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DougK

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  1. I'll second the recommendation for Jayleen's Whale Watching. I went out with Captain Jayleen in July, and it was a wonderful trip on a small boat, captained by a woman who grew up in the area and has been driving boats since she was a young teenager. She knows her stuff, and her tour is longer than most, giving more time to locate and stay with whales.
  2. Thank you for posting this. It's good to see the actual words of a HAL representative. I still find it hard to consider something a policy when it's not communicated to passengers (e.g., in their FAQ, passenger documentation). But at least now I see where you are all coming from, and I apologize for questioning it.
  3. I *have* searched CC, and I fail to come up with anything. If it's so easy to find, why won't you post a link? My point remains the same. I'm a reasonably intelligent passenger, but I can't find any statement by HAL even when I diligently search for it. So what's the point of the "policy" if they don't communicate it to their passengers? I don't doubt that you firmly believe that HAL has a specific policy. But all you can point to is your memory of a single social media post from years ago. Surely you can understand why I might doubt that it's actually a policy. As I said before, if you can point me to the actual policy, I will gladly eat my words and apologize. But thus far, nobody has done so.
  4. That section clearly states that it applies to alcoholic beverages. It's entirely silent on the subject of nonalcoholic beverages, in either checked or carry-on luggage.
  5. I'm sorry, but I find it hard to accept a single post on social media as representing HAL policy. For that matter, nobody has has yet even given a link to that post. I'm not on FB and can't search for myself. But even if I could, what difference would it make? What's the point of a "policy" that isn't communicated to HAL's passengers? The mere fact that a few posters on Cruise Critic repeat this claim doesn't turn it into policy. If HAL actually had a policy (at least one that they cared about), they'd have it on their web site, or in passenger documentation, or somewhere that passengers would actually see it.
  6. As best I can tell, HAL does *not* have a policy saying that soda and water must be carried on. At least, it doesn't appear on their web site or in any passenger documentation, and when I've asked on this board before, nobody was able to point to the actual policy. If you can provide a pointer to such a policy, I'll gladly eat my words and apologize. But in the meantime, I have severe doubts that the policy exists. Perhaps it's a good idea not to check soda/water. But it's strange to me that it's only the HAL board where I've seen this argument, and boards for other cruise lines instead suggest checking in cases of water. The facilities for handling luggage are the same for all cruise lines, so why would extra care be needed only on HAL?
  7. Does anybody have experience with Scenic's cooking classes (Scenic Culinaire)? I've seen conflicting information about whether these are hands-on or just a demonstration. I've also seen something saying space is limited. How hard is it to get a place in these classes? I think this is something my wife might enjoy, but I'd like to know more details before I mention the possibility to her--don't want to raise hopes beyond what reality. Thanks much!
  8. This sounds a lot like arguments that TAs made back in the days when airlines first started to talk about cutting commissions. But airlines eventually called the TA bluff then, deciding that TAs weren't actually steering clients to them--clients were mainly choosing their own flights. I wonder if we're hitting the same point here. As I see it, there are three pots of passengers: those who book directly with the cruise line, those who choose their own cruise and use a TA primarily as an order taker (perhaps for perks), and those who use a TA to decide on a cruise. The first pot is most profitable for the cruise line; the last pot costs the cruise line more but potentially means more sales; and the middle pot is simply a cost for the cruise line with minimal benefit. At some point, if the relative size of the last pot shrinks, cruise lines are going to start cutting commissions, figuring that it's worthwhile to sacrifice the last pot (cruise-steering TAs) in order to move people from the middle pot (order-taking TAs) into the first pot (direct cruiseline sales). So the big question is the size of the last pot. How many passengers actually use a TA to decide which cruise to go on, let alone which cruise line? With so much information readily available today on the Internet, it seems to me like most passengers are making their own decisions about cruise lines. Even 25 years ago when I started cruising, I wouldn't have relied on a TA; instead I looked at other sources (at the time, primarily books). I honestly don't know what the breakdown is today, but I'm willing to bet it's shrinking, and shrinking fast. My guess is that older passengers are more likely to use a TA--but those passengers are also more likely to have cruised before and already know their preferences and aren't being steered by a TA. And younger passengers are more likely to do their research online. The upshot is that I wouldn't be at all surprised to see cruise lines cutting commissions to TAs within the next 10 years, and maybe much sooner.
  9. And here's an example of the terminology problem. By "entertainment," I'm guessing you mean on the main stage. But I'm willing to bet there was plenty of what I'd include in the category of "entertainment" in other venues on the ship, particularly various types of music.
  10. Everybody has different ideas of what "entertainment" is. For years, most cruise lines were similar, offering production music/dancing shows mixed in with comedians/magicians and the like on the main stage, and limited entertainment elsewhere (perhaps a piano player or small band in another lounge). For better or worse, HAL has broken with this model, putting all of its efforts into multiple smaller live-music venues. The production shows are gone, and although comedians/magicians are still around, some nights the main stage is empty or showing a movie. But the live-music venues are top notch with BB Kings, for a popular band, Billboard On Board for piano and singing, and Lincoln Center for quality classical music. For some people, this is a huge upgrade in entertainment; for others, it's considered a major cutback. I don't have any facts on this, but I strongly suspect there's a generational divide, with younger, first-time, short-trip cruisers being happier with the new format, and old-timers being disappointed. All I know for a fact is that on my recent 7-day Alaska Nieuw Amsterdam cruise, all of the live music venues were overflowing with passengers who seemed to be enjoying themselves. When I stuck my head in to the main stage shows, there were a lot of empty seats. Maybe it wouldn't have been that way with production shows, but I don't know. Personally, I quit going to almost any main stage shows on any line at least 15 years ago.
  11. Don't count on this. That was my plan on the Nieuw Amsterdam last month, and I was disappointed to discover that the price onboard (as soon as we embarked) was significantly higher than it had been if we had booked pre-cruise. IIRC, the online price had been $209 for a week-long couple's pass, but it was $279 onboard.
  12. We had no problem getting a table for two on the Scenic Opal last fall, but I didn't really look around to see how many two-tops there were.
  13. DougK

    Glacier Bay

    I'll totally second this post. If you're interested in wildlife, Glacier Bay has innumerable possibilities--but you have to spend the time sitting and looking. If you do, there's no telling what you'll see. On my trip last month, I saw a first for me: two moose swimming across the bay right by the ship. I had to do a double take to figure out what they were, since I totally wasn't expecting that. Otters or sea lions are much more likely...
  14. It all depends on your definition of "walkable" which really varies a lot from person to person. As TravelerThom says, the walk from the dock to the inner city in Vienna is about 2 miles, and can be rather pleasant--and like him, I also enjoyed a walk around Prater Park. Nuremberg is tougher, but still walkable for some--at least based on where we docked on our Scenic trip last fall. It was about a 3-4 mile walk to both the old town and the Nazi Documentation Center (and another couple of miles between those spots). With a full day there and pleasant weather, I chose to walk and quite enjoyed my day, but I fully understand that the idea of walking a total of 10 miles is insane to most people.
  15. I won't guarantee that this is the same for the Christmas Market cruise, but my experience last fall was that Vienna is pretty easy to get around. Scenic ran a shuttle from back and forth from the ship to the city (I think it was somewhere around Schwedenplatz)--but only after tours had concluded. If I were you, I'd sign up for the Natural History tour, but let the cruise director know that you're only going to go on the bus, and not actually tour the museum. That will give you transportation to one side of the inner city, and then you can leisurely walk around, see the sights, and eventually make your way to the shuttle pickup point on the other side of the inner city. And don't feel bad about skipping a tour. Just because it's "free" doesn't mean it's the best use of your time. I know many people religiously go on every tour, but others skip some or all. I think my wife and I only went on one tour, and we enjoyed ourselves greatly exploring on our own at our own pace. As the cruise director told me on the first day, "it's your vacation and you should do what you want to." Scenic offers included tours, but won't be offended if you skip some/all.
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