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Everything posted by bobroo

  1. Some helpful advice about the "mini fridges". Cold is not a tempreture they are capable attaining, they are not designed to. There is no tempreture control; they are factory set to "can of pop left out on the counter for an hour cool." This is true for all classes of rooms. RCL does not call them refrigerators but rather "chillers." Where this becomes a real issue is those that put medicine (diabetics) into their room "chiller" and it spoils.
  2. There are many different Mayan sites that are available as an excursion, The ones located on Cozumel aren't nearly as impressive as the major sites you can take an excursion to (either Cozumel or Costa Maya). My favs: 1. Chitzen Itza 2. Tolum 3. Coba In anticipation, I recommend watching Breaking The Mayan Code on Netflix or there is an older episode on Nova with a similar title and the same story how anthropologists figured out the Mayan language and thusly a landslide of learning about a culture we knew very little about.
  3. +1 for Park n' Cruise We fly into Orlando and park our rental cars there and do 3 nighters.
  4. 1) Bluetooth Speaker for the balcony 2) Binoculars for the balcony 3) Magnetic Signs for our door that way I only have to remember what floor I live on. ( I can usually get the right floor consistently about Wednesday)
  5. Selling off Legend of the Seas does NOT make a lot of sense to me. Stand back and take a look at what has happened particularly over the past 6 months: Empress is brought back, upgraded, and prepared for Cuba itineraries. This I understand and agree with the necessity. Majesty (equal in size to Empress) is given a bunch of upgrades and continues to sail the "rocking chair" route of Miami to Nassau for a number of more years. I sort of understand this. Harmony (Oasis III) joins the fleet. Okie Doke, I like bright and shiny new things. Ovation is brought into the fleet. OK, more bright and shiny... RCL has contracts to purchase another two Oasis class and another two Quantum class ships in there next couple years. I am not completely convinced this is the proper thing to do for a bunch of reasons I won't get into here; but let's note, there is going to be continual near term impact. So, in my thinking; taking a look at all of this; why is it important to sell Legend? Why get rid of that one? Why get rid of any of them? They've brought back and paid a lot of money to revitalize smaller ships. Is it's traditional routes going to be taken over by an Oasis or Quantum class ship? lf so, then whatever new ship sailing those routes will not have the spectacular numbers as might be reported. Is Legend in the worst shape? Did RCL will receive good money for it? These "could" be possible motives. But I assume the Legend of the Seas is paid for and sails at capacity every week. Taken as a whole I don't understand Royal's game plan, their MO, or why the knee-jerk reactions to spend billions upon billions.
  6. Worth noting: Puerto Rico is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard time.
  7. The drug dealing reference and potentially purchasing something big dollar and then perhaps not declaring it to avoid taxes; the circumstances are very similar and the reason I've told the drug dealing story. Let me tell another quick one involving buying a Rolex: A few years ago while in port in Cozumel my wife and I wondered into the official Rolex dealer there. The name escapes me but they are also the Cartier dealer and it's on the way to La Choza (a fantastic restaurant in town). I was told there was a "promotion by the country of Mexico that for large purchases over a certain dollar amount (and may have been jewelry specific IDK) that the the country of Mexico would send a rebate check of some 8% of the purchase amount once you got home." The sales person said it takes a couple weeks but the check would indeed arrive. Guess you'd better declare your purchase when you buy under this circumstance, huh? So yeah, even though you may shop at a well known, authorized retailer in a third world country that does not have the appearance to care; I don't think you become immune from paying taxes. In full disclosure I have looked and looked at Rolex and Panarai watches when we travel but I have never pulled the trigger.....yet.
  8. I have wanted to post this story for a long time to all the RCBlog readers here; mainly as an FYI. Perhaps this might apply to a large $ jewelry purchase??? Here's How A Drug Deal Can Go For Visitors Of St. Lucia Let's say a person gets off the ship in good ol' Castries. And let's say they bump into a drug dealer and buy some weed. This person likes the sample of what he has bought, exchanges some pleasantries with the dealer including "my name is John and I'm on the Jewel of the Seas, I have to be back on board at 5 pm." The drug dealer replies "OK Mon', we have the best weed here in St Lucia I can sell you some more to take home if you like. Like buying Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, John buys a pound or two to bring back home; his only concern being how to get it past the Royal Caribbean security. Doing that, particularly in the chaos of an hour before the ship leaves port; has got to be quite easy. A successful hook up? Not so fast..... The drug dealer; after taking John's cash and making a profit; talks to the local police. Perhaps in exchange immunity or perhaps for $, he squeals that he sold John on the Jewel of the Seas a couple pounds of weed a short while ago. The country of St Lucia has no resources and no desire to capture/ prosecute a drug using tourist. If they did there would be no room in there jails for the natives. So what do they do? The St Lucia police make a phone call to US or British customs. (Really, it's a phone call). It is not inconceivable that there might be some money for information exchanged at some point, but I am not sure of that. But if I were a betting man.... So.....US customs is waiting for "John and a couple pounds of weed" upon disembarkation when he arrives in San Juan. Now, they have no idea what John looks like. But that's where the dogs enter the story.... While we are all waiting in line to get through customs so we can catch those flights at the airport; the beagles are working and looking for "John with two pounds of weed." The Customs officials seem to be taking their time. The beagles and their keen noses are trained to sit when they smell dope. They don't go ape shit crazy. There's no barking. Just a calm "sit". They are sure to get a confirmation from a couple different animals. Certainly that area is under video surveillance and really being observed by more Customs people behind the curtains than you think are really there. So if you are going through Customs and you see the dogs working, it is very possible that they are looking for a guy named John who was really set-up and game over long before he ever realized it. John, his wife, and all their luggage are politely asked to step into the office when they reach the customs desk. Then that process through customs for the rest of us goes lickedy split..... My wife and I have seen this happen couple times in our cruising history.
  9. Just a general cruise related TSA FYI: What I have found 100% red flags my carry-on backpack is the cardboard tube with the two rolled up magnetic signs for our cabin door. TSA has never disclosed what they are looking for, but I have figured it out after a few times of getting my hands swabbed, an extra pat down, and a manual search of the backpack. I don't know if they don't like the magnets or the shape of them being rolled in a cylinder. But now I make sure to put the tube into a bin separately so they can quickly examine it and I can be on my way.
  10. Here is my beef with TSA: This intense flight security has now been going on for years. Yet the security checkpoint areas are still just roped off areas of former hallways. Scabbed in temporary fixes that have remained for years. If this was so important it seems to me that special security areas would have been added to airports years ago. Security areas that are designed to efficiently process large volumes of people and their luggage. Taking pointers from your local amusement park, security areas that provide visual interest or important information while in line. Security areas that monitor passengers while they are in line. Security areas that are designed by queuing theory. When I go to McDonalds I know exactly where to go to order and receive my food with no signage or retractable safety belts what-so-ever. Why is TSA such a puzzle? ***And here are the two biggest pet peeves of all*** 1) TSA wants me to take off my shoes, belt, and empty my pockets but makes little effort providing an area for me to put myself back together. And just not the token spare benches or extra chairs, but an area for all the folks who go through security should be provided. 2) If bringing in coffee, water, hygiene items over 4 oz, or other liquids is so damn potentially dangerous; why are they just thrown into a garbage can??? WHY AREN"T THOSE OVERFLOWING GARBAGE CANS OF WATER BOTTLES, STARBUCK'S CUPS, AND MOUTHWASH TREATED LIKE THE LETHAL WEAPONS WE ARE TOLD THEY WERE?????? I want airline flight to be safe. I am willing to go through some discomfort and inconvenience for this. However, I truly feel TSA contributes to part of the problems and have not necessarily done their share to properly execute this important process.
  11. We have just found this out ourselves about a week ago....there are hotels in Orlando near the airport that are offering the fly to MCO, we pick you up at the airport, stay overnight at our hotel, we will bus you to Port Canaveral in the morning, and finally pick you up at Port Canaveral and drop you off at MCO when your cruise is done. There are defiantly Hilton hotels just outside of MCO doing this and I can only assume that the other large chain hotels are offering the similar service. The Hampton Inn just outside MCO offers a program called "Park, Stay, and Go" for a fee that does just this. Again, I am sure there are other chains doing similar.
  12. I am sorry, I have misspoke a little bit. 1) Yes, surprisingly there is no security, customs, or anything once you pick up your luggage at the port. Pick up your bags and walk out the door. 2) The travel time between the port and BCN is like 15-20 minutes by taxi. 3) ***The baggage check-in and security are on the first floor of BCN. The shopping area, the better restaurants, and the outdoor cafe are also on the first floor but you must go through security to get to these areas. The international gates are on the second floor. Once you take the escalator or lift to the second floor, THERE IS NO RETURNING TO THE FIRST FLOOR. Well, you can exit the airport and go through security again. So don't venture to your gate too early. There is a lounge on the second floor. I forget who's lounge it is but I do know as a United super flyer person I was not allowed in.***
  13. You are over thinking it, just use a cab! The port and BCN are quite close to one another. There will be plenty of taxis available. There won't be any customs to clear after you collect your luggage in Barcelona; so that part goes really quick. Once you are at BCN, I have found the time it takes to check your luggage at the counter and then go through security is "normal" say an hour to an hour and a half. Your results may vary. BCN is a large, beautiful airport. It reminds me of Texas. A native Texan would feel right at home there. Anyway.... Once you go through security at BCN for international flights; you are sequestered to the second floor. The second floor doesn't permit access to the shopping mall or the really cool outdoor cafe. So if you arrive early check your bags and stroll around for a while. (The second floor does have a McDonalds, another fast food type restaurant I am unfamiliar with and finally an airport gift shop that offers booze, cigarettes, candy etc) My advice is to hold off going through security and enjoy a pretty cool, unique, and very modern airport.
  14. I have a question, perhaps some here might have an answer. The Cruise Critic article states 44 passengers departed the ship. We can assume they left because no accommodations were available for them or they simply chose to leave. Seems to me like fair compensation was being given by RCL. Some folks will be able to handle this disappointment better than others. I think a generous olive branch was extended. However (and here is my question), 45 passengers were relocated. Relocated where??? Meaning, there were about 20 cabins unoccupied? Well, that could be true but I am of the thought that nearly RCL sailing is at or above capacity; so about 20 idle rooms for this sailing seems unusually high. Did they bunk up with other passengers willing to take in a roomie? If so, were the unaffected passengers either 1) told they had to accept a relocated passenger by RCL or 2) the unaffected passengers compensated in one form or another? What happens in situations when passengers are required to be relocated???
  15. Yesterday morning Rhapsody apparently suffered some substantial damage during a storm off the coast of France. Taking in seawater? YUCK! That is a far worse situation than a flooded basement. Cruise Critic article # 6981 has some further details. If this in anyway could be humorous. I texted my wife this link. Her response: "See what happens on little ships" ;0)
  16. Paris is not a cheap place to fly to, so you won't be accidentally connecting there. Lufthansa is a economical airline that many people fly and you will get a connecting flight out of Frankfurt. I would recommend a direct flight or a one stop to Barcelona for a number of reasons. One, your flight to Europe is a lot of time in the saddle. Most folks are well overdue to get off the airplane. Two, It would be my preference to get to city We are embarking from early. Settle in at a hotel. Get adjusted to the time zone. And get into vacation relax mode. It is very comforting to know that I've got a flight landing a couple days ahead of time, plenty of time for adjustment, lots of time in case a flight is delayed, cancelled, or whatever. Ample opportunity for my potential lost luggage to catch up with me. And knowing that with a short cab ride I can be on the ship. Barcelona is a wonderful town. A couple days there is just scratching the surface of what it has to offer. Do what I do a year and a half out from our next cruise to Europe. Pretend to book flights and hotels for similar dates this coming October. The rates aren't likely to change much over a year so you'll know what to budget for. Watch Anthony Bourdain and Rick Steves videos of where you are traveling to. Wikipedia the art, towns, areas of where you are traveling to. Ask around to those who have traveled where you are going even though they might not have cruised. It's all good information. But most of all because you are traveling to Barcelona start getting familiar with Gaudi. And if at all possible please go to the Sagrada Familia. It is an absolutely stunning building of history and imagination. The $20 or so bucks it costs to get in is well worth the money. It is truly spectacular inside and out. I predict when they finally finish building it in the next ten years it is going to be the absolute most talked about and visited thing. You'll be ahead of the curve.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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....
  21. 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!
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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?
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