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Posts posted by GTJ

  1. 5 hours ago, tj_shopper said:

    There will be 7 of us taking the Coastal Classic train through Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward at 6:45 a.m. on Thursday, May 23rd. * * * We will have lots of luggage with us * * * What do we do with our luggage on the train?  Do we keep it with us on the train?  It doesn't sound like we could.

    You have a choice. You can take your baggage with you into the coach on train, you can check your baggage and have it transported for you in the baggage car, or you can take some baggage with you and check the remainder. Formally, you can carry-on one piece of baggage per person, and check two pieces of baggage (up to 50 pounds) per person, which means your group of seven persons will not have a problem if you have no more than 21 pieces of baggage. Informally, the Alaska Railroad is generally more lax than airlines, as to what constitutes a "piece," its size and weight, and of how many pieces are transported. Think "reasonable" more so than "strict."


    The ability to take all or part of your baggage with you into the coach as carry-on baggage depends to some extent on the class of service booked. If you book coach ("Adventure") class, then there is plenty of room for baggage on the overhead racks and elsewhere. If you book first class ("GoldStar") service, then your options are more limited. There are no overhead racks, and only a small amount of space under the seats for storing baggage. This is were formal baggage allowances are more critical. Nonetheless, the train crew might help in finding other niches to store carry-on baggage, or might have you store baggage in the regular coach cars. Overall, however, coach ("Adventure") class service provides better carry-on baggage facilities compared to first class ("GoldStar") service.

    • Like 1
  2. On 10/22/2023 at 5:09 PM, Hatch54 said:

    I have already talked to the cruise line and in so many words they said it wouldn't be a problem to disembark in Cozumel and there wouldn't be any extra fees but "technically" they have to advise all guests to complete their cruise. I'm just wondering if anyone else has done this before and if there are any immigration issues in Mexico that we will run into or any other hoops to jump through that someone knows of.

    Yes, we have done things similarly. We were destined for inland México, and to get there we booked a 14-night reposition cruise, via Norwegian Cruise Line, from New York to New Orleans. Cozumel was the final port of call before New Orleans, the following twelve nights on the vessel from New York. Our plan was to disembark at Cozumel, use the ferry to Playa del Carmen, and then continue onward into the interior of México. Several weeks later we would return to Playa del Carmen, ferry to Cozumel, and board a Carnival Cruise Line vessel in the middle of short round-trip cruise from New Orleans, and then continue home in New York via overnight Amtrak train.


    On the NCL vessel approaching Cozumel we provided our passports to NCL staff, who would in turn provide them to Mexican immigration and customs officials. After docking we were invited to a vessel conference room where we would meet up with those Mexican officials. Instead, those officials examined our documents without even meeting with us, and NCL staff came to the conference room to return our stamped passports plus a Mexican tourist card ("Forma Migratoria Múltiple," or "FMM" for short) granting 180 days stay in the country. We were then able to alight from the vessel with our baggage, along with other passengers who were alighting only for the day.


    The only disruption to the process is that the Mexican officials did not supply an invoice with the tourist card so that we could pay the fee therefor. As a consequence, while inland we stopped at a Mexican immigration office to request and receive an invoice (this was in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, and it took about two hours). With invoice in hand, we were able to stop at a bank (any bank will do), pay the tourist card fee, and receive a receipt for having paid the fee. When we departed México for Guatemala, using a small launch to cross the Río Usumacinta at Frontera Corozal, Chiapas, we presented the tourist card and payment receipt to Mexican immigration for getting stamped out of the country. Ordinarily, immigration would collect the tourist card, but since we would be re-entering México a few days later, we retained the tourist card and payment receipt. We did, in fact, re-enter México a few days later, this time overland from Belize at Santa Elena, Quintana Roo. We had our passports stamped and used our already-issued tourist card an payment receipt. When arriving back at Cozumel, Mexican immigration should have collected the tourist card as we were boarding the vessel, but because presumably because nearly all the boarding passengers were there simply as part of the port of call, no Mexican official collected our tourist cards.


    What is different today and with your planned trip? Fees are now generally paid at the border when the tourist card is issued rather than at a bank. After having disembarked the vessel in Cozumel, Mexican immigration officials at the airport in either Cancún or Cozumel would ordinarily demand your tourist card. However, the government recently removed the tourist card requirement for persons flying into and out of Cancún. In part that's because travelers by air have had the fee included in airline ticket fares to México (though travelers entering México by any other means did not have the fee included in their bus or cruise vessel fare), and thus lots of paperwork for no useful purpose. But since you would not have flown into Cancún, the airport immigration officials should still demand a tourist card from you. And as to the airport in Cozumel, tourist cards might still be required for all. What will actually be the case? Between recently-changed requirements and actual practice, it is unknown for certain. For persons entering and leaving by land for seven days or fewer, there is no fee for the tourist card. But you would be entering by sea and departing by air, so this exception likely has no application. My advice is to make certain that, prior to leaving the vessel in Cozumel, you make certain that any fee payment matter is addressed, and if a fee is due, make certain that you are able to pay it before getting to the airport. Better yet, contact your local Mexican consulate for details on what the current tourist card and fee requirements. The last thing you will want to do is to arrive at the airport only to be turned back because you did not receive a tourist card or pay the required fee--or worse, get fined--and additionally missing your flight home.


    Hopefully our experience, as I described above, will give you some insight as to what to expect. Your plan is practicable, and does not involve any cabotage issues. You should notify the cruise line at least one day in advance of disembarkation (so that immigration procedures can be followed). The main thing about which to be concerned is the tourist card and the payment of any fee therefor. Because it is not common to enter México by sea and depart by air, be prepared in case the tourist card and fee information given to you by your local consulate turns out to be wrong.

  3. On 12/3/2023 at 12:27 PM, Arubamoose said:

    How easy is it to get an Uber or Lyft or Taxi from the cruise port to a local hotel?  

    We have used Uber-arranged service on multiple occasions, not hailing a car until we're clear of immigration and customs, and not having to wait long (perhaps 15 to 20 minutes). We use the service to get to the train station in Bayonne, and each time the fare has been around ten dollars.

  4. 14 hours ago, Florida Fan said:

    This also includes parking for a week and roundtrip for 2 people.

    The parking charge probably accounts for a good part of the cost difference. I suppose my wife and I am more fortunate by not having an automobile and never having to pay for parking one (or for that matter, any of the other expenses relating to operating and maintaining one)!

  5. 39 minutes ago, c-leg5 said:

    However I have a very uneasy feeling regarding Costa Maya since cruising resumed and concerns about its future. I hope I am wrong and it is able to re-establish and prosper.

    We had actually been scheduled to visit when that storm had hit, and our cruise itinerary was re-scheduled (I recall that Willemstad, Curaçao, was the replacement port). But the entire coast of Quintana Roo has been undergoing this transformation coincidentally with its progression from mere territorial status to full statehood. Many Mexican nationals are simply warehoused to staff the service industries, with little historical or other familial connection . . . Chetmual being the largest exception. The same can be said for much of the Baja California peninsula. I am more enthused with the developing ports at Huatulco and Tapachula (Pto. Chiapas), where I don't think that tourism will overtake their economies as in Quintana Roo (but rather more like the impact of cruising upon Progreso and Mérida). Most Americans are probably indifferent, many not having a clue about geography and seeing these places are mere playgrounds, but they're important issues for where México wants to go. Cancún is certainly seen as successful economic development, notwithstanding its lack of most things of interest. Mahahual may be viewed similarly, exclusively as a destination for vacationing Americans, even if it never reaches the extent of Cancún.

  6. 8 minutes ago, c-leg5 said:

    From posting history I think OP @Rdclfamily has already sailed. It would be interesting and helpful to hear where they ended up.

    One of the great things about Cruise Critic conversations being an open forum is that responses need not be directed to the circumstances of one individual poster because many others--including others with future travel--will be relying on the information provided.


    10 minutes ago, c-leg5 said:

    I think “Mexican” food is very regionalized and cannot truly be described as “Mexican”. I agree Costa Maya won’t have best examples of “Yucatan” since it appears the majority of establishments have owners from other regions, or even overseas. Some will serve some Yucatan dishes, or probably Tex Mex, but for example I believe YaYa actually has Italian origins!

    My original response draft also included the word "Mexican" in quotation marks as well, for the very same reason you're doing so. The parallel is referring to "American" cuisine without differentiating between New England, the southwest, New Orleans, etc. As noted, I am particularly fond of Oaxaca--it is where my wife and I married--and I can distinguish it from, say, the food in northern México, Yucatán, etc.


    Also, it is difficult to give good responses to "authentic" aspects of a region when the region becomes dominated by tourism, as is the case with Mahahual. I believe your understanding of the Yaya origins to be correct, and for the most part the many restaurants that exist in Mahahual are there for the cruise port, not because the former small fishing village can support them. Are any "authentic"? Probably not. I think this is easier to do in the port of call at Progreso, where Mérida is accessibly and not dominated by tourism. In the end, despite the desire of many to get off the tourist circuit while on a cruise, it can be difficult to do so. Particularly with the larger vessels, many ports have become routine and mass marketed.

  7. On 11/10/2023 at 6:56 PM, Rdclfamily said:

    We want to eat the best Mexican food in port. * * * Also, safety is a concern of mine. I want to be sure if we are not traveling with a cruise ship excursion that we will be safe.

    Are you seeking Mexican food, or Yucatecan food? If the former, you may have some choices, but likely not a lot, as this is not an area known for traditional Mexican cuisine (for that you would be better off heading to Puebla, Mexico City, or my favorite, Oaxaca). If you're seeking Yucatecan cuisine (the best of which is centered in Mérida), then you might try the cochinita pibil. In this regard the beach restaurant Yaya Beach might be best.


    All the restaurants are concerned with food safety and do not want their patrons getting sick. When we had taken cooking classes elsewhere in México, safety was always at the forefront, and there was constant attention to sanitation among Mexican chefs. While you might exercise greater caution with some street food stands, you should be safe with most established restaurants, and would likely be at no substantially greater safety risk compared to the restaurants on the cruise vessel itself.

  8. 5 hours ago, smokey11 said:

    Hello I’m cruising June 2024 arriving into Seward Monday. Planning on taking a Kenai Fjord boat tour then hopping on the train to Anchorage and staying the night in Anchorage. First question….where to stay in Anchorage that doesn’t cost a fortune? We will be renting a car so I’m willing to drive north toward Denali to stay the night. I really don’t want to drive too far out of town because we will be getting in around 10pm from Seward on the train.

    You can expect the train to arrive in Anchorage at about 10:15 p.m. Sunset in June will be no earlier than 11:21 p.m., but if you're planning to pick-up a rental vehicle at 10:30 p.m. (are any vehicle rental agencies open at that hour?), it seems unlikely that you would be able to get very far before losing daylight. I might be tempted to stay at Wingate by Wyndham Anchorage Downtown/Ship Creek (price range: $360) because it is a quick and easy walk from the train station at a late hour. The still-close Ramada by Wyndham Anchorage Downtown might be a better value (price range: $197). If you were able to get out of Anchorage on the night of arrival, then perhaps you might stay in Wasilla (price range: $135-203), which would also give you a head start on driving the next day.


    6 hours ago, smokey11 said:

    I was planning on heading up to Denali on Tuesday morning and take the bus into the National Park 1pm Tuesday.  We will be staying the night in the Denali area Tuesday night then back to Anchorage for flight out Wednesday evening.  Second question…. Is that a feasible plan? Will I be trying to fit too much in less than two days?

    It is possible that you could drive to Denali in four hours, and for that reason your plan could be completed as intended. Are the hours of the rental vehicle agency such that you could retrieve a vehicle between your train arrival time and the time by which you would have to depart Anchorage for Denali? Do you know where the rental vehicle agency is located, and the logistics of getting there? There seems to be a number of small details that have to have to confirmed to fully ascertain if your plan is practicable. If all the pieces do fit together, that it might still be pushing things a bit, but you're the best judge as to how much you would like to pack into a day.

  9. 1 hour ago, princeton123211 said:

    Assuming you are talking about Baltimore Penn Station (which is the one downtown) vs the Amtrak station at BWI (the nearby airport) the easiest way is by Uber or Lyft. Taxis in the city of Baltimore are sort of generally crummy.

    Both of the trains to Florida stop in Baltimore at Pennsylvania Station only, and do not stop at the BWI airport station. Pennsylvania Station is on the edge of downtown Baltimore; the "downtown" Baltimore station is known as Camden Station, but there are no Amtrak trains there, only commuter trains. Thus, the station needed is clear: Pennsylvania Station. The total distance to be traveled from the Maryland Cruise Terminal to Pennsylvania Station is about 3-1/2 miles.


    The Harris Teeter supermarket is more convenient to the Maryland Cruise Terminal than the Safeway supermarket is to Pennsylvania Station. Thus, you would likely best be served by first going from the Maryland Cruise Terminal to the Harris Teeter supermarket, then making the trip to Pennsylvania Station, The Harris Teeter supermarket, at 1801 Whetstone Way, is about one-quarter mile distant from the Maryland Cruise Terminal, less than a 10-minute walk.


    In getting from the Harris Teeter supermarket to Pennsylvania Station, public transportation is available and practicable, but not particularly convenient. If you have plenty of time, and not overly-burdened with baggage and groceries, then you could walk the distance in about 1 hour 30 minutes (a possibility given that the Silver Star departs at 1:55 p.m., and the Silver Meteor even later at 6:08 p.m.). The most convenient transportation, of course, would be by taxi or TNC vehicle.


    2 hours ago, princeton123211 said:

    I've done a bunch of overnight trips on Amtrak-- unless you need something very specific or plan on consuming a lot of something the onboard selection of meals/drinks isn't bad enough or expensive enough that it would motivate me to go out of my way to bring my own supply. The hot food in the dining car is generally not bad for one night. 

    I have universally relied on snacks when traveling long-distance by railroad, preferably purchased in advance at a supermarket, because the same items in the Amtrak café are overpriced. For example, a microwaved cheeseburger is $7.25, a hot dog $5.00, cheese and crackers $6.75, potato chips $2.00, cookie $3.25, soda $2.50. If traveling with sleeping accommodations then meals in the dining car are included (but no snacks outside of basic meal times in the dining car); otherwise you may be stuck with snacks from the café car substituting for dinner. In this case stocking up in advance at the supermarket is a very good plan.

    • Like 1
  10. On 8/21/2023 at 11:36 PM, Slyfox16 said:

    Is there a bus or shuttle that runs from the port to the cape?


    On 8/22/2023 at 8:38 AM, Anita Latte said:

    What do you mean by the cape? Do you mean the city?

    I am seeking transportation from Port Canaveral cruise terminal 10 to Cape Canaveral at the 321 Transit route 9 bus stop located at the intersection of George King Boulevard and Dave Nisbet Drive. Ideally there would be bus service at terminal 10, but 321 Transit does not serve this terminal, and no other company appears to operate a bus service either. I would consider walking, but it does not look safe (or even lawful) to do so. The only option appears to be taxi, but there appear to be few taxi services available and none responsive to online inquiries. Most concerning is the return trip back to the cruise terminal in the evening. I would think that the trip would take about ten minutes, and the 3-mile trip would cost about ten dollars.

  11. 22 hours ago, blue_water said:

    But the infrastructure and environment are devastated…Merida is indeed a beautiful, historic city and a great walking city. The Cathedral and other nearby churches are beautiful, we were fortunate in that we could attend mass last visit…

    I think we have similar perceptions of this area. I would rather a port call in Progreso than Cozumel. All the attention went to Cancún and the coast southward, rather than Mérida, because of the beach--but perhaps that's the best so that Mérida does not get overrun like Cancún. And from an economic development perspective, I think it has been successful, notwithstanding all the other consequences. For us on this trip, it might just be best to focus on the Parque de las Palapas (even if a bit early in the day) and the area immediately surrounding it, something I have not done before.


    5 hours ago, crewsweeper said:

    @GTJ,   Just book a cruise that stops in Progreso.

    Have done so already. Very pleased to have done so! I wish more cruises would stop in Progreso than in Cozumel. Most such cruises come from New Orleans and Galveston, with a few from Tampa. None from the northeast. The itinerary I am on in January 2024 is the only one from New York for the entire year that visits any Mexican ports. None at all from Boston or Baltimore.

    • Like 1
  12. 10 hours ago, calliopecruiser said:

    My intention was to go the Amtrak station directly, leave my bags, and then spend time somewhere on that side of the bay - the botanical gardens in Berkeley look enticing. 

    When I was in university, my dormitory was at the foot of the road leading to the botanical gardens, just under one mile distant. It is a pleasant visit, but it will not fill a full day . . . perhaps an hour or two. A bit further up the hill is the Lawrence Hall of Science, also good for an hour or two. The campus bus service, Bear Transit, will take you to both places. There is much to see on the main campus as well (and if you like libraries the campus is wonderful, both the main Doe library and all the specialized libraries in the various academic buildings), and the shopping and other sights of Telegraph Avenue, on the south side of campus going as far as Dwight Way, is very much worth seeing. Also see Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue for a block or two east from Telegraph Avenue. (There's a complementary street on the north side of Campus, Euclid Avenue, but much less busy.) The city center, along Shattuck Avenue between Dwight Way and University Avenue is good to see, though less eclectic than Telegraph Avenue. A few blocks north on Shattuck Avenue is the well-known restaurant, Chez Panisse. You could spend the whole day in Berkeley, but if that does not fill your day then other interesting areas not far from Berkeley is the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland, along College Avenue from Claremont Avenue to Broadway, and also Piedmont Avenue, from MacArthur Boulevard to Pleasant Valley Avenue.


    21 minutes ago, oakridger said:

    Please make it simple and take a taxi or Uber/Lyft. I can't fathom why @GTJ is suggesting the convoluted bus idea!

    Actually, the bus service is reasonably direct and not at all convoluted. AC Transit provides very good transit bus service in this area, among the best in all of the United States. As an undergraduate I would regularly travel on the 51 along College Avenue, the 40 (now route 6) on Telegraph Avenue, and the F to and from San Francisco, as well as the on-campus bus service and the BART rapid transit service. (After having moved out of the dormitory and living off campus on Haste Street, corner of Telegraph Avenue, the former 65, since discontinued, would stop in front of my apartment building, and which I would also regularly use to BART to commute to my paid fellowship.) Using hired cars makes little sense if traveling within the urbanized area--unless one has money to burn--though it could be useful if heading into the hills, such as Tilden Regional Park, where the transit bus coverage is not so great. But with the real attraction being the university and the surrounding streets, use of the bus and walking is the best means of seeing this part of the East Bay.

  13. 9 hours ago, blue_water said:

    I would add more time to your expected travel time to allow for walking to and from the ADO terminals, wait times, traffic, and the other inevitable delays. Just to minimize the need to make that long transfer to Mahahual.

    In Playa del Carmen the ADO Terminal Turística is very close to the ferry dock, so those transfers can be relatively quick (being New Yorkers it is easier for us to get past the throngs crowding Quinta Avenida). Terminal Alterna is a bit further, so transfers do take a bit longer there. But Terminal Alterna is generally used only for the longer distance de paso buses (including buses to and from points south), while local travel to and from Cancún and Valladolid is primarily out of Terminal Turística. When we had traveled further inland, into southern and central México, our route from Playa del Carmen involved a connection at Cancún, so we left from Terminal Turística. On our return we came back from inland through Chetumal, so we arrived at Terminal Alterna. (On that trip, we had sailed from New York to Cozumel on NCL, returning several weeks later from Cozumel to New Orleans on Carnival, continuing onward from New Orleans home to New York on Amtrak.)


    Traffic delays are, of course, always a bit of an unknown.


    9 hours ago, blue_water said:

    Since you are not interested in a beach IM would be a wasted day. Cancun centro isn’t worth the time IMHO, but if you need something other than Cozumel that is probably it…

    We enjoy visiting the smaller towns and also cenotes to the south of PDC…We meet wonderful people that way!

    I was thinking that, too, but Isla Mujeres is a place I have not been. Its narrow city center street hold some intrigue, limited as they may be. Nor is Cancún a great place, though it is a city large enough to have some things of interest. So I am looking at Cancún as a possibility. The fundamental problem with Cancún is that it is a modern planned city, having no historical significance, and no inherent cultural importance. Built for supporting the hotel zone, it is arguably just a residential warehouse for those working at the hotels. I am not trying to be cruel, but I think that is really what the government intended with its development. Mérida is so much more interesting than Cancún. (In a similar vein, I remember the first time I was with my wife in Cabo San Lucas, who had theretofore been only to colonial cities in México, and she was so disappointed with the modern city without historic charm and a barren zócalo. Fortunately we had enough time while in port to get the local bus over to San José del Cabo and return.) I was thinking as well about some smaller places--for the reason you noted--so Tulum came to mind. But nothing is really sticking as an alternative place to visit. Cancún may end up being the place to visit by default.

  14. 23 hours ago, SirTomster said:

    I am leaning towards the bus option going up and taking the train down and wanted anyone's thoughts on this option.

    I don't think that there's any substantial and objective advantage of the order in which the train and the bus are used, and that it is guided more by personal preference, or perhaps the departure and return timings in Skagway, than anything else. You've enumerated good personal reasons for bus first, while others will have their own personal reasons for train first.

  15. On 11/12/2023 at 9:20 AM, havanadaydreaming said:

    My rideshare to EWR was $150ish including tip. I think bus was $41pp.

    Typically spending less than five dollars when I travel to Newark airport, or less than three dollars to either LaGuardia or JFK, all those amounts come across to me as way too much.


    New York City is a place with crowding, and knowing how to deal with crowding can be a bit of an art. Being knowledgeable, nimble, and assertive helps, while just following the crowd blindly can be both maddening and expensive.

  16. Shore Excursions Group is advertising the combined tour of both (1) Dzibanché and Kinichná and (2) Kohunlich that I would very much like. But I am wary because this is a third-party tour re-packager, and I don't know what company is the actual tour operator. It might be that they're using Native Choice or Toucan Tours, with neither of those tour operators actually intending to provide this tour (and thus substituting a less-expensive tour that I could have purchased directly). Anyone have any experience with Shore Excursions Group in Mahahual (Pto. Costa Maya)?

  17. 47 minutes ago, jean87510 said:

    With all the logistics involved in getting there and back, how much actual time do you want to spend there or is it just the joy of managing to get there and back? I speak from experience as we plan similarly to you and were looking at flights from cozumel to chichen Itza for next December.

    I would say a combination of the two. I am attracted to both urban history and development as well as transportation logistics. Indeed, my primary client has a working business relationship with Grupo ADO, and usage and familiarity with ADO bus services is helpful to my client's interests.

    • Like 1
  18. 10 hours ago, c-leg5 said:

    I applaud your sense of adventure especially as a cruise ship visitor and your apparent intensive research.

    A career of transportation planning is behind it all. My wife used two words to describe our honeymoon: Indiana Jones. Some (many) people traveling by cruise vessel like having everything being planned out for them, so that they need not do anything but relax. I am completely the opposite . . . travel requires extensive research and planning.


    10 hours ago, c-leg5 said:

    Depending on port hours, some cruise ships do include trips to Chichen Itza, though definitely more convenient from Progreso, but keep in mind they charter the land and sea transport and use a dedicated ferry.

    Does the cruise line (or more precisely, the tour operator engaged by the cruise line) really hire (charter) ferry transport? I can see the benefits of doing so, but that can be expensive, particularly if a given tour is not well-sold.


    10 hours ago, c-leg5 said:

    I am not sure where your next port of call is if you need to independently catch up with the ship, if embarkation there is even possible with restrictions and security at this time? * * * I see you are planning an equally intensive excursion in Mahahual is that your next or previous port?

    Worst case, of missing the sailing, is not especially harmful because the next port of call is Mahahual. An ADO or Mayab bus south from Playa del Carmen to Limones, Bacalar, or Chetumal, then a Caribe bus or collectivo to Mahahual. Having to pay for a night's lodging and dinner. Inconvenient but not fatal.


    In Mahahual we're looking to do just a packaged ruins tour inland, where we have not been. (we've been to Chetumal, but not the region between Chetumal and Escárcega). I would like to do the tour of Dzibanché and Kinichná, but Native Choice is not offering this 6-1/2 tour because it is "not feasible during your time in port." Their tour to Kohunlich, also 6-1/2 hours, is being offered but is "sold out." The 4-hour tour to Chacchoben is available, as is a 5-1/2 hour version that also includes a Mayan comida, but Chacchoben is less intriguing than the others. Toucan Tours offers similar tours, but their website has been down for a few months and I am not certain that they remain in business. Neither of the two tour companies have been responsive to e-mail inquires (not a good sign). I am not quite sure what to do here, whether to go ahead with what Native Choice is offering, taking a change to pick up a Toucan Tours offering when on-site (if they're still in business), or seeking out another tour operator.


    10 hours ago, c-leg5 said:

    For me a day trip to Isla Mujeres from Cozumel from a cruise ship is even less worthwhile but to each their own - the time at location would not justify the transport hassles.

    Agree as to the characterization--particularly as to its attraction as an effective extension of the beach atmosphere of the Cancún hotel zone (I'm not a beach person)--though it would be a new place to visit. But it, too, might be rushed. Considering the ferry logistics, effectively we have 6-1/4 hours in Playa del Carmen, from 12:45 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. It is 1 hour 10 minutes each way on the frequent ADO bus between Playa del Carmen and Cancún, another 15 minutes on the local transit bus, route R-6, from Avenida Tulum outside the ADO terminal to Pto. Juárez, and another 20 on the ferry crossing from Pto. Juárez to Isla Mujeres. With 1 hour 45 minutes actual travel time, plus an assumed a total of 45 to 60 minutes each way waiting for the two buses and the ferry, that's a total of 5 to 5-1/2 hours, leaving only 45 to 75 minutes at Isla Mujeres. Possible, but not all that useful.


    It seems like it may be best just to make simple a trip into Cancún, which would give us about 3 to 3-1/2 hour in the city center. Time enough for la comida (El Socio Naiz Taquería might be good), perhaps see a bit of the city (which has never struck me as a particularly cultural city . . . our last time there included a visit to Walmart). Alternatively, we could head to Tulum, but beyond the rather small area of ruins it is not a very large city with much to see.

  19. 5 hours ago, blue_water said:

    Your idea of going to Valladolid from Cozumel with that timeline is just a very aggressive one, IMHO, that’s all. But now that I know you’ve traveled the area extensively it’s just a matter of finding no delays, and having no problems at the checkpoints.

    It is that the city of Valladolid is clearly in sight, but it just seems to be out-of-reach. It is that teasing that has been frustrating and causing to investigate any alternatives I have not considered. Generally, I find central and southern parts of the country to be the most interesting, with the the Yucatán peninsula being both distinct and a bit removed and remote, so a cruise itinerary that includes these ports of call just adds to that tease. I believe that there are some tours from Cozumel to Chichen Itza (or am I mistaken and such tours are being offered only from Progreso?), and if that is the case, then it should also be possible to visit Valladolid. As to checkpoints, we never had any difficulty, even in Chiapas and its periodic unrest, or in Oaxaca following the violent teach protests . . . for the most part the checkpoints have been in the same annoyance category as topes, though there's always room for a new "first." In the end, it just may not be possible. But if the timing doesn't work, then we may just have to explore other parts nearby not before visited, even if not as intriguing.


    From a larger perspective the ferry schedules are relatively stable, but the operator of each trip varies from day-to-day. Ultramar has posted its January 2024, which continues the same pattern from December 2023, and while Winjet has not posted its schedule beyond December, it is clear that it will fill in the gaps. So even if schedules are reversed, and Ultramar is not operating at a specific time on a particular day, then Winjet will operate at that time instead. The variable timing of the crossing leads me to conclude that the 7:00 p.m. crossing is the last reliable trip for a 9:00 p.m. sailing (and even with this I have concern with that crossing possibly being oversubscribed by all the other returning cruise vessel passengers). The alternating schedule of odd days and even days is not unique to this service, and the Alaska Marine Highway and BC Ferries both use a similar schemes for some of their ferry services.

  20. 8 hours ago, c-leg5 said:

    Is this a serious inquiry? What is your goal in Valladolid and how long do you need?

    I don't understand the question of seriousness. The goal is to visit the city center, and I would prefer at least two hours, if not longer.


    4 hours ago, blue_water said:

    This is a non-starter IMHO…Your Ultramar ferry times are  incorrect, Winjet times are also different…

    I don't understand the meaning of "non-starter." Is that a way of saying that there do not exist any practicable alternatives? That may end up being true. Why do you say that Ultramar and Winjet ferry times are incorrect? In January 2024, on odd days, Ultramar should be departing Cozumel on the even hours, and departing Playa on the odd hours, while Winjet should be departing Cozumel on the odd hours, and departing Playa on the even hours (the reverse is true on even days in January 2024). It is about a 45 minute crossing.


    4 hours ago, blue_water said:

    ADO schedules are pretty reliable and it is a 2 - 2.5 hr drive.

    Yes, driving overland it should be less than two hours for the 142 km (88 miles). The ADO timetable is 3 hours 5 minutes by regular ADO motorcoach, and 2 hours 30 minutes by ADO Conecta Sprinter van. (The Sprinter van might be a bit quicker, but the regular motorcoach is more comfortable.) Also don't forget about the time zone change, with the state of Quintana Roo on eastern time and the state of Yucatán on central time. However, it is also the scheduled departure that are critical for planning, which are enumerated for the intended travel date in my original post, and not just the travel times. The schedules just don't seem to work out right.


    8 hours ago, c-leg5 said:

    Maybe check out the company that used to offer private charter flights to Chichen Itza to see if they can customize! Which pier are you docking at?


    4 hours ago, blue_water said:

    You can check into flights between Coz and Valladolid or PDC and Valladolid, but I see flights only between CUN and TQO…perhaps a charter as c-leg5 mentioned?

    I might have mentioned that we cannot fly. Chichen Itza International Airport, near Valladolid, has no scheduled flights. With Cancún International Airport once would still have to get the ADO bus from Playa del Carmen to that airport, and arriving at Tulum International Airport would bring us no closer to Valladolid than Playa del Carmen. I suppose one could charter an airplane to fly from Cozumel International Airport to Chichen Itza, though I imagine it would be so expensive for just two people as to push it into the realm of impracticability. Then there's the matter of getting to and from the airports. We expect to dock at Muelle Punta Langosta (MSC vessel), which is just a few blocks and a short walk to the ferry pier, though the port authorities do periodically change plans. A good creative alternative, but seemingly not practicable.


    4 hours ago, blue_water said:

    I’d suggest returning for a land vacation in Merida and visiting Valladolid, Izamal and other areas of Yucatán state at your leisure…

    We have done so already. However, Valladolid is one of two remaining sizable city we have not visited, and thus its attraction to us. (We had considered Valladolid several years ago as a wedding venue, but ultimately decided instead on Oaxaca de Juárez.) Among other places we have been to already on the Yucatán peninsula are Mérida, Progreso, Cancún (city center, not hotel zone), Playa del Carmen, San Miguel de Cozumel, Chetumal, and Belize City (as well as many other places in Belize and Guatemala that might arguably be part of the Yucatán peninsula). The other city on the Yucatán peninsula we remain anxious to visit is Campeche, which we had considered visiting before--and technically we have while asleep on an overnight bus from Mérida to Villahermosa--but ultimately electing to travel from Palenque through the remote jungles in the Petén of Guatemala and Belize, and passing through Chetumal. Overland travel to this part of México can be arduous from New York, requiring train and/or bus travel from New York to Houston or Dallas, then either Greyhound Lines or Turimex Internacional through Texas and over the border, and ADO the rest of the way (via Puebla and/or Veracruz). But we will be this MSC vessel in January--seemingly the only cruise itinerary in all of 2024 (excluding world cruises) from New York visiting México--and so it would be fabulous if an excursion to Valladolid could be had as part of the upcoming trip. Valladolid is a real city with historical existence (including having until relatively recently narrow-gauge mixed passenger train service to and from Mérida)--as opposed to the modern developments in places like San Miguel de Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, and Cancún whose economies depend on norteamericanos--and thus a place worthy of visitation and exploration. If getting there turns out to be impracticable, we might just head up to Cancún on the ADO bus, and get the ferry from Puerto Juárez to Isla Mujeres, though that would be much more mundane. As to points south of Playa del Carmen, our subsequent port is at Mahahual, on the Costa Maya, so we're not really seeking to head south from Cozumel.

  21. We had been hoping to visit Valladolid while in San Miguel de Cozumel on Friday, January 19, 2024, from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. The problem is that, even with 10 hours in port, there does not appear to be enough time for the Ultramar/Winjet ferry and ADO bus.


    With an 11:00 a.m. port arrival, the earliest ferry from Cozumel would be the Ultramar ferry at 12:00 noon, arriving in Playa del Carmen at 12:45 p.m. ADO has a departure from close-by Terminal Turística at 1:30 p.m. destined for Tizimín, with an arrival in Valladolid at 3:35 p.m. For the return, we would need to be on Ultramar ferry from Playa del Carmen at 7:00 p.m., so that we would be back in Cozumel at 7:45 p.m. and the cruise vessel’s sailing at 9:00 p.m. That means that we would have to board the ADO Conecta bus in Valladolid at 3:00 p.m. (a de paso bus originating at Tizimín) that returns to Terminal Turística at 6:30 p.m. In other words, we would have to return from Valladolid 35 minutes prior to our arrival in Valladolid. Even if we wanted to cut it close, and get the Winjet ferry from Playa del Carmen at 8:00 p.m. (and relying on it to be on-time to make it from the ferry to the cruise vessel in 15 minutes), that would mean that we would have to board the ADO Conecta bus in Valladolid at 4:00 p.m. (a locally-originating bus) that returns to Terminal Turística at 7:30 p.m. That would give us only 25 minutes in Valladolid.


    Overland travel time between Playa del Carmen and Valladolid is 2 hours. With 6-1/4 hours in Playa del Carmen (from 12:45 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.), that should, at least in theory, allow us a 2-1/4 visit to Valladolid. Are there any practicable alternatives to ADO for visiting Valladolid from Playa del Carmen?

  22. We’re seeking to visit Dzibanché and Kinichná while we’re in Mahahual (“Pto. Costa Maya”) on Saturday, January 20, 2024, from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Our understanding is that there are two independent tour operators, Turismo Chacchoben, S. de R.L. de C.V. (“Native Choice”), and El Tucan de Costa Maya S.A de C.V. (“Toucan Tours”); most other businesses offering tours are merely repackaging these tours. Both appear, generally, to offer similar, if not identical, tours of 6-1/2 hours duration at comparable prices.


    Attempts to book with Native Choice have been met with the response that there is not enough time while in port to complete the tour. It is not clear to me why 10 hours in port is insufficient to complete a 6-1/2 hour tour. Written inquiry to Native Choice, written in Spanish, has had no response. Anyone with insights as to this company or its Dzibanché and Kinichná tour offering?


    Attempts to book with Toucan Tours have been met with an inoperable website, one that appears to have been down for several months this year. While the Facebook page is up, an inquiry on that forum, written in Spanish, has had only an automatic response (“¡Hola! Gracias por ponerte en contacto con nosotros. Recibimos tu mensaje y agradecemos tu interés. En unos momentos nuestro agente se comunicara con usted.”), with nothing substantive even after more than a few “moments.” Anyone with insights as to this company remaining in business?


    Might anyone have practicable alternatives for arranging a visit to Dzibanché and Kinichná? Ideally, we would have liked to include a visit to Kohunlich, but there might not be enough time to do that.

  23. 6 hours ago, disneyochem said:

    You could also store your luggage in SF, explore and then go to Emeryville.

    Years ago Amtrak maintained a real station within the East Bay (Transbay) Terminal in San Francisco. On the lower level, in the back, Amtrak was next to the Trailways station. With ticket agent and baggage checking (or leave hand baggage there for a fee), inside waiting area, bus boarding in back on Natoma Street. There had been issues with transients in the Amtrak-Trailways station at the terminal, but what exists now is more disgraceful as Amtrak passengers are so mistreated in San Francisco. No facilities provided for passengers or their baggage. Thus, the conundrum of what to do with one's baggage where the train is not scheduled to depart until late evening. Absent going back-and-forth across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, one needs baggage storage in San Francisco to spend the day in the City (but I don't know of any baggage storage service convenient to Amtrak's San Francisco bus stop location), or else store baggage in Emeryville and spend the day in the East Bay.

  24. 19 hours ago, kayehall said:

    Celebrity has "white Pass Railway and Klondike Highway Journey". The description is....step back in time as you board a vintage car and retrace the original route up to Yukon's White Pass Summitt. Upon arrival at the summitt, you will board a motorcoach for a narrated tour back to Skagway. Tour is 3hr/15min.

    Typical bad copy from marketing people.(1) While the railroad does have a few vintage cars, most cars used for passenger service are modern, built between 1992 and 2020. Traditional designs were used in their manufacture, but most are not vintage cars. (2) The original route is not used. The photograph below, at "Gulch," shows an abandoned trestle on the original route, and a passenger train on the modern route. (3) No one will depart the train at White Pass station. No buses will travel to White Pass station. This excursion goes to Fraser, where passengers will transfer between train and bus (or vice versa). Train ride is 1 hour 30 minutes. Transfer between train and bus, plus immigration and customs inspection, will take 15 to 30 minutes. Bus ride is as quick as one hour, but some stops will probably extend the journey. Anything received from marketing or sales people should be treated as suspect. Best to rely on real information from operating people.


    The Black Friday special seems to be the best value on pricing. If price is a substantial concern, and you just want a "train ride," then go for the shorter journey. If you're a railfan, you will want to do the longer journey, regardless of price.



  25. And to expand even further on postings. 3 and 6, not only is the tunnel shared by motor vehicles and trains, but the tunnel is only one land wide, and when not in use by trains, it can handle motor vehicle traffic in only one direction. Accordingly, the tunnel is available--at most--for only 15 minutes each hour. There is a published timetable for using the tunnel by motor vehicle. Plan your trip around the timetable.


    Best solution: use a bus or a train to get to and from Whittier. There's two train departures from downtown Anchorage, the first being a regularly scheduled train departing at 9:45 a.m., arriving at 12:05 p.m., with tickets sold by the Alaska Railroad; the second being a train chartered by Holland America Line departing at 12:45 p.m., arriving at 3:35 p.m., with tickets sold by Holland America Line. There's a bus departure from downtown Anchorage departing at 3:00 p.m., arriving at 4:45 p.m., operated as the "Park Connection" with tickets sold by Alaska Tour & Travel. There's a bus departure from downtown Anchorage at 1:00 p.m., from the Anchorage airport departing at 2:00 p.m., arriving at 3:45 p.m., operating as, with tickets sold by,  "Alaska Cruise Transportation." Of course, Holland America Line has its own bus transportation arrangements from the Anchorage airport.

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