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Everything posted by onlyslightlymad

  1. No problem, I hope you have fun. I really like Japan and can't wait to visit again.
  2. I had a quick look at your itinerary. Actually, most of the ports are different, but I'll tell you what we did on the ones that are the same. I realised that I said that we didn't do any ship excursions but that's not true. We did do one in Shimizu and one in Nagasaki. Not sure if you are staying pre or post cruise. We spent a couple of nights in Tokyo and did a great cycle tour. I see you are staying in Kobe overnight. We did the same. The train station in Kobe was within walking distance of the cruise ship. On the first day, we took a train to Himeji and went to Himeji castle. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himeji_Castle It is a UNESCO world heritage site and I just really wanted to see it. As I recall the train took about an hour and it is an easy walk to the castle from the station. There are also very pretty gardens nearby. We did this on the first day because we figured that if we were delayed, the ship would still be there and we wouldn't get left behind. On Day 2, we took a train to the Nada district of Kobe, as it is known for it's sake breweries. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3556.html. We took a self guided walking map to visit the breweries. We actually only managed to find three but it was fun and everyone was very helpful and friendly. We then trained back into town because I wanted to try some Kobe beef. From our Lonely Planet guide, we followed directions to a recommended gourmet burger joint, which was very funky. Again, everyone was very friendly. That was a bit of a walk so we were quite tired after that and headed back to the ship. I prefer to see fewer attractions and see them well, rather than five minutes here and there. For Nagasaki, we did do a Celebrity tour. It was a walking tour, but also used the local trams to get about. I learnt a lot and I would recommend it. Note, everything we did involved some walking. At Shimizu, we were only docked for a half day (less time that you are). So for this we did a bus tour off the ship as we were worried about time. It was quite frustrating as there was a lot of driving, stopping for short time, taking pictures, waiting for people to come back to the bus. I do not recommend this tour. The one interesting part of the tour was the visit to the original tomb of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first shogun of Japan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunōzan_Tōshō-gū#:~:text=The Kunōzan Tōshō-gū (久能,gū shrines in the country. If you have been watching the new adaptation of Shogun, the character of Toranaga is based on the historical figure. If I was to visit again, I would find my own way to this tomb and not waste my time on all the other boring bus bits. I know a lot of passengers will opt to visit Fuji but we didn't feel this was enough time on our port visit. You have more time in port. Also, after the cruise we went to Hakone for five days. This is a thermal resort town close to Fuji, so we had the option to visit then. We did not visit Hiroshima, Kagoshima, Jeju or Osaka (but I had been to Osaka before). Instead we went to Busan, Aomori, and Kochi. So, sorry I can't be of more assistance with those other ports.
  3. Our cruise was in 2017 so that was a few years ago but I am happy to share what we did and what we liked and didn't like. I'm not sure if the ports are the same.
  4. I did the Celebrity Millennium Japan a few years ago. We didn't use any HOHO buses but didn't do any ship excursions either as it is so easy to do your own trips there. It is safe and clean, everyone is very polite and helpful and the train system is fabulous. We mostly took trains to where we wanted to go and a taxi once when we wanted to go back to the ship. I would do this cruise again in a heartbeat. We had a great time.
  5. Thank you for the review. It's always interesting to get an outsider's perspective. I, too, struggle to understand a lot of American accents (even when they are speaking a variant of English), but then it's always fun to experience something different and I like the way an person's accent says something about their history, or the history of the place they are from.
  6. Actually, aerosol cans weren't banned, they just aren't allowed to use CFCs as a propellant anymore. CFCs are banned in a large number of countries and it does seem to have worked as the ozone layer is slowly recovering. So, there's some good news.
  7. Sorry Ned. You are right. I didn't mean to burden you with my opinions when you you didn't ask for them in the first place. My apologies.
  8. I hear you, if you are in the US or Canada where tipping is customary. Or on a US cruiseline. But in NZ, Australia, the UK or the like, it is included in the prices as a matter of course. I mean, it's not like I can get behind the bar and make my own drink, or grab the syringe and do my own vaccination. The service is part of the product. The tax is included too. I find it very confusing when ordering a coffee in the US that I think is $5, only to find the tax added later. Just tell me the price up front.
  9. I'm not accusing you of abuse, Neil, nor denying you your altruism. I would prefer, however, to pay a higher cruise fare to a company that paid their staff higher wages for the job they do, then hand out envelopes of cash. Did you know that in many US States, there are two minimum wages, one for tipped jobs and one for non-tipped staff? That creates an underclass of people who must gain tips to survive. Their jobs are not unskilled, they have merely been labelled such. Did you know that better looking, thinner, white employees are more likely to receive higher tips? That's not a system that is about getting better service.
  10. I would never withhold tips in the US or the like. I would never ask for my gratuities to be paid back. I just hate the practice and do not like the way it is creeping in here. My daughter is a hospitality worker and it is a skilled job. She deserves to be paid well. If customers appreciate good service they should pay for it up front in the cost of their meal (which includes service). It should not be subject to the whims of the customer, any more than any other profession is.
  11. I think tipping is about power. Do you tip your doctor for better service? Your teacher? Your dentist? I'm guessing no. Why not? Because their skills are valued and they are paid accordingly. There is a relationship of mutual respect. The work that the staff on the cruise ships do is also skilled and they should be paid accordingly. Tipping gives you more power and them less power. I'd rather pay a higher cruise fare up front and I do. I love pre-paid gratuities. I just wish the add-on fee could be dropped and included in the fare in the first place.
  12. We booked our cruise on Edge years ago! At least, not the particular cruise we took, but a cruise that was bumped several times because of Covid. Consequently, we had a great deal and big credit to spend. I am not saying this to be boastful, merely that to have purchased the cruise at today's prices would have meant quite a different decision. I think quite a few of the passengers were still spending Covid credits and this has elevated the prices. It will be interesting to see what happens when this inflationary effect ends.
  13. Thank you. So far just a very bad head cold and a bunch of fatigue. Just staying at home so I don't pass it on to others.
  14. Very clever. I actually got off in Cairns for the express purpose of buying a coffee.
  15. Sorry, we got off the Great Barrier Reef cruise on Thursday. Now home with Covid.
  16. The coffee is awful. The best I managed was to go to the pod machine in the Retreat lounge, choose doppio, do it twice, then add your own milk.
  17. Hi all, It's Day 5. We are about an hour out of Cairns. It is warm and wet outside. We didn't get off in Airlie Beach yesterday, but are planning to do so in Cairns today. Initially we were told that the shuttle into town would cost $15 return, but then that it would instead be free. I am starting to settle in to shipboard life and actually feel like I'm on holiday. As stated previously, we are staying in a sunset suite, which is a lovely room. Is a suite worth it? Well, it depends what you pay. We booked this a long time ago at a very good price. I certainly wouldn't be paying what they have been asking recently, but for the price we paid, it has been worth it. As stated before, the ship is lovely, with big windows facing out to the sea from all the public areas. The staff have been lovely too. My first impressions were not great, but I realise that embarkation was messy and they were all a bit stressed. They have been pleasant and helpful. We have mostly eaten in Luminae (the suite restaurant) and again, after the first night, the food has been excellent and the staff have been accommodating to personal preferences. One extravagance has been the Chef's Table which is the special meal cooked and designed by the chef. The food and wine were fantastic. It is the best chef's table we have done and our dinner companions were charming. In the past, a ship's officer was designated to eat with the guests and keep the conversation flowing but they don't seem to do that anymore. Entertainment has been mixed. We went to the production show, Kaleidoscope. The young dancers and singers were very talented but the narrative of the show had no cohesion overall. The new theatre space is very flash, with a circular multimedia screen, and platform and doors that open and create new entrances and spaces. it made me think of an amateur high school show with a much bigger budget. The house band are terrific and it is very pleasant to just sit with a drink and enjoy them. Musicians around the ship are mixed. There is a very talented guitarist, Charlie, performing in the Grand Plaza most nights but last night in Eden the performer was so bad that it was distressing. We had to leave. I am sad to see the changes in the Martini Bar. On previous cruises, we had enjoyed this space. The staff made excellent drinks and put on an entertaining show. Now, the drinks are not so good and neither is the show. We wonder if it is because the space is so much busier and the staff are under more pressure to churn out the drinks. Anyway, off to the gym and then on to Cairns.
  18. Hi all, It is Day 2 which is a sea day so I thought I would share first impressions of the ship. The ship has some lovely open spaces. Big windows looking out to the ocean - fresh and light. We have a sunset sky suite which we are very pleased with. Big balcony and private. I am happy to share pics if you want. It is a long walk back to the retreat area but we are happy to get our steps up and walk off the food. We have not cruised since early 2020 so there have been some changes. The app rules all, of course, which I kind of like. There are a lot more suites on Edge class. Luminae and the Retreat Lounge are a lot bigger and busier. It's lost some of it's intimacy and charm although the staff are friendly and attentive. First impression of Luminae is that both the food and beverage are more narrow in scope and the food is not as interesting. They have stated that you can order classic dishes from the main menu, however, which we might try tonight. A big disappointment has been the cocktails and drinks. We visited the Martini Bar which we used to enjoy but the drinks were disappointing. The bartender did not take care preparing and measuring the ingredients or making the drink look presentable. There was certainly plenty of alcohol, free poured with abandon, but the drinks were unbalanced and, frankly, unpalatable. We actually abandoned them and went to the Eden Bar which we liked better. We started the day in the gym. The gym has great equipment and fabulous views. I went on a Peloton bike for the first time which I enjoyed. I then went hunting for a coffee. It is usual cruise ship coffee which is not good. I ordered a flat white at Cafe el Bacio and it was disappointing. I do know a great coffee shop in Cairns so we are hanging out for that. We had lunch in Raw on Five, which is a speciality sushi and seafood restaurant. We mostly had sushi and it was very good. Tonight, back to Luminae for dinner and then off to the show, Kaleidoscope, in the main theatre. I have heard good things so am looking forward to it.
  19. I am safely ensconced in my hotel in Sydney. Awake because of time zone differences. Hotel Capella, absolutely fabulous. More luxurious than I would normally choose but thanks to Taylor Swift, nothing else available. Had a great meal in a Middle Eastern restaurant nearby last night. Very interesting flavours and wonderful service. So impressed with the new Australians that I have met. Our driver from the hotel was Syrian and just loves Australia.
  20. Waiting on my flight to Sydney. On board tomorrow. Let the holiday begin
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