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Host Jazzbeau

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About Host Jazzbeau

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    New York
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    Jazz, food, wine
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    the next one
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    Farther
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  1. Good – you are closer to a 'natural river cruiser' than some of those who find they hate it because there are no casinos, no roller coasters, no theater shows or multiple venues with music and games. A river cruise is very intimate and laid back. Not necessarily relaxing though: every day there are 1-3 included shore excursions which almost always include walking on cobblestones and start right after an early breakfast – then back to the ship for lunch, then the second excursion – then back to the ship for a quick freshen up, cocktail hour and/or meeting about the next day's program – then everybody troops down to the dining room for the single sitting [and many river cruise ships have few tables for two]. After dinner, there will be a piano player in the lounge – and a few times per cruise a local group will come onboard to entertain for a night [e.g. a French chanteuse with accordion accompaniment or a classical trio]. Then everybody's tired, so it's back to the cabins for an early night to prepare for tomorrow's early morning. If you are sociable, it's wonderful – we have always met compatible folks early on and created our regular dinner table group. We've never felt like we were 'in someone's pocket' for the entire cruise, because you can easily get yourself into different excursion groups. Two other groups of folks who don't like river cruising are those like Garbo who 'want to be alone," and those who plan to skip all the organized activities and hire private tour guides at every port [this is logistically difficult because the schedules are at the mercy of the lock masters and the docking locations at the mercy of the harbor masters – sometimes the ship even moves from one town to another while everyone is off on an excursion]. Some compare the cost of a river cruise to an ocean cruise and complain that you have to pay more, for a smaller cabin – and if you don't take advantage of the included excursions the value proposition really falls apart. Those are all the negatives. There are obviously many more positives, or river cruising wouldn't be expanding at such a rapid rate. DW and I love ocean cruising, especially on small ships – and we also love river cruising. None of the 'negatives' I mention above bother us. But we also try to maximize our experience: we sail on AMA because the cabins are larger and the ships more spacious than some other lines, and the food and service are at the top of the game. AMA does split the shore excursions into fast-, regular- and slow-walker groups – and they strive to let the slow walkers see everything by minimizing down time [e.g. shopping]. AMA isn't all-inclusive, which helps keep the price down a bit [since the included wine and beer is all we need – and they now have a free 'happy hour' before dinner]. The other river cruise line we would consider is Crystal, which really strives to bring their ocean cruise experience to their river ships [e.g. food choices and onboard entertainment] – but with only four ships their itinerary choices are very limited.
  2. I would choose something other than Amsterdam to Budapest for 2 reasons: (1) that itinerary goes through the notorious low-water stretch and so maximizes the chances of disruptions, and (2) some people discover that river cruising just isn’t for them so a 2-week cruise leaves a lot of unhappy days ahead. If your frame of reference is ocean cruises, take a look at AmaMagna. It’s twice as wide as any other river cruise ship, so there’s more room for everything and more ‘things.’ It also stays in the deep water part of the Danube.
  3. If my taste buds didn’t fool me, they serve fresh-squeezed. [Which, BTW, Celebrity no longer offers in thei suites restaurant]. That could be why it’s only available at breakfast.
  4. Because it can't become more inclusive at the same price point. Somebody has to pay for the added costs – and by 'somebody' I mean 'everybody.'
  5. We had a major itinerary change in Iceland on Ponant in August. Big storm off the SW coast of Iceland causing major counterclockwise winds and swells as we were scheduled to sail clockwise into the teeth of it. Our captain cancelled the call on Heimaey [which wouldn't have happened anyway in that weather] and reversed course to sail counterclockwise around the north back to Reykjavik. No credit for port charges – and no complaints from the passengers who understood exactly what the captain spared us from.
  6. I agree. DW doesn't drink [even prefers table water to bottled], and I only drink wine at dinner and the very occasional G&T. We're much better off if hard liquor is a la carte. Likewise on shore excursions: we don't like ship's excursions (overpriced, crowded, and waste too much time) – Cruise Critic roll calls let us plan exactly what we want to do and then share the cost among like-minded passengers. The one thing that Windstar could do that would improve the onboard experience is to include gratuities. Passengers from non-tipping cultures would be so grateful - and even those of us from the US would be happy not to feel pressured by those who overtip!
  7. Last year there were continual problems with low water forcing changes/cancellations to River Cruises. Some lines offered more compensation to passengers than others, and people complained when they didn't get the golden offers. Now this year River Cruise prices have jumped dramatically – and those same people are surprised! Where did they think the compensation costs were coming from?
  8. Do you mean special sail dates with a special wine emphasis? Several river cruise lines do these – usually with US wineries providing the special wines and experts. Here are AMA's 2020 wine sailings: https://www.amawaterways.com/destination/wine-cruises/2020 If that's what you're looking for, I'm sure others will follow up with similar offerings from other cruise lines.
  9. My British Cruise Critic friends have educated me about a proper Gin & Tonic. Most cruise lines have at least one Gin that fits the definition, but the Tonics then sabotage the drink. The absolute worst is Royal Club, with 'the hose' a close second. What Tonics does Windstar stock onboard? [I'm hoping you will say 'FeverTree' but Schweppes would be acceptable as a minimum guarantee.] PS – I would gladly pay an upcharge to get Silent Pool gin with FeverTree Elderflower tonic.
  10. For the transfer from Paris to the Moselle, the two options used by river cruise lines are coach or TGV train. I would prefer the train (especially if someone else is handling my luggage!), but some might prefer the coach because it may include sightseeing
  11. If as G.M.T. predicts you will be docked right in town at Würzburg, you may have time to give it a quick DIY after the ship's excursion to Rothenburg.
  12. This is true of all cruise lines that I know of. When you book a group charter, you are the customer of the charter company – not the cruise line.
  13. We bought the Premium Internet Package with 10GB for $94. We used it freely on 4 devices (2 MacBooks and 2 iPhones) and only went over 4GB at the end of the 7 days. So you may need to top up the bit bucket, which makes the new benefit not that big a deal. But any added benefit is great in this day of endless cuts!
  14. My TA always offers me OBC but I request a rebate check instead – it costs them the same, and I'm free to use it any way I want.
  15. What? Windstar has nothing to do with NCL - it is owned by Xanterra along with Vermont Bicycle Tours, Country Walkers, and many national park lodges.
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