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Combining a cruise with a stay in a privately owned Orlando villa is both easy and cost effective. For visitors staying in Orlando or Gulf Coast, you have the option of flying into Miami (often a cheaper choice) then returning from Tampa or Orlando (or vice versus). Most of the cruise lines depart from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa and Port Canaveral, and offer a wide range of itineraries for cruises 3-14 days. There are many cruise lines offering different types of "cruise experience" from the party ships to traditional cruises with an average of 2 formal nights for a 7 night cruise.
I personally prefer the "American" cruise lines as they tend to have a good mix of passengers of various nationalities and age groups. The 10-14 night cruises tend to attract the 55+ age group. A lot of people find that a trip to Florida for 7 nights is too short, but are unable to take a 14 night vacation. As a private villa owner, I find it ideal to fit a 7 night stay in my villa with a 3-7 night cruise. A question that is often asked is "should we cruise before or after stay in an Orlando villa? I personally prefer to cruise first, then when we arrive at our villa with a case full of dirty clothes, we can take advantage of the laundry facilities and have a clean wardrobe for the week. Other visitors prefer to cruise for the 2nd week, especially if they are planning a hectic week visiting Disney and the parks.
Another question is how to choose the "right" cruise. You will need to prioritise your requirements, food, entertainment, size of ship, destinations, traditional dining or casual dining, size of ship, type of cabin. Most cruise companies will let you choose the actual cabin for your cruise - consider the location carefully. On most of the cruise sites you will see a plan of the various ships and deck layout. Remember if you choose a cabin near the elevator or stairs you may experience noise. Also if your cabin is situated on the floor below the pool deck, you may be woken by someone dragging their sun bed across the deck above you! To help you decide on a specific cruise line, here is my personal summary:
- Norwegian Cruise Line. NCL - Lively entertainment, casual "freestyle" dining, food ok, cabins can be small on their older ships, popular with 1st time cruisers, and singles. Some 3 night cruises. Average 3* rating
- Royal Caribbean - Good entertainment, reasonable food, traditional 2 sittings dining, modern fleet, some very large ships. Cabins small/average. Popular with families and couples. 3, 4, 7 + 14 night cruises. Average 4* rating
- Celebrity Cruises. Entertainment a little more low key than its sister company Royal Caribbean. Excellent food, traditional 2 sittings dining with 2 formal evenings on 7 night cruise. Modern fleet. Good choice of ship sizes. Cabins very spacious. Popular with couples 30-60's depending on duration of cruise. Cruises 7 nights+. Average rating 5*
- Princess. Nice ships, well equipped. Personal Choice Dining - traditional or open seating, food average. Appeals to varied age group. Cruise 7 nights+ Average rating 4* (Prices 5*!)
Ready to book? There are many options. You can book flight only, or fly drive, then cruise only, no transfers - this option can save a considerable amount of money. You can also book direct with the cruise line via their websites and many of the UK travel agencies offer a small discount off the cruise prices.
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