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About Milhouse

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    Cool Cruiser

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    Vancouver, BC
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  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Celebrity, Royal Caribbean
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Istanbul, Santorini

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  1. FWIW, in one of the briefings by the BC Provincial Health Officer (and BC Health Minister), a few weeks back, when asked about the reopening of the Vancouver port for cruises July 1, she says she's been in contact with her counterparts in the Yukon, Alaska, and Washington state and she indicated they all seemed to be on the same page that none of them would be expecting cruise ships in their waters in the near future. That was before the official announcement of the Oct 31 date by the (Cdn) feds. I can't see either Washington or Alaska wanting to deal with a potential headache if there ended up being an outbreak on a ship.
  2. Tuesday's daily news conference by the BC provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and health minister, Adrian Dix. See 28m15s mark for the question and response about the port of Vancouver opening up for cruise ships July 1. Key points: They're not in favour in opening the ports by July 1 and have had conversations with their counterparts in the federal government (as the port is federally regulated). They've also had conversation with counterparts in the Yukon, Alaska, and Washington state and all don't expect to have cruise ships in their waters and ports in the upcoming months. Current rules such as 14 day self isolation upon arriving/returning to BC would apply to cruise ship pax also
  3. We used NinjaWifi last year based on a review on TokyoCheapo. Their article appears to have been updated Nov 2019 and has a summary of different pocket wifi options. NinjaWifi seems to use Softbank's network. Use the link off the TokyoCheapo website for an instant promo/discount code and deselect the insurance option to save a few yen. We picked up the device at Narita and dropped off at Haneda airport. No usage problems and did what I needed it to do. The device I got was a small pager sized unit. It did require a midday charge or battery pack to function all day though.
  4. We were fortunate to be able to visit Singapore in May and June the last couple of years during land trips. Gardens by the Bay was definitely a highlight. We didn't do the conservatories during the first trip but did the second trip and I'm pretty happy we went. It's bit pricey but we found they had a wow factor for us, particularly the Cloud Forest with the waterfall and elevated walkways. We did a combo ticket that included a the OCBC Skyway walk (treetop walk) which was I thought was just ok. As mentioned by unrealHeather, they also offer a nice respite from the sun and humidity. Yes, you'll see more additional flowers and plants from the regular gardens which is itself a huge grounds area. Not sure if timing will work but the lit grounds at night with the supertrees and Marina Bay Sands hotel in the background is really nice (and the lightshow). We went around visiting different hawker centres, neighbourhoods, and other sites during our stay which is likely not practical for an eight hour visit (eg Little India, Orchard Road, Sentosa Island, etc) . I think what your guide is proposing is doable but it is a lot of walking, though jumping on the MRT/metro can save some steps. However, we did an evening walking circuit from Clarke Quay which is a bit of a bar/restaurant area along the north side of the river, past parliament, to the Merlion, and back along the south side of the river, walking past restaurant row along Boat Quay and then back to Chinatown both trips which kind of aligns a bit with your circuit so maybe adding Clarke Quay and Boat Quay might be an option if you're looking to tack on but again, likely more of an evening thing. Chinatown is worth a visit IMO with some interesting sites (temples, markets, etc) but kind of touristy of course with souvenir/trinket selling. While it has an interesting covered dining street and its own hawker centre, try to make it to Maxwell Food Centre, ideally before or after lunch to ensure most stalls are open and to avoid the lunch crowd. Really delicious and inexpensive dishes here. Favourite tacky photo op: Framing a picture with the Merlion spouting water into your mouth. 😄
  5. Milhouse


    Just wanted to offer up a few other handy travel reference sites that don't get referenced often. The first is wikitravel.org which has a similar layout and feel to wikipedia. It has great information on getting orientated in the city such as where the airports are, how to get into town, local transportation, neighbourhoods, etc. It also has info on attractions, places to stay, places to eat, etc. and while I utilize it for a basic guide, I find better info elsewhere. The second is travelfish.org which is a travel site specifically for southeast Asia. I don't love the layout for easily sourcing information. I find it better serves as a resource for planning/researching your destination.
  6. Would agree with the comments on transportation. And even though ride hailing with Lyft and Uber should be established by then I can't see it being that much cheaper than a taxi to make it a clear winner of the Skytrain. I would also agree to start with googling top 10 lists and identifying what's of interest. I think you'll find a lot of the sites/attractions in and around the downtown core which you can make a circuit of and consider if you want to make the effort to go the ones outside the downtown core, though a few might be along the way if you end up staying by the airport. The weather also gets fairly sunny and dry in July with a lot of festivals and events every weekend. If you indicate what days you'll be in town, we can identify those too.
  7. We've been to HCMC twice on land trips and we're in early planning for another trip in 2021. YMMV but for me, I don't know if there's anything considered a must see. Here are some ideas from our trips though: We're not really interested in the war related sites. For us, we have a list of food/dishes and places we want to try them at and tracking these places down is one of our key activities. Architecturally, we liked dropping by the Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the central Post Office. We like visiting the markets. Ben Thanh Market is the central touristy one in district 1 with a night market around it at night. Binh Tay Market has a more local flavour but is located in district 5. I'm not sure if you'll have time to do any evening activities but we really enjoy visiting walking street along Bui Vien, visiting Turtle Lake, checking out the views from a rooftop bar, etc. Beyond the city, they are a number of easy daytrips (eg to the Mekong Delta, etc).
  8. Milhouse


    Random do's and don'ts: Don't insult/disrespect the royal family. This includes their images like on currency. You need cover shoulders & legs when visiting temples and royal palace. There are sometimes rentals (ick). Taxi's (and transportation in general like tuktuk's and songthaews) can be pretty scammy. Install Grab app. Or confirm meter usage or set price before entering taxi. Lot of nuances with the local transportation in various parts of the country. Don't over wai everyone. If in the north, try the khao soi (coconut curry noodle dish) Don't rent a jetski Check out the night markets
  9. The new Shinkyaku Pier appears to be near Odaiba (??). While there are a few scattered attractions in the vicinity (Palette Town/Tokyo Megaweb, TeamLab Planets, Toyosu Market, etc), it's kind of off in it's own area of metro Tokyo. Thing aren't as compact for walking as other areas too. I'd suggest considering home-basing in the Shibuya neighbourhood or around Tokyo station which are interesting areas but somewhat closer to the pier than other key areas (like Shinjuku or Asakusa). They are also just short hops away from other interesting neighbourhoods of Tokyo.
  10. Have you stayed at a ryokan before? If not, I'd recommend it as a pretty wonderful experience. However, staying at a nicer ryokan typically also includes a pretty elaborate kaiseki-esque dinner which is a highlight of a stay. So if you are planning other dinner plans, a ryokan stay might be better off saved for another visit/night. Coordination of timing is important too because they don't have a large staff (arrival greeting, meals, setting up bedding for the night, etc). Plus it would be nice to have time to explore the grounds, enjoy a bath, etc for the full experience. You're also sleeping on mats on the floor so you need to be able to handle that. 😄
  11. Similarly, we've done Siem Reap twice as part of a land trip to Thailand once and Vietnam the other time with many of the same experiences mentioned in the other posts. Siem Reap being such a tourist destination, they've got a lot of the process set so it's pretty easy to do it on your own (other than limiting excessive tourist pricing). Both times we stayed at independent boutique hotels a few blocks outside of the Pub Street area. Each time we arranged for pickup from the airport from the hotel. Transport was via tuktuk which can get a bit squishy depending on how much luggage you have/people in your group. It's a bit of a trip to get into town. We found one guide off of wikitravel. Popular guides you definitely have to book ahead. Our hotel tuktuk driver also inquired about driving us to the temples. As mentioned, some will just drive you to the temples along a circuit and you would have to hire a guide if you want commentary/insight. A caution on packing too much Ankor Wat in a day. We went during hot season and humidity was pretty brutal. We also got caught in a crazy downpour which we waited out at a restaurant.
  12. Is Vancouver a port of call or end point for your cruise? My top sites for an itinerary around the downtown core would likely be something to the effect of Granville Island, Canada Place/Jack Poole Plaza/Seawall walk, Stanley Park, Gastown, English Bay, and some of the main retail/dining streets like Robson, Denman, Davie, and Granville (tho, parts of, particularly the south end of, Granville can feel a bit sketchy). Assuming the ship docks at Canada Place, yes, you can walk to Stanley Park. We regularly walk from the northern entrance of Stanley Park by Lost Lagoon, along the seawall to Canada Place. It's about a 30min easy flat walk with great views of the north shore & mountains, Stanley Park, marinas, and activity in the harbor like seaplanes. (Yesterday, we parked the car, walked down to Denman street, headed to English Bay, walked back along the edge of Stanley Park to Lost Lagoon, and then along the seawall to Canada Place. That took about 1.5hrs with stops along the way.) Stanley Park is huge. Depending on how much time you want to spend, there's a reasonable circuit that takes you from the Rose Garden, by the Aquarium, to Lumberman's Arch where you would circle back to the entrance along the seawall, taking you past totom poles, the Brockton Point Lighthouse, 9 o'clock gun, etc with great views of downtown Vancouver. I always want to caution about encountering rain which kind of dampens (no pun intended) the enjoyment of some of the outdoor activities. Walking to Granville Island from Canada Place/downtown core is doable but might feel like a bit of a trek. You might want to consider the bus or a mini harbour ferry (False Creek Ferries/Aquabus). If you walk it, you might want to consider your route as Granville Street Bridge isn't the most fun to walk across and you need to double back a bit, the route from Burrard St Bridge can be kind of tricky, and Cambie Steet Bridge is great to walk across but takes you on a somewhat longer route. There is a bike rental program called Mobi Bikes. Don't know much about the process. I'm sure others can explain. There are also bike rental shops on Denman as mentioned in other threads. IIRC, Club16 Fitness along the seawall under Jack Poole Plaza, near Canada Place, also does seasonal bike rentals. No idea on the cost or when they get the program going. I think Lime is trying to expand their electric scooters rentals into Vancouver but haven't heard of a date yet.
  13. Without consideration to the quality of each hotel... Blue Horizon is located on Robson Street which is lively corridor with retail and dining. You walk out of the hotel and you're pretty much in the thick of things. We've been out at midnight on a Friday or Saturday night to grab a snack at Breka (24hr bakery) down the street and the area is still fairly busy with people. The Pinnacle Harbourfront is in a more quieter area in its immediately vicinity. It has a few interesting eateries nearby and close access to a (upscale) supermarket (Urban Fare) but not in concentration like on Robson Street. However, it's only a block or two away from more active areas. Most of the downtown core is very walkable and the distance between the hotels isn't very far (tho showers are always a concern in the spring). Being on Robson at Blue Horizon gives you slightly quicker access to other lively/active corridors like Denman Street, Granville Street, and Davie Street. The Pinnacle Harbourfront will give quicker access to the waterfront/seawall, Canada Place, and Gastown. Access to public transportation is likely a cointoss between them. However, taxis are likely more abundant at Blue Horizon being on Robson. Ride hailing should also be in place (hopefully around the end of this year.)
  14. When my buddy did a Pacific Coastal cruise down to San Fran, their first stop after boarding at Canada Place was Victoria. IIRC, he said they were told the crew scheduled some instrument recalibrations (??) during evening while in the Strait of Georgia.
  15. Milhouse

    Is Seoul DIY?

    We haven't cruised into Seoul but have visited four times (once during a free layover guided tour and three times on our own) and can provide a few bits of info from our experience, which combined with other cruiser comments who have sailed into Incheon/Seoul will hopefully give you enough of a picture to make a decision. Incheon is relatively far from Seoul. I'm not sure where the port is but it's a long trip from ICN airport to heart of Seoul. We've taken an express bus which can get bogged down by traffic once you get closer to Seoul. And there is an airport express train (AREX), one direct between ICN and Seoul Station and another version that makes multiple stops along the way. You may want to see if the one with making multiple stops has a station near the port. Seoul Station is a central location to start your sightseeing. Taxis can be a challenge in Seoul because of language. We've taken a taxi a few times after the subway had shut down for the night and had mixed but no really bad experiences (though we had read there are some bad apples like in any city; longhauling customers). The non-great experiences were due to having difficulty in explaining to the driver where we wanted to go since the drivers didn't speak english. We typically showed them where we wanted to go on Google Maps and some got really close while the others got us within a few blocks. There are International taxis where drivers speak English (or another second language). However, we had difficulty tracking one down, though our experience could be due to time of night. If you have a more ambitious itinerary, you'll likely want to grab a taxi or jump on the subway (which is fairly extensive) or a bus to optimize time from site to site vs walking. I'm not sure if it'll be worth it for just a port day but a T-money card (re-loadable tap card) plus google maps (which will tell you which subway/bus line and exit to take) makes getting from point A to B easier. T-money cards can be used for taxis, subway, bus, and convenience stores. Buses can be easier than taking the subway because it can be a trek from the exit/entrance to the tracks and some of the sites can be in between stops but some of the bus stops can be confusing too. It shouldn't be a problem in March but if you do arrive during a hot spell, there are many places you can get caught without access to shade (where sun protection like a hat or even an umbrella would come in handy).
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