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Everything posted by Mura

  1. Re the question about Viking's tours, I can't speak to the ocean cruises but most of the river boat tours are walking tours. That's easy enough to do when you are usually docked bang in the middle of town. Occasionally they had tours taking you outside of the port city which usually were fee-based. Not badly priced at all but not free. As an example, when we were in Arles, France, we had a walking tour in the morning and a paid-for afternoon bus tour to Les Baux and St. Remy. My notes don't indicate what we paid for the bus tour but as I said it was reasonably priced. We've done three riverboat trips with Viking (one of which was China so may not count) but we never had a "panorama" type bus tour with only a few photo stops. I would be very surprised if that is all they offer on the ocean cruises. Mura
  2. What a pretty boy ... or girl!! Somehow all of our cats have either been black, white, or black AND white. It wasn't planned, it just happened that way! Mura
  3. The problem with booking higher suites is the same as booking business or better air fare ... It's hard to go back to the "real world"! Mura
  4. I haven't forgotten because we've never seen one of them! We did have a PH on one Marina cruise but it was midships. Another advantage to those suites, however. Thanks for the comment. Mura
  5. About Shanghai ... As I said we were there on a Viking river boat cruise. We had 3 days or so in Beijing but only about a day and a half in Shanghai. While I wouldn't have wanted to shorten our time in Beijing, we really wanted more time in Shanghai. I guess my answer would have been to add on a couple of days to the trip so as to better see Shanghai. But Viking didn't ask me ... One of the highlights in Shanghai was on the bus heading for the Museum. We were at an enormous traffic circle which had big traffic signs. The Chinese said -- well, whatever it said. The English said something like 7-9am, 3-5pm. We were glad we weren't driving! Mura
  6. We haven't encountered many young people on our O cruises. A few very young ones who were with crew family members. A few young teens. We NEVER encountered the horror stories that some have recounted. (Then again we don't tend to sit around the pool and we don't travel at times when many children might be aboard.) The comment about the 10 year old walking around with her notebook reminded me of a visit to Ellis Island with a Danish friend some years ago. We happened to encounter a few people at a Danish exhibit and a student was writing into her notebook. Sisse volunteered to give some information about Danes and Denmark pertinent to the exhibit but the teacher shut her off. The student had her assignment and didn't need more information ... I was struck how the teacher wasn't able to make this a REAL teachable moment. Which doesn't have much to do with the little girl on this cruise, of course. Mura
  7. I was trying to quote a comment about O's biz air add-on but wanted to read through to the end before I did, and then when I went back I couldn't find it! So I will say: For open-jaw flights O could never beat biz air prices we found on our own (and since retirement we have some FF miles but not enough). But there WAS one one-way flight after a TA where it was very advantageous to use O's air a few years ago. I think that may have been a Heathrow-NYC flight but can't be positive. I'm pretty sure it was ... In general, upgrades to business using Oceania cost you much more than doing it on your own (even without FF miles). But occasionally, especially if you're only talking one flight as opposed to two, it can work. Of course, I'm talking about flights from NYC since that's where we live. And I'm also talking flights to/from Europe. For people who aren't in gateway airports, I doubt Oceania would ever beat what you can find on your own. Mura
  8. True, no waiter service as such for Terrace ... but very frequently once you select your plate (first, second, third or last), very often a server will carry it to the table for you. Busboys/girls come around asking if you want a drink, as does the wine person. I didn't used to be asked to give up my plate, but these days I routinely am ... Even when I'm only 5 feet away from our table. It's NOT service as in one of the other restaurants, but you can have a very pleasant time on the terrace of Terrace if you want an outdoor meal. If you are in a top suite (I know, I know) you can order in from any of the restaurants and dine on your veranda if you like ... but you need to be in a top suite just to get enough room on the veranda for a table, even if only for two. The two aft OC suites have a huge veranda and it would be easy enough to carry the dining table from the living room outdoors (that's my assumption, I haven't tested the theory). When we were in an OS on Regatta many years ago we regularly had breakfast on the veranda, using the table that is regularly there. But Penthouse suites on all ships (if I'm remembering correctly) would really be too tight for dining al fresco. Hope this helps. Mura
  9. We pretty much always share a table in the specialties. Sometimes it's a couple with whom O has paired us, sometimes it's with people on our roll call. We've never had a bad experience -- certainly nothing as horrific as CintiPam described! I think I'd have gotten up and left, but maybe I'd have tried to tough it out the way she did. I remember a dinner with Jacques with two women (about the same age as we were) and while not completely simpatico -- I don't doubt they felt the same way -- it was still a good experience. I think we all had different interests, is all. Then there was the table for six in the GDR some years ago which was just wonderful even though we were all strangers -- we were all musicians and so we had a LOT in common. No guarantees, and you never know. Mura
  10. We were in Shanghai with Viking about 10 years ago. One of the highlights for us was the Art Museum -- some really gorgeous art there. We also very much enjoyed the Yu Yuan Gardens (near the Bund). Can't comment on Zhujiajiao though!
  11. I wouldn't worry about booking a ship's tour just to see how it is! One reason we've used the oLife tours is if you choose correctly the price becomes cost effective -- yes, you are paying more for the cruise than if you take the cruise-only fare, but you get more than your money's worth by finding a higher priced tour that you're entitled to. If you have private tours already booked, just stick with them. They are cheaper (as many have already said) plus you have the benefit of a much smaller group. While we've had some excellent ship's tours and the others were almost always at least very good, I still prefer private tours myself. Mura
  12. The problem with the Malta tour was that it just didn't do what we really wanted to do. The guide was excellent although frustrated with the slower pace of many of the older passengers on the tour. This was particularly noticeable as we walked through an old Arab village on the way to the Mdina. But we'd been there before with another couple (on a private tour where we did the Mdina on our own) and much of it was repetitious for us. It wasn't a BAD tour, just the wrong one for us! Mura
  13. This may be a good reason for using an experienced Oceania TA. Unfortunately, we aren't permitted to make recommendations of TAs here. I don't think I have ever booked a cruise through Oceania itself although we DID do so with O's predecessor, Renaissance. Mura
  14. I hadn't seen about Barney's problems until now so I'm glad to hear he is doing well. We had a diabetic cat -- ultimately he went into remission but then died from a squamous cell cancer in his mouth. But he had daily insulin shots for several years. He was rather young when diagnosed and wasn't an obese cat. So you never know! Cheers for Barney. To whomever said that "O'Life tours weren't that fabulous", I would have to disagree. I am someone who prefers private tours just because they are smaller groups. But our oLife tours in the past 2-3 years have pretty much been excellent, maybe one that was only average. We've had private tours that weren't up to snuff as well! Many of the complaints about ship's tours in the past have been because of O's high cost, not necessarily because they were really horrible. (Okay, for people who only want 10-12 people on a tour, they don't want to get on a full bus. I get that! I'm not happy on a full bus either.) We have been taking more ship's tours since oLife came into play a few years ago and I can't remember a real complaint about any of them ... other than the one in Malta that I should NOT have chosen! Mura
  15. Barbels, My last cruise was on Riviera last May. I was one to objected to the new menus -- but for one thing these only affect the GDR. The specialty menus are pretty much static and have been the same for many years. There are occasional changes there, but they have been minor. We just saw more repetition is all. My objection to the "improvement" was that I noticed fewer choices. But that didn't affect the food itself. We still love Oceania's food. We like to have breakfast in the GDR on non-tour days, in our room on tour days. A couple of years ago we took a downsell to a "B" category room which meant on tour days we had breakfast in Terrace. I had remembered that experience as a "zoo" in the past but it didn't bother us on this cruise (which was on Nautica). I don't think you'll be unhappy with the food on your cruise! Yes, every cook has an occasional disappointment. I myself (who seems to be considered "gourmet cook" by my friends although I'd never refer to me as such) served a "bride's" dinner recently. It was edible, just not up to my usual standard! Mura
  16. If you are on board when they have one of those fabulous Sunday brunches, DO NOT MISS IT!! Mura
  17. Sounds like excellent advice from Katz. We haven't done most of these ports so I didn't know. My comment about the location of a port terminal shop is that they aren't always that close to the ship. If they are, that's a perfect place to look for an ATM. Have fun! Mura
  18. I won't criticize you for using ship's tours. We sometimes do the same but we do a mix of private and ship's tours these days. But given security questions these days it doesn't seem likely that you can "sneak out" to find a port ATM. Maybe if they have a real terminal that is very close to the pier. These days that doesn't seem to be the usual thing. In your place I would hope for places we can find an ATM on our tour. I would say look at your detailed tour descriptions and see if you will have time in towns (not necessarily in villages but I don't think they have to be major cities either) for an ATM. Or, just play it safe and get currency for all of your destinations in advance. Me being me, I wouldn't. I'd trust that I'd find an ATM. It's how you want to fly ... It's YOUR trip! Mura
  19. Paul ( or others) may correct me but I don't think that appetizer menu has ever changed! We don't usually order them -- we did at first, then the choice seemed less enticing. NOT AWFUL. Just not that impressive. So these are occasional for us. (Whereas the paid menu for hors d'oeuvres is VERY impressive.) Of course, one is free and the other is not! I wouldn't order from that paid menu for only two people, however. I believe if you have guests in for cocktails you can also order more than two of the free types. At least we have on occasion. That may depend on your butler ... One way we often use the butler is for the course-by-course dinner served in the room by the butler. That's very tempting on days when we're tired out from touring! And we always do this on the last night of the cruise. It's one way to get around the limits on the number of specialty reservations you can have if they are harder to get on your particular cruise. And of course as others have said, we have the hot breakfast in our room on tour days. But we don't make up a standard list for the butler -- we order from the form that distribute every night because our desires change daily! On non-tour days we like breakfast in the GDR. Dinner menus are in the room. Mura
  20. Snack samples ... I can remember a few. There's a nacho plate. A cheese Plate. Some fruit, I think. There are a fair number of choices, not more than a dozen, I don't think. And they aren't large. Good to hold you over until dinner. If you host a cocktail party in your room (we did so once when we had an OC) there is a specific menu. They do charge for it but the portions are geneous. Turned out we obeyed the instructions and ordered FAR too much. Mura
  21. It sounds like you are planning on only doing ship's tours. Is that right? Private guides will always stop by an ATM upon request, and I assume that a guide on a ship's tour would as well. This could depend on your itinerary, of course. If you are going to be in a town or city you should have time to visit an ATM. But if you are just touring "outside" -- that could be problematic. Then again, if that's the kind of tour you are on, you might not need cash (other than tips for the driver and guide) on hand. Certainly if you are on a tour that is long enough in duration that you will be having lunch somewhere, you should have time to find an ATM. Again ... depending on where you are. Good luck, Mura
  22. Yes, it's easy to listen. But when we've just boarded and want to unpack and get ready for the boat drill, we really don't want to spend time listening to a spiel that we could give ourselves. As I said, it has NOT been necessary on more recent cruises. Maybe once they see you're at a higher status, they no it isn't necessary. I imagine they'd be happy to dispense with giving information. Perhaps the "rules" have changed in the past few years. Agreed, there are worse problems to be concerned about. I wouldn't try to compare the need to educate new moms with the butler's need to let you know just what he can do! Mura
  23. We like it, too! Yes, there are times when we want to get a bit dressed up and go to the GDR. It can depend on the menu. But we also like Terrace, especially if we're tired out from touring. It's very nice to be able to go to the grill area and order a steak made to order, or perhaps shrimp or lobster. There are so many wonderful choices and you can decide if you want them just by looking at them. And it doesn't take 2 hours! Mura
  24. I'm not on this cruise so some general answers (since I don't see any before me). In most countries local people want their own currency. It costs them money to take your dollars to the bank and convert them, for example. But sometimes they DO want dollars: when we did the Black Sea cruise in 2012 most of the Russian/Ukrainian guides wanted dollars. Guides will be clear about this, but when you are just spending money on the street probably the locals want their own currency. We always get cash from ATMs at ports when we need it. If you are in really small ports, maybe they won't be available. Don't use a credit card to get cash from an ATM, though! Use a debit card. Some banks don't charge a fee. TIAA (formerly Everbank) doesn't charge to use the ATM although they do charge a small percentage of the amount you withdraw. Any ATM charges that you accrue will be credited back at the end of the statement period. SO: Check with your bank as to their policies. But credit card companies treat this as a cash advance which entails heavy interest. If you are online and trust the connection, you can of course go to the bank and immediately pay it off to avoid the interest. But in general people will advise you to use a debit card for cash at ATMs. Hope this helps a bit. Mura
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