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the more ports the better

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  1. We have been to shark valley many many times. The only way to get there is to drive. We had a condo in Naples when my kids were growing up and Shark Valley was one of their favorite places. Route US 41/ Tamiami Trail goes through and ends in Brickell. There is exactly one road that goes to Shark Valley, lucky for you, it is US 41/Tamiami Trail! Just drive west. Once you get out of the Miami traffic, it will be wide open as most everyone takes Alligator Alley now as opposed to the trail to get back and forth between the coasts. It’s not very far, less than an hour. Rental cars are very reasonably priced all through Florida and the concierge at your hotel can most likely arrange for one at the hotel. If not, there are numerous agencies in Miami and you could probably walk or Uber to one close by. Regarding Shark Valley, when you get there, first thing buy a ticket for the tram. They are limited and fill up pretty quickly. If you don’t buy one right away, you may have to wait an hour or two for the next available one. The tram ride is a narrated tour through the park with a naturalist doing the narration, about 90 min to 2 hours with one stop where you walk up a circular ramp on a ranger tower. The park naturalists are great and you will count alligators, always over 100, the birds are abundant and beautiful. If you have binoculars, don’t forget them! You can also rent bikes and ride the path or hike it. We did that a few times but now with all the pythons competing with the alligators for food sources, I think I would stick to the tram! Don't expect anything touristy, although I haven’t been there for awhile. It’s a national park and the park service is serious about protecting the environment. There are a few buildings with exhibits and the paths. It’s a really nice place to spend a day. One last thing, the Trail (US 41) goes through the Seminole reservation and it is clearly marked when you enter it. If you speed, AT ALL, you will get a ticket. It’s a big source of revenue and they ticket everyone! I hope this helps!
  2. I agree.... It is hard to experience French Polynesia with out some DYI. It is just a place that requires some planning on your own to really experience it. In Nuku Hiva... Richard Richard Richard, he is the best! Fakarava Ato Lissant, our itinerary was reversed the day before sailing due to a cyclone. Ato was going on vacation during our new date so he arranged to have his son do the tour for us. Spectacular! He could have said sorry but he went out of his way to make it work. in Moorea, rent a car and circumvent the island. Drive up to the lookout then stop at the Moorea lagoonarium for a few hours. It was, by far, the best snorkeling in all of Polynesia and that is saying a lot. There are art galleries along the way, little shops, cafes, etc. so much to see and plenty of time as the island is not very big. in Raiatea, there were a bunch of tours inside the port building. Since our dates were changed last minute, we used one of those. We went on a boat ride up the Faroa river and to the big sacred temple in the morning then did another tour from the same place in the afternoon to the Tahaa pearl farm and vanilla plantation, then snorkeling on the reef. It turned out to be a great day! On our last day, since our flight was at 11:50 p.m., we rented a car in Papeete and drove to Tahiti Iti and stopped at all the big waterfalls. We ate Lunch on the beach at a little French restaurant and had dinner in the waterfront park at the food trucks. We stared at the ship wishing we could do the 12 days over again! its that good!!!!
  3. Last time in Santorini we hiked the caldera from Thiera to Oia. It was spectacularly beautiful, barely anyone on the trail, every half hour or so we would see someone, aside from locals living in the little communities up there. It’s about 3.5-4 hours, 9 miles I believe but not certain. Challenging but worth it. A few small places to stop along the way but few and far between so bring lots of water. Also, proper foot wear with socks as you are on volcanic sand most of the time. You will see authentic Santorini at its best. Once you start, there is really no way to stop as you are not near the road, it’s turn around or end in Oia, which was packed. Fantastic way to spend a day.
  4. Kitty 9 Too bad the “left coast” IT company that chartered Riveria before your sailing wasn’t SpaceX. It launched 60 satellites a few days ago, the first of 12,000 going up for the low orbit (speedy internet) starlink project. In this day and age there is no excuse for such poor internet service. I’m on Marina for two weeks in July and would have booked the extended voyage but I can’t be disconnected from the office for extended periods of time so 2 weeks is my limit on O. We will be in hotels the additional two weeks because of poor internet when I would much rather have stayed on the ship. When I take my kids and grandkids on Mega of the Seas there are 6000 people streaming Netflix and using FaceTime and Skype without issue at a very low cost. Seabourn, Azamara, Celebrity all zippy, no problem, Oceania, just horrible, VERY FRUSTRATING, I just don’t get it.
  5. But on the bright side Bloomberg says..... https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-22/china-won-t-be-able-to-use-tourists-as-leverage-for-much-longer
  6. Very interesting article in travel weekly. I have a few trips to the med planned in the next two years but it looks like it will not be enjoyable or even feasible for much longer. When our kids retire, they will not have the same travel options we have. Very sad....... https://www.travelweekly.com/Asia-Travel/China-tourism-takeover
  7. Funny this thread came up. I’m taking my mom (85) on a land trip to Italy in Sept for 2 weeks. I spent a few hours on cruiseTT.com making a chart of how many passengers will be in port in Rome, Venice, Livorno..... each day and booked our hotels when ships were not in port, or the least amount of people in the case of Rome. When I’m happily traveling via a comfy Oceania cruise ship (most of my travel) cruisers are fantastic people but when I’m on a land trip, those damn cruisers, when they are not me of course, are a PITA. 🙂 In all honesty, I think world economics and partly the emergence of an upper middle class in China has had a big effect on tourism especially in Europe. China has such a huge population that even a small segment of their population that can now afford to travel is still an enormous number of people. At least that is what I have observed over the past five years or so.
  8. Cuba and Venezuela have been in bed with each other for 100 years. Their governments are intertwined. They exchange people for goods and Cuba has sent thousands of troops to Venezuela to act as their pseudo military. Russia, on the other hand is in Venezuela for financial reasons. Russia needs oil from Venezuela so they support the current repressive government. Kind of like we need oil from the Saudis so we support their oppressive government. Wait, the Saudi’s only repress 50% of their population, I guess that makes us different from the Russians.
  9. I second the fact that the Cuban govt is “nationalizing” the tour guide industry, just like they did with sugar and rum in the 60’s. I’ve been there a few times this year and spoke to a guide who was arrested and spent a few weeks in jail for being overheard telling tourists about living conditions. We met people outside of the tourist area who said they are determined to make Cuba a capitalist country even if they had to lead the army to do it. All the educated young people we met wanted either capitalism or they wanted to leave. One guy told us that his mom was a heart surgeon and was sent to Venezuela for 5 years when he was 12 in exchange for oil. I hope our govt is supporting them and stirring the pot in the background. It’s a sad situation all around. Regarding Turkey, we had three guides in 2015, all female and not one had a good thing to say about Erdogan. One said, no one will vote for him but he’ll get elected to office anyway. She also said at the rate things were going, she would be required to wear traditional dress and cover everything up in a few years and was very unhappy about it. In Russia, our guides in Moscow and St Petersburg all seemed to think Putin a necessary evil. He runs everything but encourages free enterprise. No one seemed to be lacking for opportunity like they do in Cuba. In Russia, one funny thing I heard was the women complaining that the men just wanted to drink and play video games whereas the women were hustling and starting businesses. Moscow seemed to be bustling whereas Cuba has a feeling a total repression. just my two cents!
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