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John Bull

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About John Bull

  • Rank
    10,000+ Club

About Me

  • Location
    Lee-on-the-Solent, England
  • Interests
    vintage & classic vehicles
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Voyages of Discovery
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call

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  1. At least you can console yourself that, unlike most motorways in Spain, there was no toll on this one from Cadiz to Algeciras. That's because it was financed by a grant from the European Union, or more accurately from the big 4 contributors - Germany, France, the UK and Italy. You're welcome, no need to thank me personally. That motorway which we paid for was virtually empty when I used it a few years ago, yet the unsubsidised motorways in the UK are overloaded with traffic and being up-graded at vast expense to the UK tax-payer. That's just one little clue as to why the UK is ending its membership of this expensive club. Roll on 31st January JB
  2. Because your air tickets have already been bought this probably won't work, but you could've flown to Paris and joined the ship in Le Havre, giving you more time in Paris. Can the outbound tickets be changed to Paris without a huge penalty? Or you can still work something with Bruges and / or Rotterdam by train - leave the ship in Bruges (Zeebrugge) and return to the ship on its first or second day in Rotterdam, or for just an afternoon & evening and next morning in Paris leave and re-join the ship in Rotterdam. JB
  3. Hi Cinders, and welcome to Cruise Critic, Yes, it can be done. But there are a couple of caveats.... - Because this isn't simply staying ashore while the ship remains in the same port overnight you need the OK from the cruise line. - Bear in mind that ships sometimes miss ports. If the ship misses the French port (Le Havre?), your plans will be thwarted and any money spent on pre-booked hotel etc will be lost. If it misses the Belgian port (Zeebrugge?) you'll have to play catch-up at the next port - if that next port is somewhere like Amsterdam it's not a huge problem, if it's further away it can prove to be incredibly expensive or impossible. Both Le Havre and Zeebrugge are reliable ports, but there's still a risk. Idubs' suggestion of few days in Paris pre-cruise or post-cruise would probably make a great deal more sense, depending on whether you're already committed to flights, whether you can extend your vacation time, and whether the embarkation or disembarkation port suits a foray to Paris. For more specific advice we need to know the ship's itinerary etc. JB
  4. Agreed. Most airport hotels have 24-hour check-ins, and book one with a tolerably late check-out. But remember the date to book for the hotel is the date of your flight, not the date of your arrival. Seems a bit strange because you'll be arriving at the hotel around 2.30am on the day after your booking. Had that with the added complication of a flight which crossed the International Date Line. JB
  5. Yes, reading "High Rated" in the OP's thread title, the Southampton Harbour (not to be confused with the Leonardo Royal, which until recently was named the Grand Harbour) is the only 5-star hotel in the city - others are in the countryside around, not convenient for cruisers. JB
  6. On 22nd November we booked a late bargain for the 4th Dec cruise. Ashdod was quoted on Marella's website and we booked a rental car for two days. We knew that Ashdod was unreliable so we opted for the "cancellable" rental option and decided to late-book a hotel after we'd ported. We weren't told of the switch to Haifa until we were on the coach from Paphos airport to ship, and staff at the purser's office told us (untruthfully, it seems) that it was a very late switch due to rockets being lobbed at Ashod. By now we had no internet access except our I-Pad in wifi cafes in ports. With great difficulty we managed to cancel the Ashdod car, but figuring agencies in Haifa & booking from there was so fraught that we gave up on the idea. Had a pleasant but unexceptional couple of days in Haifa. Disappointing, but c'est la vie. Folk who took the Jerusalem tours (yes, a very long day) met passengers from American ships - they had docked in Ashdod. And I always reckoned that American ships were the ones that were over-cautious Seriously grieved to read your post that the ports were switched a couple of weeks before we booked. Had Marella's website been up-dated - or even if we'd been texted / e-mailed the day before we travelled, we could have simply switched to a Haifa rental on my trusty old desk-top. A great cruise, excellent food, service, entertainment, and the friendly laid-back atmosphere for which Marella / Thomson are well known. But the shine taken off it by Marella's bumbling head office JB
  7. John Bull

    Asia Cruise

    Singapore and Thailand you'll need local money. Cambodia - if it's just a ;port of call to Sihanoukville - you'll do fine with USD, but do take plenty of small bills to avoid grief with change.. Taxis & vans much cheaper than USA or Europe, and a bit cheaper than Caribbean ports - but you do need to bargain, even to he point of walking away. But if you'e porting at Laem Chabang for Bangkok taxis available on-spec at the port are a cartel with sole rights and excessive pricing. So it's important to pre-book a private transfer. Google for options, and choose from only those with plenty of good independent reviews. And check your cruise RollCall for sharers JB
  8. Good thinkin', Bob. From the same Paris Gare du Nord station. Le Havre is about 90 minutes further from the D-Day sights than Caen. But no one-way fee, and it's a lot easier returning the car along the same roads and to the same rental depot. So yep, worthy of consideration. But with time to get in a couple of sights on Day One, perhaps better to overnight in or close to the American sector. Perhaps Arromanches (lots of bars, restaurants, shops & sights) or Vierville-sur-mer (close to Omaha and the American Cemetery). JB
  9. Yes. Check the agencies with depots in Le Havre - there's Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Europcar, SixT, & Thrifty, and all will have depots in Paris. But a few things to consider..... - Driving & navigation in Paris is no fun. You might want to take the train from Paris (Gare du Nord) to Caen or Bayeux, and rent a car from there (several agencies near Caen station, I don't know about car rental agencies in Bayeux but the rail service to Bayeux is less-frequent). If you leave Paris late you could book accommodation close to the station & pick up the car in the morning, but I'd strongly suggest leaving Paris early to give you most of two days for the D-Day sights and a wider choice of accommodation (city or village or coast or countryside). - I'm presuming that Le Havre is your embarkation port, in which case you need to know the latest registration time at the cruise terminal, not just the "back-on-board" time or sailing time. Ships usually depart Le Havre around 8pm, and hopefully registration time would tie in quite well with rental agencies' hours (open til about 6pm, the French don't like long hours ) - bear in mind that there'll be a one-way fee for the car. JB
  10. Yes, overnighting in a hotel in Bangkok makes a lot of sense, avoids going back and forth at about 2 hours each-way and gives you an evening in the city. We've done that a couple of times. There's no suitable public transport from Laem Chabang, and the taxis available on-spec at the port are a cartel with sole rights and excessive pricing. So it's important to pre-book a private transfer. Google for options, and choose from only those with plenty of good independent reviews. For the return from Bangkok a taxi booked thro your hotel will probably be cheaper, but the operators on-line offer a discount for booking both ways so the total is likely to be about the same. First time we joined up with a day-trip that had started (& finished) in Bangkok. We booked a car from Laem Chabang to the Summer Palace at Bang-Pa In, where we joined up with the tour coach at 9am. Toured the Summer Palace, then short drive to three sites in the ancient Siamese capital city of Ayutthaya, then drive to the Chao Phrya River where we boarded a cruise boat & sailed down the river into Bangkok - by far the most scenic way to go into Bangkok. Seats on the coach had been saved for us, and they didn't want money up-front, we paid the guide when we got to Bangkok. So that involved a lot of trust on their part and it worked out well - that was a few years ago, they may be less trusting nowadays. http://www.grandpearlcruise.com/en/route-program/ayutthaya-round-trip.html That time we stayed at the Sheraton Royal Orchid, right on the river at River City Pier. But it's pretty expensive nowadays. Early this year we stayed at https://www.booking.com/hotel/th/new-siam-ii.en-gb.html Not in the centre of things, but tolerably handy to the Grand Palace (25 min walk or negotiated tuk-tuk ride), a ferry /hop-on boat pier, and just round the corner from an eclectic mix of cheap but good street bars & restaurants. In Bangkok do take a one-hour long-tail boat ride through the klongs (canals) The drive back to the ship can theoretically be as little as 90 minutes, but traffic can be bad so allow a bare minimum of 2.5 hours before back-on-bard time. JB
  11. Hi, and welcome to Cruise Critic. In case you can't find them, here are those boards............. https://boards.cruisecritic.co.uk/forum/79-seabourn-cruise-line/ https://boards.cruisecritic.co.uk/forum/535-seabourn-roll-calls/ https://boards.cruisecritic.co.uk/forum/48-australia-amp-new-zealand/ https://boards.cruisecritic.co.uk/forum/564-australia-new-zealand-cruisers/ (this one designed for Aussies & Kiwis, but also used for questions) JB
  12. I concur with other posters - the Baltic. It's port-intensive, so the itinerary is more important than the ship. Even 9 days isn't really long enough, and cruises starting in Britain or Amsterdam will use up a couple more days. So look for an embarkation port in the Baltic, with good air connection from home - Copenhagen is probably your best bet. Might be difficult with a max of 9 days, but St Petersburg definitely warrants two days so look for a cruise with a overnight there. (nb visiting Russia needs a rather expensive and complicated tourist visa unless you pre-book a visa-free tour, but be wary of misleading cruise line phraseology which gives the impression that only ships' tours are visa-free . Tours offered by local operators are also visa-free and far better than ships tours - in 16-seat vans, far more personal & flexible, beat-the-lines at busy sites, quicker and with closer parking than big buses, and tour prices that compare very favourably with ships' tours. See the Northern Europe forum for names of operators - and they're all very good.) The sail-in to Stockholm is one of the best in the world - about 4 hours sailing through the archipelago of islands so close that you feel you could reach out and touch the trees. But mega-ships are too large to sail through, so they berth at Nyneshamn - it's on the coast, no glorious sail-in, and an hour from Stockholm by road or rail. Stockholm's Stadsgarden (sp?) pier is most convenient, Frihamnen is also quite close to the city centre - but try to avoid an itinerary which says "Stockholm (Nyneshamn)" Warnemunde is on some itineraries. Tours are offered to Berlin, but it's about 3 hours each-way so even though ships depart late into the evening you only get about 5 hours in Berlin - 5 hours in a city which is worth 5 days . Do it if you've not been and this might be your only chance, but better to put Berlin on the back-burner for a "proper" visit at some time in the future. Warnemunde and nearby Rostock are very pleasant but missable. All the ports except St Petersburg (and Berlin from Warnemunde) are easy to DIY so no need to break the bank. Do check the hours in port, especially Costa & MSC which often include half-days. Old-town Tallinn is pretty easy in a half-day, other ports need a full day & St Petersburg two days. I do love spending other people's money for them , but do give yourselves at least a full day in your embarkation port JB
  13. Some years back, but ............... Cars available on spec. at the pier were (are?) in a cartel - you dealt with a taxi marshal who fleeced those-who’d not booked elsewhere ( ship’s transfer or private transfer) in advance. But pre_booked cars and cars returning folk to the port didn’t have to pay any fee. JB 😀
  14. Both are easy Split it’s a 10 to 20 minute (depending how far along you berth) harbour side walk from ship to Diocletian Palace in the old-town block. Corfu it’s a ten minute bus ride from port to centre. Couple of nondescript castles but that’s about it, and plenty of shops and bars JB
  15. A private transfer will get you to LHR sooner than ships transfer. And cost about the same for two people. but it’s which of those you feel more comfortable with. JB
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