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Everything posted by FionaMG

  1. Thanks for sharing. Have a great cruise!
  2. Mykonos is tendered. You can find this information by "searching" for your cruise and then clicking on "Explore this itinerary" (see example below).
  3. Hi @Pattycruise. When is your cruise? I'm guessing it's probably next year sometime as the European cruise season for this year is pretty much at an end. If that's the case, the first thing to bear in mind that it's too far ahead to know what the protocols might be. Just as is the case in the US, they change often and sometimes unpredictably. With that out of the way let me throw out a couple of ideas for you to consider. First off, when you say there are no direct flights back, I'm guessing you mean from Bologna. How "adventurous" a traveller are you? The reason for this question is that the Italian rail system is actually pretty decent and perhaps you might be able to find a direct flight from either Rome or Milan, both of which you should be able to reach without too much difficulty by train. I see @KJones added precisely this suggestion while I was typing my reply. So, yes, if you are comfortable with the idea, I would say it is definitely worth looking into. If you're not comfortable with that idea, then look for connecting flights through smaller European airports, which are easier to connect in than the "monsters". Two that fall into this category and which you would be better to avoid if you can are Paris Charles de Gaulle and London Heathrow. Both are massive and you may find yourself having to change terminals that will almost inevitably be at opposite ends of the airport. Heathrow has the added aggravation of a hefty passenger tax levied on departing passengers by the UK government, which may or may not apply to your flight. There are rules for this tax but they're really complicated and I don't really understand them myself. However, they will show up in the pricing, so watch out for that if you can't avoid going through the UK. As far as the UK not being in the EU any more, it is indeed the case that they have their own Covid protocols which are not identical to EU ones, so you would need to check the UK government's website to find out what they are. There is no point in doing this just now as another change is imminent. That said, if you are merely transiting (i.e. as long as you stay airside and do not go through passport control), the rules are minimal. When I said look for smaller airports to connect in, I can think of several off the top of my head but there will undoubtedly be others. From my own personal experience, Lisbon is very easy. It is very small for a capital city airport and has only one terminal, making it really easy peasy. However, a connecting flight through Lisbon will almost always mean travelling on TAP Portuguese Airlines. While the aircraft are new and modern and the flight crew invariably very pleasant and helpful, the airline has a less than stellar punctuality record and they tend to shoot themselves in the foot with ineffective (I'm being kind here) after-sales customer service. Price-wise, they tend to be extremely competitive and are Star Alliance members who generally offer plenty of award space if you happen to have miles to burn. Madrid is also quite a good option for connecting flights; it's a good bit bigger than Lisbon but still manageable. And I have heard that Amsterdam and Dublin are also good. Dublin has the added bonus of having US immigration check pre-departure meaning that your flight from there to the US is effectively classed as a domestic route and you don't have to go through immigration on arrival Stateside. As far as connecting time is concerned, it depends to some extent on the airport. In Lisbon, in theory, you could do it in two hours but I think that's probably cutting it fine, especially given the potential for your inbound flight to arrive late. I would be inclined to give yourself a 3-hour connection time at minimum and probably more if you end up going through Paris or London. If you fly via a Schengen airport (note that London and Dublin are not Schengen airports), you will not go through passport control at Bologna but, rather at your connecting airport because that is where you will be leaving the Schengen area. This is why it is wise to leave yourself a bit of extra time as the lines at passport control can be long. However, your bags should be checked all the way through to your destination as long as your flight is booked on a single ticket. Be extremely wary of buying separate flights that involve a first leg on one of the low-cost European carriers as they do not do proper connecting flights; you would have to collect your bags at baggage claim and then re-check them for the onward flight. One last thought, perhaps one of the great MEI travel agents who post here on the boards can actually handle just the flights for you for this trip? I honestly don't know. Perhaps @Sharla, @michelle, or any of the others can chime in? Sorry for going on for so long ; I hope I didn't bore you, but I wanted to give you as much help as I possibly could, as others have helped me in the past. Just paying it forward.
  4. Oh good, can't wait to see them. I'm very excited for our cruise on Odyssey next May. If you happen to have one of the outside that might allow me to pinpoint our cabin and see how obstructed it is that would be brilliant. I booked us in 6622 based on the detailed preliminary chart you made a few months ago, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it turns out to be a good choice.
  5. I think they would; they are certainly big enough even for an adult to lie down full length. The picture for the 3-berth cabin is exactly the same as ours. We were in 11319. The layout in 11317 was reversed with the couch by the door and the bed by the balcony.
  6. The couch all the way over at the window in the photo converts to a bed. It's pretty big. We had 11317 and 11319 on Harmony so the layout would probably be the same as yours.
  7. You just tap your seapass card on the scanner or whatever it's called on the machine you want to play on. Then you have to go through some fiddly steps to transfer the credit for the $6 free play from your card to the machine. Not being terribly casino-savvy, we had absolutely no idea how to do it so one of the staff had to show us step-by-step. For some reason the $6 hadn't been loaded on to my sister-in-law's card but the cashier was able to sort it out for her. And my card wouldn't work at all on any machine so I had to go and get a whole new seapass card before I could use mine!
  8. I would like to see the nightly pie and curry options that are standard on ships sailing from the UK rolled out to other ships as well. I am looking forward to trying some of these when we sail on Anthem next year. That said, our waiter on Harmony asked if any of us liked curry and when I said I did he told me that they always had a curry option even though it wasn't on the menu. I did ask for that on a night I found the menu to be underwhelming.
  9. I didn't want to either! And I agree waiting in your stateroom is so much better. Thanks for sharing your trip. It's been great. Safe travels home.
  10. Agree. Not to mention cutting down on food waste. So often at self-serve buffets I have seen people piling more and more food on their plates and then not eating it all.
  11. I can only speak to my own, in a lowly boardwalk balcony cabin. The background is a medium blue and it has a nice geometric design in various shades of blue in the top right-hand corner. It's modern and attractive-looking, definitely my favourite out of all my seapass cards.
  12. I wonder if it might also have to do with staffing levels. On our recent Harmony cruise we (DH and I) were adjacent to SIL+BIL (as booked, and there was no attempt to move us) and the room next to them was definitely also occupied, so no spacing there between non-acquainted passengers. However, our cabin steward, told us that each of them had been assigned 7 cabins, so maybe they're switching people out when there are too many (whatever that means) cabins occupied in any given section.
  13. Yes, you are right. I did exactly this when I wanted to switch around a Solarium Bistro and a My Time Booking. Then I cancelled and re-booked.
  14. We don't have the same tipping culture here that exists in the US, so the idea even of the "standard" gratuities is a bit alien to us. That said, since DH and BIL both worked on cruise ships in their younger days and consequently know how important tips are to the crew, we will normally give our cabin steward and wait staff a small additional amount (usually $10-15 each) as long as the service is up to scratch. Of course, this works both ways and while we would never remove the automatic tips we also will absolutely not give extra for lukewarm or subpar service (which is luckily extremely rare).
  15. It was offered for my Harmony sailing last month up until about a month before and then they removed if from the planner. I hadn't booked it so I don't know if they cancelled it or if it filled up and was sold out (I'm guessing probably the former). I hope it does go ahead for Odyssey but, worst case scenario, if they cancel at least I'll get my money back eventually.
  16. I got some decent prices for excursions for my sailing on Odyssey next May and I also booked the All Access Tour, not something I'd normally be willing to pay for but, well it's Odyssey, isn't it, and at $95 it was lower than I've seen before either on this sailing or on my last cruise on Harmony. Hopefully it'll be worth it for the brand new hi-tech ship.
  17. There's something called an open booking that you can buy for $100 pp. I'm not 100% sure - maybe one of our MEI agents will chip in and correct me if I've got it wrong - but I think it works like this: if you convert it to a named sailing within 2 months of purchasing, you still get the OBC that you would have got if you'd booked a specific sailing on board. After that, you still have a further 10 months to convert it to a named sailing but you lose the OBC. And if you don't convert it to a named sailing within one year of purchase it expires and you lose the deposit. I think there's also something in the rules about if you convert it to a named sailing in a suite you have to pay the additional deposit at the time of conversion. So it's probably only worth considering if you don't normally sail in suites.
  18. It depends. Here's my experience. About a month before boarding my cruise on Harmony at the end of last month, I booked a cruise on Odyssey of the Seas. I saw what I felt was a really good price and a decent choice of cabins and I didn't want to wait until I got on board to book in case the price went up and the cabin I was interested in had gone by then. I thought this was very likely to happen, given that Odyssey is a brand new ship. And happen it did; the price went up by more than the OBC bonus I would have got for booking at Next Cruise and all of the cabins I had been looking at had gone. While there's always the possibility of getting a price drop later on, I think it's unlikely, again given the newness of the ship, so I believe I took the best course of action by booking when I did. Conversely, the other cruise I had my eye on at the time was a 12-nighter on an older ship (Anthem). Cruises of that length have a higher deposit: $450 pp as opposed to the $250 you pay on the shorter itineraries. Plus, the Next Cruise OBC for the longer cruise was going to be $200 and there were still plenty of acceptable cabins available. So I decided to take a chance and wait that one out. When I booked it at Next Cruise, it had gone up by $50 but with $200 OBC I still came out on top by waiting and I only had to shell out $100 pp for the deposit. And, as luck would have it, the cabin I wanted was still available. So in this case, it paid to wait and book at Next Cruise.
  19. The gym on Harmony was mask-free when I was onboard at the end of September. I double checked with the staff at the desk the first time before using it. There were signs outside reminding you to mask up when you exited. I did not do any group sessions, though, only my own work-outs.
  20. Oooh, this is interesting. I somehow had it my head that crystal blocks were only for D+ and Pins. That means that with the double points promo we should get our first ever when we sail on Anthem next September.
  21. Adding to your departure date wish, I would like to be able to ask it to show me cruises departing within a specific date range, e.g. 16 October to 16 November, instead of both the entire months of October and November. You used to be able to do that in the past, but they took it away during one of their "enhancements".
  22. It totally is! Nice itinerary.
  23. Miscellaneous musings #3 The gym In these Covid times, the gym was the only indoor space on board (at least that I encountered) where masks were not required but there were "masks on" reminders as you exited. Every second cardio machine was switched off and had a sign on it saying that it was not in use due to physical distancing. Even so, the open ones were never fully occupied when I was in there, although I make a point of going to the gym in the late afternoon when I cruise because I know that's a quiet time, so it's possible it was busier in the mornings. The free weights and pulley machines were fully available. Not much physical distancing there but again with so few people around it wasn't hard to keep your distance. People would scrupulously sanitise whatever machine they'd been using when they were done, even the mats used for floor work. Note that on this cruise the gym was operating fewer hours than normal, from 7 am to 7 pm rather than the usual 6 am to 10 pm. I got caught out the first evening and ended up doing my session on the running track instead, making use of the space at the aft where they normally have the deck chairs (and which were not there on this cruise). Shows There was only one production show on this cruise: the Broadway musical, Grease, which we did not get to see because it was only performed 3 times and we were unable to secure a booking for the only time that suited us. The other shows - the ice show, the aqua show and the headliners - were all good. I liked that there were later show times available (between 10 pm and 10.45 pm); when the shows are at 7 pm and 9 pm, I invariably miss them because the earlier time clashes with my work out and the later one clashes with our dinner. At the start of the week, most passengers were pretty compliant about wearing masks in the show venues but, by the end, many seemed to be tiring of the requirement. On the second-last night, in the main theatre, probably around 50% of the audience "chinned" or entirely removed their masks as soon as the lights went down. The show times for this sailing can be downloaded from the PDF I posted near the beginning of the thread but I expect they will change very soon since the ship is due to return to the US at the end of the month. Loungers Although the ship had few passengers, it was rarely easy to get a lounger right by the pools at the times we went (never early). I put this down to the large numbers of European passengers refusing to pay the outrageous excursion prices and simply staying on board. However, if you didn't mind going up to the deck above the pool, you could usually find loungers without too much trouble at any time of day. The Solarium A great spot and always very quiet. Southern Europeans tend to want to be in the middle of the confusion where they can all socialise together, so there did not seem to be much demand for the solarium. Plus, of course, Harmony is the ship with no pool in the solarium, which may have been significant. The wicker chairs with soft cushions and padded footrests in there were soooo comfy. Final thoughts We really enjoyed our cruise. It was very relaxing and just what the doctor ordered after the stress and anxiety of the last two years. However, it was definitely NOT the same experience that we would have had pre-pandemic. The ship was very quiet, too quiet in fact, and missing the usual buzz. Conversely, the service was magnificent, with the staff falling over themselves to make sure we enjoyed ourselves and, very importantly, felt safe. Departure was different too, since you go and have breakfast and then wait in your room until your tag is called. I would actually love to see this procedure maintained going forward as I felt it reduced the stress of departure considerably. Having booked a a cruise to the Greek Isles cruise on Odyssey of the Seas for next May just a few weeks before we sailed on Harmony, we booked another at the Next Cruise office, to the Canary Islands on Anthem of the Seas for next September, taking advantage of the low deposit, OBC and double points. We are thrilled to be back cruising again and are keeping our fingers crossed that the impact of Covid will lessen in the coming months and we will have a more "normal" experience on those two cruises. I have never before had two future cruises booked at the same time and I can't wait to get started on the planning for those! That's all for this one; if there's anything I've left out, do feel free to ask. If I know the answer I'll be delighted to help. Happy cruising!
  24. Miscellaneous musings #2 Diamond Benefits This was only our second cruise as Diamond C&A members. The first one was on Adventure over Thanksgiving 2019, so before Covid and, consequently, a bit different. As far as the Diamond Lounge itself was concerned, I much preferred the one on Adventure, as it was on one of the higher decks with beautiful sea views. I didn't care for the location of the lounge on Harmony, down in the bowels of the ship on deck 4 and with no windows to the outside world. Consequently, we only went there once, on the very first evening, just a little before the happy hour, to get some coffee and tea. At that time we were the only ones in there and we did have a pleasant chat with the Diamond Concierge (Lyli from Panama). We did see them starting to put out the nibbles for the happy hour but having eaten lunch late we didn't stay to partake. I did notice a computer screen in there, but it wasn't attached to anything so was essentially pointless. We did prefer the new drink vouchers system to the old one. However, we did not make very much use of it since, apart from BIL's glass of wine with dinner none of us drink alcohol. I don't think there was a single day when we managed to use them all up and those that we did were "spent" on such things as orange juice, cappuccinos and water. One day after my session in the gym, the server at the vitality café looked at me in utter disbelief when I asked him for two waters and "please take them off my Diamond allowance". The only other two benefits we used were the $6 free play in the casino (which was actually $8 because the casino was offering an extra $2 on the first two nights) and the free photo. Here are the information sheets we received:
  25. I was on Harmony in the Med last week and it's interesting to see how things differ on either side of the Pond. For example, we did not have "vaccinated-only" and "everyone" areas, like you have over there so there were no indoor spaces that were mask-free with the exception of the gym. The WJ was not operating a booking system for us, even though it said reservations preferred in the Compass. You just turned up and tapped in/out. That could be down to occupancy, possibly. On our sailing there were only 1,200 passengers on board. Or maybe it was just too complicated to get mostly southern European cruisers to go with the booking system. On our cruise, the Solarium Bistro was only open for dinner, and at breakfast in the WJ the cereal was in the little boxes, so you could just help yourself to them, rather than being in the big urns, like in your pic. The shops on our sailing were operating limited opening hours and the gym was only open from 7 am to 7 pm. We did not have a second production show either, only 3 performances of Grease, which we were unable to get a booking for, the ice show, the aqua show and the headliners. Maybe the second show will be added once she returns to the US at the end of this month. Thanks for sharing your experience. Your pics are great.
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