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Everything posted by Hlitner

  1. Today it is Santorini, We cruised into the anchorage early this morning with heavy fog, mist, overcast, etc. I have been to Santorini at least a dozen times and this is the first time that the weather was not relatively clear. A real shame for many since many of the best views were obscured by fog/mist. Today was also a day we took our first excursion on Santorini. On all of our other visits we simply did our own thing with rental cars, island buses, or taxis. But we had a lot of Simply More credit (thanks to O cancelling several other excursions) and chose to use it on an 8 hour tour that included Oia, Fira, and a wine tasting/lunch at Boutari winery. The tour was AWFUL! We saw quite a few from our tour group (of 40) lined-up at the Destinations counter to file complaints. Why bother? The excursion cost $350 per per person, and I could have easily duplicated what they offered for about 1/3 of that price. Our guide wasted so much time, folks complained they got to see very little. In Oia, he gave us 16 minutes of free time after which it took over 45 minutes to count the group and get everyone on the bus! At the winery, the lunch dragged on for about 2 hours (long after most folks were finished). By the time we were finally dropped in Fira (part of the tour) it was about 3:30 pm (all aboard time 5:30). Most on the excursion headed directly for the cable car (which had a 45-60 min wait) while DW and I decided to make the long walk down the donkey path (to the tenders). For those not aware, this walk has over 600 steps (not to mention plenty of donkey poo). Talking to some of the other folks on our tour (who also thought the tour was awful), they mentioned that their excursion yesterday was even worse! DW and I have been very independent/adventurous travelers for decades and this tour reinforced our love of DIY travel. Last evening we returned to Ember (our third visit) and I finally had a decent meal. Our waiter told me that the bone-in ribeye was very good, and that was an understatement. My steak was excellent and perfectly cooked to my requested medium rare. DW ordered a large portion of the ribs (listed as a starter) and thought the boneless ribs were good, but she was not a fan of the BBQ sauce which she found too sweet. I liked that BBQ sauce (at a previous visit), so this is the kind of thing where food is subjective. But consider that with one good dinner out of three tries, this is not a venue we would recommend. Others may disagree, but O can certainly do a lot better than the current menu in Ember.. One final comment about Santorini. Folks should keep in mind that even when you take excursions, it is very likely that your excursion will end by dropping you in Fira where you will often have some free time and must make your own way to the cable car station (or down the donkey steps). Even if your excursion does not involve much walking, the drop point used at Fira will leave you with a walk (partially uphill) to get to the cable car station. Santorini is not wheelchair or scooter friendly and would be a challenge for folks with mobility limitations. Hank
  2. Have you ever cruised on Carnival? Once upon a time, we took three cruises with that line (2 when we had a young daughter) and it was surprisingly good. The first folks we met were luxury line cruisers who also turned to Carnival and RCCL (now RCI) for their family cruises. We have also encountered loud mouth guests on one luxury line and friends of ours recently had an awful cruise on Seabourn, because of a large group of drunken/loud souls from a country south of the Equator. Unfortunately, stuff happens even on the best lines. Hank
  3. We get it :). Since we spend little waking time in our cabin/suite, the large cabins are nice but also a waste of our money. We prefer to be out and about and socializing with other passengers. When we have a large suite, we almost feel obligated to spend more time in the suite. No right or wrong it simply personal preference. Hank
  4. Although we have been to Santorini more than a dozen time (and will again be there tomorrow) we cannot answer the OPs question. Why? The cable car can only move around 600 (in each direction) per hour. The alternative is to walk down (around 600 steps). Those are the facts and most else is speculation. Hank.
  5. As one who does a lot of European travel (am there at the moment) we suggest a combination of major credit cards (MC or Visa) local cash, and an ATM card, That covers all the bases. Also notify both your credit card companies and ATM issuing bank of your trip. Some CC companies no longer ask for notification, but it is best to hear that from them. Hank
  6. We can offer no help to the Op other than to try and get Elliot.org in the case. Unfortunately, the OP made some classics mistakes. 1. Only pay for a cruise reservation with a major credit card. And 2. Carefully vett any agency. Legit agencies will want a major credit card, which is actually processed by the Cruise Line. When you use a legit agency, the reservation number should show on the cruise line site within minutes. You should also receive a detailed invoice from the agency. Using PayPal or other such third party payment sites is a big no-no as you will likely lose the protection afforded by Federal Law and also not have the ability to use the credit card charge-back option. We hope it works out for the OP, but “hope” is not as good as law. Hank
  7. We did not try to get in the Agora, but it did appear to be closed. The leather shops are alive and well and waiting for the generous tourists. ☺️
  8. We are currently on the Vista where some things do rise to luxury status, and other things fall short (hence the Premium category does apply). An example is trying to make or cancel a restaurant reservation. On O, this means either waiting in a queue for the single person that handles restaurant reservations or trying to get through on a phone line that is seldom answered. On Seabourn (our luxury line of choice) you could just ask at any restaurant (including the lido) and it would be handled. On Explora Journeys (another luxury line with amazing cuisine) you could deal with a reservations desk (generally staffed with more then one person) or just ask at the restaurant. Another difference is in the cabins. Most luxury lines are "all suites." Luxury lines also have more space and staff per passenger. I will also mention that DW and I cruise on mass market, premium, and luxury lines. We enjoy all three categories, but approach each with different expectations. We do not expect O food when we are on Princess, and we do not expect Seabourn service when we are on O. Each type of line has their pros and cons. Hank
  9. Most tourist-oriented (and other) businesses will be open. The problem, during Golden Week, is that many Japanese are on the move to various places to vacation or visit friends/family. The main impact on cruisers/travelers is that many of the trains and hotels may be full. If planning a train trip to the more popular places (such as Kyoto) it would be wise to make train reservations in advance. The other downside is that the more popular shines/temples will generally be packed with hordes of Japanese tourists. As Godfreyb suggests, plan ahead, make reservations, and enjoy yourself 🙂 Hank
  10. And Good Greetings from Souda, Souda is a bay and port on the island of Crete, where we are docked today. Souda is about 3-4 miles from the much larger Chania, which is how most cruise lines list this port. Yesterday we had some drama when the Captain increased our ship to top speed and announced that he was going to dock at Souda, several hours early (this turned out to be about 11pm last night) in order to disembark a medical emergency patient. This morning, we awoke to a warm day (highs in the 80s F) and very gusty winds (probably in the 30-35 MPH range. The winds are trying to push the Vista away from its pier and this has caused issues. We are tied-up with double lines and O is using two large tugboats (one forward and the other aft) to hold the ship against the pier. We are also running our thrusters to help keep the ship docked. The danger is that without the tugs the lines might snap and lead to all kinds of difficulties. Around lunch time, it was announced that due to the high winds, passengers would no longer be allowed to go ashore....as using the gangway was dangerous. I will speculate that if we had arrived this morning, as scheduled, we would not have been able to dock (because of high gusty winds) and ended up with a sea day. Locals told us that this kind of wind is not normal. Fortunately, most passengers were able to get off the ship this morning for their excursions and DIY. DW and I debarked about 10:30, but the free shuttle bus (to town) was full and there was still a queue of over 40 souls. Since it was going to be at least 30 minutes until the free shuttle returned, the local authorities were able to bring in a city bus (for which we had to pay 1.60 Euros) for those of us who did not want to wait. Ten minutes later we were in downtown Chania, which does have a large old town shopping district, a cute old harbor (with shops and restaurants, Maritime Museum, etc.). DW and I spent about 1 1/2 hours walking in the nice part of town and then returned to the Vista for a late lunch in Waves. I assume that many first-time visitors took excursions to the ruins at Knossos, which is something we recommend to those who have never visited this site. Talking to other passengers reinforced my thinking that O desperately needs a decent App. Want to cancel or make a dinner reservation? You must either queue up on deck 5 to get to the single reservations person or try to reach that person via phone (they seldom answer). Most lines easily handle this kind of thing via App. We finally managed to get through, on the phone, and cancel our Red Ginger reservation (mentioned in a previous post). We decided to keep our Ember reservation (for tonight) since the GDR menu is not one of our favorites. Perhaps the third time, in Ember, will be the charm. Hank
  11. Good Day from the Med, Today is a sea day (DW and I love sea days) and we are heading east, across the Med, on our way to Chania, Crete. At the moment we are making just over 19 knots, which is close to top speed on the Vista. With a stiff (over 30 knot) Northeasterly wind, this means that the wind over the decks is in excess of 50 knots! Hence, the Captain has ordered the closure of all outside deck areas above Deck 12. DW mentioned that she does think the Vista "rides well" in these kind of seas (3-4 meter swells into a stiff wind). The ship is certainly moving enough that there are likely to be more than a few souls not feeling their best. Last evening, we had a lively crowd or about 100, in Horizons, for the 10:30 - 11:15 music/dance set. At one point, the dance floor was really packed. And then, at 11:15 sharp, the music stops. We have mentioned this in a previous post, but "O" really should consider a later live music set, especially on nights before sea days. Last night we also moved the clocks forward, another hour, which now puts us a full 7 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. That gets our ship onto Greek time which is where we will be spending the next few days. Dinner, last evening, was in the GDR where we were again seated with our favorite waiter. DW and I are both constantly stuffed, from the good food here on Vista, so we both had a lighter dinner with a pasta/clams dish served in a white wine/olive oil sauce. This dish is Vista's take on Pasta Vongole, a very popular item in Italy. I finished dinner with the daily cheese plate (camembert, gouda, and gorgonzola). All the cheeses were of top quality and served at the proper room temperature. The gorgonzola was very creamy. and satisfied my craving for a decent blue cheese. That dinner paired very nicely with the Macon Village wine offering that is on the normal "by the glass" list. Lunch (a few hours ago) was in Waves where I was reunited with the surf/turf burger (Wagyu beef burger topped with chunks of lobster and an herbal mayonnaise. I have never mentioned the ship's library, and it is deserving of some attention. It consists of two rooms located on the opposite side of the ship from Barista's with a connecting route between the two venues. This space would certainly qualify for a prize as one of the more attractive "libraries at sea." Hank
  12. We seldom disagree with Euro-Cruiser, but the train option might be a bit difficult for 8 seniors (I am also a senior) and you will still need local taxis to get from the train station to the port. I assume that NCL will provide some transfer options and we would suggest asking them about what is available. Hank
  13. A beach “day” with 1:30 arrival? Our norm would be to go into town, walk over to the bus stop near the windmills, and grab a bus to Paradise or Platis Gialos. But the late arrival makes this not practical. IMHO you would be smart to book the ship’s beach transfer or other similar excursion. Hank
  14. As a cruise fan,I think we can all overthink policy. To this frequent cruiser I could care less about mergers or senior management. What matters is what we experience onboard. If there is no prime rib in Polo, that is a fact. Speculating about who made the decision does not matter. It still sucks. That being said, many of us can plead guilty to trying to understand bad decisions. Hank
  15. Getting back to the original question, we prefer ships with fewer than 1000 with 600 (or less) being ideal. The downside is that these ships are usually expensive. Been cruising since the 70s on all sizes from 20 - 4000+. Hank
  16. Best or best value? Trains offer the best value along with the Flixbus. Another option is a one way rental car which will generally need to be dropped a taxi ride from the port. A private car/driver or taxi will be very expensive. Hank
  17. We agree regarding Polo. Keep in mind that our cruise is longer and what is good the first time can fade as one has more chances to test the menus.
  18. Both DW and I did have the Sea Bass at Red Ginger and agree, that it is terrific. I suppose we could simply order the same sea bass main, every time we dine in RG, but that is not our style. Especially in Asian restaurants, we prefer to try many different dishes, and this is where we find RG lacking. It is when we started looking beyond a couple of decent offerings, that we grew tired of the venue. The overall concept if fine if they would only expand/refine the menu. Also consider that we have dined in RG 3 times in 25 days. If we returned to Vista on a future cruise, we would want to again dine in RG. But, on this voyage, we have simply grown tired of the venue and do not see other dishes that spark our interest. In fact, on this last visit the waiter told us of a daily special (a spicy beef teriyaki dish) which several at our table ordered. The waiter was soon back to tell us "We are out of that item." Given that it was only 7:30, we figure there were many others that jumped at the daily special instead of the usual menu. When it comes to the 4 alternative restaurants, we find ourselves wanting to only return to Polo and Toscana. This will mean that we dined, 3 times, in RG, Polo and Toscana and twice in Ember. IMHO, Oceania should quickly replace Ember with another concept. Calling Ember the "Applebee of the Sea" would be an insult to Applebee's. Hank
  19. Greetings from Valletta, Malta, Moving along with our live from the Vista blog. Today is a turn-around day and marks the end of our first 25 days (2 segments) with only 10 days to go. The weather is, again, near perfect with partly cloudy skies and temps in the upper 60s. In fact, the entire 11-day segment (Civitavecchia to Malta) was blessed with terrific weather. 10 ports in 11 days is a bit muich, but somehow it does seem that everyone survived :). For those who have never docked in Valletta, I will just say that it is one of the most visually striking ports in the world. One is surrounded by medieval walls, fortresses, etc. It is a clean, safe island perfect for DIY, HoHo buses, or excursions. We have been here a few times, previously driven all over the island, and always enjoyed our visits. Today we stayed aboard in the morning, did some laundry, had lunch, and than went ashore to visit the Grand Master Palace. A beautiful Sunday afternoon on Malta brings many folks out to enjoy outdoor dining with their families and friends. Picking up from our last "live from" post, on Thursday evening we returned to Red Ginger (for the third time). Like our other dinners in Red Ginger, the food was good, but not outstanding. We think that this venue tries to offer too many Asian cuisines, and many dishes just seem to be lacking in flavor. DW ordered the Thai Red Chicken Curry and requested medium heat. What she got was bland (no heat) and disappointing. My beef dish was good, but nothing special. Our shared starter (which has various offerings) was good, but almost boring. We will cancel our final Red Ginger reservation since we prefer the GDR. On Friday night DW and I enjoyed our dinner in the GDR where I again had Beef Wellington and DW the lobster tail/chunks in a light mushroom sauce. Both our meals were excellent as we continue to request seating with our favorite waiter, Kadeck. Last night we shared a table in Ember, where none of us were overly happy. I had the double pork chop, which looked beautiful (on the outside). When I cut it open it was near raw! The dining room manager happened to walk past, saw the meat, and immediately took the plate. The replacement (which came in about 10 minutes) was perfectly cooked. The chocolate brownie dessert was very good. But, after two dinners in Ember, we do not see a reason to return and will cancel our remaining reservation. The bottom line, for us, is that we enjoy the GDR more than both Red Ginger and Ember. While fine for a change, we no longer see the need to visit those two venues. Today, we decided to try something a little different for our lunch. DW wanted a sandwich from Aquamar and I wanted a Philly Cheesesteak from Waves. The staff in each venue is not able to order from the other venue (it is not on their tablets). So, we first stopped at Aquamar where DW put in her order, told them we would be in Waves, and they gave her a numbered placard. to put on our Waves table. The Aquamar staff then delivered her sandwich to our table. Last evening, we had an early show (5:45) since it was the last night of a segment. Isabel Comandeur, a versatile opera soprano, gave her 2nd performance to a big audience. All of our Guest entertainers have been very good, and the passengers show their appreciation with some standing ovations. Last evening was also a bit sad as we bid farewell to several drinking pals (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie). Socializing here on the Vista is alive and well. We have decided to continue our drink package upgrade for the last segment. This morning, we were able to book another excursion (for Santorini) that uses our remaining shore excursion credit. I continue to be dissatisfied for the way O handles excursion bookings for folks on multiple cruise segments. Not allowing passengers to get access to excursions on successive segments puts us at a disadvantage over folks who have not embarked. A person can book excursions up to 7 days prior to embarkation, but once on a cruise one cannot book an excursion until the evening before the end of the prior segment. Hank
  20. Just a suggestion that you are more likely to get what you want by indicating you are willing to share. We are on the Vista and all of our shared tables have been with one other couple, and almost always a lot of fun. Hank
  21. The Azure Trail. between the villages, is still not open since the rock slides (a few years ago). Once reopened, this is a relatively easy route that most can do in under 30 min. Some say this will be opened in July, but that remains to be seen. The current higher route is quite difficult and best left to experienced hikers in decent shape. That hike can take 1 1/2 hours and involves a lot of steps and uneven surfaces. We did it, many years ago, and it was not fun on a hot day. Hank
  22. Am on the Oceania Vista where we have missed 3 ports sine embarking on March 27. Bermuda, Horta, and Menorca. But it does seem that Oceania cancels/changes ports more frequently then most other lines.
  23. As long as you stay indoors you can wear anything. On deck is a different story
  24. Interesting thread. If you have the time, taking the train to MC is no different than going to Antibes or Nice other than the extra time. As one who does not enjoy MC, I wonder why, it whatever floats your boat ☺️
  25. We booked SS because we got a very good deal that was less costly than a MSC cruise (we like their Yacht Club). SS also had a much better itinerary. We dont’t mind dressing up, so that did not even factor in our decision. We truly enjoy lots of variation in our cruises in terms of different cruise lines and itineraries. Hank
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