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Everything posted by ShopperfiendTO

  1. It is true that there are no guarantees, but it's a good data point to have! Interestingly enough, a Silversea ship was also in port but was docked at the Lieutenant Schmidt Embankment on the other bank of the river. A Celebrity ship was also in port but must have been docked at the outer port. Having said that, we basically had he same tour itinerary as the group from that ship for both days there so I don't think location really matters if you're going on a group tour with a blanket visa.
  2. For this cruise it was at the English Embankment, close to downtown, probably the best location possible for a cruise ship. While the dock is close to downtown, it is still a bit of a walk to the Hermitage though not too bad. That said, to walk to the Hermitage on your own you will need a visa from the Russian government to leave the ship and not sure the cost of a "free-to-roam" visa is worth it if you're visiting by cruise ship for just a few days. You cannot leave the customs/immigration area of the port without a visa of some sort.
  3. Thanks for posting, really appreciate your observations! That you, as a past experienced cuisine-geared O cruiser, feel the food quality seems to be slipping is disappointing and saddening to hear. We will be on an R class ship (not Sirena though) later this summer and will be able to see for ourselves how the food is compared to the past. I really hope it hasn't sunk that much or low. On the other hand, I have read some cruisers have observed that Sirena's food quailty isn't up to the standards as the other R ships, so perhaps it's isolated to just Sirena? Roughly, our experience regarding the food quality on our last 3 O cruises (all on R ships; we've been all of the R ships except Sirena) were mediocre, then excellent, and the last one was good/very good. There was a decent length of time that passed between the mediocre experience and the excellent experience because, like you, we value the cuisine quality on our cruises and didn't feel going on a cruise then was a good value for us, so it was a great surprise that when we eventually took another O cruise that the cuisine for that cruise was excellent. However, the one after that was "just" good/very good, so it has slipped somewhat again and here we are now giving O another go. If this cruise falls below very good, we will probably look at other cruise lines. We don't need 7 options, but we need the 5 options to be actual options and not 2 real options surrounded by 3 pseudo options, with the accompanying quality of course. IMHO, the *quality* of the food should should not depend on which ship (O class or R class) one is on; obviously I can understand that the variety and choices are greater on the O ship and they should be, but the quality of a menu item should be close across the line; a chop in Polo should be close not matter which R or O ship one is on. I also am alarmed that the GDR has been closed on more days than not. Previously, our experience was that it was closed only at ports where most passengers were expected to be on full day excursions (for example, for Civitavacchia, Livorno and any of the ports for Berlin) as coming back for lunch would be too time-consuming.
  4. On our O stop at Greenock a couple of years ago, there was no shuttle to Glasgow. You had to take a train. The train station is about a 15-20 minute walk from the port, mostly level, and you could cut through the mall if you wanted to walk by the "main" square in the town which is close to the train station.
  5. Azamara is getting you to the city in the port description - Motril. Many cruise lines advertise the ideal city for the port (e.g., Civitavecchia (Rome)) but it's really the port that they would/should offer a free shuttle for you to get to the city centre of if the ship doesn't dock or anchor right there. For example, for Buenos Aires, the port is industrial and a bit far from the central area of BsAs so there is a free shuttle for you to a convenient starting off point. Also, if you're in Dubrovnik and dock instead of tender directly into the old town, they really should be offering a free shuttle to the old town, which I understand Azamara does. I would not expect Azamara to be offering a free shuttle from Motril to Granada, like they (reasonably) would not from Santos to Sao Paolo or from Greenock to Glasgow. One hour away is a reasonable distance to feature the ideal city for the port; sometimes there is a stop at Malaga and they put (Granada) in brackets which while technically possible is a bit of a stretch, like for one of the German ports and listing Berlin.
  6. Definitely the obstructed oceanviews are the smallest cabins on the R ships, at 143 sq. ft. These are the lowest category oceanview cabins though. All of the other oceanview cabins are at least the same size as an inside, and I am guessing going from an obstructed to a small porthole with noticeably more space isn't that much of a price premium?
  7. I think this is the best answer to the question on wine selection. There is a set roster of 2 reds and 2 whites for each day but if you really don't like any of the wines on the roster for that day, they will try to accommodate you but no guarantees and sometimes they do run out of wines mid-cruise (e.g., you really like one type and keep asking for it, they may run out and you will have to settle for something else). And the roster isn't fixed and rotation isn't always evenly spaced out (for example, Red 1 might appear on day 2, 5 & 8, Red 2 might appear on day 2, 6 & 9 and White 1 might appear on day 2, 5 & 9 and White 2 might appear on just day 2 & 7). I think objectively, the included wines are acceptable but nothing great, most in the $10-$20CDN range per bottle for the ones that are sold in Ontario. Frankly there were some really bad wines when we were on but luckily there were more suitable alternatives that we were able to obtain instead. Having said that most were acceptable and as stated above, they will try to accommodate if you really don't like any of the wines on the roster that day.
  8. I would agree with your characterization that up-front "tipping" is more of a bribe than a tip. However, your next sentence doesn't make sense. Of course you won't see this being done on Azamara, because on Azamara you have to pay to gain entry into them, unlike on Oceania and Silversea where the specialties are free and a certain number are included with the cruise, but extra access is more limited. Azamara just makes it more honest in that you don't have to try to grease any palms to get more access to the specialties, but you still have to pay just to eat at a specialty restaurant since none are included in the fare (unless you're in a suite).
  9. There was no shuttle in Punta Del Este when we were there, and to be honest, if there was one, not sure where it would take you anyway? It's more of a walk-about resort town. Yes, it is a bit of a walk (but not hard) from the tender to the beach with the hand sculpture. The thing I remember most from this port are the big seals that were laying underneath the boardwalk! 🙂
  10. I am guessing the question being asked is the total budget for an ATW (e.g., excursions, beverages, souvenirs, meals ashore), not just for the cabin. The good thing is that on most ATWs, I think the tips are included, not just on O?
  11. Thanks for your response. I should clarify that the mainstream legacy airlines (e.g., Air Canada and Air France) seem to have two types of "discount" economy fares, one that includes one piece of checked luggage and one that does not include checked luggage so the same airline has these two types of fare conditions. Which type of economy fare does O book for passengers?
  12. Hi, It's pretty standard now to have to pay extra to check in luggage on a domestic flight. It seems that many airlines have extended this practice to transoceanic flights as well, as many mainstream legacy airlines now have a "barebones" economy non-refundable fare for international flights where in addition to having absolutely no flexibility to change flights even for a fee, you also have to pay extra to check in luggage. For those who have used O's air recently for flights across the ocean, do you know what fare you were booked on and was one piece of checked luggage per passenger included in the air or was that an extra cost to you? This might be a further factor in deciding whether to take the air credit instead. Thanks!
  13. The port, while quite close to the city, is still in a pretty isolated area and it would be disappointing if they did not provide shuttles. On our cruise with Oceania a few years back, a shuttle bus was provided. It stopped near the General San Martin Plaza (a park, near Retiro train station), on the south/east side of the park. Not sure if you consider that to be in the "city centre" but it was convenient enough for us. The bright side is that if shuttles are not provided, taxi fare would be quite inexpensive compared to North America, although you have to be careful/alert somewhat not to be scammed by routing and/or fare charge/change. Try to have smaller bills so that you don't get back large value counterfeit bills as change. Buenos Aires was super interesting, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
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