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DougK

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  1. My experience on Scenic a year ago was somewhat different than mj_holiday's experience 4 years ago. Everybody was expected to arrive at roughly the same time (after the port talk), but occasionally some people would come in quite a bit later. And the service wasn't in lockstep. Individual waiter stations generally served each course at the same time to their station, but different stations operated differently. And not just one station always before another, but in some unclear manner, so it was quite possible that our station would get soup before the station next to us, but then they got their entrees before we did. And there were times when even different tables in the same station got served at different times. Basically, I think they do their best to accommodate individual diners while still maintaining waiter efficiency, and it's not clear which wins out at any given time. Overall, it seemed to work pretty well, and I probably wouldn't even have noticed how service was done if I hadn't read a thread on the subject beforehand.
  2. There's no shortage of opportunities in Amsterdam. I'll throw Aneka Rasa into the mix: http://anekarasa.nl. In addition to their regular Rijsttafel, they also have a vegetarian version, which I greatly enjoyed a year ago.
  3. Yes, I know I was very lucky. It was the oddest thing to see, and took me a while to figure out. I would say that I just have an active imagination but the cruise director mentioned it later in the day and asked who had seen them. Very few other passengers had, possibly because it happened fairly early in the morning. The cruise director had never heard of such a thing before, but she asked the ranger on board, and was told that it does happen occasionally. It was just my lucky day. But other wildlife is much more common, and always a treat as well.
  4. I agree that Hubbard glacier can be much more impressive than the glaciers seen in Glacier Bay. I have a video I took some years back that has an embarrassing soundtrack of me just saying "Look at that!" over and over again, while watching huge calving. But I'll still vote for Glacier Bay any day, simply because of the variety of wildlife seen during the entire day. Otters, seals, bear, mountain goats, innumerable birds, whales at the mouth of the bay. I even saw two moose swimming right off the side of the ship this year. That can't be matched at Hubbard.
  5. I heartily applaud this, and just wish it were the standard for all river cruise companies, rather than the exception. It puts the lie to the claim that times can't be listed due to variability of river traffic, locks, etc.
  6. If the German companies can list approximate times, so could Scenic. With caveats, of course, recognizing that conditions may vary. But, as a river cruise, *everything* about the schedule comes with caveats. For example, Scenic has no trouble listing which ports are supposed to be visited on which days--but that all goes out the window in times of high or low water, or lock damage, or .... Why can't they similarly provide their best guess of port times? This basic information would be useful for passengers planning their trip, even if they're not booking private excursions. I'll give you one concrete example. On my upcoming Romantic Rhine & Moselle cruise, the Scenic itinerary has exactly the same type of information about each port, simply saying the day they're visited. My wife and I really want to see the Kroller-Muller museum, so my initial plan was for us to go to that museum on our own during the Arnhem stop, which is fairly close by. It wasn't until I did my own historic research that I learned that while such a plan would be fine if the museum were near almost any other port on the journey, where the ship typically spends 6 or more hours in port, there's absolutely no way to do it from Arnhem, where the ship typically spends less than 3 hours. As a result, we've ended up booking a couple of days pre-cruise in the area of the museum--but I only knew to do that because I figured out the schedule on my own. The fact is that there is far less variability between trips than one would get the impression from reading these boards. For example, over the past three years on this trip, the ship always arrived in Cochem between 5:30 and 7:30, and always left between 6:30 and 8:00 the next day. That's an extreme example, but most ports have low variability, allowing one to approximate arrival and departure points within a few hours. I just wish Scenic would share that information with their passengers...
  7. Regarding the debate about indoor and outdoor muster stations, there's yet a third option: both. I had that experience 15 or 20 years ago on a cruise--don't remember which line--where we were told to go to our indoor muster station, received the lecture there, and then were escorted by crew to our lifeboat station, as we would be in an actual emergency. This certainly took more time than the current drills, but probably also was more effective.
  8. Scenic (and most river cruise companies) are incredibly bad about providing information about port timing. Many apologists on here say that it's just not possible, because of inherent variability due to river traffic, locks, and port officials. My own research shows, however, that there is far less variability than claimed, and it would be pretty easy for Scenic to provide general information about timing. I've gone to the effort to figure out what the real itinerary is for my upcoming Romantic Rhine & Moselle cruise by looking at how it's happened over the past three years, but I haven't done that for Jewels of Europe. If you're interested, I describe this is more detail in the roll call thread, starting around https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/1567152-all-scenic-river-cruises-roll-call/?do=findComment&comment=57804369 I really wish Scenic would provide this information, rather than forcing people to do their own research. But it appears that Scenic thinks that their passengers only want to go on their included tours, and don't need any information to make their own plans.
  9. Because they're such small boats, and a small operation overall, they don't have a fixed schedule. Instead, they work (within limits) with whoever books them first. Arriving at 1:00 is not a problem; that's when we were due to arrive in July, and Jayleen booked us for a 2:00 tour. As it turned out, during the cruise the ship warned us that we would be a little late in arriving, possibly not until 2:00; I contacted Jayleen and she shifted our tour to 2:30. Great customer service and flexibility!
  10. I'll second the recommendation for Jayleen. She was very understanding and cancelled/refunded our planned excursion in May when the cruise ship arrived in port very late due to propulsion problems. We were able to cruise again in July, and that time the excursion with Jayleen went without a hitch. I highly recommend the small boat approach; not only is there no problem with fighting for viewing space, but it's also easy to have a real conversation with Jayleen and pick up her knowledge (of both whales and the area around Juneau), rather than straining to make out more of a canned talk over a PA system. Another big advantage of Jayleen is that her tour runs longer than most others, so you have about an hour of additional time on the water to watch and follow whales.
  11. The question is where one draws the line. One could separate out every component of the cruise and charge separately: all meals a la carte, entertainment, use of loungers and pools, religious services, even housekeeping, and I'm sure the list goes on and on. For each of these, some passengers use them and others don't. For example, I haven't been in a pool other than a T-pool on a cruise ship for decades (if ever), rarely use loungers, rarely go to shows, don't go to religious services, am vegetarian so never have steak/lobster/etc., and would be fine with housekeeping only every couple of days. Yet I pay the same price as passengers who do all of those, so effectively I'm subsidizing them. Why shouldn't they subsidize my internet use in return? I think much of the draw of cruising traditionally has been its inclusiveness, where passengers don't pay separately for each item. Heck, look at the uproar on these boards when HAL experimented with a charge for second entrees--even though most people don't want/need them. Imagine the uproar if they started charging for each item on the menu, or for each show. Personally, I much prefer an all-inclusive system, even though it effectively means I subsidize other passengers who use more than I do--the simplicity and absence of constant upselling is a big attraction to me, and makes up for savings I would get from a true a la carte system. I think a lot of the distinctions between what is and isn't included in the base fare come more from history than from a logical difference between items. If one were starting fresh today, I suspect that internet usage would be considered as much a staple as production shows. But nobody is starting fresh; even new cruise lines have to deal with expectations of passengers based on past cruise lines.
  12. I agree on the reasoning; my point was just that one shouldn't expect good Internet on Alaska cruises. Virtually all of them go to Skagway or other inaccessible places, since the whole attraction of Alaska is the stark nature. On some days the Internet may be fine, but on others it will be bad. I personally found that to be pretty frustrating.
  13. My experience on the Nieuw Amsterdam this summer was much different. Internet was fine on some days, but very slow or nonexistent on others. I think the worst was around Skagway, where there was no connectivity at all.
  14. Some airlines, particularly European ones, don't allow free seat assignments until checkin. Lufthansa is one of those airlines, so the only way you can get your seats now is to pay for them. It has nothing to do with the fact you booked through Flight Ease.
  15. I agree with everybody who says that the statistics are infinitely malleable, as is the presentation, so it's not a particularly meaningful claim. But I'll add this question: Is it even the mark of a good line to have the highest repeater rate? Sure, on the one hand it can be viewed to mean that people are satisfied and want to come back. But on the other hand, it can also be viewed to mean that the line, either through its product or its marketing, does little to attract new cruisers--which in the long term means the line will fail. Perhaps it would be best if the line has a middle-of-the-road repeater rate...
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