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John Bull

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About John Bull

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    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. Bars & tour agencies in all the vacation resorts along the Costs del Sol sell coach day-excursions to Gib. and you'll be amongst the thousands who cross the border into Gib by excursion coach. I have very little doubt that NCL like other cruise lines will charge significantly more than the other coach excursions, but you have the simplicity of pick-up at the port and the security of the coach's return on time being NCL's problem. The drive is about 2 hrs incl the border crossing. YOU WILL NEED YOUR PASSPORT. First thing you notice immediately after you cross the border is that you'll drive across the runway of Gib's airport. The coach drop-point & coach park have changed since I last went, but it'll be handy to Main Street. I suggest the first thing to do is to take an Upper Rock Tour by van or taxi. They're available at the border and the cruise port and various places in town. Most cruisers on CC actually port in Gib, so your best bet is to check (or ask) on TripAdvisor about the best pick-up point for those arriving by coach. Or Cruise Critic Gib resident Ollie&bertie'smum might respond here. The Upper Rock Tour costs about £22 or €25 per person, non-negotiable, includes all admissions, and the tour takes about 90 to 120 minutes. It's a standard tour, they've been doing it for years and both the itinerary and timings are what works for pretty-well everyone. You visit the Jewish monument for a photostop, with southerly views over the Straits (most days you can see the north coast of Morocco). Then St Michael's Cave (westerly views over the Bay of Algeciras and Spain), about a 20-minute stop - you can tour the cave or just admire the view. Then the apes den on the ridge (similar westerly views, plus by climbing a short flight of steps beside the den easterly views down the sheer side of the Rock and across the Med.). Time spent here is about 15 minutes - it's a single-track one-way road, so you bale out at the back of the line of vehicles and walk up to the den where eventually your van/taxi will get to the front of the line. You're not permitted to feed the apes, drivers used to feed the apes with fruit & veg but I'm not sure if that's now also banned. They're a thieving bunch and will take anything they can - handbags, hats, sunglasses, anything they can get their hands on. You'll do fine, but anyone timid can stay in the vehicle, the apes climb all over the vehicles. Next the hand-hewn Great Siege Tunnel and galleries (views down over the airport and the Spanish border.) About 20 minutes here .Not to be confused with the lower and vastly more extensive WW2 tunnels Then back down to town past the WW2 tunnels entrance and the Moorish Castle. There are also more extensive customised taxi tours, but you'd need to find sharers. For the standard tour van/taxi drivers will find sharers. An alternative is the cable-car to the sunmit, but since you'll be arriving at the same time as the hordes you'll probably find long lines at the bottom station. The top station is only a couple of hundred yards from the apes den, and St Michael's cave is only a 10 - 15 (?) minute walk, but it's inconvenient for other sights. Then spend your remaining time in and around Main Street and Casemates Square - pubs, cafes, duty-free shops (comply with Spanish customs limits), and minor sights such as the Governor's Residence and the little Trafalgar cemetery. GB pounds or euros accepted everywhere that you're likely to spend (but keep an eye on exchange values), most also accept cards. I'm not keen on Cruise Critic's new-style search engine but it seemed to work this time. Here are a number of threads that might be useful, be wary of any info which might be out of date. https://boards.cruisecritic.co.uk/search/?q=Gibraltar &type=forums_topic&nodes=149 JB Edit: "They're a thieving bunch and will take anything they can" refers to the apes, not the drivers
  2. My reading of the poster, vaguely confirmed on their website, says a total of €280 (MSM) or €200 (D-Day beaches) for two or four people. That's very different to approx €75 for a car plus fuel. The advertiser doesn't say whether these are guided tours or simply vehicle plus driver, but climbing MSM is very long and steep and a guided group will walk at the pace of the slowest, and D-Day (they have a sensible itinerary for a 5-hour tour, though a slightly longer one would allow the inclusion of Pointe du Hoc) doesn't need a guide - there's plenty of info and staff at the various sights. I've no comparisons for the price of the tour (other than the likes of Overlord for an expensive but far superior D-Day tour), but I certainly don't rate the prices quoted as being particularly inexpensive. Just MHO, as always. JB
  3. As Simon's post, transportation from London depends very much on the location of your hotel and your preferences for a private transfer or saving a chunk of cash & using a train or bus (direct services from London Waterloo or London Victoria respectively). Or taking a ship's over-priced transfer bus, or an independently-operated tour/transfer bus from your hotel to your ship via Stonehenge. Yes, www.smithsforairports.com and www.westquaycars.com (both based at the Southampton end) are frequently recommended for private transfers. Also Blackberry Cars and others - just search "Southampton transfers" in this forum, but be aware that transfer options from LHR or LGW airports are very different to transfer options from central London. At the Southampton end, yes it'll be Ocean Cruise Terminal or QE2 Cruise Terminal. Ocean Terminal is a level walk of about 25 mins from Southampton Central rail station or coach station - though inclement weather is likely to persuade you to jump in a cab. QE2 terminal may only be a further 10 minutes, but it's deep in the docks on roads with heavy truck traffic - in places separated from pedestrians by only a yellow line. I'd strongly recommend a cab. Tell us your hotel, date / day-of-the-week, group size & make-up, whether your preferences are for convenience or cost, and anything else you consider relevant, and we can be more precise. And browse https://www.londontoolkit.com/travel/southampton_london_transfers.htm (but don't book a private car transfer thro them, they promote expensive operators) There's also lots of good London info and logistics on other pages of their website JB
  4. Sorry to be negative, but if you don't have a car you'll be very disappointed with the location of HI Express Southampton West. It's very convenient to the motorway system and the route to the cruise terminals is simple, but it's predominantly an industrial / commercial area. There's nothing of interest in walking distance unless you're members of the David Lloyd fitness centres or you want to browse the big B&Q outlet. And just two places in walking distance to eat or drink - the Walnut Tree Farm pub, a 5-minute walk. Inexpensive family-orientated pub & restaurant (along the lines of Hungry Horse if you know that chain). Food is decent without being spectacular and the menu is fairly extensive. Perfectly satisfactory for one evening. - The Saints pub, 10 minutes away. Known as a lively pub with lots of music nights and a young working-class (if you'll excuse the expression) clientele. I've never been to it, but it also offers inexpensive food & drink. JB
  5. Hi, 2BA, No, I'm not aware that it's ever been mandatory. Nor should it be, because of the variables in getting to the airport, including flight transfers. The only thing that's mandatory is the time that airlines choose to close their check-ins - that can be as little as 45 minutes before even long-haul scheduled flight times, though anyone who relies on getting thro' in that time is taking a massive gamble. For years many major airports have been advising that folk arrive at least 3 hours before their flight, and there are a number of reasons that I can think of...... 1. They want to cover their own backsides in case they don't cope. "Well, we did tell you 3 hours and by your own admission you arrived at check-in an hour later than that, so it's not our fault". 2. It eases pressure on check-in staff. Especially with the trend to a single check-in line for all of the airline's routes, so they don't know where in a long check-in line are passengers for whom the latest-checkin-time is fast approaching. We've all experienced airline staff patrolling long check-in lines calling out for anyone travelling on this or that flight, knowing that there'll be passengers who hadn't expected a 40-minute line at check-in. 3. They are aware that folk often mis-judge their journey time to the airport or the time taken for a shuttle from carparks, or who encounter a problem en-route, or who even struggle to find their check-in desks. So that's built into their advised arrival time. Sensible - but that's really the job of the passenger or their transfer operator, and most folk do give themselves 30 to 60 minutes wiggle-time for their journey,. So that adequate wiggle-time is unnecessarily doubled. 4. Cynics would say it's to give more business to the always-overpriced retail & service outlets at airports - outlets that pay extortionate rents for airport locations. One thing that grieves me, although in the circumstances I wouldn't blame the OP for choosing it, is the Premier jump-the-line facility for security. If airports or airlines choose to offer various premium-pay services such as VIP lounges, that's fine. But that shouldn't apply to mandated facilities such as security. As more and more folk opt for it, the regular lines will lengthen - witness Disney's and other theme parks. What next - a beat-the-line premium for governments' passport-control ? (Rant over ) All of which doesn't solve the bank holiday traffic worries. I too have often been stuck on the M25. And that doesn't even include bank holiday weekends. Hence the need for advice from those best-placed to give it. And I have little doubt that, much like our weather forecasts, such advice will wisely be couched in "probably", "usually" etc. Allowances for delays have to be sensible, or we'd all set off today for a flight next week. But different folk have different interpretations of "sensible". As you say, each to their own. And this isn't one I'd like to call. JB .
  6. Folk Show is fun. We got there early and chose to sit in the middle of the second row. Front row is asking for trouble but near the front makes a lot of sense When we arrived we weren't too sure how good it would be - it's in a grand but dilapidated palace, in a room with just dining chairs rather than theatre-style seats and the "stage" was just a raised dais. And yes,, it's for tourists. But it turned out to be excellent - great music, skilful dancers, good costumes, various dances incl cossack. Humour a mix of subtle and belly-splitting - the belly-splitting provided by those who were hauled onto the stage to be partnered by the performers, but that's only a small proportion of the show. Plenty of snippets on YouTube. Do eat before you go, don't rely on the meagre interlude snacks. Day One. Hopefully Best Guides have told you that priority disembarkation will be given to those on ships' tours - that's a new arrangement which was introduced a year or two ago, and since our visit. All parties have had time & experience to sort out the wrinkles in the system, and hopefully it just means that your disembarkation and tour start time will be an hour later than our 8am. JB
  7. I'll cordially disagree with 2BA about being at the airport 3 hrs before flight time. For long-haul I'm happy with 2 to 2.5 hrs - and I stand in line at security, which is usually the longest delay. I feel sure you'd be comfortable with two hours. But altho saturday is usually a good day to travel from Southampton to LGW (or LHR) and would fit your time-window, I have to agree with 2BA that being a long holiday weekend kinda throws a spanner in the works The usual route is M3, M25, M23. 90 minutes most weekends. And thisevening I drove from near Gatwick to Southampton outskirts in little more than an hour. On that holiday weekend the first 55 miles of your 90 mile drive will be easy - you're heading up the M3 towards London, and all the holiday traffic will be on the opposite carriageway heading for the coast & the West Country. But the rest of the drive is the M25 London orbital road, then the M23 heading from London toward the coast - the main route for Londoners heading to the Brighton area. Problem is I don't know how much time that's likely to add to your journey There are a variety of more direct but usually slower cross-country routes - we always do this at busy times on weekdays, though your driver will need to know which of those cross-country roads to use to avoid the worst of the holiday traffic. You have a car booked. You could bring that time forward to 7.15, mebbe even 7am - ships normally start unassisted disembarkation at or even before 7am and since you'll be ahead of the herd the disembarkation formalities at that hour are very quick. But whilst 2BA and I and others have varying experiences of the journey, your transfer operator will know far better than any of us the impact that a bank holiday saturday traffic will have, so it's their advice that you should seek. Bear in mind that it'll also be a busy day for the airport. JB
  8. The simplest & most cost-effective way to do it, as a couple of posters have already mentioned is to book "Multi-city" return air tickets. If any airlines still use the phrase "open-jaw" It means the same thing. You need to start & finish at the same airport (your home airport) and you need to buy both legs in the one "multi-city" transaction using the same airline or air-alliance. So figure which airlines operate flights to both Barcelona and Venice from a convenient home airport. If no single airline operates to both of those European destinations, use a search tool like Skyscanner or a flight consolidator who will match airlines that work together. The price for both legs should be the the mid-price for simple return tickets to those two destinations. We've done it - it works JB BTW Don, driving between the two would be a great experience. But I checked just one popular rental agency. Just the one-way fee is over $2,000
  9. Just a little rider to leaveitall's post. Yes, shops & services which accept USD and deal mainly with tourists will give change in USD as a matter of course - stalls, tourists' bars & shops, vans, etc. But many shops which deal mainly with locals (and where you tend to get better value) but which also accept USD will only give change in local currency - that's how their cash registers work, and check-out staff have no choice. That's one good reason for having enough low-denomination dollar bills. Hardened bargainers will know that another good reason is that it's hard to bargain a low price when the only bills you've got are the same as, or higher than, the asking price. JB
  10. I've even many similar offers for 3rd or 4th to share with their friends. the on-board spend of the extra passengers far exceeds the extra very limited costs. JB
  11. I see nothing of importance missing from that itinerary - lucky you for having three days And the scheduling makes sense - distant places & heavy schedule on Day One, a more laid-back day close to the port on Day Three. But like the other small-group local tour operators they are flexible - you might find the itinerary switched depending on the weather etc. Day One looks pretty packed - is Faberge in the evening? If it isn't (or even if it is, cos you're in port for two evenings) do consider adding an evening option - popular ones are the ballet (but if you're an afficionado do carefully choose a good dance company) or the Folk Show (a bit cheesy with some audience participation but excellent and varied song & dance, well-performed by both singers and musicians, with a few belly-laughs). Most tour operators offer other evening excursions too. And ask if you can be driven back to the ship past the illuminated bridges. BTW, Day One will be a late and slow start due to the immigration procedure - don't concern yourselves that it'll take big chunks out of your three days, the paperwork is done on Day One and subsequently the immigration lines are quick. Best Guides has an excellent reputation. But then so do all the other St Petersburg operators. It's the only port where I'd feel confident even if I chose by sticking a pin on a list blindfolded. JB
  12. Hi, O&B's mum, Yes, I remember tinned condensed milk in the post-war years - for ambient storage it was that or powdered. With "Camp coffee" - much more chicory instead of coffee. It put me off coffee for years And much more recently I've experienced tea/coffee with condensed in the far east too. But Barraquito is a very different animal - more a Canarian take on Irish coffee, though it looks more like a Tequila Sunrise !! JB
  13. A beach day relies on the weather. And the weather will be pretty unreliable in late October. I daren't say that it won't be beach weather because weather is pretty fickle, but it's probable - hence you're finding resorts, beach bars etc closed. If you're lucky you'll have your beach day, and in excellent weather there'll probably be a bar or cafe or two that opens at short notice. But don't bank on it. Mykonos is a super little town (village?), a maze of immaculate little alleyways backed by its picture-postcard line of windmills. Milder weather than much of the eastern Mediterranean and daytime temperatures around 20c, ideal sightseeing weather if it's not wet. Plenty to keep you amused and with a good-sized cruise ship or two in town you'll find shops and harbour-front bars & cafes open. And probably the town's pelican patrolling the harbour. There's a bit of a beach at one end of the harbour but it's very basic and unattractive. For a good beach you need a taxi ride. Get your beach stuff ready, but decide at the last minute whether to take it ashore with you. JB
  14. As a general rule, the last part of April + May & June, then September & the first part of October are ideal for the Med. July & August the ports tend to be crowded, too hot for sight-seeing, and cruises & accommodation more expensive cos of school holidays. You'll have a wide choice of itineraries and US & UK ships as well as Italian ships throughout those months. Caribbean is best November to March - and those same ships will be there for their winter (northern hemisphere) season Happy huntin' JB
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