Jump to content


  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by JLMoran

  1. Just to close out this thread -- someone on my roll call found a third-party tour group in Guadeloupe with an acceptable tour, so wife and I joined that for 190 Euro total. And we now have a private tour booked with Beyond the Beach in Martinique; that one is $$$$ -- 320 Euro total for a half-day 5-hour booking, that's just barely 50/50 between driving time and our time at the botanical gardens and Anse Mitan beach. Plus a 15-minute stop at a bakery to grab a quick bite, since the area restaurants get very crowded on Sundays and it would push us into even more expensive full-day booking territory. But it's still a better choice for us than their stock tours, since those include stops we just don't care to do. But I have to say that working with Beyond the Beach was very pleasant, considering I was putting together a booking last-minute, and they definitely tried to help me with making a multi-passenger option that I could post to my roll call. No one was interested, though, so I'm "stuck" with the private booking for just the two of us.
  2. For St. Maarten, there is a third-party excursion offered by Soualiga Destinations, simply called their most popular tour. It's a boat tour around the island, with multiple stops for snorkeling and beach time, along with time at a variety of other places of note. My wife and I did it with our kids in 2018, and loved it so much we're doing it again on our upcoming cruise next month. Very reasonable price per person, and they make a point of scheduling the trip to work with each ship's schedule for the day. They are the #1 third-party excursion you'll find in St. Maarten on Trip Advisor. For St. Thomas, I'm only doing my first visit there next month. But I found that sites like Trip Advisor are offering many if not all of the same excursions being offered by the ships, such as a half-day tour that includes stops at Magen's Bay, a panoramic mountaintop view, and the downtown quarter; or a trip to St. John's for most of a day. Their prices are comparable to the ship excursions; in the past I would have said they are typically less than the ship offerings, but I'm finding this time around that they are generally the exact same price, sometimes even slightly higher. Not sure if this is lingering after effects of the pandemic that will eventually sort themselves out; another effect of worldwide inflation; or the cruise lines getting desperate enough for passengers to book with them / give them more revenue that they've decided to really compete against these other providers. Don't be discouraged by the ship excursions selling out, the reputable third-party sites like TA / Viator and such are generally very reliable.
  3. Thankfully, I still remember a small amount of the French I learned in middle and high school. Enough at least to fumble a basic conversation and hopefully convince someone to speak English when I fall short. My wife only speaks rudimentary Spanish, so I'll have to do most of the attempted talking. We looked at a couple of guided tours by the company "Beyond the Beach". Both stop at a rum distillery for a significant chunk of the tour time, which makes them less appealing since my wife and I barely drink it via (dark & stormy's or mojitos). We really wanted to see the botanical garden there, so we're waiting to see if spots open back up between now and sail date, or after we're on board.
  4. I was planning to go to a couple of destinations on our own in both Martinique and Guadeloupe, as there are places my wife and I would like to go (the Balata Botanical Garden in Martinique, and the Zoo au Parc des Mamelles near Deshaies in Guadeloupe) that aren't offered on any ship-hosted excursion or even a third-party place like TripAdvisor / Viator. But I've been looking transportation options, and from what I see there is basically nothing that makes self-exploration cost-effective or, alternately, safe from a getting back to the ship on time perspective. Martinique's bus service apparently serves only the city; to get anywhere outside the city requires booking a taxi ($$$$) or risking one of the "TC" (taxis collectifs) mini-vans that have no set schedule and may not even return to where they dropped you off. There's supposed to be some car rental places close to the port in Martinique, but I've read there are typically problems with cars breaking down or heavy surcharges being added, and it's once again a risk I don't think we should be taking on a shore day. Guadeloupe doesn't even have the TC option, and the only place to rent a car is at the airport on the far side of the island. I'm sure the port has the usual crowd of people staying nearby who will offer to take passengers to places, basically free-lance taxis. But are they as exorbitant as the regular taxis since (at least in Guadeloupe) they know they are almost literally the only game in town? I imagine they'll charge an hourly rate, unless we can count on them to come back at a set time.
  5. You can tour the towns on your own, but if you want to get to a glacier or other out-of-town location you need to book some kind of excursion. Can be ship-hosted or third-party, but definitely pre-book. There are literally no roads in between towns in Greenland; all transport is via boat or helicopter. So you need to have things lined up well before you arrive.
  6. @SpeedNoodles / @ron s - Sorry, didn't ever make it to any of those Greenland ports. Our cruise that would have stopped in Qaqortoq was canceled due to the pandemic (2020) and we haven't booked any replacement for it since then.
  7. Sorry, Karl. I only just saw this question to me. We loved loved loved the Solarium on Q class. The fact that it's fully enclosed and therefore usable when we're taking a colder-weather sailing late in the year is just fantastic. The design of it is great, too, with multiple hot tubs, a tiered set of shallow pools for relaxing when a hot tub is too much, and a shallow (few-inch depth) pool with lounge chairs makes for a really flexible use of the space depending on what you want that day. I also really liked the Music Hall space with its live bands, which is different from the live performers in the pub or Boleros, and the space with pool tables above it. Playing pool at sea is an interesting experience, especially when the tables aren't gimbal-balanced like the ones on Radiance class ships that I've heard about. The Coastal Kitchen is also a great space, as it's fully available to JS guests at dinner time (vs O-class ships, where from what I've heard you have to beg permission each night). The CK was amazing, and the food served there really is a cut above the MDR and I would argue better than any specialty restaurant on board. But the surprise hit for us was the Two Seventy Lounge and cafe. That became our go-to breakfast place; while the food isn't big on variety there, it's an amazing space to enjoy breakfast each morning while watching the wake through the massive aft windows, and no-one seems to know it's a thing they can do. It's always empty, and became our private "nook" for breakfast and a quiet morning every sea day.
  8. Nor am I. If the focus of this ship is families and basically having a resort experience at sea, then I will never be sailing her. My kids are both grown and out of the nest, and I cruise to see ports and experience new places. This ship will be just as limited in port options as the Oasis class, if not more.
  9. Just finished reading the rest of this. Very sorry for your loss. And glad that you and your friend had a great time in spite of all the uncertainty around Ian. My wife still wants to sail Oasis at some point, but that will likely not be before 2024 (and then only if she's still sailing out of NJ and doing an itinerary that we both will be OK with). So the perspective on the ship is much appreciated.
  10. I got very confused for a moment, because many years ago I read Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist. Don't suppose you've read that one as well? I imagine very different subjects / plot lines, but what a funny reminder that there are only so many unique book titles. I wonder how long SK was searching to see if he'd have to use a different spelling, or add a subtitle or something.
  11. Biggest difference I can tell you, per podcasts I've listened to and blogs I've read, is that all Celebrity casinos are 100% non-smoking. Having been in multiple Royal Caribbean ship casinos, that is something I personally will look forward to when I finally get to sail on a Celebrity ship. I hate the smell of stale smoke and how it always wafts out of the casinos into the surrounding halls and spaces.
  12. Figured I'd post a sort of epilogue to this thread. Princess' customer service handling has continued to leave me very unimpressed. The letters we got from the ship about our FCC stated its should be issued in 30 days. Well, 30 calendar days went by and nothing. I said, "Hm, maybe it's business days. I'll give it until Sept 12". Guess what still wasn't there on Sept 12? I called their customer service line and, thankfully, got a very pleasant and patient rep who went by "Doc". He looked up our booking, and gave me some incredibly aggravating news: The person from the ship who was supposed to report to corporate that we had been quarantined due to Covid never bothered to do that!!! He calmly put up with my anger and frustration, and once I calmed back down and was able to listen again he proceeded to enter the needed information himself. He also gave me Princess' customer relations email address and told me to go ahead and send an email that was as angry and forceful as I wanted it to be; also said to make sure to include photos of the letters we were issued so there was undeniable proof that this was Princess' cock-up. The ball is now officially rolling, and the FCC should finally be issued in another couple of weeks. (but hopefully sooner) Meanwhile, Cathy and I had picked out 11 different sailings that would basically give us a free or minimal-cost cruise with the FCC. We have booked a 10-night Southern Caribbean sailing out of FLL in early February on Enchanted Princess (younger sister of Regal Princess). The FCC was so much that after my TA's group rate, we were able to get a mid-forward mini-suite that will only cost us the $200 deposit plus another $300-400 total. Obviously, we also have to pay for airfare and a hotel, but now we have a nice mid-winter trip to look forward to. It'll be our first time cruising in off-peak season, and first time enjoying the warm Caribbean while the north is freezing. I'm praying this works out to be a much better trip than the last one, and that with another 8 months of experience under the crew's belts we'll find the on-board experience and food will be better. If not, that will be our last Princess sailing and we'll be squarely back with Royal and Celebrity. Which would be ironic, because we'd be higher in Princess' loyalty program than we are with Royal right now. (qualify for Ruby status after 3 sailings, and our med cruise counted as a B2B)
  13. Thanks for that. I did have to laugh, though. I was... umm... kinda prolific in my posts when I first joined. I actually have 5.5 thousand posts to my name, including a few semi-live blogs of my past cruises. But since Covid has come and my cruising life got shut down, I just haven't had as much to post about. I took a break from the boards and have only recently started posting again, still pretty limited. I also just don't have as much time for following the boards any more. They are far more active now with a much larger community than when I first joined, and my work life has only gotten more hectic over those years. But I hope to become more active again as things slowly get back to normal and, with luck, Covid finally settles down into something more like a nasty cold that everyone is just going to be dealing with once every couple of years and no longer the life-threatening disease it started out as. It is, thankfully, one of the nicer parts of evolution; lethal parasites don't succeed in spreading their genes as well, so they tend to evolve over time to be far less lethal to their hosts. Here's hoping that Covid-19 continues to follow the same trend, where it's more infectious but far less lethal.
  14. Sorry, I hadn't asked for either of those numbers. I want to say that another person on my sailing reported something like 3,300 people on board during the week before my sailing started, so it was likely in the same ballpark. Cases were not reported publicly, and I was given no information after being diagnosed. We started developing very mild symptoms around day 3 / 4 of the first leg, and were diagnosed the evening of day 5 of that leg. So we missed the first week's final sea day (no big loss), the three ports from the B2B leg that I'd mentioned, along with both sea days of that second leg. Embark was about the same as Royal, I'd say. On arrival to Piraeus port, we had to present all of our CV-related documentation -- proof of vaccination as provided in the app, and proof of negative PCR / antigen test in the allowed time window -- along with our passports. Masks were recommended but clearly not enforced in the waiting area, which was a large tent structure with some portable A/C units that didn't do bupkis to relieve the heat or keep the air moving particularly well. I'm assuming US ports with Royal are better on that last front, since they're actual buildings with dedicated HVAC. All told I'd say we needed about 30-45 minutes to get on board, between problems my wife had pulling up her Covid test proof and then waiting for our boarding group number to be called. Disembark was super-fast. I'd say we were off the ship in under 15 minutes since we self-debarked and didn't have to find our luggage. Just tapped our Ocean Medallions on the scanners one last time before we hit the gangway, and that was it. Self-debark was given two time slots -- 7 or 8 AM, and those were purely guidelines. We chose 7 but didn't actually get off the ship until 7:45. Definitely a faster process than what I've experienced on Royal, but I have to qualify that by noting that only a small portion of the passengers were disembarking at the end of each week's leg. Most passengers (around 2/3 to 3/4, I think) were continuing for at least another week on any given turnaround day. I would definitely do another European sailing with Princess, at least if it was in the Med. For Northern Europe / Iceland / other parts of Europe, I'd have to see who had the best itinerary options. The Princess app was great. When it worked. For most of the cruise, the daily activity screen would never load even if I force-quit the app and restarted multiple times. Same with the account folio screen about 40% of the time I tried to access it. But the app was rock solid for things like ordering food or drinks for delivery to your location, as well as for getting through all of the pre-embarkation paperwork and certifications. Princess' wi-fi, for us at least, was a bad joke. The fastest internet at sea? For all of us, that was only true on a port day, when we were stuck on the ship and just about everyone else was off it. The rest of the time, I was lucky to get 1 Mbps download speed (vs over 4 Mbps advertised), 500-600 Kbps upload, and ping times were over 700 ms all of the damn time. Streaming video during those times was not an option, unless we were willing to put up with lots of stuttering / buffering lag, or video so blocky and blurred that the benefit was more from just listening to the audio track. I even had multiple times where simple messages sent in WhatsApp or the Messages app on my iPhone wouldn't be received for over an hour! Sending a handful of photos each day (6-10) to my mother and MIL would take at least 20 minutes, often requiring a re-send because some or all of them failed to be sent. I have no idea why it was so bad; being that close to the equator should have meant we had the best reception possible, if I'm remembering @twangster's explanations of O3b right.
  15. One other item on this, on why I felt the need to test. My daughters and I booked a wine tasting event the first day, which met on the first sea day of the sailing. We were sat at our table, and had one seat left. A woman was told to sit next to me in the available seat, since she was alone. During the time waiting for things to begin, she casually told us that her mother, who she was traveling with and was sharing a cabin with, had just tested positive. But she was currently negative, and so they were allowing her to continue to use the ship. I have no idea why she wasn't subject to the same 1-day isolation as my daughter. It's possible I misunderstood and her mother had tested positive the day before, as the woman mentioned her mother was tested before boarding a shore excursion (which would have been the day before); if that's the case, this woman had already cleared her second negative test. But I was on red alert at that point, because I'd already been talking with her and the rest of the table for about 15 minutes; if she was still latent but contagious, I was seriously f'ed. I was on high alert for anything that could be Covid symptoms. I did realize, however, after testing positive that it was only 3 days after I'd seen that woman. And my wife was showing symptoms before me, even though she hadn't attended the wine tasting. So it's far more likely we picked up The Rona in Athens, or maybe during our excursion in Santorini.
  16. Yes, we had a mid-ship balcony, just aft of the hump, in the middle of the "isolation section" of our deck. Fully free to use the balcony at any time, which we did when the weather was cool enough to enjoy it. Was very good to get that fresh air, as well as step outside and least be able to have a clear view of our sailing into the port, or our exit at the end of the day. There weren't very many CV-positive folks in isolation, at least at the time that we were isolated; I would regularly look around during port sail-aways and see basically no one on the neighboring balconies, either next to us or below.
  17. Cathy and I each have on the order of $2,600 in Princess FCC to use up (that's the average between us, since I have one more day's credit than her). We're looking at sailings in Jan-Apr and Oct of 2023, but the credit is good until 2024; if we decide none of the sailings we found -- 10-night Canada & New England, a couple 14-night Southern Caribbean sailings, or a pair of 10-night Mexican Riviera sailings (all of which would just require paying deposit, and two of which could be booked in a Club Class Mini-Suite while still otherwise fully paid for) -- then we'll wait for 2024 itineraries to come out. It's the one good thing about finally being empty nesters; we can take those shoulder season sailings and get a hell of a good / long sailing out of that much FCC.
  18. My wife had been experiencing potential Covid symptoms for 2 days before she and I both tested. Started off with just some sniffles / hay fever like symptoms such as you described, and on the second day she had a very brief bout of chills. But on the third day she started feeling completely exhausted and developed a bad chronic cough; that was the final warning sign. On that same day, I suddenly developed a bad sore throat that got progressively worse as the day went on; I had been dealing with a slight sore throat off and on for a couple of days prior, but it always went away after drinking water / rehydrating. Now, here's the thing -- we had brought BinaxNOW tests with us so we could self-test and avoid calling the med bay in case it wasn't actually anything. And we took those after dinner, when her symptoms really started getting pronounced. We saw that positive line come up on her test in less than 30 seconds. And it wasn't faint, it was a thick bright crimson line. There was no question she was positive and we had to call medical, who would do their own test to confirm. My BinaxNOW test (which I took along with her, just in case) came back negative. But as my wife's cabin-mate, I was required to be tested per ship protocol once it was clear that she needed to be tested. And per their test (which is a more-sensitive florescence antigen test), I was already positive. Even if I had tested negative, their protocol would have required me to stay on the ship that day and isolate in our aft-facing cabin until I cleared a second test 24 hours later. How do I know this? Because my younger daughter developed bronchitis toward the end of the cruise, with a fever and horrible cough and congestion; and while she tested negative that night, she had to follow that protocol and stay on board for the day in Genoa. Our older daughter, who also tested negative and had no symptoms, was free to leave the cabin and go on the excursion to Portofino with my wife since our younger one was also negative.
  19. Sorry, I wasn't clear. We were in no way allowed to leave the cabins until we tested negative. My complaint was that the way they timed taking the tests and letting us know the results left almost zero time to make to the excursions we had scheduled on the separate days that Cathy and I finally did test negative -- 7th day for Cathy, on our Genoa stop with an excursion to Portfofino; 8th day for me, which was the final port day on our second week with a stop in Livorno and an excursion to Florence. We were stuck on the ship for our port days in Barcelona, Gibraltar, and Marseilles. That last was the one I was most bitter about; the weather that day was perfect, not the brutal low-90s we had the rest of the trip. And the city looked absolutely beautiful from what we could see off of our balcony.
  20. They liked it a lot better, but I think it had more to do with the fact they found a group to hang out with every night on the first or second night of the cruise. There was an 18-to-20-somethings meetup in the Princess Patter, and they spent every day of the trip hanging out with them. On top of that, they loved the itinerary and were thankful to have been able to go on this trip, since neither of them will likely be able to do anything similar for many years. It's really funny, because they thought they'd be spending the whole trip surrounded by "the olds" and be bored. And instead, they were out around the ship every night, doing karaoke on the nights it was offered, using the swimming pools, checking out the Vista Lounge where they had a sort of dance club thing going most nights, and more. They really had a blast, and I'd say Princess left a far better impression on them than Royal did. Even allowing for the night of food poisoning from the sushi place.
  21. I'm afraid the bad luck was worse than you know. When we got home, we found one of our two cats dead at the top of our second-floor stairway. As best I can guess, she died just a couple days before we got home. We have no idea why or what caused it, and it clearly wasn't "peaceful". She was always a shy cat and hid from strangers, so absolutely no one who had been coming to the house to check on them had any idea it had happened. I spent an hour of my day back home burying her in our back yard, and the next 3 days getting over intense grief as well as jet lag.
  22. One more place I can recommend as a great place for a pre-/post-cruise stay is the River Palace Hotel, in Rome. It's located at Via Flaminia 33, just a block away from the Piazza Del Popolo and about 3/4 of a mile from the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. We stayed here 1 night, and it was great. Very comfortable beds, good air conditioning on both floors of our unit (bed and desk upstairs, bathroom and closet downstairs), they have solid wi-fi, and the bar is great. I got a generous pour of that evening's Chianti, along with an assortment of little snacking items (peanuts, flavored mini rice cakes, etc) 7.5 Euro. Enjoyed that while wife and girls had a short nap before dinner. And the decor is amazing! All for a (to me) reasonable price for such a centrally located hotel in Rome, with very easy access to lots of restaurants, major sites, and more.
  23. So, I'm back from a 2-week Mediterranean cruise on Princess that was going to be a trip of a lifetime with my whole family. Unfortunately, 5 days into our sailing my wife and I both tested positive for Covid-19 and ended up in isolation for a week. I still wanted to give my perspective on Royal vs. Princess, but it's going to be equal parts about my experience as a Covid-positive individual in isolation, along with a general comparison of the two cruise lines and my experience with their ships and regular services. I'll start with the general impressions I have of each: The Ship: We sailed on Regal Princess, which I would say is roughly equivalent in size and capacity to Anthem of the Seas. Regal Princess was very nice, with a gorgeous central Piazza going from deck 5 to deck 7 that reminded me of pictures of the Centrum or Atrium on ships like Brilliance of the Seas. Instead of an indoor Solarium for adults-only swimming and lounging, it has an outdoor Retreat Pool area that is similarly adults-only. While it has the usual collection of shops, it seemed to me that there were fewer of them than on Anthem, which I appreciated. The layout of the ship has one incredibly annoying flaw, however: If you are in an aft cabin, there is no way get to any part of the Deck 5 or Deck 6 mid-ship areas from the aft elevators unless you either go to Deck 7 and walk mid-ship, then go down the stairs; or go directly to the mid-ship elevators and take them to Deck 5 or 6. This tripped us up for a couple days every time we had to go to dinner or wanted to visit the Piazza area. Mainly because of this, I'm rating Anthem and Regal Princess the same in my book. Itinerary: Princess wins this one hands-down. They have far more options for Mediterranean sailings than anything I could find with Royal or sister line Celebrity. They were the only line I found with a rotating set of 7-day itineraries covering different segments of Eastern and Western Med, allowing for a custom mix-and-match for desired trip length and port set, and this is the main reason I chose to sail with them for this trip. I have no idea why Royal (or at least Celebrity) doesn't do the same thing; any attempt at a 2-week Med trip requires a side-to-side sailing with a few days between each leg, originating from widely separated ports. The Cabin: Sailed in an aft-facing balcony when not in isolation, and was in a mid-ship balcony during our isolation period. The mid-ship balconies are just big enough for two chairs and a small table in between, and the chairs need to be up against the sliding door or facing sideways if you want to stretch your legs at all; definitely smaller than Royal's mid-ship balconies that I've sailed in. The aft-facing balcony was about 3 times as large, yet it still had just the standard chairs and table instead of two loungers or two chairs with footrests. This made no sense to me, and we never got a chance to try and get footrests for our run of sea days mid-cruise due to our Covid infection timing. The cabins themselves were basically identical, although I'd say the aft-facing one was slightly more spacious with a less-navigable layout than the mid-ship one. Decor was fine, as long as you like lots of beige. The bed in the mid-ship was hard as a rock, and I had to ask for a mattress topper; the aft-facing cabin's bed was much more comfortable. All that said, I personally liked our cabins on Royal better; decor was nicer, balconies mid-ship are deeper. On-Board Entertainment: My experience here was limited to what was presented in the Piazza and aft-most bar area on the Lido deck. A nice selection of classical, jazz, acoustic guitar, and piano music. None of it super-loud, all the performers talented and capable. I have to give Princess the edge here; Royal always blasts whatever music is playing in one of the bars or other venues, to the point where you can't have a conversation if you're sitting with anyone. On Princess, I could talk with people had I wanted to, or focused on the music if that was my preference. None of us saw any of the main theater shows during the entire two weeks; Cathy and I were sick during most of the time the main shows were on, and the girls were far more interested in doing karaoke and hanging with the group of 18-22 year-olds they found. Crew: This was the area most clearly impacted by Covid, and I can't give a fair comparison right now. Many of the crew were clearly still green; bartenders didn't know what the drinks of the day were (despite placards for them right on the bar) or how to make them, MDR wait staff varied tremendously in quality of service/professionalism, room service had a chronic problem getting our orders right during our isolation period, etc. Overall Experience: For being a premium mass-market line, Princess didn't feel particularly premium to me at all. The wine selections on board weren't as good as on Royal (although I did find a few new wines I am determined to get here at home) Cocktails were consistently super-weak; none of us expected to get loaded off a single cocktail, but all of us agreed that we couldn't even taste the spirit used in anything we ordered. Most of the time, we might as well have ordered a virgin drink. The MDR and specialty dining food quality and menu variety were the same, in my opinion Will note here that several passengers we spoke with on board said that Princess' MDR food was significantly worse than on earlier cruises they'd taken with the line On top of that, my daughters both got food poisoning after eating at the on-board sushi place, which they said was worse than any local sushi place they've eaten or worked at, and was more on par with local supermarket sushi (i.e., the same as what you used to get on Freedom of the Seas) The quality of the crew wasn't any noticeably better or was even slightly worse at times (though I'm trying to give a pass on that because of how new so much of the crew likely still is) Worst of all, Princess pulled a complete bait-and-switch on my whole family. When we booked the cruise in December 2020, we used the Princess Plus option that added their Premiere Beverage Package along with 1-device internet and pre-paid gratuities. In March of this year, Princess replaced the beverage package with a "Plus Package" and never told anyone; if you wanted the Premiere package, you had to now pay several hundred dollars more for their Princess Premiere (which included other extras I had no interest in) or pay the overage for any beverages on the Premiere list. I was beyond pissed off that they didn't grandfather passengers who booked under the original terms. I don't care that it only translated to about $50 in additional charges for me, that is crappy customer service and a pure money grab. OK, now onto the Covid handling experience... Obviously I can't directly compare to Royal, since this is my first cruise since Covid and my first time dealing with isolation protocols. But I have the written experiences of @Matt, @monorailmedic and others to draw on. And Princess just didn't measure up in a few key areas. Communications: Matt and others mentioned how they had regular communications from both medical and guest services, with each often checking to confirm the other had asked about something or informed them of something. The only calls we received daily were from medical, to check on our symptoms (and later to relay results of our daily re-tests). I never heard from Guest Services in any capacity, besides once about mid-way through to see if we needed anything in terms of cabin items like fresh towels and if we were doing OK with the in-room dining. I had to call Guest Services myself to get answers to every one of my questions How was the per-diem refund of our cruise during isolation being handled? (FCC issued to our accounts; I would have preferred a cash refund tbh) Would we be able to join excursions scheduled the same morning if we tested negative? (yes, thank goodness) Would using the laundry service be charged to our account during isolation? (no, it was free; the included forms gave no such indication) Could we continue to order wine, cocktails, specialty coffees, etc? (yes, thank goodness; by day 5 when symptoms were mostly gone and cabin fever had set in, we were seriously ready to get our drink on) Re-testing: Every morning's re-test was an exercise in stress and worry. Not because we were concerned about testing negative; that would be what it would be each morning. But we had excursions every single morning after our initial 5-day isolation window, with meet-up times around 7:45 to 8:15 AM. And no one came to test us earlier than 7 AM, with no call back to us with the result for a minimum of 30 minutes. The first day, we didn't even get that call until almost 8:30. This was after informing the med team about excursions each morning and that we needed to be tested and get our results ASAP to avoid missing it, due to the early meet times. Cathy and I tested negative on different days, and on both of them we got our results about 10 minutes before we had to be at the excursion meet-up location. This resulted in having to hurriedly get our separate stuff back to our original cabin (which was held for when we cleared isolation), and then run down to the meet-up. Each time, Cathy and I only barely made it. Dining: As noted earlier, there were frequent errors with the deliveries, requiring us to call them back and request the items that had been ordered but weren't delivered. There were other times where we had ordered just one of something and ended up with two, which was certainly a better situation but let to a bit of food waste. And to be fair, we did get a visit from a head steward about 2/3 of the way through our isolation to apologize for the errors, and after this the deliveries did get better. He even gave us a plate of chocolate truffles as consolation, although that was the day we both lost our sense of smell and taste. Not their fault, but we were sad they couldn't be properly enjoyed. All this said, there were some positives: Like with Royal, Princess makes the MDR dinner menu available for guests in isolation. On sea days, the lunch menu was also available. This greatly relieved the monotony of the room service menu for these meals, but there was no such option (even on sea days) for breakfast. We had one lucky morning where Cathy begged and pleaded for pancakes, and they scrounged some up for her I also have to give a point to the room service phone staff; they were always pleasant, always patient, and even took time for a minute of chit-chat to help break up the monotony of isolation time I don't really know what my final view of Princess is vs Royal. Getting slammed with Covid and losing half of our vacation really put a damper on the whole experience. But, right now I feel like Royal is still the better line for most times that we'll be cruising. Since we have a decent bucket of FCC available now that will let us get a basically-free cruise (minus deposit), we're looking at options in early 2023; depending on how that goes, I'll likely have come to a more solid conclusion.
  24. Thanks for sharing this cruise with us, @Lovetocruise2002 and @GregD! Hope you both have uneventful flights home with no mishaps at LHR! Gotta say, following this blog has left me wanting to do a Norway cruise some time in the not too distant future. Gonna add that to the list along with Iceland/Greenland. Question about WWRY: Is Joyce Kuo still the lead guitarist? Still remember getting to see her play acoustic guitar in Schooner Lounge back in 2019 and chatting with her afterward. Really great person.
  25. For anyone staying in Athens before or after a cruise, I’d like to add to the thousands of positive Trip Adviser reviews and highly recommend Hera Hotel as a fantastic place to stay. The Hotel is a small, boutique style place without the boutique hotel pricing. We stayed for two nights, in two rooms (wife and I in one, our daughters in the other). Both rooms were nice and very clean, staff was great, and the price was phenomenal: €115 per night at time of booking, plus €31 in taxes and €12 in local taxes/fees. For that, we got two large and comfortable beds in each room (ours were pushed together to make a king bed, though there was about a 4-inch gap between the mattresses). Our room had a balcony large enough for two to sit on and enjoy coffee, with a view of the local downtown and a tub shower with a VERY high step-in. The girls’ room has a much smaller balcony, more decorative than functional, and a walk-in glass shower stall. The rooms are definitely varied. But the biggest draw of this hotel is its location. It is a 2-minute straight walk to the Acropolis and its museum. It’s also on a road load with restaurants and shops, with many more in equally easy walking distance. All of them good, all of them reasonable even for being in the most touristy and busiest part of the city. Only negative comment I have is that the night life around here gets loud and on a Friday night goes until 2:30 AM or slightly later. Not any fault of this place, though. That’s just Athens in general. Definitely look at staying here if you need to spend a couple days in Athens, and especially if any of that time will be spent exploring the Acropolis.
  • Create New...