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Everything posted by Giantfan13

  1. WE used SPB Tours and our time at Peter and Paul Cathedral to see the tombs of Peter the Great and the Romanovs was tremendous. Shopping in St Pete would be nice but my DW can shop anytime, here in the USA, we went to St Petersburg to see things we can't see anywhere else. LOL Cheers Len
  2. Not disagreeing with those that say a guide is a necessity in some ports. We just found that most Baltic cruises are very port intensive and, at my age, all those facts and date seem to get all jiggled together and I come away remembering very little. Again, not saying it isn't an option, but we just prefer to go at our own pace, see what we want and find things out as we please. Less remembering that way. Cheers Len
  3. That is a good point about the luggage. Since we made arrangements for the taxi to come back to get us, you can't do that if you have luggage. There might be a place to store luggage at the baths, but I would call them and inquire about it first. The only problem I see wit that posters plan, is when you exit the baths, you have wet bathing suits to deal with, unless you decide to go au natural, which, I suppose, the locals wouldn't mind too much. Cheers Len
  4. We were picked up in a small van type bus that had plenty of room for luggage. We went on two separate cruises and were away for about a month and we had PLENTY of luggage. (2 large suitcases and 2 carry ons plus a couple of hand things and it was all taken care of. We had about 12 people on our tour. Cheers Len
  5. Just a shout out to Roger here. We got back from our cruising the other day and we are trying to catch up on everything. As Roger suggested, we did the HoHo bus and got off at the old city and explored it and loved it. We then went to the castle and spent some great time there. This was our goal, to spend the day in this city as it is our first time there and we wanted to get the feel, instead of just seeing it and sunning out somewhere else. We had a marvelous time and again, thank you roger for all your help. Cheers Len
  6. I'm not sure if some one asked, but for some of the ports mentioned In Messina, there were many taxi's looking to do tours In Civi once you get off the shuttle, there are literally scores of taxis and vans looking to take you to Rome for, what we felt was a very reasonable sum. Other areas were available also In Livorno, same thing, many taxis looking to take you to Pisa, Florence, Lucca, where ever you might want to go. I believe there were also taxis in Valetta Malta if anyone is interested. Cheers Len
  7. Tony It would be my pleasure to share our info with you. As I said, we were in Rome last year and we just wanted to do something different, especially on a very port intensive cruise, just spend a day relaxing. So we read somewhere on CC about the thermal baths and felt it would be a great idea. We have done baths like these around the USA and loved it. Here is the web site https://civitavecchia.portmobility.it/en/ficoncella-thermal-baths  Now don't expect a modern area. We had 3 different 'pools' open, each with a different temperature. Anyway, we were told from CC that a taxi would cost about 15-20 euros, not on our trip. We got off the ship and asked a someone to call us a taxi as all the taxi's around the port are looking to take people to Rome and other places. They called us a taxi, we showed him the paper where we wanted to go and he ended up taking us to the Roman Bath ruins. We told him this wasn't it and then he knew where we wanted to go. It was only about 5 minutes away, but the ride was about 30Euros, a lot more than we anticipated. (this was with the meter running).I would say it is about 8 miles or so out of Civi. Good part is the baths only cost 1 1/2 Euros for 2 hours. There are stalls to change if you like and most people just left their clothes along the rails and hooks. We made arrangements for the taxi to come pick us up as you are really out in the sticks and you will never get a taxi unless you call. He charged us the same thing to take us back (with the meter off) so we assume it was 'off the books'. Again, a bit more than we expected but overall, we had a very enjoyable day and the entire cost wasn't that much. there is small shop there where you can buy some things to eat or drink. Don't expect glamorous surroundings, but we thoroughly enjoyed just being away from all the tourists and just being with locals who were more than happy to engage in whatever conversation we could. Cheers Len
  8. You didn't say if you were also on the Sinfonia. If so, there ARE several great spots if you want some 'quiet time'. Ourselves, when we cruise, we love to sit on the Promenade deck away from the crowds, but alas, seems MSC doesn't' do chairs there. But, again, this is our secret; on every deck, in the back of the ship, you can sit out with hardly anyone ever there. There are lounge chairs there and we sat out there almost every day, when we could. At night was the best. As far as smoking. They do have areas for smoking, but we found, and saw, many people smoking anywhere and anytime, as long as they were outside. Rules are made for others, I guess. WE boarded in Barcelona with about 300 others, and YES it is sort of strange to see baggage in the hallways every night and life boat drill announcements made every day. You can tell the newcomers as they don't know where to sit as of yet, in the dining room, but you just get used to it. I believe the main port was Genoa where about 1000 boarded. it was our next to the last port and up until then the ship wasn't crowded at all, but after Genoa, it was packed wherever we went. Where there were seats in lounges, not any more. Lucky we were almost done by then so it really didn't bother us too much. As for pickpockets, I had read some much about Barcelona being a pick pocket paradise, we were extremely careful. It was a concern, but after a while, we felt much more comfortable, but we did try and avoid large crowded areas. Always better to be safe rather than sorry. One area which we were annoyed, MSC seemed to always dock furthest from the port so they always had shuttle buses ready, for, what we felt was a pretty heft cost-some 12 Euros PP some 14 Euros PP. Do your homework and there are several ports that have free shuttles into town, you just have to walk a bit to get to them. Anything else I can help you with, it would be my pleasure. Cheers Len
  9. Thanks Rick, you also Cheers Len
  10. I guess it depends where you are cruising out of. We live in NY and try and cruise out of NYC as often as we can. In January it can get tricky. We've had cruises where you can sit out on the decks and enjoy the gorgeous scenery sailing down the Hudson and we've had 12 inches of snow on the deck as we left during a blizzard. If you are just referring to Tampa, we just arrived in Tampa on the Rhapsody after a TA and when we arrived the temp in Tampa was 42. it was warmer in NY, but alas it didn't last. enjoy your cruise and the warm Caribbean weather. Cheers Len
  11. Sorry but that is absolutely NOT so, and not just in Nassau but in many places. I go to places with a happy attitude and always try and be polite, but in Nassau, that is hard. How many times can one say politely, NO Thank You, to 10, 20 maybe even 30 different taxi drivers who follow you till the next guy tries to grab you. Same for all the people trying to get you into their shops and markets. They hound you until you seem to adopt that attitude also. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with what I bring. What you say is true for the people who live in Nassau, they get the same disrespect that they give the tourists. As I said previously, once you get away from the touristy areas and get to meet the 'real' folks, they are probably fine and likable, but that is just not what one gets coming off the ship and in any of the surrounding areas of the port. Cheers Len
  12. First of all you should post this on the Baltics Board where most everyone has done a Baltic cruise and you can get a more general answer https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/116-northern-europe-amp-baltic-sea/ We did that Baltic cruise several years ago, and from I remember it certainly wasn't as 'formal' as some have said. I would say the biggest difference is you won't see all the floral type shirts that you might see in the Caribbean, and, unless it is terribly warm, you probably won't see many shorts in the MDR. But the buffet, be prepared for anything. As far as packing goes, I would leave most of the shorts at home and opt for jeans. Depending on when you are going (month wise) the weather could be cold, or hot, so the old 'layers' is the best answer. Prepare to do a lot of walking, so good shoes are a must and leave the sandals and flip flops at home. I would either have an all-purpose lightweight waterproof jacket or buy a few of those disposable plastic rain things they sell for less than a dollar. We went late August. Most mornings we needed a light jacket and by mid day we were in shirt sleeves, but when you are cruising, it will be nippy, especially at night. If you are a jacket guy for dinner, then bring it, you won't be out of place. If not, then dress as informally as you would like, no one really cares anymore. Cheers Len
  13. We have returned from our cruises and jut some info share. We did find that there were taxi's trying to get you tours in several of the ports. Messina being the main one. We instead opted for the HoHo and returned n time for the clock's performance. Maye it was just me, but I really didn't find it that awe inspiring. Different might be a better term. We did use the Tuscany Bus company in Livorno, for a jaunt to Pisa. They did not do the Lucca part at this time of the year. We already had tickets but you can easily buy tickets in the TI shop just a few steps away. Our one complaint about this company and it is probably not their fault, but where the drop you off in Pisa, you have a sort of extended walk to get to the Tower. No signage, just follow the crowd. We tried that on he way back a got lost. had to ask for directions. If they are going to drop you far from the attraction, at least have the way marked. We stayed in Genoa and loved the city. We just love wandering those small streets with many shops and stairs. We ended up using the funicular to get to the top of the city with marvelous views. In Civi, we opted not to go to Rome and instead chose the thermal Baths. Something we really liked. We were the only 'tourists' there and had some wonderful exchanges with all the locals. Took a taxi there and made arrangements to be picked up which worked out well. I very relaxing day on a hectic itinerary. Cheers Len
  14. We just did a MSC cruise and visited Genoa and found it one of the mot interesting ports on our itinerary. We stayed entirely in town and loved wandering about on the narrow streets. One of the highlites that might appeal to your kids is, we took the funicular, up to the highest point with magnificent views of the entire city. They also have a cable car that also takes you to the top of the city, but we preferred the funicular. I know the need to get 'out of town' but were really found Genoa very charming and again, it was one of our favorite ports. Cheers Len
  15. Rick We had an inside cabin and it was fairly comfortable. Just funny abut some things. Like we must have had the only cabin door that was decorated, on the entire ship. I guess Europeans don't go in for that. Also, the elevators were extremely fast. Never really had to wait more than a few seconds. But beware, those people waiting to get on will get on before the people getting off. Courtesy is thrown out the window. Also, did not see one mobility scooter. Don't know if they are banned on these ships. Lot's of baby strollers in the hallways though. Cheer Len
  16. We just stopped in Nassau instead of CoCo Cay off our TA on the Rhapsody. Like many others, we also have been here many times but we just wanted to get onto dry land again after 6 sea days for the crossing. It is always posted in the dailies that Nassau is a bit unsafe and you should be aware of your surroundings at all times. As long as you stay in the 'touristy' areas, you will never have a problem. Our problem with Nassau, opposed to most of the other islands in the Caribbean is that the people here just don't smile and aren't as friendly to tourists as so many of the other islands. Getting off the ship and thru the maze of hounding taxi drivers, hair braiders and just shouting vendors just makes one want to get away from these people instead of being drawn to them and their culture. We walk the main streets and all we get are coupons from shops but no friendly hellos. Maybe away from this area the people are more pleasant, but those are the areas we are warned to stay away from. And don't get me started on the Straw market and it's inhabitants. Cheers Len
  17. We just got off the Rhapsody on a 14 day TA. We also had anytime dining. I can't speak for your 7 day cruise, but on our cruise, every night there was a different time for shows. Some at 8:15, some at 8:45 and even a show at 9:00. Those are for the earlier eaters and for ATD who try to eat a bit earlier. We usually ate about 6:30 and never had a problem getting to a show. The shows at 8:45 and 9:00 always had an earlier one to accommodate the late diners. Cheers Len
  18. If you are cruising the Baltics you are going to St Petersburg. In St Petersburg, you need a tour booked, either with the ship or with any of several excellent independent tour operators there, in order to even leave the ship (a temporary visa). I cannot stress strongly enough that you try and use one of the private tour companies. My point being, they can, and might, make up a tour group just for you. Companies like SPB Tours usually bend over backwards to help cruisers. Moving forward, most of these companies also offer private tours in most of the ports you are visiting, so they might also organize, or try and help you get a group together for any, or all the ports. I would email them or call them and speak to a representative, tell them your situation and see if they can help you. Cheers Len
  19. We were in Barcelona for one day between two separate cruises. We needed a tour that would pick us up at our hotel and deliver us to the cruise port and when I contact Barcelona Day Tours, they were the ones who said, 'No Problem'. We even told them that we needed to be at our ship by 1:00 and again, no problem. Also, we weren't staying in the 'heart' of the city but we were told an 8AM pick up and they were there 5 minutes early. We had a fantastic tour of the city with several stops, some for just a photo op and others for much more detail. Sorry I don't recall our guides name but she was great. She even knew how to take great photos of us, something many guides say they do, but really don't. The tour went great and we were delivered to the cruise port right on time. I would recommend them to anyone and will surely use them again when I can. Cheers Len
  20. We just got off an MSC cruise with Valetta being one of the ports we docked at. We had pre booked the HoHo bus, but you really don't have to. There are two lines, a North and a South. If you want to go to Mdina, you need the North route, which we did. Even though it has only been a few weeks since our visit, we visited so many poets in so few days it's all blending together. I think the time to get to Mdina was about on hour. The route back went along the coastline and was also interesting. The bus stops right outside the main entrance to Mdina and we loved our time there. Had a nasty thunderstorm while there but even that didn't put a damper on our day. Next time we go we want to do the southern route. Really a very nice island and want to see more of it. Cheers Len
  21. We recently completed a Mediteranean cruise on the Sinfonia. It was our second MSC cruise but first in Europe. We had a decent enough time, with 8 ports in 9 days which was exhausting. The ports we visited were Valencia, Mallorcia, Malta, Messina, Civi, Livorno, Genoa, Marseille. If I can supply any helpful info on any of these ports don't hesitate to ask. All I can say is it seems like a blur, as one port led into another, but I'll do my best. next time I take notes. Our cruise experience was different to say the least. There were only about 100 Americans on the ship and it was our first real exposure to Europeans and their culture. There were good things and not so good things. I think our biggest complaint was the lack of friendliness of the staff. They rarely volunteered a good morning, a good day to anyone unless you initiated it. We had a waiter for 10 days who never knew our names, never smiled at us, just took our order and did his job. Is this a bad thing, just doing your job, depends on what we like. After this cruise we did a RCCL cruise across the Atlantic and it was night and day different as far as friendliness of the crew. Even our contacts with the other passengers, again, mostly Europeans, just wasn't as pleasant as I thought it would be. I held a door open while I was going thru and the people right behind just talked thru without a thank you or even an acknowledgement. I walk with a cane and was almost trampled trying to get on a HoHo bus in several ports by people rushing to get on, at all costs. Also, while the food was good, the portions are very small considering what we are used to. My DW had fish and chips one night and what she got amounted to 2 fish sticks and some fries. Also, there is NO coffee or tea after dinner, something we did desire. We also disliked how it seemed MSC always seemed to dock in the furthest part and always seemed to have a shuttle for 10-15 Euros to get you to town. Doing some research helps knowing which ports are walkable and which have free shuttles. But there were also good things. We found the shows pretty good as they were mostly visual with a lot of acrobatics. The ship dancers were quite beautiful and their dancing was wonderful. There were two opera nights, which we weren't fans of, but we went and enjoyed the marvelous voices of the singers. Embarkation was very good as well as disembarkation. All announcements are made in 5 languages. Some of the cruise staff who were in charge of entertainment were quite funny with mostly visual things. Although the staff was robotic, the service was good and dinner usually took about 75 minutes. Food was decent enough, but we only eat fish so we cannot comment on other dishes. But our tablemates also seemed to enjoy most meals. What also surprised me was how the ship was booming at a late hour. Most American cruises, by 11:30 the ship is almost deserted, not here, every lounge where there was music had loads of people dancing away. So we had an experience and if we decide to do another MSC cruise, we will be better prepared for different cultures. Cheers Len
  22. We just got off a TA on the Rhapsody of the Sea. Pleasant cruise except for the amount of dogs that were on this ship. There were at least 4 of them and they seem to be everywhere. I debated whether or not to even post this as I'm sure it will bring some negative comments from dog lovers, but I feel I have to make my point. This can be posted probably on any cruise lines boards, but since we cruised RCCL, here it will be. This really has nothing to do with us not really caring about dogs or other animals, but when we cruise, and we have been on about 25, this was the first time we have ever encountered dogs on a cruise. Now I fully understand the term 'service animals' and the need to have these animals as a support system, but I can assure you that none of these dogs were legitimate service animals. These were people who just didn't want to leave their little pets home and all they need to do is go online, to any of several sites, register their animal as a service animal and viola, according to RCCL they are now allowed to bring them along while cruising. OK, so let me back up a bit. These dogs were all over the ship, from the buffet, to the theater, to one dog occupying his own chair by the pool, to just strolling along on the deck as if they are out for a walk in the park. I am slightly handicapped, in that I use a cane to walk along. Coming out of the theater, I almost tripped on a dog leach where the dog was almost 20 feel from their owner. We went out on deck to sit and there was a dog wandering along, NOT on a leach, with it's owner about 10 feet behind. When he heard us make a comment, he quickly scooped up the dog. We did complain to guest services, to the officer in charge, but all he could do was to tell us he would speak to the owners to keep a better hold on the dogs. My main point to him and to others, if we do not want to be around cigarette smoke, we have smoke free areas on ships, if we don't want to be around children there are adult only areas where we can go, so if we don't want to be around dogs, where do we go? They have full range of the entire ship. My DW is sensitive to dog hairs, so how do we even know our cabin wasn't inhabited by a dog on a cruise before us. How do we know a dog wasn't on a deck chair we might want to sit on? We just feel IF a dog is a true service animal there should be an area on the ship where they are required to stay. Believe me, we weren't the only ones complaining about this, there were many others who weren't happy to be walking the promenade deck dogging dogs. We met others who also noticed dogs on long leashes and who also complained to guest services. So we knew we weren't the only ones who felt this way. We were so upset at this situation that it basically ruined a lot of our cruise, as my DW was afraid to sit in places she feared dogs had been. So call us what you will. I am not an animal over to begin with, but again, these were NOT service animals. As a veteran, I fully understand the need for emotional support animals. These were just pets, that people wanted to bring along, and knew, with a piece of paper, easily available on the internet, they can now bring their pets on their cruises and claim they are service animals. What next, pigs. Sorry I couldn't resist. My DW had a great suggestion though, charge these people an extra fee, like $250 to fumigate their cabins when they leave so others won't be affected by any lingering odors. Cheers Len
  23. Thanks Roger for all your great info. I'll let you know how it all works out. Cheers Len
  24. We have been looking at several shared shuttles from Barcelona airport to our hotel. Has anyone used any of these shared shuttles and are they cheaper than just grabbing a taxi? What would I expect to pay for a taxi from the airport going to Arc La Rambla Hotel? We leave in a couple od days and would appreciate any info on this. Cheers Len
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