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retiredand happy

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About retiredand happy

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    Cool Cruiser

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    Dallas, TX
  1. I'll take a stab at replying to your question. I'm sure that if 15 people answer, you will get 15 different points of view, based on personal circumstances. Here is why I buy travel insurance and why I generally buy CFAR: I struggle with CFAR every time I buy a policy for a trip. Some trips I buy it and some I don't. I also have a Chase Sapphire credit card and I have reviewed their policy. Most of my trips are considerably over the maximum coverage provided by Chase ($20,000), so I need more coverage than they offer. Chase does not cover CFAR Chase does not cover for pre-existing conditions. I travel with a person who is on kidney dialysis. Many people have a pre-existing condition. I don't want to go down that rabbit hole with any insurance company whose primary mission in life is to deny a claim. Chase won't honor a claim if you are "traveling against the advice of a physician." I'm not sure I want to fight that battle either. Since I don't have a crystal ball, I can't predict what might happen in the future regarding health. I may not be in the hospital, buy my doctor may tell me I am a fool to take this trip. I found that cruises book up very quickly so I often book a cruise 12-18 months in advance. I just don't know what might come up in that time that would prompt me to cancel the trip, so I opt for CFAR; particularly if I book way in advance. Just this week I bought a travel insurance policy for a trip in September, 2018, and the cost of the trip is $35,000. I bought CFAR for that trip. If I book a lower cost trip and I am traveling within 3-5 months, I may not buy CFAR. I am on Medicare so I need the medical coverage provided by travel insurance. My supplement only covers $50,000 in medical for foreign travel. I always buy a minimum of $100,000 medical and make it primary. As a side note, I also carry a separate medical evacuation insurance policy that will bring me back to my home in a medical jet, if necessary. This may not answer your question, but these are my personal reasons. I am sure that many people could make the argument against buying any travel insurance. It's all a matter of your personal risk tolerance.
  2. Terry, it was great meeting you on the 2 Norway cruises. I enjoyed our talks. Sorry I didn't get to say much to you on the 2nd cruise. I had friends join us that I met on a Viet Nam trip in 2012. The ship was great as usual. I booked my 6th cruise on E2 for next March. I hope to meet up with you again on a future cruise. Safe travels. Richard
  3. I saw your reference to dialysis. I think you got on the Europa2 when I got off. I sailed from Lisbon to Barcelona and departed on July 4th. I have a friend who is on kidney dialysis and this wonderful service allows him to travel and enjoy the world without worry. I spent 23 days last year on the E2 and booked 16 nights next year in Norway. Dr. Westerman and Dr. Rittich are not only great doctors but super guys. It's amazing that a dialysis patient can travel in such luxury and still undergo dialysis. When the 4 of us left the E2 we spent a week in Barcelona. He did dialysis in Barcelona and had a very good experience. All the best to you and your friend who is on dialysis. We may meet up on a future cruise.
  4. Very interesting review. Some things were hard to dispute (the mattresses were 2 pieces to make a king bed). I never asked for the senior sommelier, so I can't attest to whether he had a menu to discuss. My neighbors must have been boring because I didn't hear a peep out of them. My room was always spotless and I suspected that there were little elves everywhere because as I left something out of place, the little elf put it back where it belonged. I am slightly embarrassed to say that I ate my weight in lobster. I was impressed that they took the time to move the balcony cushions inside every night and put them back out every morning. I was so impressed at the clean crisp look of the senior staff. I even commented to other guests, who I made friends with, that the staff must change uniforms 3 times a day to keep that great starched look. They looked so professional compared to other cruise ships that I have traveled on. I guess the bottom line is we all have different expectations when we travel. I was so easily impressed with the Europa2 that I am going back in 5 months for more lobster.
  5. Sochi was also a part of our trip. It was an interesting visit. There was one German tour to the olympic site, but they did not offer it in English. When I asked our guide about missing it, she laughted and said, "why would you want to travel over 1 hour on a bus to see an empty building when you can see all the beautiful sights in Sochi?" Our English speaking guide filled up our time with a walking tour of the city, a tour to the Sanatoriums and a tour of the botanical gardens. I can't say my visit changed my opinion of Putin:), but the people were very friendly and the visit was well worth the time. I have a nice picture of the Europa2 sitting in the port in front of the olympic rings. When I look at it, it brings back good memories. Hopefully things will calm down so you can see at least some of the Ukraine. I feel sorry for the locals in those cities, because so much of their economy was based on tourism.
  6. English Voyager, They cancelled Sevastopol and Yalta about 6-8 weeks prior to sailing. We still went to Odessa. I know that many people cancelled the trip because they really wanted to visit Sevastopol and Yalta. Although I would like to have seen these cities, it was not a deal breaker for me. They substituted Constanta and Sinop as alternate stops. Neither city is a hot spot for visitors, but it beat cruising the ocean for 2 additional days like some of the other cruise lines did. The fact that there were only 225 passengers on the ship, made the journey seem like we were on a private luxury yacht. It made up in a small way for not visiting the 2 scheduled ports. We were in Odessa for 1 1/2 days. The ship only offered a 1/2 day tour in English so I planned ahead of time to hire a driver and guide for an entire day. After doing some searching I found Odessa Walks, run by Olga. (www.odessawalks.com). Our tour guide was Julia. They were such a pleasure to work with and very attentive and professional. The city was beautiful and the people were super friendly. We saw no hint of the troubles that we have all read about. The cost of the tour was incredibly cheap for the service that we got. Originally I booked the tour for myself and the person traveling with me. I met 2 British ladies on the ship and they joined us for the tour. It was a good way to spend 9 hours in Odessa. The following 1/2 day, I ventured out on my own and looked around the city near the port. I can't say that I disagree with Wripro. You need to decide whether visiting Sevastopol and Yalta are a deal breaker for you. A lot can happen in 9 months in that region (good and bad). If I had to look into my crystal ball, I would guess that your cruise may look more like mine did than the one that they are showing in their brochure. As a side note, when we were in Odessa, Julia told us that we were only the 4th ship to visit the city that year. Our ship drew quite a crowd in the port; partly because of her beauty and partly because the locals were excited to see a cruise ship in port. The Europa2 held a party for about 50 of the top officials in Odessa. It was fun to watch them touring the ship with their mouths open in amazement. When we were in the city with Julia, a group of about 30 junior high school age students ran up to us and presented us with large cut out smiley faces that they had made. They asked it we would pose with them for pictures. They crowded around us while their teacher took several pictures. All in all, Odessa was one of my favorite stops. I hope your trip pans out for you because traveling on the Europa2 is a great experience.
  7. Hypercafe, I read your review with interest and it brought back good memories of my 21 days on the Europa2 in September. I noticed that there were questions about the number of English speakers on your cruise, so I thought I would chime in since I had 2 completely different experiences on my 2 cruises in September. On the 14 day Black Sea cruise, there were only 6 English guests on board (2 Australia, 2 England and 2 US). There were only about 225 total guests on the ship. Even with only 6 people, the employees made us feel like we were the only ones on the ship. This trip had shore stops almost every day. In many cases only 4 of the English speakers went on the English speaking tours. In every case we had our own personal English speaking guide and an employee from the Europa2 travel department on the tour. It was very personal and very much like having hired our own private guide. In many cases, we would be on the same bus with the German guests going to and from the site, but once we got to our location, we split off into our own small group. On the 2nd cruise which was 7 days in the Aegean Sea, the ship had the largest number of English speaking passengers that they had ever hosted (135 out of about 450 total passengers). This changed the dynamics of the trip. We went from being catered to, to being 2 out of 135. The service was still excellent, but it was a shock to get on a bus where everyone was speaking English after experiencing the prior 14 days. I guess being 2 out of 135 is still better than being 2 out of 3000 (as you can see, I am addicted to small ships). This brings up the topic of traveling with a group of Germans. They are so organized. They show up on time, they do as they are requested and they are polite and respectful. Everything seemed to run effortlessly during the first 2 weeks. On the second trip, I missed being surrounded by all Germans This may make sense to some of the readers :). On both trips I was able to socialize as much as I desired. When there were only 6 of us, we tended to stick together during many events and even the meals. When there were 135 of us, we picked the people that we wanted to socialize with. We were never placed at a table in the dining room with non-English speaking passengers. Many of the German passengers spoke English and were very polite. It was just hard to tell who spoke English and who didn't. There were several situations when someone would surprise me by starting a conversation in very good English. I like both of my trips on the Europa2 so much that I am going back for a June Cruise and traveling with other family members. One last comment about the ship. On one occasion one of the passengers asked the Captain how the ship received the 5 1/2 star rating. The Captain said it is easier to show you during the cruise than it is to try to explain it to you. At the end of my 21 days, I understood how they received the 5 1/2 stars and I hated to get of that beautiful ship. If a traveler likes luxury and is looking for something a little different, I would recommend the Europa2. My last comment will not apply to very many people, but the Europa2 offers kidney dialysis for patients who have kidney failure. The person I was traveling with has kidney failure and this ship offers luxury travel to a person who otherwise may not be able to travel. On the first cruise, there were 4 dialysis patients, 2 nephrologists and a kidney tech. The medical service was more than first class.
  8. Hypercafe. I'm gald you enjoyed your trip on the Europa2. I was so happy with the service that I have booked another cruise in June. I was anxious to read your review, but I can't find it. Probably I am not looking in the right place. Maybe you can point me to it. Glad you are back with good memories. I know that many of the crew members who were on the ship while I was sailing for the 3 weeks this summer we very anxious to visit New York while the ship was in port.
  9. I was wondering if you ever found any additional information on AXA Assistance? I started this post with asking for information on Tin Leg. Fortunately I didn't need to find out whether my decision was right or wrong for my trip this year, since I didn't need to file a claim. I need to buy travel insurance for 4 of us for my next trip. Since there were so may complaints about Tin Leg, I thought I would shop around. AXA came in the cheapest with CFAR coverage (considerably cheaper than anyone else except Tin Leg). As you pointed out, it is difficult to find any information about this company. When 4 people are booking a trip 8 months out, I would feel more comfortable with CFAR coverage, but it is so expensive with everyone other than AXA and Tin Leg. I sure wish there was a way to sort this out.
  10. Hank, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I was on the cruise for 3 weeks. Thankfully I will never know how good or bad Tin Leg insurance is, because I didn't have to use them for any claims. The reason I bought primary coverage is for 3 reasons; (1) I am on Medicare and my secondary coverage is only $50,000 for international travel; (2) I like the idea of not having to deal with a claim to Medicare, the denial, then a claim to my secondary policy; (3) the person traveling with me has a very serious pre-existing condition. When things go wrong, they can go very wrong and I might need the coverage that this policy provides. I also buy a medical evacuation policy "just in case", since I don't want to be stuck in the nearest hospital that can handle the crisis, when I need the medical care in the US. I found after my original post that travel insurance is a controversial topic. I am a novice at all this, but I am a researcher and I try to make the decision that is best for my particular needs. The only question that is up in the air for me is how good is Tin Leg if you truly understand the policy that you bought and you meet all their conditions. As I read through many posts regarding travel insurance, I found that some people didn't understand the policy provisions or didn't follow the rules and then were upset because the claim was denied. I need to find a company that follows the policy provisions and will pay when all the policy requirement are met. I really haven't read anything so far about Tin Leg that indicates the contrary. Luckily I've got a few months before my next trips to keep researching. I've used CSA in the past and was happy with their policy too. I selected Tin Leg this year because of the cost of the total package that I bought.
  11. Tom, the trip was great. The ship is beautiful and the service and food is even better. It really lives up to its 5 star plus rating. The 2 cruises were very different. The first 2 weeks from Athens to Istanbul in the Black Sea had only 230 passengers (less than half full). I guess the problems in the Black Sea scared off many people. There were only 6 English speakers on that cruise. They spoiled the 6 of us with attention. Dinner with the Hotel Manager, dinner with the International Hostess, almost private tours with our own English speaking guide. They really treated us first class. The second cruise from Istanbul to Athens had 135 English speakers and a total of 430 passengers. They said that this was the largest group of English speakers that they have hosted. Every employee we talked to was nervous because they wanted that cruise to be perfect. Everything went off without a hitch. I just had to share everyone with 134 other people. I got spoiled on the cruise before because the specialty restaurants were always available, "my" table on the back deck of the Yacht Club was always there, the best seats in the theater for the shows were always available, 3 employees were always there to pull my chair out and push it back in again. You get the picture. I liked the ship so much that I have tentatively booked 2 cruises next summer. There is only 1 reason why I wouldn't keep the trips and it is the cost. I traveled this year (and probably next year) with a friend. We need 2 beds in the cabin and on the Europa2 they only have 1 large bed in the cabins. The beds can't be separated. This doesn't work for 2 friends traveling together. I tried a rollaway this year and it just didn't work space wise in the cabin. The Hotel Manager made a "special arrangement" for me this year that took care of the problem. That won't happen again. Next year I would need to book 2 cabins and that makes the cost of 2 cruises very expensive (particularly when you add in the airline tickets and the shore excursions). The friend who is traveling with me is on kidney dialysis and the Europa2 is one of only a few ships that offers this marvelous service on the ship. The care that they give is hard to buy at any cost. There are several large cruise ships that also offer this service, but I am not happy with that type of cruising. I am more into small ships and riverboats. When I add the need for kidney dialysis into the equation, my choices are limited. I'll need to make up my mind pretty quickly if I plan on keeping my reservation on the Europa2 for next year. I know that you will love this ship and your upcoming trip. If you have any questions about the ship or how things worked, let me know and I will be happy to answer them.
  12. Tom, you have a good memory. I leave this morning. Retired and Happy is Packed and Ready. Once I see my suitcases come off the airline carousel in Athens, I will be Relaxed and Happy. I am looking forward to my trips on the Europa2. Hopefully the Black Sea area will be calm while I am there. Thanks for the note. Richard
  13. Are we on the same Europa2 cruise? Athens to Istanbul (9/5) or Istanbul to Athens (9/20). I couldn't tell by your post. Your comment about a converter made me review my electrical requirements. I have 1 converter, but I decided to order another one just in case the one I have dies during the trip. I always end up with a bag full of electronics that need charging, so a dead converter would be a real problem. I like the new ones that are available because some have multiple USB ports as well as multiple 110V plugs. I am hoping that Russia doesn't mess up the only Ukraine port left on the trip (Odessa). I booked a full day land tour with a private company and I was looking forward to that trip.
  14. Great advice. I am going to fill up some of my spare time with a couple of German tours. I took at 14 night German riverboat tour last year on the Danube and I made friends with several of the German passengers. I found that even the ones who didn't speak English went out of their way to be friendly. 3 weeks and counting.
  15. Hello English Voyager. I read your Europa2 review and have a question. I will be leaving for 21 night on the Europa2 on Sept. 5. I looked over the English port excursions and in a couple of the ports I was not happy with the selection given for English tours. I booked off ship private tours in some ports when I could find a reputable company. I noticed that you went on some German tours. I was thinking about doing the same thing, but I speak NO German. I am curious if you speak enough German to be able to understand the guides or whether it didn't make any difference and you enjoyed the tour even though it was in German. I have looked at other options but the ship's private tours are too expensive and I have not been able to locate a private guide in one port (Constanta). I was considering taking one of the German tours. I would be interested in your opinion.
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