of “Dancing With the Stars.” I watched one of the Harry Potter movies on our cabin’s television. I wrote into the morning show and won a prize.
I found quite a few things to do on a cruise.
- I slept in a balcony cabin and did not fall off the balcony.
This is important. I am a child-sized adult. Standing tall at 4’11” I am eye-level with many second graders. Only my shoulders, neck, and head are above the balcony. It is very large and thankfully see through. I can rest my arms on it, but your children may not be able to. This is fine. I am frequently asked if children fall off of the balcony, and the answer is a resounding “no.”
- I went on a shore excursion and did not get left behind at the port.
When I went on a cruise line specific shore excursion, one nervous man was very concerned that we would get left behind because our excursion ended close to the all aboard time of 5:30.
This was a silly concern for quite a few reasons. We as the customers would have loudly voiced our opinions in reviews of the cruise line were anything to happen, and should we have been left behind.
We as the customers would have loudly voiced our reviews of the excursion company if anything were to happen and we were left behind.
MSC provided our tour with two “escorts” who would have been horribly heckled if anything were to happen and we were left behind.
There was no chance of us getting left behind.
- I brought my passport on shore excursions (because we had to) and didn’t lose it!
On our kayak, hike and snorkel tour we were concerned about guarding our stuff while we skipped through nature. Luckily at the beginning of our tour there were bathrooms, lockers, changing rooms, and appropriate clothes for sale.
The rule on our excursion was that our group’s locker wouldn’t be opened until our full group was accounted for. And it wasn’t. My passport and me came safely home.
- We couldn’t get to our last port-of-call due to a medical emergency- so the cruise line worked to try and get us to a different port!
I was impressed by this. Health comes before all. All passengers were kept abreast of the situation via multilingual announcements, but I still was personally saddened to miss the last beach day.
MSC worked tirelessly and rerouted us to Nassau instead. They announced that all shore excursions to the original port would be automatically refunded and then arranged new excursions for the new port-of-call all from onboard the ship.
I was personally amazed by this entire process, and I found it educational as well. If your cruise line cannot get to a port for reasons out of your control they will try and accommodate you. They want you to be happy.
- I sat at mealtimes with many new people and enjoyed their company.
As a new cruiser, they all had great tips for me for what to do at the upcoming ports and how to navigate them in inexpensive ways. I also learned about Hawaii, Scotland, England, Canada, and the great state of New Jersey.
I enjoyed my long meals with varied and interesting people in the dining room. However, if you prefer a faster meal or different company, there is always the free buffet as well.
- I got water for free!
Tap water is free in the ice machines in the buffet. Waiters will also bring you mineral water on MSC, and pitchers are available at meals on most other lines. I refilled using the tap in my cabin’s bathroom sometimes. I drank like a fish and I didn’t need a water package to do it.
- I got my preferred dining time (by asking nicely) and snuck into the early theatre show!
I am a young person with an old soul, surrounded by similar young people with old souls. We like our 5 pm dinner and 7 pm show because our eyelids are closing by the 9 pm show. In fact, I’m yawning just writing this.
I originally was booked with the late dining time. However, miracles can happen if you ask nicely. I nicely asked the maitre d’ if there was room for two at the early seating. There was! He moved us! With luck, availability, and kindness, you can be moved too!
Now usually, if you sit at the early dining time, then you are expected to go to the late show. However, if you are like me, then you can game the system by eating at the early time quickly in the buffet, and then going to the early show. I recommend my methodology for families with small children, and adults who who have the bedtimes of small children. I fall into the latter category. Goodnight folks!
- I got a massage for half off!
On embarkation day massages were half off. That was the first thing I did upon arrival (before all the appointments were booked up.) Massages are also often discounted at least 30% on port days since many people are away. Look in your program for these discounts!
If you know for sure that you will be getting a massage, schedule it 6 months ahead of time. MSC has rates that range up to 60% off for early bookers, and I promise you a Balinese massage is worth it!
Keep this sage advice in mind for other purchases as well. Do the math for yourself to see if a drink package is worth it for you when you book. Go to the ship’s stores on port days for extra discounts. Fully indulge yourself for less!
- I attended every show I could.
On MSC we had a show every night. I know that this is more than the other cruise lines, but they also have quite a few shows. I was thrilled at my chance to see Opera singers, circus acrobats, a hula hooper, a contortionist, and world-class dancers. What’s more, each night had a theme, and these artists had their talents woven into a great storyline with exceptional costumes and choreography. I love the theatre personally. With shows this spectacular, I think that you will as well.
- I carried my own bags off the ship and got to disembark early.
MSC has a program called self-assist where a cohort of early risers can opt to meet at 6:30 for disembarkation while carrying their own luggage. This is the best option for passengers with early flights! I was lucky. The kind man at the reception desk let me switch to self-assist the night before we disembarked.
*I should note that most passengers on the ship do not do this. Most passengers leave their luggage outside their door the night before so that the porters can do the heavy lifting. They then reunite with their bags after clearing customs at the port.
- I arranged a shuttle from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale at the very last minute, and it was ok!
American Airlines changed my flight time, so I changed airlines to a Southwest. This meant that on the last day of my cruise we were scrambling to determine how we would get from Miami, where the cruise docked, to Ft. Lauderdale, where the plane would be.
We quickly called the Florida Super Shuttle first thing in the morning, and for a flat fare of $35 per person, he came and took us the 30 minutes to Ft. Lauderdale.
However, had we not arranged our transportation via phone, we still would have been ok. There were taxis, and shuttles lined up outside the cruise terminal; outbidding each other while trying to get our business. They were all set, and ready to go to both the Miami AND Ft. Lauderdale airports. In fact, one taxi driver seemed genuinely hurt that I had prearranged my transportation 20 minutes earlier. We’re just cruise passengers breaking hearts.
- I had a great time and can’t wait to go back again!
Not your Average Cruise Tips!
By: Tasha Clites
- Take a backpack instead of a cute beach tote – while I certainly love to look stylish on vacation, my husband complains of shoulder pains from over-stuffed shoulder totes. One our last few cruises, we decided to take a backpack and our lives were simplified and our hands and arms were free!
- Buy your own snorkel gear – A typical snorkel excursion starts at $40 most of the time. While many of the Caribbean ports have beaches within walking distance, you can purchase your own snorkel gear and go at your leisure. I got mine from the clearance section at TJ Maxx for $7! Total score and I don’t have to share germs with the person that used the communal one before me.
- Take a refillable water bottle – Bottled water can be super pricey on some of the cruise lines. Purchasing it in port is usually much cheaper. But, it is very convenient to take your own refillable bottle to tote around on the ship with your and to fill up before you get off of the boat in port. The water and ice machines on the ship are always open.
- Have an early day? Order breakfast right to your room – You can order your breakfast by putting the provided menu on your door before you go to bed just like in a hotel. But here’s the secret: you don’t have to order a full breakfast. You can just order coffee so that you don’t have to leave your room in the morning just to grab a cup of Joe. And this way, you don’t have to wait for it; you pre-select the time you want it to be delivered. If you wait to call for coffee in the morning, you’ll be waiting a long time which is why the schedule system works so well. You can also order light sandwiches and bagels. So, so convenient.
- Always take a wrinkle releaser – A lot of ships don’t have irons or they have them all the way at the end of the ship, which is really inconvenient. I always take a coat hanger from the closet, spray the garment, and then hang whatever I need to steam in the shower. Turn the hot water on and in a minute — air presto! — It’s ironed. In the event that you really, really need something ironed and the shower trick simply won’t do, you can drop your item off at the laundry service and they will take care of you for a small fee. Guys — you can also rent suits here in case you forgot your own!
- Prepare for seasickness – If you feel sickness coming on, eat a green apple and the sickness will go away almost immediately. Also, don’t wait until you need one of the seasickness patches because once you’re already sick, the majority of patches won’t work. So if you think you’re prone to seasickness, just take it from the beginning. And if you do get sick, try to get something in your stomach – ginger ale, green apples, crackers, etc. It’ll make all the difference in the world. A lot of people assume they won’t get seasick because they don’t get car sick… but it can totally sneak up on you at the worst times!
- Pack a notebook or bring pen and paper – I always take a camera, sometimes a few, but I’ll probably forget why I took a particular picture. I always want to take lots of pictures, so with a notebook I can take notes and remember everything about the moment. I also keep a travel diary, but I know that’s not for everyone!
- Talk to everyone – You get the opportunity to meet so many people from so many walks of life and such different parts of the world. I feel fortunate that I can look through my contacts and find someone I know almost everywhere in the world. I’ve kept in touch with countless cruise friends and truly treasure each and every one of them!
- Traveling with a baby? Bring dish soap and a bottle brush – It’s the only way to clean bottles in your stateroom sink without having to ask the kitchen staff for supplies or track down your empty bottles after entrusting the staff to clean them for you. I don’t have children, but I know this from speaking to other guests on the ship!
- Traveling with a group? Bring Walkie Talkies – In order to communicate with each other while on the ship, this is the cost free way to do it since calling or texting will cost you a fortune. It is a great idea if you have kids, or like us, get separated from our group quite easily! We’ve done this multiple times. Some walkie-talkie brands work better than others, but it is still such a cost-free, simply way to communicate.
By: Tasha Clites
Avoid Hefty ATM Fees on the Ship – I never bring quite enough cash — mainly because I find it easier to spend and also lose! While there are ATM machines on the ship, they often charge fees ranging from $5 to $7 to withdraw cash! PLUS — some banks or credit cards will charge you a fee of their own for not using one of their machines.
I found a clever way around this on my third cruise or so. Take your seapass card and head to the casino. Sit down at a slot machine and insert your card. Let’s say you want $200 cash. The machine will ask how much you want to “play” with. Enter in the amount you’d like to withdraw then hit “cash out” after it has given you those credits!
Go over to the cashier and collect your funds.
Everything you spend onboard the ship including casino play is charged to the credit or debit card you provided at the pier. Fees avoided 😉
Roll your clothes – Instead of folding, try rolling your clothes up. This not only prevents wrinkles but it also gives you much more space in your suitcase. You aren’t allowed to pack your own iron. Additionally, some ships do not have an area where you can iron your clothing yourself. You may actually have to pay to get them steamed or ironed. I totally stand by clothes-rolling and a good wrinkle release spray!
Surge Protector with USB Outlets – Cabins often have very few outlets so it can be difficult to charge all of your electronics at once. Take your own multi-plug USB outlet so that you can charge your phone, camera, ipad, etc. all at once without have to swap them out periodically.
Ziploc Bags – These little guys are lifesavers! Taking a few empty baggies with you will prove to be so useful. You can use them when going on shore excursions to keep water and sand away from your electronics. I also recommend taking larger grocery bags to store your wet clothes in in case there is not enough time to hang-dry them before your disembarkation.
Portable USB Charger – I tend to use my phone for photos these days as the camera quality is rather great. However, this means that my battery dies at a rapid rate. I don’t leave my cabin without my portable USB charger. I snagged one at Five Below, but you can get them almost anywhere these days. For a measly $5, it can’t hurt to have this as your safety net!
Travel Alarm Clock – Cruise ship cabins do not have alarm clocks. Some of us are okay using our cell phones – but insanely heavy sleepers like myself require a louder standard alarm clock.
In-room Bible – Bibles are typically left in the bedside tables. Passengers have been known to leave leftover drink coupons in these. It can’t hurt to check. For two of my past cruises, I’ve scored a free drink this way!
Plastic Wrap your Toiletries – Though we keep our toiletries in their own bag inside of another bag, they somehow always spill out! Try placing plastic wrap under the caps of your shampoo/conditioner bottles to keep them from leaking out. Works like a charm.
Dryer Sheets in Luggage – We’ve noticed that on rather long flights, our clothes have a certain unwanted smell to them once our luggage arrives to our cabin. We’ve purchased overpriced scent balls to put in our bags before to keep our clothing smelling fresh but we’ve found that tossing in a dryer sheet works even better and it is likely something you already have at home.
Free Wifi in Port – Wifi packages onboard the ship can be a little pricey and maybe you just want to check in on Facebook every now and then. When the ship pulls into port, check for free wifi. After you exit the ship, it is likely that you will see signs indicating “free Wifi” or you will see the masses of people hanging out there in one area. You can also ask the ship’s crew members. They know exactly where the free WiFi is!
Use the Ship’s WiFi while docked – If you did purchase an internet package for your cruise, using it in the port will give you an increased speed compared to when the ship is sailing the open waters where the connection is much slower.
Over-the-door Shoe Organizer – For families traveling together in one stateroom, the bathroom space is never quite adequate. Take an over-the-door shoe organizer to store of all your toiletries, curling irons, etc. so it isn’t cluttering what limited counter space you have.
Drink for FREE – Beverage packages can be super expensive! If you’re one that just wants a drink or two per day at little to no cost, try this out! The daily itineraries always list something along the lines of “Captain’s Toast” where servers run around with trays full of complimentary mixed drinks, wine, or champagne. I’ve experienced this on Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Princess recently. This fun little mixer is also a great way to meet other cruisers!
Additionally, for cruisers that have sailed with a particular line before, there is typically a coupon booklet left in your cabin that will have a drink coupon in it. It pays to be loyal!
Lastly, the atrium shops have frequent “liquor tastings” where you can sample the brands they sell in their duty free shops.
You can often get your favorite brand for a better price than you can at home. The only catch here is that they do not give you the goods until the last day of your cruise — but it is typically a great deal!
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Military Spouses reviews of Costa – April, 1017
We just returned from our third cruise-first time on Costa (the Diadems). I originally booked because I received a phenomenal deal, but then was skeptical because of things I had read online. I will tell you, most of the negative things I read were WRONG!
Firstly, we are a family of five, so our previous experience has been with two cabins-Costa’s cabin for five was a HUGE selling point, and it worked so well for us.
We had an oceanview room, two upper bunks, and they rolled another bed in for under one of the top bunks. The cabin also had two bathrooms-one with a toilet, shower, and sink; the other had a bath/shower and sink. It worked perfectly for our family (two teenage girls who like to primp).
The staff on board was very helpful, despite what we heard. I will say they were different-just meaning they weren’t “in your face” pushing services on you-but if you needed something, they did everything possible to help.
Booking excursions was so easy-the ship had multiple kiosks on board where I could chose and print my tickets.
The food was good-typical European cruise food-on par with our previous experiences. There was a hot breakfast served in the restaurants every morning, and euro breakfast at the buffet. Every night, there were multiple options for dinner, and the restaurant food was delicious.
Every night on board there was a show, and every day there were multiple events to keep all ages entertained. My teens liked their “teen club”, and my five year old had a good time in the squok club.
Overall, I would say Costa is an excellent value, especially for those who don’t want to spend a fortune for a memorable experience! When booking our next cruise, we won’t hesitate to go with Costa.
My husband and I with our 2 yr old went to a cruise with Costa exactly a year from now. It was our very first cruise.
I’ve read negative reviews about Costa but we still went for it because we were given an awesome deal. I was very skeptical at first since it was our first time and with a toddler in tow. But man oh man!I was soooo impress with everything since day one!
We were in Costa Delizioza, and had a blast the whole time, we didn’t even want to embark the ship! The food weren’t bad, there’s buffet for bfast, lunch and dinner. There were days we opt for the sit down restaurant; the service, crew and food did not disappoint. We did the formal dinner almost every night and we’re treated like a king and queen by our designated server.
Our room was cleaned and immaculate every time we came back in it. They had live shows and programs going on everyday. My daughter even got to meet Peppapig and had lunch with her! How cool was that! We never had any issues the whole time.
The only thing I could probably suggest that they can improve on is the way we had to get in line to get a ticket for some stuffs and when we had to pick up our passports at the end of the trip was a little hassle. Overall it was an amazing experience, we always recommend it to our friends and we can’t wait to get on our next cruise with Costa!<
We just returned from our cruise on Costa diadema. This was our first cruise ever with any cruise line for my family.
I had set my expectations pretty low because of all the negative reviews. I would have to say without a doubt this cruise was great!!!
The food was delicious! The buffet for breakfast and lunch had a big variety of Italian/European dishes, with pretty of fresh fruit.
The sit down dinner meal was a nice selection of finer dinning food and it all tasted great! We did the restaurant dining once for breakfast to order hot eggs, but we preferred the buffet breakfasts mostly because it is a quicker option in the morning.
We only did one boat excursion in Marseille we went on the Aix en Provence tour, it was a nice walking tour with some free time at the end to explore/shop. I do wish we had more time there but it was only a 1/2 day tour option.
At all the other ports we explored on our own and all the ports had information booths available with maps and some with last minute tours that you could go on. Also we pre-booked a Rome all day tour with All around Italy which was great!
The staff and service were very helpful when you asked and needed it. They were never pushy or constantly asking if you needed something.
The cruise boat was super clean. They were always cleaning it, I saw deck crew cleaning throughout the day.
It is a full European cruise experience, which you should expect since you are cruising in Europe. I would cruise with costa again a heartbeat! We are already talking about next spring break
Military Spouse reviews of MSC cruise line
Denis Q. My wife and I have travelled with MSC on many cruises and been on the Fantasia, Splendida, Musica, Poesia, Preziosa, and have just over a month ago come off the Divina after a 20 night cruise starting from Miami finishing up in Rome.
We have enjoyed every cruise that we have had with MSC. The quality of the furnishings is second to none, the decor has been tastefully selected and the staterooms are far more superior than other cruise lines that we have travelled on.
We were very happy with the quality of food in the buffet and in the dinning rooms and also the selection of drink packages.
In a nut shell, MSC gives value for money, a great selection of cruises around the world and beautiful Ships
Stephanie F. – military spouse in Germany – “We’ve been on five cruises with MSC and they are by far the best! We did 2 in the Mediterranean, one to Green and one to Istanbul. We absolutely love this cruise line.”
Krista L. – military spouse in Europe – “We have cruised twice on MSC….the Fantasia was amazing.”
Paul W. – from Baltimore – “It was funny, once the staff heard you were American, they treated you different than the Europeans. They were outgoing and jovial. Many staff members approached me to ask if everything was ok, and if I needed anything. They made me feel very special.”
Heather B. – from Virginia – I’ve been on many cruise ships, but the Divina is the most chic and beautiful. Even the other cruisers were a beautiful crowd. Be sure to find the ethnic section of the buffet. It was my favorite place for lunch. When I cruise MSC again, I’ve got to do the Yacht Club.
Military Mom’s review of MSC Splendida
If you’re a military family in Europe trying to decide which cruise to take, you should see this.
It’s a military mom’s review of her family’s cruise to the Western Med on the MSC Splendida.
It’s so helpful! She talks about the room, the food, what to do in port, the drink packages, the kids clubs, etc.
We figured many of you would be interested in every word she had to say, so we’re posting the entire review below.
And, she even let us post some of her pictures. Thank you, Kacie Rosario!!
Read Kacie’s review below:
The MSC Splendida was our first cruise! We had read some reviews on MSC, and it almost changed my mind, but we decided to test it out ourselves.
We could not have asked for a better experience! From the staff, the food, the amenities, and the ports of call – it was our best vacation yet.
We really enjoyed the ease of cruising and the relaxed atmosphere of the ship. There was always something to do, but if you just wanted to relax – there are plenty of places for that too!
Everything was well organized and ran smoothly – from embarkation, the excursions, dining services, and disembarkation. We never felt like we were rushed, crowded, or pressured. When we did have questions the concierge was always helpful.
It was also nice that everything was taken care of, by Mitch, before we cruised. He had our crib booked in our room, our tickets e-mailed to us, and even signed us up for the excursions that I wanted to do.
I was a nervous first time cruiser and Mitch was great about promptly answering my dozens of emails.
We also enjoyed the dining experience onboard. Every night you have the option to enjoy a seven-course meal, and it does not disappoint. I consider myself a picky eater, and there was always something I enjoyed. The wait staff also goes above and beyond to make you feel welcome.
We have a two-year-old and I was really nervous about bringing him into the dining room and getting those annoyed stares, but the staff was so accommodating and understanding – as were our fellow diners.
We also decided to go with the Cheers package which allowed us unlimited drinks (beer, wine, soda, and water) during dining hours – which was a great purchase for us, and we certainly got our money’s worth! The buffet was also great for breakfast and lunch. They had a wide variety of options and the service, again, was phenomenal.
Our room was fantastic, and far exceeded our expectations. From the reviews I was expecting a tin shoebox, but our room was large enough for two adults to relax, and a toddler to run around.
We had a great view from our balcony, and it was nice to sit outside while we were arriving and leaving a port. The room service visited twice a day and was always quick to offer assistance.
We looked around the kids area, and we would have taken advantage if our son was older. The groups would come into the buffet at times, and always seemed like they were having so much fun. It looked like they had costume days, and plenty of arts and craft activities.
Even though we didn’t specifically use the kids club – the ship itself was very kid friendly. There are plenty of wide open spaces where we could ‘run off’ steam, or enjoy the views.
We enjoyed all of the ports of call – the only complaint I have is that we could not spend ALL day at some! We chose to do two excursions through MSC (Tunisia and Palermo) and we did the rest on our own.
We did utilize a shuttle through MSC at two of the ports, which was a great deal – it gave you a cheap and reliable way to the city center, but allowed you to still explore on your own.
Tunisia and Rome were our ultimate favorite ports.
I would suggest doing an organized excursion in Tunisia – especially if you have children. Tunisia is fantastic, but a bit overwhelming. For us it was nice to just sit back, relax, and let the tour guide take us to all of the amazing sights.
I would also suggest porting out of Rome so you can extend a couple days on the front or back end of your cruise. We opted for this planned and it worked out great for us. There is just too much to see in Rome!
In every port we ate at an authentic restaurant to that city or country. It was great to experience new things and we had fun tracking down the right place! In Barcelona we ate tapas, in Palermo a traditional Sicilian restaurant, in Rome we had plenty of pizza, in Marseille we had beignets, and in Tunisia we enjoyed some amazing local coffee. I would suggest just getting out and enjoying the culture and surroundings!
Costa Cruise Lines
Fascinosa, Favolosa, Pacifica, Serena
EC, EP Oceanview, sleeps up to 5, 191 sq ft, $
BC, BP Balconies, sleeps up to 5, 219 sq ft, $
GS, Grand Suite, sleeps up to 5, 336 sq ft, $$
BC, BP Balconies, sleeps up to 5, 236 sq ft, $
EC, EP, Oceanview, sleeps up to 5, 175 sq ft $
BC, BP, Balconies, sleeps up to 5, 191 sq ft (BC), 232 sq ft (BP) $
S, PS, Suite and Panoramic Suite, sleeps up to 5, 353 sq ft (S) 361 sq ft (PS) $$
EP, Oceanview , sleeps up to 5, 222 sq ft $
BC, BP, Balconies, sleeps up to 5, 268 sq ft, $
GS, Grand Suite, sleeps up to 5, 455 sq ft, $$
EC, EP, Oceanview, sleeps up to 5, 191 sq ft $
BC, BP, Balconies, sleeps up to 5, 218 sq ft, $
NeoRiviera and NeoRomantica (very few)
S, PS, Suites, sleeps up to 5, 418 sq ft (S) 499 sq ft, $$
Victoria and NeoClassica
MSC Cruise Lines
Splendida, Fantasia, Poesia, Orchestra, Musica
FLA, Connecting B2 balcony cabins(triple or double/quad), sleeps up to 6, 540 sq ft $$$
Lirica, Opera, Sinfonia, Armonia (2 per ship on Deck 9)
O2, Oceanview Cabin, sleeps up to 5, 236 sq ft, $
Magnifica (8 total on the ship)
S3, Aurea Family Suites, sleeps up to 5, 331 sq ft, $$
FMO, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 6, TBD sq ft, $$
FMB, Family Balcony, sleeps up to 6, TBD sq ft $$
FLA, Super Family Connecting Balcony Cabins, sleeps up to 6, TBD sq ft $$
FPO, Super Family Plus Ocean View, sleeps up to 10, TBD sq ft $$$
FPB, Super Family Plus Balcony, sleeps up to 10, TBD sq ft $$$
Norwegian Cruise Lines
O1, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 5, 161 sq ft. $
H4, Haven Suites, sleeps up to 6, 603 sq ft. $$$
S1, 3-bedroom Garden Villa, sleeps up to 7, 6694 sq ft. $$$
SA, Deluxe owner’s Suite, sleeps up to 6, 700 sq. ft $$
SC, 2-bedroom family suite, sleeps up to 6, 574 sq ft. $$
SD, Family suite with balcony, sleeps up to 6, 409 to 600 sq. ft $$
SJ, Family suite without balcony, sleeps up to 6, 409 to 600 sq. ft $$
H4, Haven 2-bedroom Family Villa with Balcony, sleeps up to 6, 506 sq footage, $$$
SC, 2-bedroom Family Suite, sleeps up to 6, 546 sq. ft. $$$
H4, 2-bedroom Family Villa H4 with balcony, sleeps up to 6, 572 sq. ft. $ $$
H1, 3-bedroom Garden Villa,, sleeps up to 8, 3355 sq. ft $$$
Princess Cruise Line
Crown, Caribbean and, Emerald
S8, Family Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to 6/8 (varies by ship), 606 sq. ft. $$$
Regal, Royal, Pacific, Sea, Dawn
Disney Cruise Lines
4A 4B and 4E Deluxe Family Oceanview w/ Verandah, sleeps up to 5, 304 sq. ft. $$$
00T, One-bedroom Suite w. Verandah, sleeps up to 5, 614 sq. ft., $$$
R, Royal Suite, sleeps up to 7, 1099 sq. ft., $$$
S, Two-bedroom Suite, sleeps up to 7, 1099 sq. ft, $$$
Carnival Cruise Lines
FJ, Family Harbor Ocean view, sleeps up to 5, 230 sq ft $
FS, Family Harbor Suite, sleeps up to 5, 340 sq ft $$
FA, FB Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 5, 222 sq ft $$
Eurodam, Westerdam, Oosterdam, Zuiderdam, Prinsendam, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Veendam
Freedom Class: Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas
FO, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 6, 358 sq. ft., $$
FI, Family Inside, sleeps up to 6, 338 sq. ft, $$
FP, Family Promenade, sleeps up to 6, 327 sq ft., $$
PF, Family Panoramic Ocean view, sleeps up to 6, 406 sq. ft, $$
FS, Royal Family Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to 8, 610 sq ft, $$$
PS, Presidential Suite, sleeps up to 14 guests, 1209 sq ft., $$$
Voyager Class Ships: Navigator of the Seas
FO, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 6, 265 sq ft, $
FS, Family Suite, sleeps up to 8, 610 sq ft., $$$
PF, Family Panoramic Ocean View, sleeps up to 6, 406 sq ft., $$
Radiance Class: Serenade, Brilliance, Radiance, Jewel
FO, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 6, 265 sq ft., $
FF, Two-Bedroom Suite, sleeps up to 8, 592 st ft., $$$
TS, Two-Bedroom Suite, sleeps up to 8, 532 sq ft., $$$
D1, Balcony, sleeps up to 5, 184 sq ft (Serenade of the Seas only) $
JS, Junior Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to 5, 282 sq ft, (Serenade of the Seas only) $$
Vision Class: Rhapsody, Legend, Vision
FO, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 6 guests, 233 sq ft., $ – (Rhapsody, Vision only)
FF, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 8 guests, 470 sq. ft., $$ (Vision only)
FS, Royal Family Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to 8 people, 463 sq ft., $$$ -(Rhapsody, Vision only)
FS, Royal Family Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to 7, 526 sq. ft, $$$ – (Legend)
JS, Junior Suite, sleeps up to 6, 204 sq. ft., $$$
FI, Family Interior, sleeps up to 6, 260 sq ft., $
Eclipse, Silhouette, Equinox, Reflection
FV, Family Verandahs, sleeps up to 5, 270 sq ft $$$
9, 10, 11, 1, Inside cabins that sleeps up to 5, 170 sq ft, $$
4,5,7,8, Oceanview cabins, sleeps up to 5, 170 sq ft, $$
FV, Family Verandahs, sleeps up to 5, 270 sq ft $$$