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Posts posted by LibertyBella


    Gosh, arriving at Santorini is an absolutely spectacular experience, as the view is stunning.  We selected the all-day tour that included Akrotiri, because my priority is always seeing archaeological sites. We were first off the ship and went right on a tour bus at the bottom of the hill. 


    The ancient site is on the opposite side of the island, very interesting to tour.  We also stopped in Oia which is quite scenic, but a bit of a madhouse as everybody crowds in trying to get that one shot with the roofs.


    Returning to Fira, we went by ourselves to the prehistoric museum, then enjoyed a very nice and relaxing lunch. Yes, unfortunately the cable car line is quite long, although once on board, the ride is fast.  We took turns waiting in line while one of us looked around in the stores--probably close to an hour!! 


    We would not think about taking the donkeys (treatment issues), and physically, we could handle the steps, but we just wanted to ride the cable car!


    Perhaps you could arrange a private tour, and ask to be picked up and dropped off at the bottom to avoid the cable car (but you might miss Fira).

  2. 1 hour ago, angelsfort said:

    Yes!  It's always hilarious!   This was my boyfriends first time seeing it and I've never seen him laugh so much at other peoples jokes 🤣

    (he thinks he's a comedian and tends to laugh the hardest at his own jokes LOL someone has to do it).   



    HMMMMM... Maybe it is a hint that you are destined to be the next couple to tie the knot on board, and then be the show's new stars!!  Best wishes!

  3. Well, my philosophy is, I am loyal to cruising! (First cruise in 1973.)


    I have sailed on at least ten different lines, and three that no longer even exist!  So it is okay to jump around and see what other lines offer, and enjoy the experience.  When I want to feel historic and traditional and get all dressed up, I sail Cunard; when I want a great itinerary, I choose Celebrity or Princess and every once in a while Holland America; when family is involved they like NCL the most; finally, for just a great getaway FUN cruise I choose RCL and Carnival.  


    Although we have sailed on Viking, we find the adults-only, no big shows, no dress-up experience not quite completely our cup of tea--we are way too old for Virgin, and we are still considering if we want to engage with the bargain approach of MSC.  I more or less crossed Costa off our list after a captain sank one of their ships. 


    Have a wonderful time--bon voyage!!

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  4. Bleah!  Young people pay a lot of money to do those escape room experiences.  It seemed to be a trendy experience that has gone mainstream. They evolved from video games, and now are all over the world, with many different themes, and puzzles to solve.


    I suppose if I were much, much younger and I had a group of friends then I might partake.  But since it is just DH and me on most cruises, it is more romantic for us to go to a dance floor then try to break a code to get out of a "locked" room. Have never done them, will never do them.  (But then we do not play bingo or do trivia, either.)






  5. On 9/9/2023 at 2:49 PM, lenquixote66 said:

    We have never purchased a beverage on a cruise ship .On our first cruise in 1973 there was no such thing as a beverage package.


    I also took my first cruise in 1973--I agree, drink packages were non-existent, much less televisions in rooms, or wi-fi.  But we still had a fabulous time!!


    Oh, I like to go dancing in the nightclubs and take long busy excursions with lots of walking, and I am eating in a healthy manner (no fast food, more salads.). I am happy to say every time I cruise I come back in better shape than when I left--I actually lose weight rather than gain weight--yippee!


    (I also do not drink alcohol or coffee--but I do drink a daily soda or lemonade.)

  6. Let's face it, as Viking has expanded, it has begun to compete more closely with the other big cruise lines.  Too many people complain about being "nickeled and dimed," on other cruise lines, but the truth is, you have never had to pay for anything extra unless you really wanted it.  Many cruise lines these days are offering all kinds of all-inclusive packages.


    What can work in a small niche market may not be as effective when one wants to attract tens of thousands of cruisers instead of just thousands.  The effect of worldwide inflation on travel can be seen everywhere--flights, hotels, cruises, food, alcohol.  


    As a person who rarely drinks alcohol, and limits myself to one soda per day, I can say I am probably subsidizing those who can drink a bottle of wine or several beers a day on cruises with "free" alcohol. I am also not a big eater, and never go back for seconds, or ask for two entrees.


    Excursions are always a bit different because--they depend on individual passenger interest, health, energy, ability, time constraints, etc.  Also, many cruisers feel quite confident and comfortable booking independent shore excursions with local providers, something that did not really occur a few decades back. 


    I wonder if Viking reduced the cruise cost, and made ALL excursions optional and something to be purchased, if they would have such a sell-out of the better tours as they do now.  Yes, those paying for the larger cabins do get first dibs now to book excursions, a nice bonus, but really--why?  Aren't they paying extra to have a fancier sleeping area?  And the fact that people compete at early hours of the morning when excursions open is just an exhausting and frustrating exercise.  


    I am not sure where Viking will be with this approach down the road in a few years or so, and how younger cruisers will react.  It will certainly be an interesting issue to study, collect data, and then publish the research outcomes!



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  7. For us, a major part of cruising is the fun of getting dressed up and celebrating like it is New Year's Eve!  As Issac Mizrahi (American designer) says, "if you are going to show up, then SHOW UP!"


    I love to look beautiful, and elegant on formal nights, and DH better match me in style for all the formal photos we take!  Even though I am American, I have some favorite British designers, especially Georgina Chapman.  Here is one of her delicious dresses I wore two months ago on the Enchanted Princess:



    Embroidered Floral Fitted Gown


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  8. What time does your ship depart, and what are your options for pick-up?  We just sailed out of Rome two months ago, and we asked for a pick-up around 11:30 AM, although the shuttle arrived about fifteen minutes early. (Originally I wanted 12:30 PM, but we used a shared shuttle, and they asked us if we could leave an hour earlier.)


    However, we had sufficient time in the morning to walk to the Pantheon and tour it when it opened before leaving for our cruise.  The transfer ride is very quick--only an hour or less, and the shuttle can take you right to your ship for a quick check-in.

  9. When we cruised to Alaska, we splurged on the helicopter ride that took us to a glacier where we trekked a bit on the blue ice with crampon boots.  I have to say that was probably the most memorable experience of the entire cruise, even though we did zip-lining, canoeing, rock-climbing, wildlife watching, and a bunch of other stuff.  (I never count food or ship entertainment as extremely memorable, because I have been on many, many cruises, and it all kinds of blends together.) I also would not bother with the dog sleds--there are much more comprehensive (and more reasonably priced) dog sled experiences in Canada, as I can attest.


    I know you are on a budget, but some times remarkable experiences are worth the cost! Have a fantastic cruise.


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  10. I never downloaded the app for my cruise as our phones stayed in the safe.  I did all dining reservations in advance on the webpage, and had zero problems.  I also pre-booked excursions, and some ship packages, so I did not have much to do while on the ship!

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  11. I guess it just depends on personality, experience, age, and interests.


    Well, with the transatlantic we enjoyed the voyage focus--but we realized we do prefer cruises with multiple port stops combined with a few sea days to recover from non-stop excursions. 


    We have been on so many cruises, and we are still very healthy, so we can basically explore an entire cruise ship in two days and know our way around.  Yes, we sign up for activities, and go to shows, and the nightclubs, etc., but we do all that on every ship.  


    When we travel with other family members (children or seniors), we are more apt to hang around the  ship and engage with them, but as a couple we do get a trifle bored after the first three days and need much more than the daily routine (we are the same on land tours--can only sit at a hotel pool for a day or so and then must go off and do something.). 


    However, transatlantics are definitely relaxing, and the closest experience of replicating the seafaring lifestyle.

  12. Gosh, we go to the Poconos all the time for getaways and have been doing so forever--I cannot imagine ever paying that high of an amount for such a short time in any of the hotels up there, nor would I!  Even NY's Mohonk Mountain house, or the NY Sagamore, which are rather expensive, would not cost as much.


    A great choice for a resort vacation would be the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island--very lovely and scenic. There is a fantastic organization, Historic Hotels of America, which features many of the most wonderful resort hotels in America.


    Well, my recommendation for a reasonably priced yet full service beach resort vacation from the East coast USA that is most similar to a cruise is to head to the Mexican Riviera Maya or one of the islands like the  Dominican Republic, or perhaps Costa Rica in Central America.  There are many all-inclusive resort packages with air, hotel, food and alcohol that will not break your budget.  


    I love cruising, and I love travel, and I do have to admit I have expertise in researching, and comparison shopping, without giving up luxury.  I have a bucket list of places to visit, and always try to keep up with current prices and news regarding destinations.  I have been extremely pleased with every cruise I have ever booked over the past many decades, more so sometimes than my resort hotels. There is always a sale somewhere, at some time!  Yes, it is a wonderful experience to see the world, but I need to afford the upkeep on my home as well.

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  13. I am at a loss to try to understand why someone would make the cruising experience so difficult, and so overwhelming, and then seek assistance regarding an issue where there is no answer!


    This is a spinning hamster wheel issue which will never be resolved unless you get off the wheel.


    Just book another cruise somewhere else on a different date! 

    There is plenty to see in the world!  You can always fly to your islands some other time and enjoy them then.


    And yes, flights will change constantly even up to a few days before departure, because that is the way the airline industry works! I 100% agree you cannot plan flight schedules today for next year. 


    Hopefully your husband will try to give some level of meaningful participation to his business meeting (says the boss in me), rather than focus so much on this almost-vacation.



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  14. The majority of "included" excursions seem to me to be half day city tours with a bus, and a bit of walking for both Viking River and Viking Ocean. They are pleasant, never too strenuous (for us), and are a nice introduction to the location. I think Viking has tailored the excursions for people in average health/fitness level. 


    My brother and wife are scheduled on Viking Ocean early 2024 in Europe--they will appreciate the included tours, and definitely prefer a more leisurely tour experience.  But we are more action-oriented, and eager to explore.


    If we were going on a complex itinerary with some special sites to see, and those areas were not a part of the included tours, we would decline the included tours. We would prefer to pay for an excursion (private or by ship) so we can see and do exactly what we want! We also like all-day excursions that include lunch, so we can try some of the local food.


    Since we usually choose these rigorous full day tours when we cruise in certain parts of Europe/Asia/Latin America, etc., we would then lose out of all of the "free" tours Viking Ocean offers.  Where, then, is the value?  (Perhaps excursions on Viking River may require less deliberation as there are more limited offerings.)


    Yes, I agree the incentive is to choose the highest-price cabins, although booking excursions on Viking still seems to be a scramble.  But I can choose another cruise line instead, and have all my full-day paid excursions confirmed one to two years in advance (if available), with much less stress.   Which is why when we cruised to Italy, Greece and Turkey two months ago, we chose Princess over Viking.  We will always consider Viking for cruising, but for us, the excursions are a critical component, and play a significant role in final cruise selection.



  15. Yes, excursions in the Mediterranean are very important for me, which is why when I plan a special cruise there based on destinations, I usually book more than a year in advance, both cruise and excursions.


    No one can say if more excursions will open up, because it depends on your ports of call, and the availability of transportation and guides.  However, you may want to check every day before your cruise in case spaces open up, and then also once on board. Also review your first, second and third choices.


    But, even the best laid plans can be subject to change!  Just two months ago I was in Istanbul, and my shore excursion had been confirmed more than seven months in advance.  The minute I stepped on the ship they sent me a notification that they were cancelling the excursion as the port time was just not long enough to fulfill all the components.  Yes, they (Princess) probably knew that well before we sailed, but they waited until we were on board!! They then gave me the cost of my very expensive shore excursions back as OBC.


    If I would have known in advance, I would definitely have arranged a private tour with a local guide, and I would have made sure to see everything on my list, because I am a fast walker (and I can skip lunch).  As it was we substituted a shorter shore excursion, and then spent the rest of the day on our own walking and visiting all the places on our list. 


    So the other recommendation I have is do extensive research on each port so you know exactly what you want to see, how much it costs, how long to see it, and would it be possible to do on your own.  Have a wonderful cruise!



  16. Okay, I went through the trouble of canceling and rebooking, and I was able to save my same cabin, but receive the cost reduction. When I booked the cruise, I thought the price was very good, but the sale made the price excellent, and since the cruise is still a year away I wanted to take advantage of the sale. 


    Yes, Cunard is making price reductions a bit difficult for its loyal customers, but the on-board experience is totally worth the advance hassle!

  17. I know the frustration of really wanting to do something special on a cruise, and not having immediate confirmation! 


    We were on a Viking cruise in March with an optional tour that I wanted that was sold out, and I checked every day for a few months until two spots opened up.  When I booked I was only able to grab one of them.  I did a live chat with a Viking rep and it turns out that they still had that other seat empty, but the computer was just showing sold out anyway.  


    Maybe double check to make sure they do not have one seat remaining...


    Unfortunately, the SNUBA tour probably has very limited numbers because the vendor probably does not have any more equipment to use.


    Yes, SNUBA is very popular is many warm weather places like the Caribbean islands--I have always wanted to do it, but husband refuses to go with me and makes me snorkel at a minimum instead.  He is scuba certified and can dive 100 feet deep or more--for him the SNUBA is too "babyish."


    The other option is to let them know you want to waitlist once you are on board--maybe someone will cancel last minute (due to illness, etc.).  If none of that works, take the city tour, and then after your cruise book a land tour to a tropical island and try SNUBA, snorkel, and maybe even scuba!

  18. Well, I always book the longest, busiest shore excursions I can find in Europe, and the majority are ship excursions. (I have been cruising for decades on multiple lines.) Yes, I study every detail of the excursions, and I know all the timing, and what will be seen.  The only time we book independent excursions is if --the ship tours are not comprehensive enough, there is something we specifically want to do that is not offered (scuba-dive), or we want to go to a specific place or site not included in any ship tours.  Overall I have been very, very pleased with my cruise ship excursions, especially the most complicated ones, as they are well organized, the guides are very good, and I have always felt the prices were quite competitive.


    We just sailed in July on the Enchanted Princess, Rome to Athens, with semi- rigorous full day excursions each day (Pompeii, Ephesus, Knossos, Istanbul) and temperatures were well over 100 degrees.  We also took multiple tours in Rome and Athens not associated with the cruise line.


    I find that European tour guides speak extremely quickly, like to walk fast, and want to keep to their schedules.  They do not really want to "baby" their tour participants, but instead prefer to think of themselves as historical experts imparting knowledge to eager students. It is our responsibility to keep up with them.


    DH and I are in excellent shape, so we can walk anywhere, but I love taking lots and lots of photos, so I am frequently running to catch up with the group. 


    We took a Viking river cruise in March, and the half-day morning walking tours were a bit more relaxed, but not really long enough to feel that we had exhausted ourselves (we were a tiny bit bored, and went off on our own in the afternoons).  


    In my opinion on cruises we are getting quick introductions to places, and it behooves us to read about a location thoroughly before going so we know what we are seeing, and then return home and study and reflect on what we toured.  By the way, husband is a history teacher and I am an almost-archaeologist, so we perhaps have a different perspective. We are quite happy to do DIY trips as well, but usually we rent a car and drive around a country rather than cruise (DH is an expert with a stick shift!).



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  19. There are ALWAYS last-minute cruise deals.  I am inundated with great offers from many cruise lines (even Viking!), but I have dogs, and last-minute boarding in the dog kennels is never available around here. 


    However, how last-minute do you want to travel? In days, weeks, or months?--your time constraints could have an impact.  Almost every day Cruise Critic publishes last-minute deals on the website--you could also use the search engine and check potential dates and departure ports to compare prices.  I will say I frequently get better results from other venues as compared to Cruise Critic.


    Have fun planning!

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    Well, you have to decide what is the purpose of the cruise as well.  If you are going on a port-intensive cruise (ship stops every day somewhere, limited sea days), then a smaller ship is better because people can get on and off more quickly to do excursions (this is especially true in tender situations).  That is why when my focus for a cruise is itinerary, I prefer a smaller ship.  The theaters may not be as crowded, and there may be more deck chairs available on some smaller ships as well, because the venues are built to try to accommodate everybody.


    But, if the ship itself is the destination, and you are cruising just to enjoy the cruise, and if you are traveling with family, especially younger folks, then those big ships are loads of fun, because you spend your time exploring and partaking of all the amenities.  The big ships expect passengers to spread out and try diverse activities, so the venues may be more limited in capacity, or they may require reservations, etc. 


    So, yes, I like both and will cruise on both, but I am aware of all the pros and cons.

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  21. 19 hours ago, windsurferfirst said:

    We have jumped ship from Princess to Cunard. Reading your review is making me wonder if we have done the right thing. We sail on QE on 18th September and I am now very nervous.


    I am not sure what you are worried about.  In many ways the two lines are much more similar than not--both are upscale, encourage formalities, create great itineraries, and offer many interesting on-board activities. Both lines have a variety of eating facilities, and cater to well-traveled and knowledgeable cruisers.


    I am a fan of both, and cruise both quite regularly, and have done so for decades. In fact, last month I sailed on the Enchanted Princess from Rome to Athens.  Last Summer we were on the QM2, and for next Summer we are booked on the Queen Victoria from Rome to Barcelona.


    The real difference for us--DH wears his tuxedo only on Cunard; on other lines he wears a suit (and some of his suits are very, very nice.). Other nights he usually wears a sports jacket.  I might go a little more sexy in my outfits when I am not sailing on Cunard, but my formal long gowns are interchangeable across most lines (weather dictates this choice the most!).


    I think overall we still reminisce about cruising as a historic and unique experience, due to the many movies and memories that have glamorized voyaging on the sea. 


    Yes, cruising has a special place in my heart, but everything evolves, and some changes we may not like.  I certainly do not miss the bunk beds, the absence of televisions and Internet, the lack of carpeting, the limited dining, etc., which were part of my first cruises.  And when I recall that Cunard has been offering cruises for almost two hundred years, I wonder what people from the past would think of today's experiences!


    P.S.  We buy lots of pet items at Walmart--cat litter, cat food, dog treats and toys, etc.  They have a great variety and the prices cannot be beat (I have a menagerie in my home).

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  22. Grand Turk--I went horse back riding while my husband went scuba diving. My excursion was not worth the cost or the effort.


    Conditions were a bit on the primitive side (air-conditioned van had broken windows, lots of run down areas), and I almost fell off the horse when it went racing into the ocean (loose saddle, skinny horse). 


    The island is so small that everybody knows where everyone else lives.  There is no real shopping, like Grand Cayman or Bermuda. The claim to fame is the former salt production and the NASA splashdown (in 1962!!)


    Next time I will stay close to the port and just use the beach, and swim in the giant pool.



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