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About iancal

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  1. Yes. We do two longer trips per year. One in Sept/Oct to Europe for 6-8 weeks. Planning this now. Looks like Greece and Morocco via Paris. We do a two month winter trip Jan-March. So far it has been S/E Asia or Central America. This winter it might be independent travel in Mexica, Costa Rica, and Panama. Plus an AI or or short Our travel, since retirment, is independent and mostly spontaneous. We watch out for attractive late booking cruises while on our travels.
  2. We never cruise on ships that have a history, sporadic or otherwise, of cabin maintenance issues. Won't even consider them...easier to vote with our feet and our wallets.
  3. Since retiring we have also made a huge switch to land based vacations-all of which involve oceans and beaches. We still like to cruise but only do so as an add on to a longer land trip and they are mostly late booking cruises. The only cruise that we have booked in advance since retiring eight years ago was South American cruise. Even then, we wrapped an eight week land trip around this 14 day cruise. We intend to keep doing this style of travel for as long as we are physically able. We have made adjustments. We only do carry on, we are far more flexible and we typically only book land accommodation few days in advance when we are shopping for a n add on cruise. We find that the cruise lines have migrated to the lowest common denominator. Food, service, etc is all about the same. About the only thing that has improved for us is the migration to casual because we only travel carry on.
  4. We do not view re-pricing or returning customer phone calls or emails promptly as particularly stunning acts of customer service. Seems to me that this is a base expectation of a TA or agency.. So far, we have never been disappointed. We stopped dealing with the bricks and mortar TAs a long time ago. We much prefer the online variety. Much motr availability during off hours, backup staff, etc. Get the right agency, the right TA, and pay by credit card. Seems very straightforward.
  5. To take this even one step further we did a late booking shop for an RCI Austalia/NZ 21 day cruise from Sydney three years ago. We priced at home with our NA on line TA. We priced in Australia. The North American price was good....but the price we got direct by calling RCI Australia (could not get a prompt response from an OZ TA) was even better. By a margin of about 30 percent! We are planning a Europe land trip in Sept/Oct. I have already started to look at ships, itineraries, and pricing in order get a bead on the market and what might interest us. If we do not see anything or the prices don't hit our buy price it will be a non issue for us.
  6. Our experience is that smaller ships are not necessarily less crowded and larger ships more crowded. We think that it comes down to ship layout, design, and even decor. We have been on a few ships that were smaller and seemed extremely crowded. Why? Poor layout, fewer elevators and the ones that were there were not in the right location such as doors opening our right in front of crowded MDR lines. Also dark decor..lots of wood and brass vs bright, open areas with decor and furnishings that created a sense of space vs a sense of confinement. Similarly, we have been on some 2700 passenger ships that never seemed crowded. They were well laid out, good traffic flow, with numerous dining options that positively impacted the MDR and buffet areas.
  7. In our experience this is the norm. Direct or through a TA.
  8. We select two or three ships that we would be happy to sail on. After that it comes down to an unobstructed balcony cabin. We are not too fussy on location but certainly prefer a cabin that is not above or below a public area. So far we have been so very fortunate. Lots of great ships, lots of very good cabin locations. It van be more difficult though, to get a price on a balcony cabin than it is on an inside or outside. In the past we have had some very attractive rates on Med cruises, Alaska cruise, and several Caribbean cruises during the Christmastime break. At times we have been quiet surprised at the price and availability during peak vacation periods. Air can be an issue however more often than not we are doing flexible land trips at the time so air is not such a big challenge.
  9. This is why, since retiring, we take cruises to augment our land trips instead of a focus on pre or post cruise travel. Often they serve as a break from independent travel. We could not imagine going all that way and only spending a day or two in Cape Town or not venturing out to see more of the country. We want to do it now while we have the health and the inclination to travel.
  10. If we were loyal to any specific cruise line we would have taken far less last minute cruises. We have a few preferred lines but I cannot imagine being loyal to any one. Why...the ships in the same cruise line can be so different. The service, the food, etc. can vary between cruises. We are not the last bit nostalgic when it comes to a purchase that involves our money and our time. We do not see much difference between our preferred cruise lines....other than the ships themselves and perhaps the loyalty perks. Nor do we live in the past. We judge the cruise line and the ship by one yardstick-our last cruise. List price, percentage discount, free this or that are meaningless terms to us. We have one yardstick. What we pay per diem for the cruise net of all OBC's. That is our basis for comparison. We start our shopping by determining what is a good price to us, a strike price. When it hits, we book. Immediately, unless our TA tells us otherwise.
  11. South Africa is an amazing and varied country. We did a safari from J'burg. Then headed up to Victoria Falls and Zambia. Flew back to Port Elizabeth, picked up a rental car, and spent ten days or so touring and driving down to Cape Town. Wonderful hotels and B&B's. It was on the top of DW's bucket list. No so for me. But after doing this, it is back on my list, near the top. Africa is amazing.
  12. Not much different than resort pricing or hotel shop pricing. We take our own sunscreen in 100ml containers. We can get toothpaste anywhere. We have a roll of Tums that has gone around the world once or twice over 8 years. We have had one perhaps two pieces from the roll. Time for a replacement. We don't sweat the small stuff. The price is the price. If we need it and we don't have it then winging about the on board or resort price won't make it less expensive. In some of our winter destinations, sunscreen or the type we need is simply not available so it is something that we are always careful to pack.
  13. Yes. And maybe do just a little research before asking for the name of the best this or that.
  14. Exactly. Sometimes I almost think that for some people bragging rights trump taste. Or perhaps they have never enjoyed fresh, cold water lobster from the east coast. Have the lobster bisque instead... if it is not too salty.
  15. I had a wonderful day with my son on Procida. There is a small bus that leaves from the dock and tours the island. You can get off and have lunch in a few villages. You are so right. Naples has lots of possibilities for touring on our own. Train, Circumvesuvia, and ferryies are all within walking distance. Plus car rentals. We have used Sorrento as a base on a few land trips.
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