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Everything posted by Torquer

  1. We were recently on a tour in Puerto Chacabuco that we booked directly with a private tour company for $150 pp and there was no advance deposit required. At lunch, the tour guide came up to us and asked for their fee and we gave them the money. We then found out that everyone else at our lunch table had booked the tour through Viator instead of booking direct like we did. They paid $200 pp plus they had to pay Viator in advance. Needless to say, they were not happy with themselves for overpaying for the same tour. My point is to make sure Viator is really providing some value over what you can get by booking directly with a private tour company. We have never used them, but I understand that in some cases, they may have a better cancellation policy than the tour company and they provide some protection in case the tour company goes out of business. But in the case I described, it provided the Viator customer absolutely no extra value and just cost them more money.
  2. That's funny! It was quite a bumpy ride, but no worse then most amusement park rides, although much longer. I would also highly recommend Patrick Watts tours which we used last month. It was a very memorable experience, and much cheaper than the cruise ship's tour.
  3. We were very disappointed about this on a recent cruise on Marina. We were in an Oceania Suite and also just had two small and low tables on the balcony. We asked our butler and he said they don't have bigger tables anymore. This was our first post-covid cruise on O. In pre-covid times, there was always a big table on the balcony in the top suites. Some photos on the O website still show dining tables on the balcony, so it may be that just Marina no longer has them.
  4. No that is not correct. The breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill is only for those in the NS/PS suites. If you are not in these suites and paid to upgrade to CO, you will not be able to eat breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill.
  5. The only exception might be sea days where they change times when it is most convenient. For example, If you have a late night in port and the next day is a sea day in an earlier time zone, they might wait one day before changing the ship time to allow passengers to sleep in. We have had that happen a couple times. But on a port day, the ship time will absolutely always match the port's time.
  6. @CafeBruno I think what you are looking for is very reasonable. We are in a similar situation, that when we book a cruise we know exactly what we want and the only reason we use a TA is for the discount/rebate we get from them. We always book the top suites on our cruises, so the TA gets a much bigger commission from the cruise line than someone who books an inside cabin for no more work than their booking, so we think we should get a large discount/rebate. Like you, we have had trouble finding ones that meet all three of your criteria and we have changed TAs several times and now use a couple different TAs based on the best discount they can give us for that specific cruise. The only point I would quibble about is your expectation of a 10% discount. We have looked around a lot and have not found that recently. 8% or so used to be pretty common and one time we got a 9+% discount, but post-covid the best we can find is a 6-7% discount.
  7. It is true that NS and PS don't get the free upgrade but you are already in one of the top suites, but there is always a special cocktail party in the Neptune Lounge or somewhere else just for NS/PS. And obviously, NS/PS suites get other perks that are not available to non-suite CO guests.
  8. I'm a big person, although I wouldn't say huge, and the normal robes fit fine. This thread talks about requesting XXL robes from your cabin stewards, but I have never done this myself:
  9. Glad it all worked out with what sounds to be a pretty satisfactory conclusion. Actually to me, a 1.25 hour call sounds very reasonable for what is a pretty complex transaction. Hope you can go on another cruise soon.
  10. If you plan to be out on your balcony a lot taking in the sights, I would strongly recommend the aft-wrap NS. You will have a 270 degree view from there. You didn't say where you were going, but if it is a cold weather cruise, it will be a lot warmer sitting out facing the rear of the ship versus the sides due to a lot less wind.
  11. Last month we were in the Falklands and no sign of helicopter service to Volunteer Point. We researched all our options quite thoroughly. BTW, I would highly recommend the trip to volunteer point despite the long 4x4 ride to get there. On this cruise, we also had a tour to see Punta Tumbo from Puerto Madryn. Volunteer Point on the Falklands is so much better due to the number of penguins and in particular the King Penguins. Of course, actually being able to tender at the Falklands is a crap shoot due to weather, so it is good to have a backup plan.
  12. Wow...this is the second time in one week I have read about a large group disrupting ship activities for non-group members on the ship. I have been reading the HAL board on CC for 10+ years and I never saw this mentioned before and now two at the same time...what is HAL doing. FYI...here is the other thread about closing the lower dining room for anytime dining after 6:30 PM to accommodate a large group: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/3003701-what-to-do-received-limited-dining-email-this-morning/
  13. I am not a doctor and know nothing about this. However, since you are asking, I presume you have needed this procedure before or have a medical condition where you think you might. The most important thing is you really need to ensure your cardiologist agrees that it is OK for you to travel and have a very high likelihood of not needing it while on board. The medical facilities aboard HAL ships are very good, but they don't have all the equipment of even a small rural hospital in the US. If you get sick on a cruise, it might be many hours or even days until you can be transported to a shore-side hospital. Then, depending where you are cruising, you could be left off in a hospital in a 3rd world country with poor quality health care.
  14. I suggest you read the Cruise Critic forums on travel insurance...lots of great information here: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/499-cruisetravel-insurance/ In our research, we are able to find much cheaper insurance with better coverage with private companies, rather than HAL. The only exception might be if you need/want cancel-for-any-reason insurance. There having it bundled with your cruise through HAL might be better. I suggest you look at the insurance consolidator websites to give you an idea of what is available privately and free quotes, such as: SquareMouth, InsureMyTrip, etc.
  15. We recently completed a very similar cruise. First of all, the more we cruise, the more we find that the side of the ship really doesn't matter. You have no idea ahead of time the exact course of the ship when you are close to land will be. In ports, you similarly have no idea which way the ship will be facing at the pier. That said, on this cruise, since we were going counter-clockwise around S.A., we initially picked the port side since that was on the side closer to land most of the time. Later before embarkation, a cabin at the rear starboard corner of the ship opened up and we switched to that. So we had views out the right side and the back of the ship. Wow...that was the best decision we ever made. The wrap-around views in Antarctica were incredible. More importantly when cruising in Antarctica it was so much warmer sitting facing backwards on the balcony rather than on the side balcony since there was far less wind. So we stayed out on the balcony many more hours than we would have if we were on the side. Remember, even in summer it will be in the low 30s in Antarctica. So I strongly recommend a rear-facing balcony if one is available on your ship. If I couldn't have a rear facing cabin, I would have slightly preferred a port facing cabin, but this may have been more of how our shipped was docked in some of the ports.
  16. First of all, thanks for your work. I am curious how you get the information on charters and groups. In the past I have deduced there was a charter because of no planned cruise for a ship on HAL's website, but how do you get the name of the group that chartered it. I regularly read CC and have never seen groups (not charters) being discussed and never thought they would be a problem. I had assumed they would be a couple hundred people maximum. But obviously the case being discussed in this thread is very different where it is half the ship and HAL is not allowing anytime dining for non-group people after 6:30PM.
  17. The problem is, that even with this list of groups onboard, you would have no idea how big that group is. Certainly 50 to 200 people in the group is not going to change the atmosphere of the cruise significantly. But it sounds like in this case over 1/2 the ship is going to be part of this group. That is indeed a big problem. Now I would not expect a quilting group or a continuing education group to be that big, but who knows. Reading the name for this one, I would have never guessed this group would be so big. Perhaps in that post about groups @VMax1700 could add info on how big the group might be, based on past experiences from other cruisers. BTW, I am not trying to be negative about this particular group, which I know nothing about; actually I think it is great that a church group can go on a cruise like this. But because of the size of this group or any group, it does change the cruise experience for everyone not in the group.
  18. 3rd and 4th passengers in a room are always really cheap. We stay only in the PS and my wife and I spend a small fortune to book it. However, when our adult sons accompany us, I don't believe we have ever paid more than $1000 per person for them, including port fees. When you think of it, it kind of makes sense. The only real cost to HAL is food plus minor things like extra linens, etc. So we are happy to have our sons join us whenever they can on HAL. This contrasts with our other favorite cruise line Oceania, that charges 1/2 of the normal pp rate as a 3rd person in a room. For a top suite, this gets very expensive fast.
  19. Interesting but I'm not sure if I understand what it is saying. What does open seating have to do with "Open seating will be offered as normal; however, due to the number of guests requesting to dine at 8:00pm." If it is 8PM, wouldn't this be affecting fixed seating not open seating? Or maybe the group is so large and they all want to eat at 8PM, that it totally fills the upper dining room so they are going to use part of the lower dining room for the group as fixed time seating?
  20. We were on Oceania. We had an option of carrying our luggage or have them do it. In either case, you have to take a bus from the ship to the terminal building. When we left the ship, around 9AM, it really wouldn't have mattered if we had carried our bags or picked them up in the terminal. There was really just a couple minutes to find our bags. The big delay was the bus, and then waiting in line to exit the building. Now there were 3 ships in port for our disembarkation; it probably goes faster if you are the only ship. I see you asked someone else if you can disembark at 7AM and make an 8:50AM flight. I would say you should absolutely not plan on that. As I said, in our case it took about 1 hour from leaving the ship to leaving the termina. Then it is a long drive to the airport. We took a tour of BA, and then they drove us to the airport in the afternoon. In our case it took about 50 minutes from downtown until we got to the airport and there was significant traffic delays at times. Then you have the check-in and security lines at the airport. If I was doing this, I would want at minimum 4 hours from disembarkation to my flight.
  21. We were on the larger Marina ship which had a total of 9 singers/dancers in its production company. They did 4 shows on a 20 day cruise. BTW, the point of my earlier post was not to compare HAL and Oceania. It was to say that HAL's entertainment has significantly declined over the last 5-10 years, whereas Oceania's has maintained the same level of entertainment they always had.
  22. We have had 3 HAL cruises post-covid, and just got back from our 1st post-covid cruise on Oceania. It was very depressing to see how HAL has regressed in their entertainment compared to Oceania. We enjoyed many nights with the string quartets on O. We liked LCS on HAL, and hope the classical music returns consistently on all ships; our last two cruises had zero classical music since LCS ended. In addition, O has a singing and dancing production company for its shows. Step One is good, but how many times can you watch the same four shows; we really missed the ship's singers HAL used to have. And finally, O has a live 7 piece band that plays for all shows, whether it is accompanying the ship's production company or guest entertainers. HAL really needs to improve its entertainment, like it was years ago.
  23. Probably not. But we have seen it not very strictly enforced. They will definitely not be able to use the priority check-in line with you, and depending on the port, this may mean you are sitting at a different location in the terminal waiting to board.
  24. Twice on another cruise line where we overnighted before disembarkation day, the ship moved to a different berth in the middle of the night. In one case it moved a couple miles to a different port. They made it clear there was going to be a several hour period in the middle of the night when no one can get on or off the ship. I would definitely get it in writing from O that this middle-of-the-night departure will be permitted at this port. As others have said, I don't think 4AM is early enough and you also need confirmation that customs will be available at that hour.
  25. I was going to say a definitive no. On our recent cruise to South America it was clearly stated in Currents that they do not do this. However, I decided to google it and came across this FAQ from a few years ago, so now I am not sure: https://oceaniacruises.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360005405954-Can-I-exchange-my-money-for-local-currency
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