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Everything posted by franski

  1. Just back from the Douro on AMA. It is *very* winery focused... Also, if wine is a "big deal" for you, AMA has a sommelier on board who pairs the wines with each dinner. We did the cruise that started with 3 nights in Lisbon - then up to Porto to cruise for 7 nights - then over to Madrid for 3 nights. We had quite a few passengers on board that either owned wineries or vineyards. Our cruise went one way (most do round trip Porto...). Just a heads up about sailing and cabin choices. There is *no* sailing at night. So, at almost every port, we were rafted --. sometimes on both sides. I would have been very frustrated if we had booked a balcony and were not able to use it. For almost every meal, the blinds were down on one side of the dining room. Fran
  2. I have travelled all of the lines you have mentioned... As well as some you haven't. My thoughts (for what they are worth) are as follows..... 1) There are more similarities than differences IMHO. Two things that absolutely can affect the cruise are the cruise manager and the chef. You do not have control over either one of these things. 2) Food and drink are subjective. One person may rave about the menu - and another may find it lacking. See my comment above re: the chef. 3). If decor is a big thing for you, then look carefully at the pictures of the boat (cabins, common areas etc). Also look at room sizes. We almost always book Aquarium Class (lowest category) as we really only spend time in our room to sleep. If a balcony is important, please be aware that you could be rafted at any time (tied up next to another boat) - your balcony is quite useless if that happens. 4) Read the itinerary carefully. Do you get the stops/tours you are looking for? Don't book something thinking you will have free time to "do your own thing" as often times change due to water levels, locks etc. 5). Most guides are knowledgeable and will provide great insights into the area you are visiting. We have come across a few guides that are really disappointing, but cannot say that they are with one line. They have been scattered across the various lines. (For reference, we are just back from cruise #18). We love Avalon... As Daisy has said, it is a good "fit" for us. But we have enjoyed cruises with the other lines as well. We did the Douro with AMA... We did China with Viking - and it was an amazing trip. (My only issue with Viking is that they ask for full payment months ahead...) We did Vietnam & Cambodia with Emerald --> and it was AWESOME!! Enjoy your planning. Please come back and ask further questions if you feel we can be of help. The people on this board are great.... Fran
  3. The Parliament is an impressive building... I am glad we were able to see it on our first visit there. It was closed (no one was sure why) when we were there last. Interesting your comments on Ceausescu... On our last visit - during our pre-tour extension to Transylvania - the topic of his rule came up more than once. Our guide admitted that it was a rule fraught with controversy - but she said she (and many others she knew) had a bit of a soft spot for him. She felt that he kept them (ie: the country) out of extreme debt and so should be recognized and remembered for that. An interesting view... However, when we toured his home - and saw how he & his wife lived in the lap of luxury while the country struggled - I doubt I would be so forgiving. A wonderful country. We could see how things had improved from our first visit. In talking with people along the way, I could see how proud they are of where they live and how they have recovered from the Ceausescu days. Fran
  4. I am happy they are abandoning this. We are just back from an AMA cruise - and so enjoyed the Quiet Vox. One fact with the Tailor Made that they don't highlight is the fact that you are using your own phone... This is a real issue if you don't take your phone with you. My Dh leaves his phone at home when we travel, so we had to ask at the desk if they had a phone he could borrow. He was not the only one on that cruise that had to borrow a phone. Ok, it is "nice" to have the extra travel info available outside of the organized excursions, but I didn't expect to have to provide my own equipment for the tour. This is a good move IMHO. Fran
  5. This is who we went with.... https://vietnamvisa.govt.vn/ They reviewed our application quickly, and then reached out when they needed something we did not provide. The process was quite painless. We sailed from Ho Chi Minh City (started the tour in Hanoi) so only needed a single entry. Our visa for Cambodia was done on the boat for us - and the charge added to our on board account. Fran
  6. I have never had an automatic charge on a river cruise... If you don't prepay your gratuities (and they aren't included) then they will put envelopes in your room if you wish to tip in cash... or you can go to the desk and ask for the amount to go on your credit card. We have *never* been on a river cruise where the staff (other than the cruise manager) have been anything less than top notch. We have had a couple of "duds" as cruise managers, but only 2 or 3 in the 17 cruises we have done. The difference for the staff on a river cruise is that many (if not all) staff often have multiple responsibilities... They might be working in the dining room but also work in the lounge. The bartender might be seen schlepping suitcases on/off the boat. The servers work in zones for the dinner service, so if we have not been entirely impressed with the server, we move to another zone. We have started to pre-pay our gratuities when we can. Just makes it so much easier. But - each to his own. Fran
  7. So... I am one of those people who *always* travels with jeans... A main stay of my wardrobe, if truth be told... And - I re-wear clothing!! GASP!! My dinner wear is separate - and therefore only worn for a couple of hours each evening - so it will appear a couple of times. But, I will dress up a bit more (casual dress/skirt) in the evening and don't wear my jeans to dinner. I really don't care what people wear to dinner - as long as they don't smell... And - if they do, I won't be sitting with them for another meal!! Fran
  8. We used Bucharest Airport Transfer the first time we went and were very pleased with the service. they charge/car - not per person. https://bucharestairporttransfer.com/ I just checked their business card (yes, I saved it!!) and when compared with the current prices on the website, it seems as if the prices have only risen 1 euro for an airport --> hotel transfer. The gentleman was waiting just outside the doors when we excited the baggage claim area. Quite seamless. Fran
  9. We did the Avalon Peru/Amazon/Nazca lines trip --> we did not do the Galapagos. We actually went in a couple of days earlier and flew down to Araquipa and went to the Colca Canyon. Lima Airport is open and active 24 hrs/day. We had a couple of long layovers there. And lots of flights in and out to do this itinerary!! For the Nazca lines - takes LOTS of meds for motion sickness. I was quite nauseated - and our friends went that step beyond (full on vomiting). The flight takes about a half hour to get to the lines - then swoops over a few times before heading back. We spend the night in Paracas after (great hotel...) and then did a small tour out to the Ballestas Islands before heading back to Lima. I LOVED our time on the Amazon... Such an amazing experience. We actually got to swim in the river, and a pink Dolphin breached right in front of me!! The guides on the Delfin are so knowledgeable - and shared so much information with us. It is an amazing trip... and I expect the time in the Galapagos will be just as wonderful!! Am happy to provide more detail if you have questions... Fran
  10. It might be considered than when compared to Scenic... I always thought of Emerald as "Scenic's Little Sister"... Comparable itineraries, although Emerald may have some excursions that you would need to pay for if you wish to go on them. And Emerald doesn't have butler service for all cabins. Not that butler service is a huge perk for me - never used it when I have sailed with Scenic!! Emerald includes all gratuities, and airport transfers even if you purchase your own air. I hardly consider that "budget". Fran
  11. I have been on a cruise (Viking) where one woman had a wheelchair... Her husband took charge of it (and her) without issue. My Christmas market cruise was on the Rhine with Uniworld. There was one gentleman who had recently had a stroke and his mobility was impacted. He walked with a cane - but quite slowly. His wife met with the cruise manager early on in the cruise, and they discussed which stops might be challenging - or unable for him to complete. A couple of times she left the included excursion early and took a taxi back to the boat. The cobblestones are one issue you will need to deal with. The stairs are another. Your speed on the stairs shouldn't be an issue - just plan to leave a few minutes earlier than the crowd and take your time. Or, on the way back/boarding the boat, stay near the back so people can board at their speed and you won't feel as if you are holding people up. One thing that you need to be aware of with a Christmas market cruise is crowds. Not every stop will include a market (you may stop before the market is open) but when it does, the crowds may be brutal. Trying to manage that in a wheelchair will be very challenging. Also - if there is snow, that may affect trying to manoever with a wheelchair. I don't know how feasible a motorized wheelchair would be on a river cruise... but, if you have someone to push you it might be doable. There may be a stop or two where the included excursion may not be possible. Are you OK with staying on board if that happens? If you feel that you need to go on every excursion on the trip to make it worth while, I would respectfully suggest you re-visit your plans. Fran
  12. Am enjoying your thread... We did Bucharest to Budapest with Viking a number of years ago so this is bringing back some great memories. LOVE Budapest - and it seems that you had time to experience a few things while you were there. Am interested to see what your trip to Transylvania will include. We re-sailed the lower Danube with Scenic a couple of years ago, and did Transylvania pre-trip with them. Amazing country... Will continue to follow you along!! Fran
  13. We did the Peruvian Amazon with Avalon... and it was spectacular. They use Delfin cruises for the cruise portion, and their naturalists on board were amazing. I swam in the Amazon - and a pink dolphin breached right in front of me!! A travel memory I will never forget... Fran
  14. When we visited Neuschwanstein, we planned for extra days after getting off the boat in Basel. Friends met us and we did 7 days on land. We ended up staying 2 nights in Fussen so we could spend a whole day at Neuschwanstein and see both castles. We ended our trip with 3 nights in Munich. We stayed a bit outside of town and took the train in to do our sightseeing. Fran
  15. We have done a number of cruises in Europe - and never needed bug repellant. The only places we needed it were in Vietnam/Cambodia, and when we cruised the Peruvian Amazon. Fran
  16. I am someone who is not particularly brand loyal. We have travelled with most of the major players except Tauck (price point above what we want to spend) and Grand Circle (we live in Canada, and TICO - the travel industry council in our province - does not cover them so our TA does not sell that product). We love Avalon - but have found that other lines may have an itinerary that just meets our needs better. For context, we leave on our 18th river cruise in less than 2 weeks. We look for itinerary, then dates, then price. We almost always travel aquarium class. We have found that the 2 things that make the most impact (for us, at least) are the cruise manager and the kitchen staff... neither of which you have any control over. Our very best cruise manager EVER was on Scenic... but conversely, the worst one was also with them. Our best food was with Uniworld in Russia - even though I had prepared my husband for a less than gourmet experience. Food is so subjective that I would never make recommendations... same with the wine list. Try to pick a couple of "must see/do" items and see who has them included. Look at things like gratuities (some include them, some do not), airport transfers (most include them if you buy their air - some include them if you buy your own). size of rooms. etc. There are more similarities than differences IMHO - and ANY line can have situations arise that are beyond their control. Enjoy the planning - and your cruise!! Fran
  17. You are about 17 months out from your cruise- and the optionals might change before then. If you look at the same cruise this year, it might have some more information for you. But, I suspect you won't get much in the way of info on optional excursions for October next year before the spring of 2025. And even if you can find some info, they always reserve the right to change things. If something on the cruise this year seems to be problematic - or a complete bust - they might opt to drop it and bring something else in. As mentioned above, you can always book on the boat. The optionals will be explained in more detail during the port briefing - and you can sign up then. It is a very different process than is on a big ship where you often need to sign up ahead or run the risk of the excursion being sold out. Fran
  18. The biggest surprise for me when booking a trip to Munich (and trying to MISS Oktoberfest) was the fact that Octoberfest starts in September!! 😲 We were there mid-September and just missed the opening (and the increase in hotel rates...) Fran
  19. For Bangkok - we stayed in the Theatre Residence. It is a bit further from the airport - and not easy to find for the average taxi driver - but we arranged arrival and departure transfers through the hotel so it worked out great. The restaurant (attached to the hotel) is across the road on the river -so great night time views of the palace. It has a great pool in the courtyard that we enjoyed on our last afternoon there (our friends went to get a massage...) The hotel is close to the palace - and we booked it for the proximity - but by the time we got to Bangkok we were completely templed out so decided to skip it. Instead, we booked a tour through Tours by Locals and went to the floating market & railway market. Our guide was Angela - and she was awesome. The markets are close to 2 hours out of town, but (IMHO) worth the trip. We also went to see the reclining Buddha while we were there. Bangkok was a great place to stop on the way home. BTW - not sure if you have your flights yet, but we booked Toronto to Taipei direct with EVA air and it was a great flight. We then went from Taipei to Hanoi - and the trip was quite seamless (although it was VERY long...) Fran
  20. That surprised us when we were in Peru... Fran
  21. We did this in the fall of 2022... and extended over into Poland. We did not feel any anxiety over travelling there (we were in both Krakow & Warsaw - so fairly close to the Ukraine...). It was interesting to speak with people living in Poland. The war has impacted tourism - so they were very happy to have us visit!! We did learn that there are many people who do support the Russian offensive, so we were careful when discussing the situation... Fran
  22. We did Transylvania with Scenic about 18 months ago. We found some of the optionals more strenuous than expected. In fact, when I asked about one, I was assured it was a "gentle incline" - but there was nothing "gentle" about it!! Worth the climb, but I have learned that I need to expect the worst - and be happy if it isn't as rough as I feared it might be. Fran
  23. We have travelled with AMA, Avalon, Uniworld, Scenic, Emerald and Viking. As I mentioned before, DH & I feel there are more similarities than differences. We have travelled some rivers twice (Seine, Rhine, Danube between Nuremburg & Bucharest...). We just love river cruising - and look for different experiences. For example, our 1st river cruise was with Uniworld on the Seine. We re-sailed the Seine with Avalon - and had different stops... so - same river, different vacation. The VERY best cruise director we ever had was on Scenic - when we did a Tulip Time cruise with them. Conversely, the worst one we had was also on Scenic. Local tours guides are usually quite good with all lines, but sometimes you get a dud. Again - no control over this. We have only done one AMA cruise. It was OK, but not phenomenal. We are booked on our 2nd with them this May --> on the Douro. I went looking for dates, then prices - and compared the 2 companies that had what I was looking for. AMA is a bit more money, but we are getting extra days on our pre & post-cruise portions. Just happy to be on the rivers... Fran
  24. We have travelled with most of the main companies, and I do believe that there are more similarities than differences. You have no control over the cruise manager (and he/she can have a huge impact on the cruise) or on the kitchen staff. I would suggest you decide where you want to travel, then what time of year. Take a look at all of the different companies, and take a look at what your options are. Are specific dates important? Do you have any flexibility? Is cost important? Or, it is secondary to dates & itinerary? Is there something that you *really* want to see - that is not available on one of your short-listed cruises? If you can narrow it down to a couple of different cruises - and want opinions on those cruises - come back and ask specific questions. Hope that helps. Fran
  25. We are actually doing the Paris extension pre-cruise - and then over to the Moselle and cruising up to Amsterdam. Will try to post pics. Fran
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