Jump to content


  • Posts

  • Joined

Everything posted by Hlitner

  1. We have been fortunate to have embarked on cruises from 5 continents it many different ports. Some have decent cruise terminal facilities, and other ports have little (sometimes just a tent). Cruise Terminals are expensive to build (and maintain) and somebody must pay the big bucks for that type of facility. In the very busy ports around the world, facilities have been improving. Other ports, lack the money or do not have the volume that would justify the cost. In some cases, the major cruise lines (primarily owned by CCL, RCI and MSC) will help finance cruise terminals. But again, this usually happens in ports where the volume does justify the cost. My question to the OP is "are you prepared to pay more for your cruise if it gets you a nicer terminal? The reality is that while we all appreciate nicer facilities, many are not willing to pay the extra money to subsidize the construction of new ports and facilities. I should mention that over the past thirty years, we have seen lots of improvements of port facilities around the world. Places like Tokyo, Barcelona, and Istanbul, have spent millions to improve their cruise terminals. Others like Civitavecchia have been slow to spend the money, but even that port now has one very nice terminal (unfortunately it is not nearly enough to handle their volume). Other ports, such as Venice, spent money to improve things only to later ban most cruise ships due to environmental concerns. Hank
  2. There are already some lines (Oceania, Explora Journeys, Seabourn, MSC Yacht Club, etc) that include Internet (sometimes unlimited and other times with some restrictions) as part of their regular cruise fare. The reality about the so-called mass market lines is that most have adopted a business model which has basic fares with various add-ons/packages. Many find this kind of pricing beneficial since it lets them buy the options that best meet their own needs. Look at this through the eyes of the cruise line business model. Internet (mostly provided through Starlink) has certainly improved, but involves an extra expense for the cruise line. Like any Internet service, the more folks who use the Internet (at the same time) the more bandwidth must be provided by the cruise line. More bandwidth means more cost. Not everyone on a cruise, chooses to spend their time on the Internet while some folks are completely addicted to their devices and Internet connection. Asking the big-time users to pay more helps keep the cost down for other cruisers. I think the issue for the OP is that they are looking for luxury amenities at a mass market price and this is not going to happen until it is forced by competition. Hank
  3. Plan "B" can simply be to grab a taxi (there are usually some available at the port) to the airport at your chosen time. When it comes to Sunday mornings/afternoons in Athens, our goto place is the huge Sunday flea market located in Monstiraki. If you wanted to do this, DIY, you could arrange, online, to hire a car/driver and pay to have that driver wait for you while you explore the expansive outdoor market area (this covers an entire neighborhood). As to Sounion, it is a pleasant drive (we have done it with rental cars) although, IMHO, there is not a lot to offer other than the decent views from Sounion. While the Temple of Poseidon is OK, it pales by comparison to the ruins that are within the city of Athens. Hank
  4. Thanks for the review. Ever since the Covid restart, we noticed that SB had hired quite a few new staff (on our various cruises), some of whom had yet to adjust to the SB way of doing things. When asked about SB, we used to say that the staff/crew does not have the word "no" in their vocabulary. Unfortunately, for the OP, this did not seem to be the case with the server they first encountered in Solis. Tis a real shame and we sure hope that the management team quickly imposes some attitude changes where necessary. While we have seldom had any complaints on our SB cruises, if a server told DW that she could not order two starters (in place of a starter and main) I think the issue would quickly get elevated to the restaurant manager. That is just not acceptable on SB (or other lines). On SB we expect to hear, "no problem" or "we will do our best." I will add that we have also been cruising on other lines (in the past two years) including Explora Journeys, Oceania, HAL and Princess. Every line seems to be having some "issues" with new hires. One senior manager on O told us that, one result of the Covid shutdown, has been that too many experienced staff/crew moved on to other careers. We also found it interesting that the new Explora Journeys line (a higher end luxury product) hired about 80% of staff (for their first ship) that had never worked on any cruise line. It was explained that the new line sought very experienced staff from top hotels,restuarants, and resorts generally located in the middle east (often from Dubai). The reason was they wanted staff that understood how to deliver quality and thought that more important than previous cruise ship experience. To some degree they have suceeded, but there are also some rough edges that we think was due to the inexperience of staff working on ships. Hank
  5. Thanks for the excellent review :). We will add Ritz to our personal "watch list" for some future bookings. That being said, a quick glance has given me the impression that SB can be a lot less expensive (sometimes only about half the price of Ritz) which we factor-in to our cruise decisions. It is less about being cheap but more our philosophy of looking for good value, be it a higher-end luxury line or mass market product. I am curious to see if Ritz starts offering some longer itineraries and promotions on voyages, once they add the new ship....oops, meant "yacht." Hank
  6. We like to give complements when it is deserved. In our case, the GDR on the Vista ticked most of the boxes including excellent service from our wait team and the sommelier. Our norm was to go to dinner around 7:15 (to miss the initial rush) and always request our favorite waiter (Kadeck) who always treated us like VIPs. Not only was the service top notch, but Kadeck also guided us through the various menus with suggestions on what to order and what to ignore. While we also enjoyed most of our time in the alternative restaurants (3 times in each venue) our favorite place was the GDR. As to "slow," we normally prefer to dine and not rush. For the few evenings when we did want to speed it up (to get to a show) we would simply mention it to our waiter. On most evenings we would say "take your time" since we were generally not in a hurry. As an observation, when we shared a table with others, dinner always took somewhat longer, since the staff must adjust to the slowest diner at the table. Hank
  7. Just off 5 weeks on the Vista, where we had an excellent Filipino band. Hank
  8. A lot of O malarkey. Onboard we met some real long time O fans who lost several deposits because of cancelled bookings due to COVId. They still love O and view that as “it happens.” I prefer systems where refunds do not depend on the customers needing to be assertive. Like Os ridiculous air fee policy, this needs to be fixed. Small stuff, but still an issue for those of us who cruise many lines. Hank
  9. Am I missing something here? You mean if a cruiser does not act within an arbitrary time (1 year) they will lose the deposit? With most if not all, other lines, any deposit is automatically returned (with no hassle) after a specific time.
  10. Sometimes :). The key to alcohol on land is when we are actually spending a few days in a city where I do not need to drive. But we have wondered if that is a contributing factor. We do have cruising friends, who do not drink any alcohol, who also have the ankle thing. Speaking of my wife, her ankle swelling was not nearly as bad as mine on the Vista. And to be clear, we still love to cruise and would not allow swollen ankles/feet to dissuade us from that form of travel :). Perhaps we need to spend more time on cruises to further investigate the issue. Hank
  11. We have long thought that salt was the culprit. DW does minimize adding salt when cooking at home. But since we left the Vista, all of our meals have been in restaurants and most professional chefs routinely use plenty of salt (like on most cruise ships). And yet, the ankle swelling quickly dissipated once off the Vista. And this is not just about the Vista, because we cruise on many different lines (within the last year Princess, HAL, Seabourn, Explora Journeys) and the ankle swelling is common on all of those lines. Can it be that cruise line galleys simply add a lot more salt than land-based restaurants? At home I never pay much attention to salt and will routinely add it to many of the usual things and yet, do not have any ankle swelling. Some of us used to think that the culprit is the water used on ships. Most ships now make their own water, from sea water, by using flash evaporation and/or reverse osmosis. But a few CC contributors, several of whom were chief engineers, have assured us that the systems used on modern cruise ships do not result in excessive salt/sodium. We also have some cruising friends that avoid ship water (they only drink bottled water with limited sodium) and they still have the ankle swelling issue.
  12. Thought I would keep the thread active, since we are still in Europe (post Vista cruise) following what we preach (cruise + land is great). We have spent the last week in Austria (Graz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck) and had a fantastic time driving through the country, After a few days of cloudy (and some rain) weather, today is a beautiful day with temps reaching into the 70s F and the nearby mountains fully in their glory, This morning we took a local cable car up to the top of the local mountain where we had fantastic views (through a few fluffy low clouds). We later took a local tram over to a bell foundry/museum that has been in business for hundreds of years. Since we have debarked from the Vista, all of our driving trip has been to places that cannot possibly be accessed via cruise ship. But I want to talk about swollen ankles. After 50 years of cruising, we have never solved the mystery of why many get swollen ankles on cruises. There has been many CC blogs on the topic with many of us tossing out theory's. By the time we disembarked Vista on May 1, my ankles and feet were pretty bad (tough to even put on my shoes). Within 36 hours of leaving the Vista, both ankles and feet were back to near normal. Within 4 days they were 100% normal. This despite still being in travel mode, eating in restaurants, etc. For me, the mystery continues. Tomorrow, we drive back to Italy (Milan) where we will finally end this trip with our flight back to the USA. DW and I have really enjoyed the past week in Austria (a country where we have previously never spent more than a day in Vienna). Innsbruck is a decent tourist city that is surrounded by beautiful mountains, has a river running through downtown, an old town, etc. While we were in Salzburg, we did see river cruise tours (from both Viking and AMA), but here in Innsbruck that is not the norm. Like most trips in Europe, we have had our fill of churches and castles (at least until our next trip) and have climbed more stairs/ramps then expected. The reality of this kind of European travel is that it is very helpful to be both mobile and in shape. Walking 4-8 miles a day is our norm, and in this country too much of those miles are up and down. DW and I are already talking about a future cruise on O, but we will likely stick to either the Vista or new Allura. We did not book a future cruise (or future cruise credit) on the Vista, because we have our doubts about meeting the time requirements, Another issue is that trying to speak with one of the future cruise folks (onboard) generally meant a long wait or some careful planning. More hassle then we want, when on a cruise. Another Martini Bar friend (who has numerous O cruises) told us that is something he has long disliked about O (i.e. trying to get to speak to the future cruise folks). A minor complaint, but still worth mentioning. Hank
  13. With the two O cruises we had booked (one of which we finally cancelled less than 3 weeks prior to the completely changed itinerary) we have had more cancelled and altered ports then in all of our 100+ cruises over the years. Why? Some of the changes were not completely the fault of O while others were certainly questionable changes Since O is not always transparent on changes, one can only speculate as to why? Speaking as a long time student of the industry (more than 50 years of extensive cruising) I do think there are differing corporate philosphies. Some cruise lines (HAL comes to mind) will do everything possible to keep to their itinerary, This can mean going to ports in bad conditions and giving it the old "college try." Sometimes it works and other times cruisers will have a missed port with a sea day. O, on the other hand, seems to more easily make itinerary changes based on forecasted weather, with the goal of changing to an alternative port or perhaps avoiding some nasty weather. Tjhis recently happened on our Vista cruise when, 2 days prior to our scheduled arrival, O changed Funchal to Madeira. They were hoping for more favorable conditions at Madeira, and it did work out. However, looking at the actual weather and sea conditions it did appear that we could have also gone to the original port (Funchal). Hank
  14. The interesting part of this post is that Positano is generally considered a terrific place. Many folks who port at Naples, Sorrento or Salerno, will somehow make their way to Positano for part of all of their day. I do agree with Cruisemom, that on Capri, the Blue Grotto would be way down on list of how we spend time on that island. That being said, it is one of those overpriced tourist traps that most folks need to experience once. We do like everything about Ravello and find it a charming place for a 2 hour walk and perhaps a nice lunch. Hank
  15. We have really embraced the "no no" term and think it is right on! Where to avoid the no-no? Having been on 18 cruise lines (#19 coming up late this year) we can think of no line that ignores the no-no's except, perhaps, the Explora Journeys folks. That being said, they are a new line (with very deep pockets) who will likely learn as they go and may well bow to the "no no pressure." I doubt if a ghost pepper will ever find its way onto a cruise ship (unless smuggled by a passenger). And basic things like garlic, onions, and oregano seem to be more and more underused. I could not help but notice that pizza in Waves, is made without oregano (unless it is specifically requested). In Italy, it would considered an essential ingredient. Hank
  16. Tis true and we have considered that line in FP. But thought I should raise the issue since this is the O blog. Hank
  17. While we really enjoy the MSC YC, in the Caribbean, we have no desire to cruise on that line in Europe. In Europe, MSC functions more like a ferry ship than a cruise ship. Folks are embarking/disembarking at nearly every port, and for those of us who treasure the socialization on cruises, this loses too much with folks constantly coming and going. Hank
  18. Best sailaway anywhere? A night sail away from any city can be pretty. But when it comes to the best sailaways "anywhere" there are places like Kotor (in the daytime), cruising out of Venice (no longer allowed on big ships), Istanbul, Shanghai, etc. that we think are far more interesting than coming out of San Juan (even at night). Hank
  19. Just beware of the FP cruise ship restrictions (i.e. no more than 1200 cruise passengers, per day, on Bora Bora). Hank
  20. I will give my usual response to the subject question. Yes, one should try and cruise in the Med (we have done it dozens of times), but also combine the cruise vacation with some additional time on land, be it on an organized tour or independent trip via rental car or train. To us, this offers the best of both travel worlds (sea and land). We are living what we preach and are currently driving through Slovenia and Austria after a wonderful 35 days on the Vista (TA plus part of the Med and Adriatic). Land trips are not a substitute for cruises (especially for those who love being on ships) but neither is a cruise a good substitute for land. One will not be able to go up into the Swiss or Austrian Alps on a port day :). One possible compromise is a River Cruise, but that is its own subject. Hank
  21. To reiterate the subject, we are currently on a driving trip (post O cruise) through Slovenia and Austria, before we drive back into Italy. DW and I do not speak more than a few words in either language, but this is not an issue. Everywhere we have gone (Lake Bled, Graz, Salzburg, and now Innsbruck), most speak some English or are completely fluent. As independent travelers, we routinely enjoy interacting with locals, which is where we learn lots of valuable info. Just yesterday, we stopped in a nearby wine bar for a late afternoon rest (and relaxation). We asked the two ladies, running the place, to recommend some decent Italian restaurants and quickly had two strong suggestions on an upscale pizza place and a higher end Italian restaurant. Last evening we went to the pizza place which was owned and operated by a couple of Sicilian gentlemen. The pizza was some of the best we have had anywhere (and that is saying a lot). I do think that many fellow cruisers get into the "Excursion mode" where they primarily do things with large groups of cruisers. While this does have some advantages, it does mean you go to tourist places and mostly interact with fellow cruisers and guides. In our experience, it is a lousy way to get the true feel/flavor os a city or site. Yes, you do get plenty of history, some tales, etc. but it is not quite the same as being by yourselves or in a tiny group and taking advantage of the opportunity to meet locals. In our experience, many folks are more then happy to share their knowledge (and favorite places) with visitors who smile, show some respect, and are curious. Hank
  22. I think the OP needs to consider the geography of both Mykonos and Crete. Crete has over 600 miles of coastline and is more than 250 miles long. So no, you cannot simply walk around Crete :). If your port is Iraklion or Chania (just at that port 2 weeks ago) you can certainly walk around those port towns on your own (we have done it a few times). I should add that a highlight for many visitors to Crete is visiting the ruins at Knossos, and for this you will need a tour, taxi, or regional bus. Mykonos is primarily about a single city, Mykonos Town (also known as Chora). If you dock, you will be about a mile from town and can get to it via shuttle bus, taxi, or even walking. Once in town, folks can walk anywhere DIY. We were just there last week, and spent a few hours walking the narrow streets, browsing shops, stopping for a drink, etc. The streets are windy and narrow and it is easy to get lost, but you are never far from anything. Having a working cell phone and map program (such as Google maps) can be helpful. Otherwise, if you do lost/confused, just ask for help :). Hank
  23. While I seldom disagree with you, I do not think that Rome is Northern Italy by definition or mores. Rome is in Lazio, which is considered part of Central Italy (there are 4 statistical regions in Italy). The cuisine of Rome (and central Italy) is quite different from much of Northern Italy is among my favorites and makes me quickly think of Osso Bucco and Risotto alla Milanese. My "personal chef" insists that while cream does show-up is some Italian recipes, much of the classic dishes do not use cream. Even pasta dishes like Carbonara and Alfredo do not use cream (if made classically). But what do I know? I just eat what I am served, always love it, etc :). Hank
  24. Driving through parts of Europe now. Our T-Mobile works everywhere (in Slovenia at the moment) and we also use it as our GPS guide when driving. Hank
  25. That HAL cruise was a 42 day Westerdam voyage around Japan, over to Alaska, and ended in Seattle. While we enjoyed that cruise (like all of our cruises) there was a lot wrong about HAL. As 5* Mariners with over 550 days on HAL, many would say we are loyal HAL cruises. But by the end of that Westy cruise, DW said to me, "do not book anymore HAL cruises! We were tired of the understaffing, logistic issues, poor or no entertainment, constant onboard accounting issues (we were overcharged 11 times during a single cruise), etc. We have no problem on larger ships (although we do prefer the smaller luxury vessels) but we have lots of problems with HAL. That being said, we would quickly book HAL if we had reason to believe that they were correcting some of our issues. Most recently, it has been posted that HAL is gradually bringing back Production Shows and that is a start. Interesting that there are no new builds on the agenda for HAL. By the way, we did enjoy the Japan/AK cruise so much that we booked something similar for 2025. But this time it will be on Seabourn :). Hank
  • Create New...