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Everything posted by iancal

  1. We do a fair amount of extended travel. Usually two trips a year, anywhere from 6-12 weeks each. Plus some short ones in between. Longest was six months. These are typically independent land trips and we often snag last minute cruises as a break if we are close to a port. We have been doing this for the past six years...since retirement. Leaving again in Jan. for two months. We only travel with a 20" carry on roller each. This has nothing to do with baggage fees and everything to do with convenience and the fact that this is what we can easily physically handle. Lifting on to train platforms/storage, lifting on to small boat in SE Asia, sometimes a flight or two of stairs to get to our b&b or family run hotel. Pulling along cobblestones or broken sidewalks. We saw enough people struggling with luggage that they could not physically handle to persuade us that this was, for us, the way to go. We try and keep the weight down to 8 kg but sometimes it gets a little heavier. I am to the point where I have room for some of DW's things if a little space is required. We stopped doing formal nights on cruises a long time ago. They lost their lustre for us. We go casual. We have no intention of packing clothes for a long trip that will only be worn a few hours for two or three nights. We buy clothes with travel in mind. Easy care fabrics. When we return home we take note of anything we did not use very often or anything that we wished we had packed and take note of it. It was easy for us. We started with that size of bag and only took what would fit vs starting with what we thought we needed to take. Certainly not for everyone but we like it. It can become challenging. Our trip to South and Central America included a 14 day cruise around the horn (some colder days) the the balance of the six weeks were mostly in Panama and Costa Rica. and warm parts of SA.
  2. Not certain what your plans are vis a vis ship vs land. We entered Cambodia by air. We simply got our visa at the airport as did others. It took all of 15 minutes. We entered Vietnam by land. We used a travel agent in Siem Reap, Cambodia to arrange our 30 day single entry visas. The TA sent our passports and visa applications to the nearest Vietnamese consulate. We had them returned, with the visas, in 48 hours. Apparently this is a common way for many travellers to get these visas.
  3. We had to cancel a May trip to China for medical reasons. We we made the booking on a credit card that had, as one of it's attributes, cancellation insurance. We rec'd full claim reimbursement within 10 business days, adjusted for mail time.
  4. When the Marriott Visa (chase bank Canada) card ended we moved to the Home Trust Preferred Visa. No fee, no up charge on foreign purchases, 1.5 percent (min $5.50) service charge on cash advances, auto club, rental car insurance. We have been using it for six months. Just used it for a cash advance in Mexico. Works as advertised. Also checked on the conversion rates periodically over the past six months. They are good. The cards have a hard wired pin at the moment (ie you cannot change your pin on line) but we are told this enhancement is coming. Phone contact is currently only M-F. Happy with it so far.
  5. It is as important to buy insurance from someone who is truly knowledgable with the policy attributes, pre existing situations, limits, and deductible. Every time we have spoken to a live agent, vs on line, we have learned one or more salient facts about the policy and our specific coverage. Dealing direct with the carrier enabled us to obtain excellent coverage and to realize a 30 percent reduction in the premium by increasing the deductible to 5K. It was a six month travel policy. We took the higher deductible because we are really only concerned about the high cost risk claims.
  6. We have been in Quintana Roo for just under two weeks. We felt safer in Playa,,Porto Morales and Cancun/Isla than we do in Miami, LA, or NOLA. Independent travel. Only regret is that we only have five days left before returning home to cold weather. We haven taken highway buses, collectivos, taxis, local buses. Absolutely no issues. So much so that we plan to return next year to the Yukatan for a longer period.
  7. Agree. Don't buy from a TA or from the cruise company. If you do the insurance will be overpriced and have less coverage. Same with vendors like the auro club or bank in our experience.
  8. No question... I would absolutely take the gty balcony.
  9. That is great. It has only happened to us once....and that was booking an OZ/NZ cruise by calling the cruise line's booking office in Australia. All other times...Booking through a TA has always been less expensive.
  10. Our first visit was on a cruise. We took the hoho. It was at the dock where we disembarked. The fare included a water tour which most people seemed to overlook. The hoho bus took us to Mdina. we thought that it was a good option. So much so that we returned to Malta two years later for a ten day stay!
  11. Strange. We travel on Canadian passports. We have spent four winters in Thailand with a fifth one booked for January. The only time we need a Visa is when we will be staying for more than 30 days at a time. Even then, we get the visa from a Thai consulate. Took about a half hour at the consulate to get this done. About $60 as I recall. We seldom need it as we exit and re-enter several days later. We did need a visa for Vietnam but we could not use the visa on arrival because we entered overland.
  12. We typically book most of our cruises through a TA. Especially when we need to firm up an air portion. If required we keep an eye on air pricing at the same time as we are watching cruise pricing. if we decide to buy we call out TA. She has always been able to arrange a hold for a cabin hold for a few hours. We nail down air, as required, then call our TA to hit the bill button on the cruise. That way we are not left holding the bag on higher than anticipated air. One of the best airfares, price and routing, was cruise air booked with a cruise about two weeks out. We were surprised that the air was available. The air and the cruise fares combined made the package exceedingly attractive. When end it comes to TA's it really does pay to shop around. We have friends who do a one way TA every year. They cherry pick the cruise line offerings for the best deal/ship to their liking. They always seem to get an attractive price by holding off until the final payment window. But like us, they always have a plan B.
  13. Gala/formal nights have been a non event for us for quite some time. We switched to casual only some time ago at DW's suggestion. Ease is travel (we only do carry on now) and the decline in the so called gala dinner event has meant that we have never missed it. We no longer find anything special about it. Now that our attire is acceptable on gala nights I doubt that we will be rushing down to the MDR on HAL or on any other cruise line.
  14. We have done one TA and one that was a partial. The latter had been a Rome to FLL TA that was subsequently broken up to a Rome/BCN and a BCN- FLL component. We only did the Rome/BCN component with cruise air home. In both instances we booked late-well inside the final payment window. But, we had been following the pricing on four or five ships. Both timesthere were numerous good offers available on various cruise lines. We had the luxury of time. Extended our time in Europe one cutting it a few days short did not impact our extended trips. Both times we scored balcony cabins in good locations. We got so called upgrades but they were marketing upgrades as opposed to real upgrades. We never wait for the lowest price. We watch the pricing for a while and then set a buy price. When it hits we buy. Different for us though because our travel schedules are very flexible we never buy on the basis of cruise line only. Ship is more important to us. Besides, it is such a crap shoot today on of the mass market cruise lines. The only constant seems to be inconsistency.
  15. We see prices fluctuate multiple times on a target cruise on a regular basis. Inside and outside of the final payment window. The only way is to determine what a competitive price is and then watch for it to hit. We pay no attention to so called sale prices, free bundled items, duty free, 2 for 1, final sale or any other meaningless phrase. The only price that counts to us us the net, net bottom line price. Indeed, as the OP points out we have priced many an advertised sale or special price only to find that the math shows that the cruise fare is special for the cruise line but higher for us. So much so that we usually delete without reading them any more.
  16. Yes, we do avoid older ships on all cruises. We will not cruise on a ship that's is, or has been up for sale for an extended period. Really, would you make expensive capital investments in renewing past their prime plumbing, HVAC, and other systems that require extended amounts of dry dock time if you planned to unload the old darling?
  17. We avoid older most older ships that have been in service for 20 plus years-especially when cruising in very warm climates. It is no secret that HVAC deteriorate over time. The same with plumbing, toilet or otherwise. This is not a HAL issue for us. We feel the same way about all of the mass market lines. We have noticed cutbacks on all lines. The very last thing that we want is to end up on a warm weather cruise in a cabin with no/poor A/C, toilet or water problems, or in cabin HVAC filters that have not been changed since the year dot because of the cutbacks. Not saying there will always be issues but we prefer to lessen the odds. We also avoid any ship that we know the cruise line has been trying unsuccessfully to dump for several years.
  18. We do not buy csncel for any reason insurance. we do buy medical and evac insurance. We would never buy this from HAL. Their coverage limitation is a joke. We never buy insurance from any travel provider or from any TA, bank, or auto club. We buy it from the insurance carrier. A good piece of advice that a very experienced TA gave us some time ago. Less cost, far better coverage.
  19. Tacky, very tacky. We prefer straightforward pricing in plain English. We become very suspicious of any vendor where one needs a Ouiji board to understand the pricing options. The options on the web and the options from a CSR. Very out of character for HAL. A shame really.
  20. IF you have not been on a cruise for some time formal/gala night dining may be a surprise. Lots of changes in the food, food quality, menu choices, and service. From our perspective there is not much gala to gala nights .....other than the name.
  21. We don't select a cruise on the basis of ice cold towels. We have had them on HAL, Celebrity, RCI, Princess, NCL, and I think Carnival. We find the service, staff, and the entire cruise experience on HAL and Celebrity to be equal. We prefer Celebrity ships, especially the Solstice class. That sometimes clinches it for us. Everyone has different tastes and preferences. We do no think that there is a 'best' cruise line. Especially these days when the only constant seems to be inconsistency.
  22. If you possibly can try to stay until dusk/nightfall. Hundreds of lanterns are lit...the area takes on a different personality.
  23. We eliminated/reduced the shoes, all of the 'just in case items', most of the beauty products, and all of the dress clothes that we only wore a few hours, two or three times during a cruise. When we unpack we take note of the items that we seldom wore/used and those items that we wish we had packed.
  24. We spend a few days in Bangkok and then head out. Each fall it is the same. DW and I look at each and talk about where we want to go in the winter. Most of our friends or relatives go to Arizona, Florida, etc. Takes us two minutes to look at each other and decide on Thailand. It took all of five seconds to decide this last month. . The great thing about Thailand is that once you are there it is so easy and so inexpensive to visit other neighburing countries in SE Asia or indeed fly down to Australia as we are doing again this year. We see far more Europeans than we do North Americans. The heat does not bother you once you are on the beach with the ocean breeze blowing in.
  25. We tend to book inside the final payment window. We did this while traveling in Europe and had not made any return plans. We we extended land trips and tend to be pragmatic travelers. Not unusual for us to book and be on a cruise within a month or even a week of booking. But, we are not that particular about cruise line or cabin location as long as we can snag a verandah cabin. The particular ship is more important to us than the logo on the funnel. We get pricing from TA's on both sides of the trip. Sometimes there can be a substantial price difference.
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