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shorefolks

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  1. I'm aware of that, but that can be problematic in itself. (I'm a firm believer in not aggravating people who have access to my food or my toothbrush.) His behavior, while not ideal, merely added to a less-than-desirable situation. If encountered in an Anytime environment, we would have chalked it off to one night's bad luck and avoided his tables in the future. In Traditional, it unfortunately joined with the just-okay food, and the full-volume, cackling idiot at the next table to make dinner not something to which we would look forward.
  2. We also are just off that cruise. Our views are somewhat different. I very much agree about the staff in general: friendly, happy, and eager to serve. Our steward was the best we have had in 30 cruises. We were less happy with the food, which I would describe as adequate, good at times, but a tendency to be repetitive. The executive chef is Italian, but we have honestly had better Italian. (Still, that is personal prejudice. For us, what is needed is less of a chef and more of an Italian nonna.) The Italian restaurant was better and had very good service. The steakhouse had some of the worst service ever: 30-40 minutes between courses on a slow night. The pizza remains great. Always a treat. The BBQ grill (hot dogs, hamburgers, and brats) had good food, but the personnel were achingly slow with no concept of production- strictly one order at a time. Three customers quickly became a logjam. The biggest drawback for us is the lack of Anytime dining. (Having sailed the Pacific before, we knew this in advance. Very much liking the itinerary, however, we just gritted our teeth and went with it.) This became a real drag night-after-night for two weeks, especially because our chief waiter's act got old. He was probably the only Filipino we have met that was brusque and full of himself. He paid more attention to playing politics with his superiors than to providing service. He would utter his rote platitudes while keeping his eye on what somebody else was doing. His assistant was much better but was kept constantly running by his boss's many orders. One big complaint we had was with smoke management. At no time (including middle of the night while looking for the aurora) was our balcony (deck 6) free from a very strong smoke odor. Just as bad, the stench seemed to concentrate in the otherwise-attractive small bar just outside of the MDR. We would have enjoyed a drink there, but the smell ruled that out. The Pacific is indeed a small ship with all of the good and bad points that go with that. It is comfortable but has its drawbacks. Some people call it the best Princess ship; others call it the worst. I would have preferred a larger ship on this itinerary, but a larger ship might not have been able to make all of these ports. Each person has to make his own choice.
  3. After quoting your experience to my TA, she suggested I call NCL myself. (I had held off calling because I was hoping she could get a more reliable answer.) I did call them and was quickly told that arrival time was 8:00 a.m. I replied with the history of the situation and was then put on hold. After some time, the agent came back and said it was 6:00 p.m. after all. Is that true? Who knows? By the way, our last scheduled cruise on NCL was cancelled after we had purchased the airfare. Somebody please tell me why I should have any confidence in this company.
  4. I've quoted your posting to my TA who today received an answer of 8:00 a.m. from NCL. At this point, I don't believe anybody and will probably cancel before final payment next month.
  5. Boarding in Singapore recently, we had three bottles for the two of us. There was no table set up yet, but the security agent (not a HAL employee) said we had to leave the third bottle for later delivery to our cabin. Although highly doubtful we would ever see it again, I had no choice. Two days into the cruise, we still did not have the wine. I inquired with Guest Services, and they apologized. The bottle was delivered later that day, and our account was charged for the corkage. This is the only port where I have encountered that procedure.
  6. This trip was a particular disappointment birding-wise. Air quality was abysmal throughout and even a Vietnamese tour guide said "There are no birds in Vietnam." Never before have I had a cruise of this length where port stops yielded not a single gull or tern. To make it worse, increasing severe bronchitis kept us from going ashore on two different days. Some birds of interest: Singapore: Common & crested myna, house crow Koh Samui: Little egret, Oriental turtle dove, Spotted dove, Striated heron, Black-naped oriole, Pacific swallow, White-throated kingfisher, black kite Bangkok: Little egret, Oriental turtle dove, Asian house martin, Fork-tailed swift, Peaceful dove, Milky stork, Large-billed crow, White-vented myna Sihanoukville: Pacific reef egret Nha Trang: Pacific swallow Da Nang: Sooty-headed bulbul Ha Long Bay: Black kite Sanya: Black kite Hong Kong: Black kite From the rail: Absolutely nothing. Not a seabird, nor a whale, a porpoise, or even a jellyfish. The few black kites in the last several ports acted in place of the missing gulls, scavenging dead fish.
  7. Thanks. I've been birding for a lot of years and on islands for about 35, since our Caribbean honeymoon. Two bits of advice: (1) Hire a professional guide for a session. In one day they will teach you volumes; (2) Never, ever be in a new area without sufficient guidebooks. The frustration will kill you. Obviously, there will be times when cruising when we have to make tough decisions on how much weight to carry, but I have regretted it whenever I cut back. Good birding.
  8. Some birds of interest: Lisbon, Portugal: Black-headed gull, Yellow-legged gull, Harris's hawk (Saw this bird of the American Southwest perched on the terminal building opposite the ship. What at first looked like a snake in its talons resolved itself into leather jesses. I later learned that there are over 70 falconers in Lisbon. Obviously, this bird was a bad investment by one of them.) Cadiz & Donaña NP, Spain: Black-headed gull, Yellow-legged gull, Grey heron, Eur. spoonbill, White stork, Greater flamingo, Greylag goose, Pochard, White-headed duck, Short-toed eagle, Common buzzard, Eur. kestrel, Crane, Purple swamphen, Eur. coot, Black-winged stilt, Eur. avocet, Common sandpiper, Green sandpiper, Slender-billed gull, Lesser black-backed gull, Eur. kingfisher, Lesser short-toed lark, Crested lark, Crag martin, Meadow pipit, White wagtail, Zitting cisticola, Cetti's warbler, Sardinian warbler, Chiffchaff, Stonechat, Black redstart, Great tit, Chaffinch, Eur. goldfinch, Magpie At Sea: Great shearwater Lanzarote, Canary Islands: Common raven, Berthelot's pipit, Sandwich tern, Cory's shearwater Tenerife, Canary Islands: Chiffchaff, Common blackbird, Plain swift, Blue chaffinch, Atlantic canary Cape Verde: Berthelot's pipit, Purple heron, Cream-colored courser, Common ringed plover, Whimbrel, Common greenshank, Cape Verde Swift, Grey-headed kingfisher, Black-crowned sparrow-lark, Greater hoopoe-lark, Blackcap, Brown-necked raven, Spanish sparrow, Iago sparrow, Common waxbill At Sea: Red-footed booby (including white and brown forms, as well as the brown form with white tail that is common in waters nearing Brazil), Masked booby, Magnificent Frigatebird Recife: Cocoi heron, Blue-chinned sapphire, Common tody-flycatcher, Great kiskadee, Social flycatcher, Southern house-wren, Rufous-bellied thrush Salvador: Masked water-tyrant, Tropical kingbird, White-winged swallow, White-rumped swallow, Chalk-browed mockingbird, Brown booby Cabo Frio: Neotropical cormorant, Brown booby, Kelp gull, Magnificent frigatebird
  9. Some years ago we went in search of Lindbergh's grave and found it in a church cemetery a bit beyond Hana. We later realized that we had gone beyond the rental-car "forbidden" line. The next day, we decided to retrace our steps and continue around the island. While the gravel road was not at all bad (and we were in a sedan), part of the road was a one-lane path around blind curves and over the water. Even though there was a short barrier at the edge of the road, it was one of those experiences that are better to have behind you than ahead. In that the sights were not all that interesting, I would advise against going beyond Lindbergh's grave site.
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