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franski

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About franski

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Ontario, Canada
  • Interests
    Travel (obviously....) - love the planning as well as the actualy experience!! Quilting, gardening,
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Most river cruise lines - although Avalon "fits" us these days....
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    I love any trip that takes us to Budapest....

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  1. It was a sad day... Notre Dame was a beautiful cathedral, and I was very lucky to have been able to see more than once. However, it is not the only beautiful cathedral in Paris. While Notre Dame is certainly what most people associate with Paris, I love Sacre Coeur... Fran
  2. Most main stream lines include tours... Some will have optionals available to purchase, but not all. And, the optionals aren't necessarily "better" than the included tours. We have travelled with most lines marketed in North America (AMA, Avalon, Scenic, Emerald, Viking & Uniworld) - and have not found a huge difference in the included tours. Occasionally you will get a tour guide who is a "dud" - but, it is rare. One thing to look at is whether or not the tips to local guides are included in your price. As for drinks, again, most included wine/beer/soft drinks - free flowing!! - at dinner, and often at lunch as well. Some lines offer sparkling wine at breakfast... Mimosas anyone??? But, as gnome12 indicated - it might depend on where you are travelling. Some lines have "daily specials" for drinks - and Avalon has brought in a "Happy Hour" on their Europeans ships - where all drinks are half price for an hour or so before the evening port talk. Uniworld & Scenic have an open bar policy (except for some top shelf brands) - and Viking has the Silver Spirits package, although it may not be much of a savings depending on how much you drink outside of meal times. Fran
  3. Hi Jazzbeau - I didn't mention a TA (I know better....) Globus is the "family" that includes Avalon Waterways, Ensemble vacations and Cosmos... Globus tours are primarily land based - but you book through the group when you book an Avalon river cruise. I dealt directly with Avalon for this issue - and, given that I had "chastised" them in the 1st post for their lack of customer service, I wanted to give a "shout out" to the person at Globus who worked hard on my behalf to get me the rate advertised on their website. It was luck of the draw that she answered the phone when I called. I have a TA I work closely with - but went to Avalon directly after the website was not corrected even though they knew of the computer glitch. If you still feel that this is mentioning a TA, then remove her name. But, please restore the post. I do want people to know that Avalon did step up and honoured the posted price. Fran
  4. Hi everyone - thought I would follow up to let you know the outcome of this. Avalon has honoured the price posted on the website - and we have booked at the posted rate. I must give full credit to Donna at Globus Tours in Toronto - as she went to bat for us to get us the rate posted on the website. I wondered if the posting here had an effect on that, but looked at the e-mail she sent me and compared it to the time of the original post - and her e-mail to me (asking if I was still interested if we could get the posted rate) arrived 1 minute before my post here. So - true customer service - not prompted by any "visibility" on CC. mhb1757 - You asked why we didn't book at the posted rate on line - and Coral was correct... it would have flipped us over to the CDN site, and the price further in was the higher CDN price. BTW - the computer glitch is still in effect on the Avalon CDN site, but there is now a disclaimer at the top of the page identifying that the prices are in US dollars, and asking people to call them if they want information on tours, booking or prices. Avalon honoured the price for both cabins, so we are off to Eastern Europe & Transylvania with our friends next year. It seems a long way off, but we have something to look forward to... Fran
  5. Well, just when I think that Avalon has perhaps learned something about advertising (I had an issue with their literature related to "pre-paid gratuities" on our recent trip to Peru) - I have discovered that nothing has changed. A bit of background....We were booked on their "Danube - from the Black Sea to Budapest - with 2 nights in Transylvania" - scheduled for October 2018. As most people on this site know, the water levels resulted in many changes and cancellations. We were notified that our cruise was cancelled less than 72 hours before we were to fly to Bucharest. We did get a full refund - and it arrived quite quickly. We were NOT offered an option to transfer our booking to a sailing this year, as some people were. I had connected with someone here on CC who was on the same sailing - and moving their booking was an option. When I looked into re-booking the same cruise, the costs had jumped considerably - so that we could not book the same cruise - on ANY sailing - at the same price, even with the $600 travel credit they have given us. And, by the way, the travel credit has to be used for travel before the end of this year... not used to book this year and travel in 2020. I have been watching that itinerary - hoping for a sale. Imagine my delight when - late last evening - there was an abrupt drop in their posted price for this itinerary. It must be a mistake, I figured, so went to bed. I checked again this morning (around 11 am....) - price still the same. So, I called my TA. After a number of phone calls (they insisted I was on the US website, or looking at a different, less expensive cruise) they informed our TA it was a computer glitch, and that the US cost was being pulled across to the CDN website. They told her the glitch was fixed - and that the price was what I had been watching ($5800, not $4400). She called Globus twice - and both times was told it was a computer issue - and had been fixed. I revisited the site again after lunch - prices still the same ($4400). I was on the CDN website. So, I phoned Avalon myself, and asked for the posted price. I was booking 2 cabins - one for myself (and DH) and another for my friends that we travelled with to Peru. They want an upgraded cabin, so wanted the posted price for the Cat B. The woman at Globus/Avalon found the webpage - confirmed it was their advertised price on the Canadian website - and agreed that they should honour the price. She took the bookings - gave me booking numbers - but did say she would have to confirm with the marketing department. Fair enough. But - SURPRISE!! - the marketing department denied the booking, saying it was a computer glitch - which was now fixed - and that they would not honour the booking at the price posted on their website. They insisted the issue was fixed. The rep at Globus had to call me back with the news. She was wonderful... I felt bad that they left her to give me the bad news. And - here we are. Almost 17 hours after I noticed the price drop - and 4 1/2 hours after my TA called to inquire about the price - and was told the glitch was fixed. It is over 2 hours since I last spoke with the woman at Avalon - who relayed the message to me that the glitch was fixed. Prices remain unchanged on the website. So --> AVALON (I know you read these blogs) - another epic fail. If you knew there was a computer glitch, your should have pulled down your website and put up a notice indicating that there is an issue and the site would be back up when the issue was fixed. You know the website is wrong - and yet you do nothing about it. If customer service is important to you - and you really felt that your bottom line depends on getting full price for 2 cabins on 1 boat in October 2020 - you should have called me to talk about the issue... to see if we could have come to an agreement on the price (more than the $4400, less than the $5800). We had a great trip in Peru. And would still like to do Eastern Europe + Transylvania - but, I must say that I am rethinking these plans after this most recent interaction...😞 Fran
  6. Day 10 continued - There was an option to kayak (2 person) later than morning, but opted to sit and look at the scenery. Had a coffee... relaxed in the upper outdoor lounge. We took another rain forest walk in the afternoon. Again, not a lot of wildlife. We were there as the wet season was ending - so many animals moved further inland to dryer land. But - I loved spending time on the skiff and sailing in areas that wouldn't be available by boat later in the season. And, I loved being out on the boat. After dinner, there was an optional trip to meet a local Shaman. One of the naturalists went with us to translate. We met her in a local thatched hut area... lots of bugs out - but there were smudge pots around the periphery, so I didn't get any bites. It is suggested to have a bug repellant with DEET. I went to our local Sail store, and found a product that is a lotion. No smell, not greasy. I was able to make sure all open areas were covered when we were in the rainforest. Our friends had a spray - Muskol… Not only was it greasy (when they sprayed it, they left a film behind...) - it didn't work as well as our lotion. They eventually switched and started using our repellent, but they already had some bites. I managed to come away from the Amazon bite-free.... We had gone to a travel doctor before we left for Peru. He prescribed anti-malarials for us to take while on the Amazon. After the issue I had with the GI upset, I re-read the information sheet for the anti-malarials. GI upset is a common side effect. I discussed the risk of malaria with Victor - and had reviewed the information on the Delfin III website that indicated the risk of malaria in the area where we would be travelling was low - and decided not to take the meds. Figured if I caught malaria, I would have the meds to treat it (same to treat as to prevent!!). We were in bed early that night... a busy day --> with an early wake-up call planned for the next morning!! Fran
  7. Day 10 - the Amazon!! First off , although it is listed as a 3 night/4 day tour, you are really only on the river 2 full days. We got on board (day 1) just before dinner - and left (day 4) just after breakfast. If someone was choosing to do this tour on their own, I would suggest booking the 5 day tour. But - the trip was awesome. The 1st night - after dinner - we did an evening walk in the rain forest. We wore rubber boots (provided) and rain ponchos (also provided..). We didn't see a lot - but it was amazing to stop - turn off our flashlights and just be surrounded by the sounds of the rain forest. We did see a cane toad - and some very busy leaf-carrying ants. But, other than that - it was just an experience to trek in the forest. We were up early on our 1st full day. We had a skiff ride at 6 am --> things were just waking up. We saw a sloth hanging from a branch, and a number of monkeys running and jumping - and ++ birds. We also saw some pink dolphins breaching along the shore. Sun was shining - just beautiful!! Back to the boat for breakfast at 7:30. We went back out at 8:30... and got to swim in the river. Just awesome!! A dolphin breached about 20 feet ahead of me!! We could use pool noodles - and I was glad I had one. There is a current there (we were swimming where 2 rivers meet) so it was nice to be able to swim lazily and not worry about the current. They finally made me get out of the water about 40 minutes later... They provided towels to dry off - and, on the way back, brought out a cooler so we could have something to drink. There was the usual water, and pop - but, they also offered Cusquenas (local beer) --> opted for the beer... It may only have been 10:30 am in Peru, but it was 5 o'clock somewhere! Sun, rainforest and beer - while cruising the Amazon on the skiff. Life is good!! 🙂 Fran
  8. Day 9 - mostly a travel day... We flew from Cusco to Lima and then on to Iquitos. There are (apparently) some direct flights from Cusco to Iquitos - but we didn't get one of those. It may be because they weren't offered that day - or because the timing didn't work with the Delfin group. We arrived in Iquitos just after lunch. We were met at the airport by reps from the cruise line. They counted and tagged all the luggage before we left the airport. We had our own small bus (the rest of the guests were on another bus) - and were given a bag lunch plus water when we boarded. We had a tour of Iquitos - went to the downtown area - before heading to Nantes to board the boat. It is about 90 minutes from the airport to the boarding spot - but had another 25 minutes or so added as our tour to the downtown area was away from the boat. We had one of the naturalists from the boat (Jorge) with us on the bus - and he explained what we were seeing, and was able to answer questions. Nantes is a small town - but does have some amenities. I am guessing that tourism here (like much of Peru) is the biggest source of income. There is a little hut on the side of the river - you have to fill out your paperwork before boarding the skiff to travel to the boat (about 50 yards away...). Our boat (the Delfin III)had 22 cabins - 11 on each passenger deck. I have included the link to the website - it has picture of the boat. https://www.rainforestcruises.com/delfin-iii-amazon-cruise We had a cabin on the lower level - the bed faces the large window. As with all the hotel rooms in Peru , there was bottled water in the bathroom - but, on the boat, it was in a carafe that was filled as needed. You are given a metal re-usable water bottle when you board the bus - filled with cold water. That is yours to keep. They have filling stations on the lower and middle deck - and you are encouraged to fill and use this bottle. They try very hard to reduce their use of plastic - as it is a huge concern with the local wildlife. Breakfast is a buffet - lunch and dinner are set menus. If you have any food restrictions, it is noted - and your meal is prepared and served separately. My DH has an issues with red & yellow peppers, so his meals were slightly different. As we were travelling as a group of 17 (16 plus Victor) there were 3 tables for 6 reserved - so we all ate as a group. Also, any time we went out on the skiff, we went as one group. There is a fairly open bar on board --> local beer, Pisco sours, pop, coffee (including cappuccinos and/or lattes) were available and free at all times. I did want a G&T (a bit of a tradition with our travel friends) and bought two... NOT cheap. But, the tradition has been kept alive.... Fran
  9. We stayed at the Palacio del Inka in Cusco... very impressive. And, yes - we did eat at the MAP Café in the Museum of PreColumbian Art. I will post more about the Amazon shortly. Pictures are just posted on my Facebook page. I am one of those "old" people (according to my kids) who just takes pics with my "old" cellphone. Take a lot of ribbing about my Blackberry - but the pictures are pretty good. If you e-mail me I can give you my full name and you can ask to be my friend 🙂 and see the pics there. (franski@rogers.com) Don't want to mention the entire name here - not sure if giving you that and directing you to Facebook is against the rules!! Fran
  10. Day 7 - We checked out of the hotel, and took the train back to Ollantaytambo… Again, on the Vistadome train. We had a fun "creature" entertain us, as well as a fashion show on board. We had beverages, and a "snack" on our way down. The train ride takes about 90 minutes, and then we were another 90 minutes to get to our hotel in Cusco. And, what a delight the hotel was. We were right in the downtown area - a reasonable walk from the main square. Again, Avalon had arranged for a top-notch hotel - part museum, part 5-star hotel. A centre courtyard had local women selling handicrafts - complete with a baby alpaca wandering around!! The breakfast buffet was awesome. We toured Sacsayhuaman... then a visit to the Santa Domingo Monastery and the Cusco Cathedral. We had free time in the afternoon, and walked with Victor back to the Plaza de Armas to have lunch at a local restaurant. Ordered soup - as we had a dinner included that evening... Once again, food was lost in translation. I figured a fish/trout soup would be light. The soup was thick - almost like a stew - couldn't finish it all. Dinner was at a museum that night. Beautiful setting - had fish... one of the best meals I had. For the meals, you would get a "menu" earlier in the day - pick a starter/main/dessert. It was always interesting... Never quite sure what we would get!! But, the food was good. Quite rich - helpings large. We had a 2nd night at the hotel in Cusco before flying to Lima and then on to Iquitos.... Fran
  11. Day 6 -- We had a tour of Ollantaytambo in the morning - including the ruins/Inca fortress. We visited a native Incan home - the woman who owns it can trace her heritage back to the Incas. Sun was shining - a beautiful day. We then boarded the train to Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo/Machu Picchu Village). It was a Vistadome rail car - lots of windows, comfy seats. We were served a light lunch and beverages on board... When we got to the village, we went right to the bus and up to Machu Picchu. We had lunch at the buffet in the hotel at the top. We were asked to only bring a back pack or small bag - the rest of our luggage was sent to our hotel in Cusco. Our back packs were sent on to the hotel in Aguas Calientes. Luckily most of us brought rain gear... as the heavens opened while we were eating. The rain settled a bit before we started on our trek. I have one picture taken in front of one of the walkways. And, the mist/rain cleared for a nano-second... just long enough to get a picture to prove I was there. Then, the wheels fell off the wagon... I developed a very sudden GI upset. Had to leave the tour and hit the bathroom. And, did not recover enough to rejoin the group. Victor left the group with me - and went with me to the washrooms... Waited for me to see if I needed anything. Negotiated with the person at the gate to allow me to re-enter if I wanted to. But - all I wanted to do was head to the hotel. Victor offered to take me down to the hotel - but I assured him that I could make it on my own. He went with me to the bus - and talked the bus driver into letting me off in front of the hotel. And - when I went into the hotel to check in - it was obvious that Victor had called ahead to let them know I was coming. Certainly not the trip I had envisioned to Machu Picchu - but, I did make it there. The group had an option to return again the next morning - and (if weather permitted) do the hike up to the Sun Gate. I felt better - but didn't want to risk another trip up to the site. I slept in - had a relaxing breakfast. The mountain was covered in mist - but, the group that went back up said the rain stopped when they entered, and did not start again until they were ready to leave. And, they made it to the Sun Gate. I was disappointed that I didn't get a chance to do the hike - but, still had the trip to the Amazon to look forward to - and wanted to make sure that I was feeling better before I got there!! Fran
  12. Day 5 of the Avalon tour... We flew to Cusco in the morning. We were starting to think that we should get frequent flyer points for the Peruvian Airlines --> by the end of the trip, we had flown into Lima airport 4 times in 15 days!! Most flights are less than an hour, and if you were to drive the same distance, it would take the better part of an entire day!!. In Cusco, we met Harry, our local guide. Harry was with us from the time we landed in Cusco, until we left for our trip to the Amazon. I cannot say enough about him. Absolutely amazing --> knows his local history, and keeps it interesting. Victor was also with us. It is obvious that these two gentlemen have known each other for quite a while - and work very well together. Victor took care of every little detail... keeping track of 16 people through multiple plane trips, rail trips, bus rides etc. Luggage taken care of - local tips handled. We have done a number of river cruises - and have met some amazing guides/tour directors - and really feel we hit the cream of the crop with these two. Upon arrival in Cusco, we took a bus ride towards the Sacred Valley. We stopped for lunch along the way (included). We were supposed to have a tour of Awanakancha and then head up to Pisac - but the road to Pisac was closed for repairs --> so we had a change in our itinerary. Some of the people were looking forward to buying alpaca items in Pisac, so we went to an Alpaca outlet. We were shown how to tell the difference between Alpaca and Baby Alpaca --> and the "fake" stuff. Of course, you could buy. Prices - in retrospect - were pretty good compared to what we saw later. I didn't buy anything - although my friend bought a couple of items. Next we went to Chinchero - to a women's weaving co-operative. They showed us how they spin the wool, dye it - and weave it. We were offered Coca tea when we arrived (I always took Coca tea when offered) - and then (of course) an opportunity to shop. I did buy a table runner, and a couple of small change purses as gifts. Prices for the weaving not cheap - but, I do sew/quilt so appreciate the work in the items. Again, when I was able to compare what I bought with items I saw later in the week, my items were of a higher quality - and the price was the same (or better) than in other areas. I didn't have a lot of cash with me - and they did take credit cards - although I had to pay a bit more to use it. But, that was really all I ended up buying on the trip - and I know I would have been mad at myself if I hadn't bought anything there. That night we stayed in another Casa Andina Hotel in the Sacred Valley. Dinner was included... Driving into the area, it looks quite bleak and sparse - and then, out of nowhere, this wonderful resort hotel appears. Checking into hotels was always easy - Victor was there to co-ordinate and ensure a smooth check in. Fran
  13. Thanks!! Had some GI issues (will be touching a bit more on that....) - so my plans to post along the way hit a brick wall. But - stay tuned. Will get the story done!! Fran
  14. Hi everyone - So sorry for the delay in posting. A busy trip - with 4 days totally disconnected while we were on the Amazon. We are home now - and am finally back to "normal" (whatever normal is...) so will finish up the blog. After our trip to the Ballestas Islands, we had a bus trip back to Lima. The trip was almost 3 hours --> we stopped at a little restaurant for lunch on the way back. Lunch was not included, but the options for the meal were good. Victor was there to translate for us. One thing we discovered about our trip is that you really do need at least a rudimentary command of Spanish to get along. Of course, the only words I know are "Buenos Dias/Noches", "Por Favor" - and (the most important one) "Banos". We weren't worried when we discovered that English is not common in the smaller towns/villages - but were very surprised when it was difficult to find anyone (other than people in the tourist industry) able to speak English is a city the size of Lima (10 million people). We were back at the Casa Andina in Miraflores for 2 nights - dinner was on our own that evening. The next day, we had a tour of Lima. We saw the old town, Lima Cathedral, the San Francisco Monastery and the catacombs. We also visited the Larco Herrera Museum. The museum was good - but, to be honest, I enjoyed the grounds with the lush greenery and flowers almost as much. That evening, we walked over to a local mansion - Casa Garcia Alvarado (close to Kennedy Park) for a traditional Peruvian dinner. It is a private house - but the kitchen/courtyard can be rented for private functions. The owner still lives on site - and joined us for dinner. The table was set up in the courtyard - complete with white linen, silver and crystal --> just a wonderful meal. It was a lovely way to end the day. Fran
  15. The rest of the extension was a night in Paracas, and a cruise to the Ballestas Islands the next day... Both were top notch. Our hotel in Paracas was amazing... We had 2 room suites - with a patio that overlooked the water. There was a pool, but we didn't swim. We walked on the beach, and waded in a bit, until we noticed all of the jellyfish on the edge of the shore... Yuck! Dinner was in the restaurant, included, and it was good. Our tour guide wasn't staying in the same hotel, but he left his phone number in case we needed him. The next day, we took an early boat ride to the islands... Awesome! We saw sea lions, Peruvian boobies, cormorants, a few Pelicans and even some penguins! Weather was beautiful, and the sea was quite calm. We did see the Candelabro on the way, which was interesting. That part of the extension was great - but, if I was booking this trip again, I might look into how I could do the Ballestas Island cruise from Lima on my own. Unless they could assure me that the Nazca Lines flight would be better... Fran
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