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About Hlitner

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About Me

  • Location
    New Cumberland,PA, USA
  • Interests
    International travel (77 countries at last count(
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  1. Hlitner

    BCN airport to port

    My advice on this is simple. Take a taxi from the airport. There is a taxi queue outside the luggage/customs area. Not sure if the cost is still 35 or 40....but so what. The taxi is very convenient and the taxis are clean, They can handle a couple with luggage (for larger parties you can request a larger taxi) some taxis can handle a credit card and others cannot. But since you are in Europe it is best to have some Euros which will avoid the worry. There are ATMs at BCN, There is no need to tip taxis in Spain although many North Americans still do it for some cultural reason. If we pay cash, we will round up and perhaps add a couple of Euros if the driver has been helpful with the luggage. The trip time varies depending on traffic but figure about 20 min. The fare structure is interesting because they get a few extra Euros for picking up at BCN and a few more Euros for dropping at the port..plus they also get another 1 Euro for each piece of luggage put in the trunk (boot). If we really want to use a credit card for a taxi (almost anywhere in Europe including Barcelona) we will make that clear before we even get into the taxi. If the driver says no, you simply try the next taxi. Hank
  2. Thanks for your kind thoughts and DW made a 100% recovery after nearly 4 months of extensive medical treatment (and two more trips to the Operating room). I think that having over thirty years working in the medical insurance industry (government) helped me deal with the insurance company on their own terms. While our situation was somewhat unique, in the medical insurance world there are unique cases every day. Getting to a nurse case manager, who grasped the situation, was key in getting some compromise from the insurance carrier. In a simple sense it was a win-win for them to pay for DW's medical evacuation since it may have saved them a much larger bill (for medical care in Japan). It also benefited DW who was able to get home and go under the care of her regular Orthopedic Surgeon who had some unique skills for dealing with DW's medical situation. Dealing with the medical world is made easier if the patient (or their representative) keeps their cool, works with physicians and the insurers for the best solution, and continues to communicate in a reasonable manner. In our case, I did not argue with the insurer who was willing (and almost begging) to pay DW's expensive one-way last minute business class fare from Japan to home....but would not even think about paying for Business Class for me (I paid that out of my own pocket). This was all about compromise and doing what was best for the patient. We were also fortunate to have a ship's physician who was very helpful (he spent significant time on the phone with our insurance company) and able to convince the insurance company that getting DW home was advisable...from a medical point of view. When I read some posts here on CC, I find it interesting that many cruisers are willing to pay an awful lot of money for lots of insurance that might not even meet their needs. That is why we always suggest that folks first assess their own needs and personal risk tolerance and then shop for a policy that best fits that profile. Buying policies that assume all risks and should (in theory) cover 100% of losses is often not a very good deal. There is a lot to support the idea of self-insuring the smaller risks while loading up on insurance that will cover the big risks. For cruisers, the biggest risk is medical (and related evacuation) and not cancellation. But read these boards and folks are mostly worried about cancellation. Even if one were to lose every penny of the cruise cost they will be no worse off (financially) then if they had taken the cruise. But your potential liability for medical and related costs is darn near unlimited! Losing the cost of your cruise might be nasty, but the cost of uncovered medical can easily bankrupt just about anyone. And yet we have cruisers worrying about covering a couple of thousand dollars in travel expenses but not concerned that the policy they purchase might only cover $10,000 of medical in a world where $50,000+ medical issues are not unusual. Hank
  3. Hlitner


    We thank the OP (and some others) for posting about the Veendam and Cuba. Now, I want to speak to a delicate matter on these boards. HAL has more then it's share of older vessels that seem to suffer from numerous maintenance "lapses." We have been on our share of HAL vessels, love the line for its terrific itineraries, excellent crew, and fellow passengers. But we often find ourselves "looking the other way" when it concerns "issues" on the ships such as cabin A/C that does not cool our cabin, leaks around the ship, moldy smells in some areas (likely do to leaks), MDR cuisine that has become.....let us say tired.... etc etc. As 5 Star Mariners we understand we are supposed to overlook these kind of issues (just read posts from many cheerleaders over the years) and I guess we do overlook to some degree since we continue to book some cruises on HAL. But here is the shocker for those who do not venture out on other cruise lines on a routine basis. We seldom see the kind of maintenance issues on other lines (although Princess does have issues with some of their older Grand Class vessels). Why is this? Perhaps it is the propensity of HAL to operate older vessels and defer needed (and expensive) renovations. Of maybe its just a management attitude that says "a little rust or a few leaks are no big deal" or "we can cut the quality of some food items...and nobody will notice," or "we can reduce the number of entertainers on the ship and nobody will notice," etc. etc. We do notice! We still remember when HAL had 7 piece bands (including a 2 piece brass section) which have since been replaced with smaller groups that try to replicate every instrument with keyboards. We remember our beloved Rosario groups (usually quartets) since replaced by duos of varying quality. When we were last on the Rotterdam we enjoyed the BB King group...but alas. that has now been removed from that class of ship. And it seems like every subsequent HAL cruise finds more "dark nights" in the theater or a movie instead of live entertainment (we do not cruise to see movies). And what happened to that wonderful Fresh Squeezed OJ in the Lido? Or the Wagyu Beef burgers in the Pinnacle (at lunch). And then there were the Sterling Beef steaks in the Pinnacle replaced by something that is just not quite as good (but nobody is supposed to notice). Ok folks, so flame away. But we are concerned that this HAL cruise line that we have enjoyed for many years is now living on its past excellent reputation...and quickly falling behind many of its competitors. Hank
  4. My message to the OP is that if you find yourself a good fit on HAL cruises, you are not going to be a very happy camper on either of those two monster megaships. Consider expanding your horizons to other cruise lines such as Viking, Celebrity, MSC (Yacht Club Only), Oceania, etc. Hank
  5. Hlitner

    Venice overnight

    If you are going to stay at a Venice hotel (the night before the cruise) you might want to reconsider the idea of going to the port, checking-in, going to the ship, dropping your carry-on luggage, heading off the ship, probably getting the internal port bus over to the People Mover, taking that over to the Piazale Roma, etc etc. While certainly doable this is going to use up a lot of your precious port time. As an alternative, consider asking your hotel to hold your luggage for a few hours (all hotels will do this) and spend the morning and early afternoon continuing to enjoy Venice. Then after lunch you can head over to the port, check in, and once aboard...stay aboard since you will likely have the muster drill 30-60 min prior to departure. Hank
  6. Hlitner

    From Nice to Eze

    All good questions. The walk from Eze Bord sur Mer up to Eze Village is challenging for most folks unless they are used to hiking and long walks. Under ideal conditions it takes 45-60 min but is certainly not an easy stroll. Some call the trail the Nietzsche Path. Th As far as transportation options from Nice (we are talking the city, not the port of Villefranche) the only way to get directly to the village is via bus or car. The nearest train station is located at Eze Bord sur Mer (where the hiking train starts). If you take the train to this stop there is a public bus (#83) that runs to the village, but the schedule does not usually coincide with the trains. The other option is to take either the #82 or #112 bus from Nice, but we are talking about a bus that runs about once an hour. Over the decades we have stopped at Eze Village many times, but only once have used the public bus. Our preferred method of transportation is to simply rent a car which then gives us ease and flexibility to drive to places like Eze, St Paul de Vence, Antibes, etc. The problem with the buses in this region are the frequency...which leaves much to be desired and requires planning and adapting your schedule to the darn bus. The one bus line that does run often (and reliably) is the #100 which goes between Nice and Monte Carlo. But this bus uses the lower road (the one that goes right by Eze Bord sur Mer) and will not get you to Eze Village unless you do that tough hike or transfer to the #83 bus. Here is a link to the regional bus company and their timetables. It can be a bit complicated to use, but is the best source of real bus schedules: https://www.lignesdazur.com/en Searching by bus number (which is why I listed the numbers) is the easiest method. And if anyone is interested in the bus from Nice to St Paul de Vence (a place we like more then Eze) it would be the #400 bus. This particular bus line can become full in which case the driver will simply pass by the stops in places like Cagnes sur Mer. So if using the #400 it is best to board it at one of its early stops in Nice. Hank
  7. Hlitner

    Beverage package & Suitcase Under Bed?

    I wonder why they categorize some products (such as IPAs) as an "Amber Lager." As I recall, Ales and Lagers are different products (Ale's are Top fermented while Lagers are bottom fermented). This is not important to most who simply want a beer, but wondering why a cruise line with all of their expertise has screwed up their beer list. IPA's are "ales" and not "lagers." That being said, we were delighted when we discovered that the Eclipse had Dogfish Head 90! This is not a product found on many cruise lines. Hank
  8. Hlitner

    Yacht Club Experience - Divina or Seaview

    Interesting question :). We spent 21 days in the Divina's YC and often found ourselves at the "One" (relaxing in the sun) at lunchtime. Unless we wanted to get dressed appropriate for Le Muse (or possibly the Lido) our choice of hot food was pasta, pasta, and pasta. We had a skilled Italian cook who made pasta every day and they rotated the offerings about every third day. After a few days, it would have been nice to have decent well-made cheeseburger :). There were also a couple of other items on the tiny buffet at the YC, but they never looked exciting. And by the way, they made a delicious cheeseburger in Le Muse and from our own observation it seemed to be a pretty popular lunch option :). Hank
  9. Hlitner

    Noro Virus

    So true. On the other hand, if you get a nasty case of Noro that might give you a great future incentive. Bottom line is folks have all kinds of excuses not to take simple precautions (wash hands, don't touch face, wash hands, wash hands) and they are probably the first to whine that "its the ship's fault" when they get sick. To modify your own quote, It's the body's natural reaction to get quick ill when Noro enters your mouth, eyes or nose. Hank
  10. Hlitner

    Time frame to allow from port to airport

    When it comes to flying out of FLL after a cruise that docks in Port Everglades, we are comfortable with flights as early as 10am. Yes, there is a risk but based on our own experience it is negligible. We agree with others that its wise to use express disembarkation along with a taxi, Uber or Lyft to the airport. This generally gets us to FLL between 7 and 7:30. Most of our cruises are docked by 6am and start letting express folks off by 6:30. Another advantage to this early scheme is that the security lines at FLL are relatively short that early in the morning but can grow to long lines very quickly as more and more ships disgorge their passengers. There is no doubt that the risk of missing a flight is less for later flights so what you do really depends on your own risk tolerance (comfort level). Over the decades I have spent too much time cooling my heels at FLL, which is an airport I dislike because of the lack of decent lounges :(. If you are on a ship that is scheduled to dock at 7 (there are a few) then we would not be comfortable with a flight before 11. Hank
  11. Hlitner

    Noro Virus

    A CDC physician we met, who was onboard a, then. RCCL ship to conduct training for the crew told us that the assumption (based on studies) was that most Norovirus outbreaks were brought aboard by passengers, who likely contracted the virus during their journey to the ship. It is believed that one of the most common places to contract the virus is commercial aviation...be it on a plane or in an airport. As another poster mentioned, the best prevention is if folks simply wash their hands (and do not touch their face)….but many folks refuse to follow this simple practice. Hank
  12. Hlitner

    Yacht Club Experience - Divina or Seaview

    Perhaps. One story we heard, from a crew member, was that many new crew members such as bar tenders and waiters do not get any land-based training before being put on the ships. So folks early in their first contract are essentially getting on the job training. Since this info was told to us by a single crew member, we have some degree of skepticism although bar waiters/waitresses at some bars were darn near worthless. But you make an excellent point. The cruise line will need several thousand new staff every year as they roll out their new ships. Where do they get these people? The staff we met on the Divina were interesting folks, but often had very little experience. We had contact with quite a few crew members from Mauritius, Honduras, St Lucia, and the Philippines. We also met some senior staff that had been lured away from other cruise lines. A big challenge for MSC is finding crew members that can handle multiple languages since this cruise line seems to attract a diverse group of passengers from all over the world. Based on our own experience we would have to agree that the best staff was in the YC. We cannot think of enough superlatives to describe the YC staff! We are used to having some great staff on cruise lines, but the YC folks on the Divina exceeded all of our expectations. As to Le Muse, the waiters all seemed to have lots of experience and the assistants all had a wonderful attitude and were closely supervised. Since this was our first time on MSC, perhaps we were just lucky. But after talking to others and reading YC related posts here on CC..we think we experienced the norm. Whether MSC can maintain that kind of quality in the YC, while keeping prices at or near current levels, remains to be seen. Hank
  13. Hlitner

    Yacht Club Experience - Divina or Seaview

    They are still somewhat confused about the American market, but do certainly try hard. To be clear, our entire Yacht Club experience was amazing (especially considering the price) and it would be hard to fault anything in the YC except the lack of cushions on the sunbeds up in "One" and the lack of more lunch options at the "One" grill for lunch...which essentially was only pasta (with a couple of mediocre buffet things). It would have been a simple matter to allow the chef/cook who manned the grill (at lunch time) to also prepare a few other items such as burgers. Our major problem (which we have mentioned in other posts) had to do with the service we received, outside the YC! In some bars one would have to bet to get any waiter service (to buy drinks). We tend to befriend members of the crew and quickly realized that many of the staff (outside the YC) were on their first cruise contract with minimal training prior to being put "on the floor." While any cruise ship will have some first contract personnel, on the Divinia it sometimes seemed like everyone we met were on their first contract. Within the YC, the staff was generally more experienced...either on MSC or having worked on several other cruise lines. Hank
  14. Hlitner

    Embarkation question - Civitavecchia and Rome.

    I an reacting to Roothy123's post about the trains between Rome and Civitavecchia (either direction). There are numerous options throughout the day with the large majority being regional trains with not reservations or assigned seating (its all first come first serve). There are a few higher speed (saves you about 20 min..at the most) trains that require reservations, higher prices, and are not included in the BIRG Ticket scheme (which gets you round trip train plus all days use of Rome's Metro and bus system). Over the past 30+ years we have used the regional trains dozens of times and only recall one trip where we could not get a seat (at the Civitavecchia station) because of so many cruisers plus rush hour). And even in that standing situation we were able to get a seat within about 15 min once a few Italians got off the train long before we reached Rome. At the Rome end (Rome to Civitavecchia) the regional trains actually begin their run from the Termini (main) station in Rome. If you board at Termini it is always easy to find seats...unless it is rush hour and you board the train at the last minute. Also keep in mind that the higher speed nicer Intercity Trains (the one's that require reservations) only run a few times a day. Since these trains are often coming from a long distance they have a much higher likelihood of being late :(. We have seen more then a few cruisers cooling their heels on the Civitavecchia platform as they wait for their "late" train...while everyone else is simply getting on the lower cost regional trains that run at least twice an hour (more often during rush hours). I mentioned the BIRG ticket which is a terrific value for cruisers. The last time we bought a BiRG it was about 12€ (it might be slightly more expensive now). For the price of that ticket not only did we get to and from Rome, but we used that same ticket for several Metro (subway) trips within Rome. That BIRG ticket can be purchased at the ticket window in the stations or from some news shops located near train stations. Some of the third party sellers might charge an extra Euro, but the convenience of not waiting in a queue at the station can make it a Euro well spent. Hank
  15. Hlitner

    Alternative Naples ideas?

    And don't forget Ischia and Procida which are other options from Naples. Despite having been to this port more then 3 dozen times we have never had a boring day :0. Hank