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Everything posted by Mura

  1. Our Russian visa was purchased for a cruise on Renaissance in May 2001. We got our own visa through a visa service, and as far as I could tell it cost less than any other option. At the time, we'd have had to go to D.C. to find a consulate (very strange as I thought at the time) so this was our best option. Even though we only had an overnight stay there -- bear in mind this was before Red October and these other groups came into being -- we thought it was worth it. Because of the special circumstance of our private guide ($60/day!) going to the wrong port because of a last minute change, the fact that we had that visa allowed us to go out and about which otherwise we could NOT have done. Maybe things are easier now but back then if you were stopped on the street by the "fuzz" and you didn't have proper documentation, you could have had a big problem. On the second day we went around with our guide who by that time had caught up with us. Coming back from the Hermitage on Day #1 (where we only spent 6 hours 😀) we had no trouble catching a cab. Yes, he cheated us on the fare! But we didn't really care. By his standards what he charged us was a lot of money but by ours it was not. The next day our guide hailed a cab for our return to the ship and negotiated a fare which he honored. That was a lot less than what we'd paid the day before! I wonder from the reports of people using these tour groups that provide a group visa and yet allow their members to do some wandering around on their own -- would they have a problem these days if stopped by the authorities? Do they have anything in hand to show that they have a group visa? On our tours in the Ukraine and Crimea in 2012 (which did provide group visas), I don't recall that we had anything that we could have produced in such a case. Then again, none of us left our group ... One of our group (we were 16 who pretty much did private tours in all ports arranged by one of us) was suffering from Alzheimers. If she had wandered off and been stopped, that could have been a very serious problem! But, of course, all of us kept an eye out for her. Mura
  2. My memory doesn't always go back that far, but I don't recall that they switched the names ... just that the Insignia maiden cruise was postponed for some reason, I forget what that was. Regatta was definitely R2 because we had a bridge tour in 2005 (sshh, don't tell anyone, they swore us to secrecy at the time) and the schematic on the wall said the ship was the R2. Mura
  3. Perhaps because as I recall she was the first ship in the fleet. My memory is that originally it was supposed to be Insignia that was the first, but then they switched. I forget why. Or maybe it's just because they are did the refit on Regatta first?????????? Did they? I haven't kept track. Certainly Regatta was the first cruise WE took on Oceania, and her incarnation as Renaissance's R2 was also our first cruise on that line. Mura
  4. Lyn, I had arranged for a 9:30 am pickup to take my group into central London. I think I would have been beside myself at the wait ... I guess I'll have to check with the gentleman who took over for me when we had to cancel! I'm sure the drivers knew to wait ... Mura
  5. We visited St. Petersburg with Renaissance in May 2001 and had our own visas. We used a visa service because of the difficulty in getting an "invitation letter" -- we did have a private guide but she was truly private and couldn't give us one. The cost was minimal at the time. Probably wouldn't be so today. We were able to go around on our own, with or without our guide ... we pretty much we stuck with her although the first morning the dock was changed at the last minute. She went to the original one and didn't see my email telling her where the ship really was. While we were waiting for her, a couple of crew members came out and offered us a ride to the Hermitage -- which we accepted. Naturally, our guide arrived 10 minutes after we left. We spent the day at the Hermitage, took a cab home, and spent the second day with her. But I've been surprised in the years since then how many people have asked if they could wander off on their own without a visa. I'm not suggesting that OP is in this category! Back then it was very risky to do so. Maybe today it wouldn't be as risky, but I wouldn't try either. If the private groups (like Red October, etc.) allow you to go off shopping on your own, I wouldn't worry. Mura
  6. When we were first really cruising (think Renaissance back in 1999-2000) we both disliked sea days. Then Ren bellied up and we booked an NCL Buenos Aires-Santiago cruise in January 2002 which because of the itinerary had frequent sea days. We came to like them. Both of us! It can depend on the ship and the shipboard activities offered, of course. But we now both love TAs (as in transatlantics 😀). There's always hope hubby will change! Mura
  7. That is very different from our experience with butlers. At first we didn't use them and they were constantly volunteering. Later on, we discovered their value and started to use them frequently. Not as frequently as some, but frequently. On a recent cruise (where we were in an OC) we had a cocktail party in our suite for a group of 8 and our butler deserved every extra penny. For exemplary service, we give cash at the end of the cruise. Mura
  8. It's not just Russia. Some years ago (not that many but probably more than 5-6, less than 10) we had guides in Istanbul and Ephesus, both of whom were very vocal in their opposition to the current government. When you are with private guides, they probably feel free to voice their opposition. It may well be different with guides on a larger tour. Mura
  9. Changing the theme although I won't continue this. When we were driving from Belize to Tikal in 1996, we were warned that the police might detain us. They didn't, but it was a frequent problem. Sometimes a very serious problem! We were very lucky since we had a private car (yes, a paid car) for the transfer. Coming back, there was absolutely no problem at all. (Going there the soldiers did come out to question us but we WERE at a border point and the driver said everything was fine. Whether he forked over cash, I don't know.)
  10. It particularly depends on the cabin class you are in. On an 18 day cruise on an "O" ship, if you are in a top suite I think it's 3. But in lower cabins it will be 2 or 1.
  11. Off the top of my head, TA can be travel agent or trip advisor ... no doubt, plenty of other things. I automatically assume (on CC) that TA mean travel agent ... until thinking that is the case doesn't make sense. Mura
  12. Plus it is limited. That is, it's business class over water -- such as the east coast to Europe, west coast to Hawaii, and so on. But if you have to fly overland either in the U.S. or Europe, you will be in coach for that leg. Given OP's limited time and inability to book her own because of that, it's irrelevant at this point. Mura
  13. And I wasn't intending to start one! Just wanted to point out that even if there is a notary on board, it's quite likely he or she won't be able to help you. At least not while on board. In many cities there are "notary" signs on store fronts who can notarize something in the jurisdiction you are in. That's probably the best bet for your fellow passenger. End of discussion, I promise. Mura
  14. It's pretty common to see empty tables. They keep flexibility for "changing tables" and different times. I have never ever seen all tables taken. As I've said on CC many times on this subject, there are cruises where most passengers want to eat in the specialties as often as they can. There are also cruises where the opposite is the case. DH and I rarely use the number of reservations we are entitled to because we know the menus of the specialties extremely well after so many years, and while we like the food (the one exception being Red Ginger and even there we don't dislike it -- we just won't go more than once, if at all) we like the variety in the GDR and Terrace even more. Mura
  15. I'm a notary although not on board the ship so of no help to you. But I question whether any passenger who is a notary will have his or her stamp in luggage. You really can't notarize anything without that. I certainly don't bring my stamp with me when I'm traveling! Besides, you are a notary in a specific jurisdiction. I'm a NY notary. I don't think I could notarize anything in a different state, let alone foreign climes. Mura
  16. Given the time frame I thought it probably would be but sometimes it's worth trying for a last minute ticket, especially if you are looking for a more expensive seat! This from someone who usually books air WELL in advance. When you book the cruise at the last minute, it creates another problem. We've done so in the past ourselves but NOT since we upgraded our air seats ... Good luck! Mura
  17. I may well be wrong on this since we've never done an Alaska cruise on O, but I thought I read some years back that HAL, etc., had a lock on Glacier Bay. And that O went to Hubbard instead. (I think it was Hubbard, but I could be wrong on that score as well.) I avoid using GB for Glacier Bay since I discovered that I was reading that as "Great Britain". 😀
  18. I myself would prefer Antigua to St. Kitts (been there twice and once was more than enough) but if they are banning cruise ships, there's not much to be said!
  19. If you aren't happy with the flights and would have preferred business, is it too late to see if you can't book your own air? You would get a credit on the fare for the cruise if you can do so. This is why we prefer to book our own air, especially since these days we want business seats -- extra especially on a long flight. Mura
  20. We're both always happy to help if we can. Mura
  21. I certainly understand some nervousness if this is your first trip to europe and especially if you don't speak the languages. We usually take cabs (sometimes pre-reserved car services) but in both Barcelona and Rome we've never had a problem communicating with drivers. My Italian is still pretty decent although Spanish is much less so, so I wasn't particularly concerned about language difficulties but in general I haven't needed to speak the local language. If you have a car service those drivers (in our experience) speak decent English. I'd forgotten about the benefit of "free" deviation when using their hotels, and that is certainly a factor to consider. As to air fares, check what you could do in premium economy on your own and compare it to your costs through Oceania. Our experience has been that O's PE fares are often advantageous, whereas booking business class through O is NOT. Mura
  22. I'm wondering if O is rethinking the idea of scheduling this TA in early April! Back in 2014 we had beautiful weather most of the time in May ... not exactly sunbathing weather most of the time, but not all that cold! Mura
  23. Never having used O's hotel offers I can't answer your question definitively but I believe all the transfer you mention will be included. However, you are paying a fortune for your accommodations. Virtually all of O's hotel offers are on a per person basis, so usually you are paying at least double for the hotel as compared to what you would pay if you booked the same hotel on your own. If you booked the hotel on your own and paid for your own transfers, you'd still be way ahead. If you don't care how much you pay for the pre- and post-cruise visits, if you prefer the ease of "being taken care of" -- which isn't invalid! -- then by all means use O's hotels. But we never have, even though occasionally we've stayed in the same hotel. Mura
  24. Oh my, thanks, Petoonya! It's just hard to see some of the unpleasantry here that we all encounter at times. Mura
  25. By now they're supposed to be in Ireland so maybe no more snow ... ???
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