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Everything posted by franski

  1. The biggest surprise for me when booking a trip to Munich (and trying to MISS Oktoberfest) was the fact that Octoberfest starts in September!! 😲 We were there mid-September and just missed the opening (and the increase in hotel rates...) Fran
  2. For Bangkok - we stayed in the Theatre Residence. It is a bit further from the airport - and not easy to find for the average taxi driver - but we arranged arrival and departure transfers through the hotel so it worked out great. The restaurant (attached to the hotel) is across the road on the river -so great night time views of the palace. It has a great pool in the courtyard that we enjoyed on our last afternoon there (our friends went to get a massage...) The hotel is close to the palace - and we booked it for the proximity - but by the time we got to Bangkok we were completely templed out so decided to skip it. Instead, we booked a tour through Tours by Locals and went to the floating market & railway market. Our guide was Angela - and she was awesome. The markets are close to 2 hours out of town, but (IMHO) worth the trip. We also went to see the reclining Buddha while we were there. Bangkok was a great place to stop on the way home. BTW - not sure if you have your flights yet, but we booked Toronto to Taipei direct with EVA air and it was a great flight. We then went from Taipei to Hanoi - and the trip was quite seamless (although it was VERY long...) Fran
  3. That surprised us when we were in Peru... Fran
  4. We did this in the fall of 2022... and extended over into Poland. We did not feel any anxiety over travelling there (we were in both Krakow & Warsaw - so fairly close to the Ukraine...). It was interesting to speak with people living in Poland. The war has impacted tourism - so they were very happy to have us visit!! We did learn that there are many people who do support the Russian offensive, so we were careful when discussing the situation... Fran
  5. We did Transylvania with Scenic about 18 months ago. We found some of the optionals more strenuous than expected. In fact, when I asked about one, I was assured it was a "gentle incline" - but there was nothing "gentle" about it!! Worth the climb, but I have learned that I need to expect the worst - and be happy if it isn't as rough as I feared it might be. Fran
  6. We have travelled with AMA, Avalon, Uniworld, Scenic, Emerald and Viking. As I mentioned before, DH & I feel there are more similarities than differences. We have travelled some rivers twice (Seine, Rhine, Danube between Nuremburg & Bucharest...). We just love river cruising - and look for different experiences. For example, our 1st river cruise was with Uniworld on the Seine. We re-sailed the Seine with Avalon - and had different stops... so - same river, different vacation. The VERY best cruise director we ever had was on Scenic - when we did a Tulip Time cruise with them. Conversely, the worst one we had was also on Scenic. Local tours guides are usually quite good with all lines, but sometimes you get a dud. Again - no control over this. We have only done one AMA cruise. It was OK, but not phenomenal. We are booked on our 2nd with them this May --> on the Douro. I went looking for dates, then prices - and compared the 2 companies that had what I was looking for. AMA is a bit more money, but we are getting extra days on our pre & post-cruise portions. Just happy to be on the rivers... Fran
  7. We have travelled with most of the main companies, and I do believe that there are more similarities than differences. You have no control over the cruise manager (and he/she can have a huge impact on the cruise) or on the kitchen staff. I would suggest you decide where you want to travel, then what time of year. Take a look at all of the different companies, and take a look at what your options are. Are specific dates important? Do you have any flexibility? Is cost important? Or, it is secondary to dates & itinerary? Is there something that you *really* want to see - that is not available on one of your short-listed cruises? If you can narrow it down to a couple of different cruises - and want opinions on those cruises - come back and ask specific questions. Hope that helps. Fran
  8. We are actually doing the Paris extension pre-cruise - and then over to the Moselle and cruising up to Amsterdam. Will try to post pics. Fran
  9. Daisi - a bit off topic, but notice you have booked the Canals, Vineyards & Castles itinerary next year. I have this booked with a girlfriend - going this June. Which direction are you travelling?? Fran
  10. It may have been me that made that recommendation... It is our "go to" place anytime we are in Budapest. Traditional Hungarian food... So good. We make sure we eat there anytime we are in Budapest (have been there 4 times at start or end of river cruises.... and would love to go back again!!). You really do need reservations as it is quite busy. It is a small place - and the tables are quite close together - but we have met some interesting people since the tables are so close together. Fran
  11. Maybe yes, or maybe no... Sometimes Avalon books a "host hotel" - and passengers may be transferred there before and/or after the cruise while the ship is being cleaned. If they do this, they usually have a large room with refreshments, and store your luggage on site. Fran
  12. The front desk can often change bills for coins if you ask... Fran
  13. I went back and reviewed their latest information... They are now saying "transfers to the ship"... so not sure. When we have gone in early and requested transfers, the trip started with a night (or nights) in a hotel before we boarded the ship. We stay in the host hotel - so our ask has been for the included transfer - just a couple of days early. We did this last February when we went to Vietnam... Emerald met us at the airport as we were staying an extra 3 nights in the hotel where our tour started. If a pre-cruise stay is not included in your package, they may not provide transfers. It does not hurt to call and ask however. They may provide for a cost - or give you the name of the local company that they use. Depending on the city, I am sure there are people here who can help you with arranging transfers. Fran
  14. We are fairly well travelled - and have clocked up quite a number of river cruises. I am always honest if asked. I have not gotten the sense that I am perceived as "boasting" when I mention the number we have taken - as people often ask how many times we have cruised the rivers. Rather, people have usually gone on to ask my favourite line, my favourite itinerary etc. Or ask specific questions about an itinerary they are interested in. Just as I would (and do) if I meet people who have travelled places I have yet to visit. Is it because river cruising is considered an expensive way to travel? I almost always book a sale - and travel lowest category. I am also not brand loyal... and when people find out I have travelled with different companies, there are often questions about the differences. If people ask about my cruising history, I will tell them. If it is considered "boasting", and is unpleasant for them, they can always sit at another table from that point on. Fran
  15. Almost always book Aquarium class... Only difference was 1) in China - where we booked the last cabin, and 2) in Vietnam, as I wasn't sure if I could manage the heat - and felt having a window to look out of might make things a little less disappointing if I needed to spend extra time on board. One cruise we booked lowest category - and we were upgraded to a French balcony. I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would (went in early October - so still lots of light...). I needed to ensure the curtains were closed if I was wandering around the cabin partially dressed.😲 Not an issue with the smaller window... Fran
  16. HaHa... Yes - it is identified as the Japanese foot bridge - that Money constructed. Fran
  17. I actually responded to your other post. There is a published difference of 15 sq feet between these two cabins. Aquarium cabin = 150 sq feet... French Balcony = 135 sq feet. Does the bulkhead equal 15 sq feet?? Not sure... The biggest difference might be in the available window (upper window vs sliding glass door)... as well as the cost difference to upgrade. I don't know of any other cruise line that has a balcony cabin with less *published* space that an entry level cabin. My comment was made to encourage the original poster to look closely at the cabin sizes (if size is important) - especially given that they are looking to compare liens. Fran
  18. The Viking website identifies that the Aquarium class rooms are 150 sq ft - while the French Balcony rooms are 135 sq feet. You do get a full glass "wall" with the French Balcony, but not sure losing the bulkhead results in more (ie: equal) space. The extra window size is important for some - but the extra cost isn't worth it for many. Lots of people don't look at cabin sizes before they book... and if size is important, then it is worth taking some time to look at details like this. Fran
  19. Completely agree... We were there early - and I also have a shot of the Japanese bridge with no one on it!! Fran
  20. With Emerald, airport transfers are included - even if you don't book air with them. AND - they will provide a transfer even if you go in a few days early. You have to ask for that, but they will provide a transfer. Fran
  21. Funny you should mention Les Andelys... We asked our cruise director about the hike up to Chateau Gaillard - and was told it was a gentle 15 minute walk. So - we chose that excursion. We made the hike - and it was worth it - but there was nothing gentle about that hike!! Fran
  22. I second the suggestion about the Orangerie... Giverney is magical - but then you can go to the Orangerie and see Monet's canvasses of the Water Lilies. I had no appreciation of impressionist art until I saw the Water Lilies. Fran
  23. We have cruised - multiple times - with both Emerald and Viking. We actually did the Rhine with Emerald... My thoughts. There is no right or wrong answer here. Our trip with Emerald started off on a rough note as my DH's luggage didn't arrive with him!! But the cruise director went over & above to get the tardy piece of luggage to us before we left Cologne (so only a couple of days that he had to live with limited clothing...) Emerald staff washed his clothes each evening for him - free of charge. That being said, you have no control over the cruise director - or the kitchen staff - so making decisions based on food, wine or staff may not be the best qualifier IMHO. The things I would look at are size of rooms (if you go with Viking, be aware that the French balcony cabins are actually smaller than the lowest category...), itinerary and tours (both included and optional). You could get some cooler weather in late October - but you might not. Gratuities are included with Emerald - as well as airport transfers even if you don't purchase air with them, and arrive in ahead of the tour. You have to ask for the transfer, but they will give it to you. Docking locations? Unless it is a port that has a dedicated Viking dock (and some do...) the docking location is determined by the harbor master (not sure if this is the correct title...). So - unless there is something you really want to see that is only on one of the tours - or there is a huge cost differential (although you have indicated there is not...), I would go with the one that best meets your dates. If that is Viking, then rest assured you have made a good (and informed) choice. Fran
  24. We have sailed both - a couple of times. Viking often asks for full payment months in advance. Emerald does not - unless you go with one of their "super early bird" special fares. Emerald includes gratuities - and airport transfers (even if you book your air on your own, and/or come in a day or two ahead). Viking does not include gratuities - and only includes airport transfers if you book air through them. Although, you can book transfers with them if you wish. Two of the biggest details that can affect your cruise (IMHO) are the cruise manager - and the kitchen crew --> neither of which you have any control over. We have had good experiences with both companies. I would look closely at the itineraries. Are the stops the same? What time of day are you in port? (ie: if you arrive and leave early, will the markets even be open?) Not sure which river you are looking at, but look at where the boat is docked. For example, in Budapest, you can walk off the boat and most likely hit a market on your own. In Vienna and Nuremburg, you will need some type of transport to the city centre. Do you have one stop like this? Or are there many? I would travel with either company again - if the details work out. One thing to note, if you book Viking, the hallways on the top 2 cabin decks are off centre. This is to allow for the space required with a full balcony. French balcony rooms on Viking are smaller than the lower deck Aquarium class cabins... So look at cabin sizes with both lines. If you are doing a Christmas market cruise, do you think you need a balcony (given the fact that it will be cold, and sunset is quite early). just as an fyi. Not sure if this helps... Fran
  25. Unfortunately, one thing you have no control over is the kitchen. The chef often brings his own crew - and they play to their strengths. One cruise we were on had nothing for dessert that wasn't ice cream or pudding based - so obviously there was no pastry chef on board!! The food on our one & only AMA cruise to date was ok - but nothing to write home about. I am not holding out any hope for our cruise in May - but I don't book it for the food. The best food we have had was on our trip to Russia. I had prepared my DH with the warning that it might not be up to what we had experienced in Europe (as per the caveat on the Uniworld website) but it was absolutely amazing. The Elba with Viking was also memorable - as was the Seine with Uniworld (our 1st cruise). On our Scenic cruise in 2022, it was very memorable for the fact that the kitchen went over and above to address my food intolerances. Even baked a dairy free birthday cake for me! Even if the food isn't "the best", I have found that the staff often make the experience memorable. Fran
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