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Everything posted by bobroo

  1. If you value the ports on your cruise, these itineraries couldn't be more different. The ABC's are Dutch islands and are literally deserts. So a lot of European influence and no jungle. Curacao is lovely! The unique bridge, all the brightly colored buildings, and urban shopping. I know I am in the minority but personally I do not see what anyone likes about Aruba. The beaches are the only thing of value there and are quite good. Other than that in my opinion it is one great big Agave plant with a Diamonds International on one side and a crumby, sketchy casino on the other. Bonaire is a refreshing departure from every other island RCL sails to. It is clean, organized, and well kept. Bonaire is NOT out to get every dollar out of every tourist that wonders down the street. In addition it has the clearest water I haver ever been in. Needless to say I like Bonaire a lot just because it is so.....civil. Like Jamaica; Dominica, Greneda, and St Lucia are the tropical rainforest islands that you dream about. There are some great things to do and see on them. On the other hand the ports themselves are very "caribbean", and may not always be that country's best foot forward. Barbados is a bit of an exception and there is a distinct attitude of those who live there. Not a reason not to like it, it's just the way they are. Which should you choose? If you value the ports when you cruise, both itineraries are very different. Go to both and see for yourself. But, doing all 3 of the ABC's is kind of a rare itinerary with RCL, I'd chose that one first because it might become harder to do it at a later time.
  2. Here is the skinny about San Juan departures: RCL offers 3 excursions with airport drop-off, I can give details of each from our experience if anyone likes. However your 3pm departure poses a couple problems bayousteelers. Mainly, even though they might accept you for one of the excursions, your early departure will really step on the buzz of others with much later departures (these excursions are ended so that the ones with the earliest departures can make their flights on a bus by bus basis). Also keep in mind that I've found waiting times to 1) Go through the additional x-ray luggage scan for fruits and vegetables mandated for all flying out of Puerto Rico 2) the lengthy lines to check baggage 3) TSA security ( TSA Pre is NOT offered at SJU) are all quite long. For example here are my estimated times for each we spent in each line last March. X-Ray = 15 minutes, <after this I spent approx 45 minutes rearranging luggage so they met the weight limits on United's free scales, I also changed from flip flops to Chicago weather clothes>, Baggage Check-in= 20 mins BUT... we are fairly high level with United and get the VIP line, the lines for infrequent passengers were much, much longer I would say at least an hour. And the length of those lines was similar at the other airlines as well. TSA Security= 1 hour 15 minutes. So in other words; for my 6pm departure last Saturday March 13th I spent about 2 hours and 15 minutes trying to get to my gate. Your results may vary, I'm just saying SJU can take a while more than you might expect. What would I do in your case??? Get the hard work out of the way first. Take a cab from the pier to the airport. Do the x-ray and check your bags. Evaluate the TSA line and ask a TSA person what they might expect the line to be at 1:00 or so, and then I'd leave the airport and take a cab and have lunch at Lupi's Mexican Bar and Cantina. The one way cab fare was about $15 but not $20. Lupi's is just outside the airport and there are several large hotels nearby so hailing a cab back to SJU is not a problem. Co-incidentally, Lupi's is the restaurant many of the RCL airport drop off excursions go to for the "lunch on your own". Worth noting; SJU is reminiscent of LaGuardia. But that has changed a little bit recently. The renovation of the restaurants and shops near the gates is complete and the Margaritaville looks appetizing. It's not Orlando but it is much better than it was.
  3. You'll find Marseille a pleasant departure from your other ports. Your boat will dock quite aways from the city of Marseille, to get there will require an excursion. Perhaps after watching the Anthony Bourdain episode on Marseille will wet your appetite? As I've said it is different than your other ports in that it is France. As you might imagine France is organized, structured, classy, detail minded, and like Italy; inherently beautiful. So, it won't be ancient. It won't be over run. It won't be touristy. We went in 2014. Our RCL excursion brought us to the town of Cassis and then to a tour of Marseille and a large church called Notre Dame. I don't know if this tour is still available. The town of Cassis was very special. Quintessentially Provence. The farmers market we wondered through taught me so much about France and that they care so much about food. By comparison, here in the US we go through a drive through and for a $10 bill you get a brown bag with some junk in it. The cobblestone streets not only are white stone but they have snowflakes etched into them for traction. A man walking down the street with a corsage on his lapel not because he is standing up for a wedding but because it is....Tuesday. A bicycle leaning against a lamppost: photographic like a Thomas Kincade painting. The fishing boats in the harbor are all freshly painted, bright, vibrant, and not a spot of rust to be found on any of them. If I could afford it, Cassis is so far my #1 pick of a place to retire. The city of Marseille is very urban, yet still French. The Ferris Wheel is a iconic symbol. I found the Notre Dame church to be boring. But just a day or two beforehand we had been to the Vatican so after you see something like the Vatican ( or/ in addition to The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona); every other place of worship you walk into will pale by comparison. I will say we had lunch on our own at one of the outdoor cafes along the harbor and near the Ferris Wheel in Marseilles. It was a great lunch and for dessert we ordered profiteroles. I began to wonder because they took quite a while-- because they were made from scratch! They were by no means a signature dish or unusually specialty; that's just the way they do things in France. I don't need to tell you they were amazing beyond words. Worthy of getting on an airplane to fly to France just to eat them again. Don't discount your stop in Marseilles just because it doesn't appear to have any Oh Wow! attractions. Go there because you are getting a taste of France. A country unique and quite different. Don't worry about the language barrier, they know you are a tourist and with some respect to their culture every one speaks enough English so you get what you want. Most of all I hope you find you own profiteroles--or a great bottle of wine in the sunshine in a cafe, a great experience in a market buying Herbs d' Provence, a candy store right out of Willie Wonka, or maybe it's just a cup of expresso... Once your trip is over, please report back here; I'd like to hear how it went.
  4. My wife and I agree with Todd. Not only did TA Michelle do a great job and give good service; likely she gave away some of her earnings to make thinks right. We doubt that our TA, Costco; would be willing to do anything close to the same. Hummm....
  5. Let me tell you a little about a cruise we took last week out of San Juan, what we found, and a little of our decision making process. Flights this year (we have done a February/March sailing out of San Juan for the past 3 years) never dropped to the low levels we had seen them before. We settled at $600 a person round trip to/from Chicago.Our direct flight landed at 2am San Juan time. get bags and a cab ride and we are reaching our hotel at 3am. Boy, this is sounding like one of our trips to Europe... We booked early summer 2015. Being a frequent Wyndham guest we had booked the Cardiovascular early on, because it was only $100 a night. I did not do much else searching at the time, a frequent Wyndham guest I can cancel a reservation at any time without penalty. I made this reservation in the middle of summer. Now Wyndham is a goofy company, I think everyone agrees. But the Cardiovascular thing began to raise red flags. One, the name is damn strange. Two, where is this place??? Three, my wife read some of the trip advisor reviews and we got cold feet fast. The hotel makes sense if you have a loved one in that hospital but does not sound that accommodating to vacationers arriving at 3am. Have I mentioned Puerto Rico is near bankruptcy? Keep that in mind. So we searched elsewhere. We came up with a common theme. A large hotel with a beach costs about $200-$225 a night. That price doubles when you add the taxes and the resort fee. So for a night in San Juan expect to pay $400 for one of the beach front hotels. There are many other hotels that are a short distance from a beach. We found their prices to cost about $300 a night, final tally. We settled on the Caribe Hilton at $400 for reasons that really should be the subject of an entire new post. As a man, a husband, and for my sanity; I've found it well worth "some" extra dollars to give my wife a much nicer bathroom that we have at home for a night. $400 was really way beyond what I had budgeted but I wasn't coming up with a better answer. Bobroo, you are arriving at 3am make this as simple as possible. Make it a hotel every cab driver knows. Make it a hotel to make the wife happy. Dude, you can reward yourself with a pina colada from their birthplace on Saturday afternoon. I'm getting to the economic distress of Puerto Rico soon... Here is what we found when we landed. The airport is busy 24 hours. We certainly weren't the only flight that had just landed. A cab was easy to hail. Surprisingly, we were not the only ones checking in at 3 am. For our purposes and reasoning, I made the correct choice to stay at Hotel Fancy Pants. So Puerto Rico is financing old debt with new debt, a fiscal crisis. The beginnings of a new Detroit. Guess who's gonna get them out of the hole they dug? Vacationeers!!! Here are some examples of prices I paid last week: Sales tax in Puerto Rico = 11% (2) pina coladas at the Caribe Hilton = $28 (2) bottles of wine (my normal $10 variety)to bring aboard = $39 A halibut burrito from Lupitas = $16 A cab ride = $15- 20 one way I am in no way complaining. Why shouldn't wealthy, jet setting vacationeers be extorted? I like San Juan, it has a lot to offer. It is unique and sort of exotic. As I would tell anyone, it is pricey everywhere you turn. So just be careful and bring your wallet. If you have never been, it is a unique place to go to; do it. On the other hand, reflecting back on this; boy, cruising can be really, really cheap. Thank you Royal Caribbean!
  6. On Adventure last week we were told the Empress rumor. We were also told while spending some quality time at Next Cruise; another small ship, Monarch of the Seas; would be pulled from Pullmantur and brought back to Royal for Cuba duty.
  7. Here's how I'd do Falmouth on the cheap (and within the compound): 1st stop is Diamonds International. On the second floor is a open bar with free WiFi. Just march in and head up the escalator like you know what you are doing and that will likely head-off being badgered by a salesperson on the main floor. Tipping the bartender a $10 bill will insure you are a welcome guest for quite a while in their unique little lounge. Then enjoy some ethnic dancing with whatever band is busking in the square that day. Next stop is the pool inside Margaritaville. Admission is free, the pool attractive, and watching the patrons at the swim up bar wasting away is a lot of fun. You'll probably buy a drink or two, perhaps a bite to eat. But still a minor hit on the budget--and walking distance from the ship. Note: wear your bathing suit with a cover up, flip flops, a towel from the ship, and most importantly; sun screen. I guess your sea pass might be considered important. But being a homeless person living on a lounge chair at the Margaritaville pool wouldn't be the worst retirement plan.
  8. I appreciate all the responses, I think DocLC has called it correctly; I'm guessing they had a filtration/pump issue. As we were told, it was just a regular thing and handled well. Our friends were surprised that the time from complete drain to refill was only 15 minutes. That being said, Susie and I are still snickering at the situation.
  9. We were out with a younger couple over the weekend. They have small kids and were recently on a Disney cruise. We of course asked them all about it and they said they loved it. For their situation it was a perfect fit. But they did bring up a funny thing; apparently Disney has to drain and refill the kiddie pools every hour. Our friends said the water was noticeably "cloudy" about 45 minutes into the cycle. Susie and I snorted beer through our noses laughing so hard. My question: Can anyone confirm this??? Do we have any Disney vets here who have seen this? Does Royal do this and I just never noticed?
  10. I am on Adventure next week and I'll respond with what we actually find. However...Adventure is the strangest ship in the ocean regarding specialty dining and I echo your concern. Believe it or not, Giovani's Table is the only specialty restaurant dining option on Adventure. And Giovani's Table is the only restaurant available for advance booking or for the pre-sailing dining deal. But...recent Crown and Anchor Facebook posters are reporting Chef's Table is available and is conducted on a large table sort of in between decks inside the MDR. As I've told others here, Susie and I have done Chef's Table many times. Recent dines we've had have all the courses predetermined unless there is a food allergy issue. How enjoyable your experience is will depend on the other folks you dine with. If a Galley Tour is offered with the meal, that alone is always a great value. Let's see what I find out.
  11. The wild card with Chef's Table is the other guests. It can be a really fantastic experience with great conversation and getting to know some fellow passengers or it can sometimes be awkward. You just don't know. If you get great guests it is well worth the money IMO. Our last Chef's Table did not include a Galley Tour. The Galley Tour is always an interesting experience and even though we have done it several times, I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. Big bonus points if your Chef's Table comes with a Galley Tour. Chef's Table is guaranteed to show you that the head chef deeply cares about food. That's very cool. The host or sommelier generally talk a good game. What I appreciate most about Chops (and most specialty restaurants) is that they prepare MY FOOD. They don't prepare food for 3,000 people. Coupled with bigger portions and the nice ambiance; Chops is a really nice departure from the crowds of the MDR. I think Chops should be your choice for the DH's birthday.
  12. Absolutely spot on! My feelings exactly!
  13. Seems strange doesn't it??? I mean look at the amount of people who like and admire the RCL brand. Look how many people who have really enjoyed their vacation. Wouldn't it be easy for a corporation tap into that market? Look at Harley Davidson, their highest sales come from merchandising and then is followed by motorcycle sales. Disney does a great job of merchandising. I think RCL should follow these examples. Have you read my recent posts (rants) about Robes or RCL Jewelry? Am I the only one who feels this way? A couple years ago, on a post cruise feedback email; I offered to head a RCL merchandising group with a salary 100% based on results. I think we all know how far that went.
  14. Here is what a "luxury" robe is like. They are the same size as the ones you always get, I'm guessing a size large. They are fluffier and have a blue beaded trim. Most notably they haven't been washed nearly the amount as the regular robes so they are still quite nice. 100% cotton. Let me tell you a story about RCL and robes. Two years ago I intended on giving my wife a Christmas present, a RCL robe and a couple pilfered breakfast door hangers from a previous cruise. I thought "what Royal Caribbean loving woman would not want to find that under the tree" and "why wouldn't Royal Caribbean want to sell me a robe with their logo on it?" I couldn't have been more WRONG. At the beginning of November I started with the Florida company that is authorized to sell logo'd merchandise. They offer robes but they are not the robes used onboard. Meaning they are not 100% cotton. Dude, I'm going through all of this; I want the NICE robe, DUH. And they were out of stock and after a lengthy conversation with the owner not going to be in stock for Christmas delivery. I got they feeling they were not a very busy company and have no marketing plan what-so -ever. I tried RCL Crown and Anchor and talked with a supervisor. Told them what I wanted and added "....at any price up to $500." Nope...no can do. So my wife ended up with a beat up and cheap Peter Max poster I bought on e-Bay for $30 that year. Now we giggle when asked by a Park West art auction person "Who do you collect?" We proudly respond "We Collect Peter Max!!!" Watch their eyes light up and then casually tell their fellow co-wokers there are a couple strong potential suckers aboard.
  15. Here's how it goes for airport transfers for all ports. RCL knows how many passengers have bought the transfers and knows when they are expected to land. When they actually arrive is anyone's guess. Also, they are only going to operate a bus with a certain minimum occupancy. So taking that all into account here's what happens, as passengers and luggage arrive they wait until a bus is full. It's been my experience they do take into account how long you have been waiting, or at least tell you they do. But I'll be honest, please don't sell Venice short because of a couple hundred dollar hotel room or there aren't the hotel brands you might be familiar with.Venice is not not some crappy Caribbean port. Venice in a wonderful, magical city. The perfect city for first time European travelers. A great place to get your feet wet. (yuk, yuk, yuk) Another unique option is to take the Blue Line from the airport to the cruise terminal taking a boat to the boat. But even that does not do Venice the justice it deserves. No matter what you choose, the nighttime sailaways from Venice are many people's favorite of long time cruisers. The lights and the city are breathtaking. I shouldn't need to mention it's my all time favorite too and perhaps the best port I have ever been too.
  16. Let me add, in all the sailing we have done here is something that continues to amaze me no matter how "small" a Royal Caribbean ship is. You spend 7 days and 7 nights on the boat, you do all sorts of things, and at all sorts of hours. You'd think you have seen it all.... Yet during disembarkation after you've gathered your luggage and are waiting in line for customs.....I look around and there are passengers I have never seen before! Check it out after your next sailing. Regarding "big" ships: we sailed on Oasis for the first time 8 months ago. I still think about how remarkable that ship was. How well designed. How good the staff was. It really was worth the premium you pay.
  17. I agree with Matt. I believe most of the "Code Adam" stuff that goes on at the Guest Services desk is of passengers who haven't cruised much and who really have their expectations set way too high. I believe more often than not the reality of if a refund is going to be given or for how much is just plain a question of who is willing to let their numbers be effected. Is it going to come out of corporates' budget or is it going to come out of the numbers of the excursion desk supervisor, dining room supervisor, or the hotel manager are supposed to come up with every voyage. In this case RCL Miami is funding whatever OBC is given out and rightly so.. I have a big question about the Labadee situation....What is RCL Miami doing??? Negotiating? Finding the the root of the discord? Easing tension and compromising? Building a bigger fence? Or, are they just waiting it out a little bit and hoping it all blows over? If they don't come out with a press release soon I'm afraid their strategy is "sit back and wait." I hope they have sent down some representatives and are trying to work things out. Perhaps offering some passenger/public service assistance like Carnival does in the Dominican Republic. Integrating some more jobs would also say a lot.
  18. Yeppers, Adventure of the Seas has only one specialty restaurant, Giovanni's Table. We too received the promo e-mail from RCL for our upcoming cruise and my wife and I laughed about it. The lack of specialty dining opportunities has made us not even interested in going to Gio's this trip. Bummer
  19. Most of us would advise to transfer your reservations to a TA so that you can save some more $. Just say'n.....
  20. Here are two small advantages for waiting till you get aboard. IF you get aboard early before access to the cabins is available IF you really like those cups they give you for pop/soda Then buying your package upon embarkation makes sense because you will get your cup immediately. Otherwise it may be held hostage until cabin access is opened up. To tell you the truth, I always wait till we are on the ship for another reason. I always give my brand new, still wrapped cup away to a Mom or Dad who is also waiting in line to by a pop package for their kid. I always choose someone who looks like it will take the least amount of explaining to this little scam. If some kids want to drink pop out of the machines on me for a week; God bless 'em. If it saves a fellow cruiser $65 for the week--even better.
  21. I've been on board for both playoff games and for the Super Bowl. Yes, all the games will be televised--somewhere. We've watched them and it is quite fun, because there will be many people interested rooting for either team. It's a good party. One note, and I can not for the life of me understand this; but these games will be televised onboard --but without commercials shown. In English, and with the normal announcers. During commercial breaks it's just a blank screen <scratches head>.
  22. If Matt hasn't twisted your arm to report back to us often mid-cruise; l am most certainly expecting a full recap posting when you return!
  23. This is an excellent question and of the best my wife and I have read or heard in quite some time. You are correct, summer cruises along the Norwegian coast are all about the view. Susie believes that the room should go to the earliest booking, not the most recent. But....also believes that whom ever presently has the room is going to pay substantially more money than you were going to pay. So she thinks that is how RCL is going to think of the situation. What might be limiting the compensation is that they just plain don't give away what they used to. She suggests to try and barter some shore excursions, drink packages for the kids, an all access tour, and specialty dining in addition to what they already have offered. Those types of things won't have such affect on RCL's margin on the cabins. I agree with all of the above. But I am more vindictive than my wife so I suggest 1) Switch to an aft cabin! Same view, just the obverse. 2) Be an absolute voracious pig on lobster night. Make 'em pay on the most expensive meal of the week. (My record is 6 --just say'n) 3) Same holds true for the Diamond Lounge. I shouldn't have to tell you upgrade your go to drink of choice to the best of what they will give you so let me remind you that the soonest you will be able to soak up the free drinks is immediately after the muster drill. Hopefully they will serve the bacon wrapped scallops in the lounge while you are aboard, they are delishious! Please keep us posted, we are interested how this all pans out.
  24. Another RCL rule: Different ships have different rules. Many, many passengers have difficulty with this concept. So whether you can bring cases upon cases of bottled water onboard, a surge protected outlet strip is/is not contraband, or how diligent the pool chair police are is different as the ship you are boarding. Two weeks ago we booked onboard the Rhapsody. We got $100 of OBC applied to our current room and were not offered what cruise we'd like it applied to. Co-incidentally at the end of the cruise we were refunded $165 (promptly!) back to our credit card stemming from various sources ( OBC, a cancelled excursion, dining credits). Your results may vary.
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