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John Bull

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About John Bull

  • Rank
    10,000+ Club

About Me

  • Location
    Lee-on-the-Solent, England
  • Interests
    vintage & classic vehicles
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Voyages of Discovery
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call

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  1. A while since you've visited Estonia (Tallinn), Fab&40+ ? It's been the euro for quite a few years now JB
  2. OK. Can't help with whether / where to get your shore spending-money in Canada or whether it's better to use your debit card in an ATM ashore (not on the ship). But bear in mind that having to find an ATM in port before you do your own thing is a bind, and there may be a minimum withdrawal of more than you want. But don't rely on the ship - like all cruise lines they may not have all the currencies and if they do they will screw you royally on the exchange rate. In fact, as a Canuk you'll get double-screwed because it's a USD ship - so they'll use a lousy rate CAD to USD then a lousy rate USD to local currencies. Plastic is widely used in the Baltic countries, even in the souvenir shops in St Petersburg so use your card for most purchases Do you have a credit card which doesn't charge for foreign currency transactions? If not, do consider getting one - I know there are such cards in Canada, hopefully a compatriot will join this thread with the name of a card or two. Most credit cards include some sort of perk, like air-miles or cashback. Or no foreign transaction fees. Credit cards give a much better exchange rate (at, or marginally above the wholesale rate) than any cash exchange bureau. We have one card with no foreign transaction fees, which we use only for foreign travel. It also helps us to differentiate between our travel spend and our regular spend. It's always wise to carry two cards (separately) on foreign travel in case one is lost or compromised. BEFORE SWIPING OR SIGNING OR ENTERING YOUR PIN, ENSURE THAT YOUR CARD IS CHARGED THE CORRECT AMOUNT IN LOCAL CURRENCY. (There are exceptions like most Caribbean islands, but there are no exceptions in the Baltic) Decline an offer to convert to your card's currency, if the card-reader has dual-currency ensure that you press the local currency button, check the card-reader screen to ensure that it's in local currency and get them to change it to local currency if it isn't. Your card issuer will always convert at a much better exchange rate. In some outlets you might not be able to use plastic for small purchases like a beer, and some outlets like a street-trader or mebbe a local bus won't accept plastic. And if you don't get a card with no forex fee you need to check if there's a minimum fee which would exceed the better exchange rate for a low-value purchase. In such cases, being charged in CAD might actually be better. For those reasons it's well worth getting just a few dollars-worth of each local currency - that's likely to include Danish Kroner, Swedish Kroner, Russian roubles, euros, mebbe Polish zloty or Norwegian kroner. Perhaps 20 - 30 CAD-worth per person per shore-day? And in all ports take ashore your euros - not accepted everywhere and likely to be a poor rate where they are accepted, but a better emergency foreign currency than CAD or USD. Ship's tour or local operator's tour in St Petersburg? Don't be fooled by ship's misleading literature that you need a visa if you don't take a ship's tour - tours pre-booked with local operators have the same visa-free status as ships' tours, you only need a visa if you want to go off exploring on your own. Browse this forum for St P. tour operator suggestions, but if you just stick a pin in the list you won't go wrong - they're all very good. BTW you shouldn't need roubles if you use ship's or local operators' tours, they're inclusive of entrance fees, meals etc. & you're taken to a souvenir shop that accepts plastic. We took enough roubles for our guide's tip, because we like the comfort of having local currency anywhere. At lunch, the meal was included but drinks weren't - and that restaurant accepted only local currency & no plastic. So we had beers while the rest had table water, and we made up the tip shortfall in euros. Everyone happy and no unused roubles. Finally, I don't know how experienced you are at cruising, so apologies if I'm teaching granny to suck eggs. Ship's currency is USD, and your plastic is CAD. At some point the ship will offer, usually by a note in your cabin,, to convert your on-board account to CAD "for your convenience" . That's bovine excrement, it's so that they can use their exchange rate to squeeze more money out of you. So decline their kind offer - keep it in USD & allow your card issuer to convert at a better rate. BTW this applies to every cruise line of every country that we've sailed. Sorry - might seem like quite a lot to take in, but pretty simple when you're on your cruise JB .
  3. Balcony cabins are quite addictive - once you've experienced one you'll want to repeat. There basically weren't balcony cabins on the sort of cruise ships we sailed for some years, we didn't know what we were missing - so we didn't miss it. And if you stick with ocean-view for your first cruise, you won't miss having a balcony either. But if during the cruise you hanker for a balcony cabin, console yourselves with a cocktail or two. Or three or four - and you're still in profit for the day BTW, balcony cabins are anti-social. You'll tend to hide away on your balcony instead of mixing. Yes, we've had balcony cabins. But we're picky about the cost and the value. Cost & value don't mean the same thing - at a given price a cruise in good weather, with lots of sea-days, and a few wonderful sail-ins a balcony is worth so much more than on an itinerary or at a time of year when the weather is cool or unreliable, and the ports come thick & fast. (Clo - I don't know about the west coast, but if your cruise is east coast then it fits the former . And the Rio sail-in especially is great ) Just MHO as always JB
  4. Hi, and welcome to Cruise Critic, Possibly. But it'd be the most expensive way of doing it, because cruise ships' exchange rates are abysmal. Which country are you from? And which ship? Then I (we) can suggest what to do about roubles, and the other Baltic currencies. And about paying your on-board account if ship's currency isn't the same as your home currency. JB
  5. Honfleur is a pretty little fishing port (OK, perhaps more reliant these days on tourists than fishes) and makes for a very pleasant but very lazy day. The vast majority of cruisers choose one of three destination.......... Honfleur. Or Paris. Or the D-Day landing beaches, museums, sights & cemeteries. Very instructive, and very moving. And because sailings from Le Havre tend to be mid-evening, easily enough time to fit in a lot in a day. The big downside is that you can't (well, shouldn't) decide on this on the spur of the moment. There's no public transport that will do the job. Negotiating with a taxi at the port to tour the D-Day places would be super-expensive and pot-luck on the driver's knowledge and standards of English. So you really need to consider and fix well in advance - a self-drive car (needs research on the geography & sights) which I get the impression might not be your thing. - or pre-book a van tour. They're not desperately expensive if you join a tour-share (up to 16 passengers) with others on your cruise RollCall. Best-known van tours are by https://www.overlordtour.com/product-category/tour-from-ports/ who get 5-star reviews on all review sites. And - depending on your ship / date - as well as D-Day van tours (which need to be organised by a cruiser from your RollCall) they offer seat-in-bus tickets with a set itinerary which combines Omaha / American Cemetery with the ancient city of Bayeux. Far more interesting and memorable than pleasant Honfleur. But also more tiring. JB
  6. A very easy itinerary in London. Once there, especially after your tour (hopefully a morning tour?), you'll realise that there are so many sights you'll want to add. You've got a day-and-a-half with no firm plans. Nowhere near enough time for everything, but a decent amount of time, so you can prioritise what to do once you've seen the lie of the land. Paris - It's a rush to include an overview of Paris but if you've not been & don't expect to get another opportunity, then go for it. Cotswolds - Not desperately iconic but a lovely part of England. And too many folk only ever see London and the monotonous strip of black-top between the big bad city and the port. Have a great trip JB
  7. Now you know my pain at spending a lot (but not enough) money on a private safari, seeing not a single big cat & very little else. So glad we combined it with a self-drive & rest-camp bungalow in Kruger NP - a fraction of the cost and saw so much more. Now planning a safari in Tanzania, where the game are much more abundant. But being an 8-hour drive from the nearest ocean it's a bit difficult to fit into a port-of-call day. JB
  8. Sadly I have the same attitude to hotel / cruise ship breakfast buffets as this guy JB
  9. I'll take a slightly different line. You need to be guided by your flight-time. You can be one of the first off the ship if you elect for "unassisted disembarkation". That means schlepping your own checked luggage from the cabin, rather than leaving it outside your cabin on the last night & collecting it from the cruise terminal. Or you can elect for the sort of times suggested by others. Yes, you'll have to vacate your cabin about 8 - 8.30, but if your flight time is late, it seems a bit pointless to rush to the airport and hang around there for hours if you don't have access to a VIP lounge. In those circumstances I'd book a car for 9.30 or even 10am., and enjoy a tolerably lazy buffet breakfast while the herd rushes for the gangway. Depending on your flight time, I'd suggest even later - but you're likely to be "thrown off the ship" after that because they'll want to be making ready for new arrivals. I don't know the traffic conditions thereabouts, but if it's like most US cities you'll be stuck in commuter traffic if you head for the airport much before 9am. Just MHO as always JB
  10. What you're missing may be the heat - walking from ship to metro and metro to Acropolis. A halfway house between that and a tour would be the ho-ho port route. Usually (but check with the driver) that route goes from the port to the Acropolis (close to the entrance, which is around the back) before going to its terminus near Syntagma Square . The Plaka is a 10-minute walk from the Acropolis, and a further 10 minutes to Syntagma Square for the return to the ship. I don't know if the ho-ho port route can be bought as a stand-alone ticket, or if you have to buy a combined port route / city route ticket - the city route isn't desperately interesting. Or there's a cheap (€4 ?? all-day) Express bus from the port - mentioned by Dogs4 - which started a year or two ago. JB
  11. I'm no expert, this in order to be helpful but don't rely on it................... They will require a Schengen visa. Most European countries (but not the UK) are covered by what is known as a Schengen visa. This is the most-informative web-page for foreign nationals living in the UK & wishing to apply for a Schengen visa. https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/apply-from-uk/ There's more info about Schengen visas on other pages of that website, including a list of Schengen area countries. Here's an example of an application form file:///C:/Users/Chris Neal/Downloads/application_form_for_a_schengen_visa.pdf but you need to check whether they can just print it off, or if they have to ask for a hard copy. I believe that nowadays they have to apply in person by appointment at the embassy or consulate of a Schengen country (usually the first Schengen country on the cruise itinerary). When your relative visits a Schengen country they can then travel freely between all the Schengen countries on a single-entry visa - even if that's on a cruise ship which sails in international waters between Schengen ports. But do carefully check the cruise itinerary - some Mediterranean cruises visit non-Schengen ports including (but not limited to) Croatia, Cyprus, Turkey, Israel, North African ports. If the ship visits those ports your relative will require a double-entry or even a multiple-entry Schengen visa because they will be leaving the Schengen area and then returning to the Schengen area at the next port. I believe that's the case even if your relative doesn't go ashore at those ports - I'm aware of a passenger on a Baltic cruise who had to by-pass St Petersburg (Russia) by taking a ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki (both Schengen) while the ship went from Tallinn to St Petersburg to Helsinki because they had only a single-entry Schengen visa. I also believe that Schengen is much more strict about issuing double or multiple entry visas, so your relative would need to explain the cruise itinerary when applying for more than a single-entry visa. JB .
  12. Your TA is round the twist !!!! Did you not tell him/her that on both of the Cruise Critic forums where you asked you were told that it's only required for arrival by air ? Did you not refer him to the Canadian Govt website that was linked to you on both forums and which clearly says that? And the UK Govt website, which says the same? I've got a strong feeling that if your TA actually bothered to ask Google, he/she simply clicked on the first website - or indeed any website on the first couple of pages - which will have taken him/her to a visa agency. Most of which are none-too-worried about telling folk about exceptions/ dispensations, cos that's not good for business If you're going to waste money on an unnecessary eTA, do at least waste just 7 CAD by getting it through that Canadian Govt rather than paying a very large sum to a visa agency which will simply do the same via that Govt website. JB
  13. Seen it in action. Car ferries in Naples. Aim directly at the pier, then throw out the anchor & spin the wheel, makes the ferry do a 180. and its stern gently kisses the pier . I think of it as a handbrake turn, but due to the absence of a handbrake I guess a "Med moor" is more appropriate I double-dare a cruise captain to try the same JB ps. Yep, off-topic. Not my fault, blame NBT
  14. For lunch there'll be room at plenty of the many pubs & restaurants on or just off the Royal Mile - especially in fine weather when there are outside tables. A table of 8 (rather than say 2 x 4) would be trickier, but I'm not sure that it's worth the bother to pre-book for lunchtime just to all sit at one table - a lot won't accept bookings and in any case it may work out that the location & time of the booking won't suit & would screw-up any fluidity of your day.. But dinner for 8 would be a different matter. JB
  15. We fly in at least a day or two before sailing day - but that's for international flights. Whether you should do the same depends on the circumstances of the flight, such as short or long flight, internal or international, direct or indirect, frequency of alternative flights, prevailing weather (particularly snow & ice) in your home town / airport) and the general reliability record. And flying in a day or two ahead gives you the chance to explore the departure port/town. Insurance for sure. Check what it covers, and the terms (eg flight cancellation probably yes, flight delay probably yes but probably no if you've allowed no margin for a minor delay, delayed car journey to the airport probably no). We always have a Plan B at ports-of-call unless we take a rare ship's excursion. So we're very wary of DIY by public ferry (unless we know folk on ship's excursions are on the same ferry) because there's no Plan B unless we want a very long swim. And if Plan A includes a number of places, if possible we start with the furthest from the ship & work our way back. In all cases, allowing a decent margin (wiggle-room) for unexpected delays. Something to be prepared for, not something to worry and fret about. JB
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