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ShopperfiendTO

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Everything posted by ShopperfiendTO

  1. You're actually travelling near the middle of November into the end of November. Weather-wise, it will likely be fine in the Athens area until you pass the toe of the boot (Italy), but a bit touch-and-go as you head further north and west, higher chance of rain. You definitely should consider bringing layers and raincoats. Obviously sunset comes sooner in the early evening as well. Crowd-wise, it will be quiet. We were on a cruise that stopped in early November and the quaint towns (Eze, Monaco, Saint Paul de Vence) were very quiet. The larger cities (Marseille, Florence, Barcelona) were fine. As it looks like you're from the Northeast, the weather should be easy for you to handle 😎
  2. We were on an R-ship this past summer. IMHO there have not been improvements in the GDR, but we don't think the quality has dropped very much if at all. There is definitely less variety in the GDR menu for both lunch and for dinner, but the eliminated items seem to be the "middle-of-the-road" options so the reduction isn't really that bad. There are definitely repeaters almost every day, for example lobster bisque (which was very nice even without the brandy :)), jumbo prawns and caesar saled, but as someone mentioned, I think it allows you to save it for another day. We didn't feel that the changes in the dinner menu materially affected our enjoyment of the cruise and was similar to our past cruises. However, we weren't a big fan of the lunch menus when the GDR was open (it was closed for a couple of our port days, but wasn't too bad for us as we weren't planning to return to the ship early those days anyway). Lunch is the GDR seemed to be a set menu for the entire cruise with "daily specials" along the right column. The specials were pretty close to what we would have chosen for as our lunch entree for our past cruises so it was a small disappointment but nothing to raise an alarm about. Also, if we're being nit-picky, I feel the pastries, in particular the flaky pastries like the chocolate croissants, are not as flaky as they were. They were good but they weren't fantastic like on our last cruise. The cakes and tartines are still very good though. We enjoyed our meals on this cruise as much as we did our last couple of O cruises. Yes there were changes but they did not materially affect our experience.
  3. When we were on board recently, there were lots of announcements to please complete the survey and where you could go to get help if you were having problems accessing it, so it wasn't like a thing that they were trying to keep secret. There was also a contest for a random draw of I think $100 OBC to be applied on the current cruise so it seems that they were trying to induce submissions. I didn't really notice any fewer questions being asked. We completed it on our tablets without issue. I think it might be more helpful for O for ease of reading the comments as well because let's be honest, not everyone writes as legibly as they probably think they do. I think the only real flaw of using this system is that we are unable to provide comments on the last night and disembarkation experience if something substantial happened that warranted a comment, but I suppose that this is a small and usually uneventful gap and one can send a separate email on that if one feels the need to tell O about it.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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?
  10. 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.
  11. 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).
  12. 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! 🙂
  13. 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?
  14. 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?
  15. 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!
  16. 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!
  17. There was a healthy taxi stand without much of a wait when we disembarked on the later side of the disembarkation process. Unfortunately for us, we caught a grumpy driver who was hoping for a fare to Heathrow when we just wanted to get to the train station but we chalk this up to our bad luck.
  18. Good to know, thanks. 3 hours is a bit short though. How much would it be for a full day excursion, say 6 hour wait? Actually, how much would it be to take a taxi from the port in Vigo to Santiago and grabbing a different taxi from Santiago back to the port (i.e., two completely separate taxi rides)? Would it be more than 100 Euros each direction?
  19. Just curious, I assume that the taxis would take the toll roads, so would the tolls be extra or are they included in the excursion rate?
  20. This is great information: There are two functioning train stations in Vigo that both go to Santiago with Urziaz being the faster, generally more frequent station (but is uphill and slightly further away from the port). Just to add to this that the Santiago train station is about 1 km or so away from the old town area where the Cathedral is located so there's that to consider as well (gradual incline from train station to old town).
  21. Is the flight you're getting on at BCN going over the Atlantic Ocean or is it going somewhere else in Europe first, such as CDG, AMS, LHR (maybe no longer in June 2019?), FRA? If it is a flight getting you to a connecting flight in EU, then it's a domestic flight and you have more time to check in before the gate closes. The cab ride from the Barcelona cruise port to BCN is about a half hour in good traffic. If you're connecting in Europe, you are at the edge of the comfort zone - assuming you're mobile - but you are going to need to take a private transfer and will have an early morning and a quick breakfast. If it's going over the Atlantic, I'd take another flight.
  22. On our Samba Serenade cruise we made it to Rio Grande on an R ship. IMO you didn't miss much, very little tourist infrastructure but perhaps they are improving with the stops that O/NCL seems to always make on this routing. We made it to La Gomera (bit of a scare getting out however but we did make it) on another R ship and it was the highlight of our Canary Islands cruise. I hope you do make it there eventually, easier to do from England than North America! As for OP, yes, we've missed a handful of ports (sailed only O and Az and only ports missed have been on O, though we've taken twice the number of O cruises), the most recent being to Waterford last year which was due to weather. Not on our must-see list so we weren't too fussed over it. I think if you go on longer cruises (e.g., say over 14 night), you're going to hit statistics where it is going to be more likely that you're going to have a missed port due to a medical health issue/emergency.
  23. Not sure if there is a shuttle for Messina port, but even if there is one, it won't be taking you to Taormina.
  24. Just because you weren't stopped doesn't mean that it's not required. Car rental agencies probably don't ask to see the IDP because it's not their problem that you can't drive the car that you rented from them. On our recent trip to Spain, we rented our car and got our IDP for it. The car rental company didn't ask to see the IDP but we know that it is required for Spain. We didn't want to risk the headaches, fines and penalties that might apply if we were stopped randomly and checked and did not have it on us. IMHO the IDP is a rip-off in that it is valid for only a year rather than until the driver's licence expires (because it's really just translating your driver's licence in a uniform manner for the foreign country to understand), but what can you do. As to OP's issue, the son has an IDP; he just doesn't have it on him (yet). I'd send it electronically and courier to follow-up. Hopefully it is a non-issue for the time he has only the electronic copy. Edit: It seems that the original copy of the IDP is required by car rental agencies: https://www.japan-experience.com/car-rental/common-questions/driving-licence https://www.otsinternational.jp/otsrentacar/en/guide/license/
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