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Everything posted by iancal

  1. The one issue for us has been luggage. We are in our late 60's. We solved that a long time ago by migrating to carry on only. We each only take a 20" carry on roller. It is all that we can physically handle given that we may find ourselves on a cruise, on a ferry, going up three flights of stairs in a small hotel,, hoisting the bag up to a train luggage rack, or lifting in up on on to a longtail boat in Thailand. We have never found a language or custom issue that we could not overcome. Travel has changed our eating habits for the better since early retirement. When we travel we eat the local food. Last winter in Thailand we had one 'western' meal in 30 plus days. We find it much healthier and we feel better for it. Same in other countries like Italy and Greece. The only right mode of travel is the one that you feel comfortable with. We have met the odd travel snob who likes to infer that they are travelers not tourists or cruisers. It is a little silly to us. Just get out and do your own thing whatever it is. And don't be afraid to think out of the box. Our impression is that the cruise lines, when it comes to excursions, absolutely take advantage of people's fear of a foreign language or a foreign country. We have seen some ridiculously priced mediocre excursion offerings that we shake our heads at. The excursion desks seem to trade in fear, uncertainty, and doubt when it comes to certain foreign countries.
  2. And by the way, we are not particularly interested in a tablemate's medical history or ailments. Same goes for their partner.
  3. We did the same for a South American cruise. Spent two weeks in Uruguay, BA, and Igouazu prior to boarding the cruise. Spent time in Chile post cruise, then on to a month of independent travel in Panama and Costa Rica while we were 'in the area' We either build a longer land trip around a cruise or we take a last minute cruise part way through a longer independent land trip.
  4. We sat at a large table with a couple who were very nice. On the first night they announced that they did not drink. Not certain if they expected everyone else to abstain but several of us ordered drinks/wine. Then they wanted everyone to join hands and pray before eating. No thanks, our faith is private and we are not the least bit interested in those noro enabling faith practices. They did not show up again. It was a too bad because they were very pleasant and very interesting people.
  5. Once or twice over many years of cruising. It is not a big deal. We simply change tables. Now our preference is always anytime dining. Sometimes on our own, sometimes with others. We do not want to talk about politics or religion. And we know that fellow cruisers children and grandchildren are the smartest, most accomplished, and attractive individuals known to man or beast so we don't need those personal details either.
  6. We find that we get tired of cruising after ten days or two weeks. Tired of the same antiseptic cabin. The food all starts to taste the same and we eat too much of it. We very much prefer the change of independent travel and staying in hotels, B&B;s that do not remind us of business travel or the standard Marriott or Hilton room. Same with the food. We find the costs average out. Last winter we had a month in Thailand and a month in Australia. Two very different cost areas. But it is not about cost for us. It is more about where we want to go, how we want to travel, and for how long. Visiting a foreign port for a few hours and then coming back to the ship for our roast beef dinner and cabin is not our preference from a travel perspective. We travel for a different experience than a cruise ship can offer. We do cruise, but as a break from independent travel. The decision factors were very different when we traveled as a family. Traveling as unencumbered seniors is a very different situation-financial and otherwise.
  7. We are doing more AIs. AIr is included. It may be a last minute inexpensive AI to Cuba or Puerto Vallarta or it could be a planned visit to a five or six star AI for a week at Christmastime. Both are cost advantageous to us when we take into account, pre cruise hotel, balcony, etc. And we very much prefer the five or six star AI dining venues to the mass market cruise lines. We still do cruises but at the moment we are mostly looking at the premium lines like Az. The price has to be very attractive to get us back on a Princess, Celebrity, or HAL ship.
  8. We do not view HAL as anything special. Just another cruise line in the mass market space. Much the same offering with perhaps the exception of itineraries. Just like all the others in that category we think that the specific ship is more important than the cruise line. We believe that your chances have having a great, a mediocre, or a less than positive experience is just as hit and miss on HAL as it is on it’s competitors.
  9. We have grown a little tired of cruising. Now we primarily do longer land trips. Independent and spontaneous. We will consider a last minute cruise mid trip as a bit of a break. Also doing more AI’s. Besides, cruises do not go to many of the places on our bucket lists. When they do, a short excursion does not satisfy us. We find that cruise prices are up in some areas like the Med. Product quality and value (for us) have decreased.
  10. Yes. We do two longer trips per year. One in Sept/Oct to Europe for 6-8 weeks. Planning this now. Looks like Greece and Morocco via Paris. We do a two month winter trip Jan-March. So far it has been S/E Asia or Central America. This winter it might be independent travel in Mexica, Costa Rica, and Panama. Plus an AI or or short Our travel, since retirment, is independent and mostly spontaneous. We watch out for attractive late booking cruises while on our travels.
  11. We never cruise on ships that have a history, sporadic or otherwise, of cabin maintenance issues. Won't even consider them...easier to vote with our feet and our wallets.
  12. Since retiring we have also made a huge switch to land based vacations-all of which involve oceans and beaches. We still like to cruise but only do so as an add on to a longer land trip and they are mostly late booking cruises. The only cruise that we have booked in advance since retiring eight years ago was South American cruise. Even then, we wrapped an eight week land trip around this 14 day cruise. We intend to keep doing this style of travel for as long as we are physically able. We have made adjustments. We only do carry on, we are far more flexible and we typically only book land accommodation few days in advance when we are shopping for a n add on cruise. We find that the cruise lines have migrated to the lowest common denominator. Food, service, etc is all about the same. About the only thing that has improved for us is the migration to casual because we only travel carry on.
  13. We do not view re-pricing or returning customer phone calls or emails promptly as particularly stunning acts of customer service. Seems to me that this is a base expectation of a TA or agency.. So far, we have never been disappointed. We stopped dealing with the bricks and mortar TAs a long time ago. We much prefer the online variety. Much motr availability during off hours, backup staff, etc. Get the right agency, the right TA, and pay by credit card. Seems very straightforward.
  14. To take this even one step further we did a late booking shop for an RCI Austalia/NZ 21 day cruise from Sydney three years ago. We priced at home with our NA on line TA. We priced in Australia. The North American price was good....but the price we got direct by calling RCI Australia (could not get a prompt response from an OZ TA) was even better. By a margin of about 30 percent! We are planning a Europe land trip in Sept/Oct. I have already started to look at ships, itineraries, and pricing in order get a bead on the market and what might interest us. If we do not see anything or the prices don't hit our buy price it will be a non issue for us.
  15. Our experience is that smaller ships are not necessarily less crowded and larger ships more crowded. We think that it comes down to ship layout, design, and even decor. We have been on a few ships that were smaller and seemed extremely crowded. Why? Poor layout, fewer elevators and the ones that were there were not in the right location such as doors opening our right in front of crowded MDR lines. Also dark decor..lots of wood and brass vs bright, open areas with decor and furnishings that created a sense of space vs a sense of confinement. Similarly, we have been on some 2700 passenger ships that never seemed crowded. They were well laid out, good traffic flow, with numerous dining options that positively impacted the MDR and buffet areas.
  16. In our experience this is the norm. Direct or through a TA.
  17. We select two or three ships that we would be happy to sail on. After that it comes down to an unobstructed balcony cabin. We are not too fussy on location but certainly prefer a cabin that is not above or below a public area. So far we have been so very fortunate. Lots of great ships, lots of very good cabin locations. It van be more difficult though, to get a price on a balcony cabin than it is on an inside or outside. In the past we have had some very attractive rates on Med cruises, Alaska cruise, and several Caribbean cruises during the Christmastime break. At times we have been quiet surprised at the price and availability during peak vacation periods. Air can be an issue however more often than not we are doing flexible land trips at the time so air is not such a big challenge.
  18. This is why, since retiring, we take cruises to augment our land trips instead of a focus on pre or post cruise travel. Often they serve as a break from independent travel. We could not imagine going all that way and only spending a day or two in Cape Town or not venturing out to see more of the country. We want to do it now while we have the health and the inclination to travel.
  19. If we were loyal to any specific cruise line we would have taken far less last minute cruises. We have a few preferred lines but I cannot imagine being loyal to any one. Why...the ships in the same cruise line can be so different. The service, the food, etc. can vary between cruises. We are not the last bit nostalgic when it comes to a purchase that involves our money and our time. We do not see much difference between our preferred cruise lines....other than the ships themselves and perhaps the loyalty perks. Nor do we live in the past. We judge the cruise line and the ship by one yardstick-our last cruise. List price, percentage discount, free this or that are meaningless terms to us. We have one yardstick. What we pay per diem for the cruise net of all OBC's. That is our basis for comparison. We start our shopping by determining what is a good price to us, a strike price. When it hits, we book. Immediately, unless our TA tells us otherwise.
  20. South Africa is an amazing and varied country. We did a safari from J'burg. Then headed up to Victoria Falls and Zambia. Flew back to Port Elizabeth, picked up a rental car, and spent ten days or so touring and driving down to Cape Town. Wonderful hotels and B&B's. It was on the top of DW's bucket list. No so for me. But after doing this, it is back on my list, near the top. Africa is amazing.
  21. Not much different than resort pricing or hotel shop pricing. We take our own sunscreen in 100ml containers. We can get toothpaste anywhere. We have a roll of Tums that has gone around the world once or twice over 8 years. We have had one perhaps two pieces from the roll. Time for a replacement. We don't sweat the small stuff. The price is the price. If we need it and we don't have it then winging about the on board or resort price won't make it less expensive. In some of our winter destinations, sunscreen or the type we need is simply not available so it is something that we are always careful to pack.
  22. Yes. And maybe do just a little research before asking for the name of the best this or that.
  23. Exactly. Sometimes I almost think that for some people bragging rights trump taste. Or perhaps they have never enjoyed fresh, cold water lobster from the east coast. Have the lobster bisque instead... if it is not too salty.
  24. I had a wonderful day with my son on Procida. There is a small bus that leaves from the dock and tours the island. You can get off and have lunch in a few villages. You are so right. Naples has lots of possibilities for touring on our own. Train, Circumvesuvia, and ferryies are all within walking distance. Plus car rentals. We have used Sorrento as a base on a few land trips.
  25. One more thing. We never deal with the cruise line. Always deal with our TA. Why? Once our TA told us to hold on booking a cruise inside the final payment window. She had a tip that fares would be going down again within days. She had a contact at the cruise line. It did and we bagged a nice savings. Another time we were ready to book a great last minute and called her. She told us about an identical cruise on an equally good ship/cruise line that was a few hundred dollars less per person. It was not widely advertised. We booked it. And once when we booked outside the final payment window the TA told us that bookings were light and we should consider cancelling and re-booking when fares dropped inside the final payment window. We followed her advice. Actually got a better category balcony cabin and scored a very nice reduction in the fare. Plus, of course, our TA provides OBC's in addition to any that the cruise line provides. Cannot see a cruise line employee doing any of those. We are not high mtce customers. Our TA does a perfect job for what we need. Not looking for hand holding or for a new best friend. Strictly a business transaction.
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