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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
    Caribbean

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  1. Sounds good. You're doubtless making some folk green with envy at the time you have available ........................................... Don't know your dates, but it looks like the fast-ferry goes to Ouistreham (Caen). Some pointers on that..... As I mentioned, there are a number of well-known rental agencies near the station in Caen. We have no personal experience, we've always taken our car over, but the web tells me about three agencies in Ouistreham, a short taxi hop from the port - they seem to be geared to locals (two, Carrefour & Leclerc, are national grocery hypermarkets), but would be more convenient if suitable. You'll be touring to the west of the port, but since the return is at 8.30am (check-in at the port 7.45), you might want to consider spending that last night in Ouistreham, mebbe returning the car the late previous afternoon - check rental agencies' hours & any out-of-hours return arrangements, the French don't operate long hours. Ouistreham is very pleasant & has a good selection of accommodation and restaurants split between the beach & port areas. We've eaten well at Le Phare and Le Channel. The fast-ferry only operates in the summer months - like all hydrofoils it is less suitable than traditional ferries in heavy seas and it is very occasionally cancelled during un-seasonal weather. But if you're very unlucky & it's cancelled there's a traditional ferry later that day, and since you'll be on foot there's no problem with available capacity on the trad. ferry. .......................................... Arundel is a small town rather than a village, has a number of antique shops & tearooms. The castle is interesting in that it was built in the 12th(?) century, was continuously extended over the centuries, and has been occupied throughout. So in just one castle you can see how life was throughout the ages. But Arundel station is outside the town, about a mile / 10-15 minute walk. ................................................... Your historic dockyard ticket is good for re-entry for a year - since you'll be in Portsmouth twice you can split your visit. Train timetables are more limited on sundays, but there's a direct train from Portsmouth Harbour to Southampton Central at around 11am, arrives at noon. Scheduled track maintenance is usually carried out on sundays, so check this website close to the day https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/looking-after-the-railway/planned-works/ You'd be unlucky if it affected that track on your date - if it does, a rail-replacement service operates between affected stations, which means schlepping your bags between train & bus and a slightly longer journey time. Or instead book the direct National Express bus (from adjacent Portsmouth Harbour station to Southampton coach station), there's little difference in convenience, fares or journey times. ................................................ Check your dates against UK & French national holidays, which may affect crowds & traffic - other than that you're good to go JB
  2. I doubt you'll find a long line at the bottom station. And coming back down by sled is much more fun https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isTic2gtGcM JB
  3. Thank you for your question Whenever one asks a question one says "please". Whenever anyone answers, or gives you something (even though you've just paid for it) one says "thank you". If you stop to give way to a driver who doesn't have right-of-way (for instance you let them out of a side road), they wave a hand or flash their lights as a "thank you". If they don't, you are at liberty to gently rear-end them (I think ) But it's not all hard work. Nobody (even - when I was in business - my employees) calls me "sir". And nobody expresses an insincere wish that I "have a good day" JB
  4. Fluid pricing isn't a con, it's the norm in the UK. OK, that cruise may now be cheaper - though it may not include any early-booking freebies that you got, and no choice of cabin location, no choice on dining times, etc. On the other hand, if it was popular that cruise would have gone up in price, or may have even sold-out. Since we're now retired we look for those late bargains, on the basis that if a price goes up or doesn't come down significantly or the cruise books out we simply keep our eyes open for another one. In the past few years we've only booked one cruise relatively early, a Caribbean cruise which included some unusual ports that we'd not visited. Because we're flexible on dates and the cruise line offered several dates we held back and kept an eye on those prices. When one date sold-out, we booked another of the dates. We'd played it clever (we thought ) but the price came down after we'd booked. C'est la vie, we were comfortable that we hadn't missed out on that itinerary. It's no different to buying a something like a washing machine, and the store offering a big discount a week later. Or booking a hotel and finding that it's available at the last minute for a much lower price. One further thought. In the USA you'd simply cancel & re-book, because at this stage your deposit is refundable. In the UK your deposit is non-refundable - but if the saving is significantly more than the deposit, consider cancelling and re-booking at the lower price. But be aware of those differences like cabin choice etc. Most important of all. It may be galling, but don't let it spoil your cruise even before it's started. Otherwise it will have cost you a lot more than money. JB
  5. Have never used spa services, but they are frequently offered at a discount during cruises. Best discounts seem to be during the day on port days. Your TA may well be right about booking-out at prime times, eg sea days. So perhaps book ahead if it's important & you don't want to lose port time, wait for on-board discounts if the cost is a more significant factor. JB
  6. It's been the case for almost all cruises, almost all cruise lines, for a whole lot longer than the past few weeks. In part it is to do with inclusions in the cruise fare which are charged as add-ons in the USA. Port fees for instance. And grammatically-incorrect daily "gratuities"as per Pyrate's post, which are included in many (all?) Aus fares. Aus doesn't have a tipping culture and a high proportion of Aus cruisers used to remove this "optional" charge. In comparison, America has perhaps the world's most extreme tipping culture, and only a very tiny proportion of American cheapstakes remove or reduce the charge. (Because of the different tipping cultures I use he word "cheapskate" only for those Americans & not for Aussies). Because those gratuities are removable by the passenger on most cruise ships, the cruise lines incorporate them into Aus and many Brit fares. Costa is perhaps the only cruise line which makes those "gratuities" compulsory - in the UK at least, this is disclosed alongside the price as required under UK law. But I think a more significant factor is the protections afforded by Australian laws to those who book in Aus. Ditto the protections afforded by UK and EU laws. Check the terms & conditions on cruise lines' Aus websites and - if your computer will do it - those terms and conditions on their US websites. There are big differences - for instance under the US terms & conditions the cruise line's ability to skip ports and switch itineraries at will, or to cancel the cruise entirely without recompense other than refund of payments if, for instance, an organisation came along at the last minute & wanted to charter the entire ship. Those US terms & conditions are heavily loaded in favour of the cruise lines, In Aus / UK / EU many of those terms are illegal. The cruise lines of course need their fares to reflect those added protections But that's not the entire reason for the higher fares charged to Aus bookings, which are often higher even than those charged to Brit or European bookings. It's possible that it's a way of protecting their local cruise agents. But it's more likely that they charge a much higher fare simply because they can. Years back we used to book through US agents and got those lower US fares - and the US rights to cancel without penalty before "final payment day". Nowadays we're retired and in a position to book last-minute cruises at last-minute prices thro UK agents. You can choose to book through a US agent. Simply find a couple of well-reviewed agents (naming agents isn't permitted on Cruise Critic so you'll get no help on this website), and e-mail them. Include your phone number, modern technology makes international calls inexpensive and they'll usually respond by phone. In recent years some cruise lines have banned US agents from accepting bookings from folk who are not North American residents, but in that case you can use the North American address of any friends or relatives or some agents will use their own address. But if you choose to use a US agent, pay only by credit card - there are no organisations like Britain's ABTA which will recompense you if that US agent goes belly-up or runs off to a south sea island with your money. And your booking will be subject to those US terms & conditions. Also be aware that you'll be paying in US dollars, so between the time that you book & the time that you pay in full you'll be at the mercy of fluctuations in foreign exchange rates - you might gain, you might lose. JB
  7. OK, we all know that for travel to most countries we need a minimum of six months left on our passport when we enter a country. Not so with EU countries - while we are members, no problem as long as our passport is in-date. But when (if?) the UK leaves the EU we'll need that 6-month minimum validity just like other visitors to the EU. But this is a reminder that rules for the expiry date have changed. Under the old rules if your applied to renew today and your old passport didn't expire until, say, 1st April 2020 then your new passport would have an expiry date of 1st April 2030. If you renewed it within the past year or so you'll see that it is valid for ten years from the date it was issued, regardless of whether there was still life left on your own passport. That's life, shouldn't be a big problem. Problem is, the rule is retrospective - if you applied for your last passport early the date of expiry shown on it is irrelevant.. The date of expiry of every current UK passport is 10 years after the date of issue. For instance, because I renewed my last passport early, the date of issue shown was 24 March 2010 and the date of expiry shown was 24 Sept 2020. Because the allowance for early renewal has been rescinded retrospectively it actually expires on 24 March 2020. And because I need at least 6 months left on my passport to enter many countries it's actually only good for travel before 24th October 2019. So I've had to renew almost a year early. You can renew your car's MOT up to 28 days early and that up to 28 days gets added to the expiry date. So you can slot the test into a convenient date without losing out, or even sell your car with 13 months MOT. That's the way it was with passports(up to 6 months early), but no longer. Add the minimum 6 months validity for travel to juggling renewal for a period when you won't need a passport (you send your current one with the new application) and your 10 year passport is worth little more than 9 years. JB ps Having mentioned MOT dates, here's something I learned the hard way. Garage puts a helpful little MOT date reminder on a windscreen sticker. I booked in to renew a couple of weeks before that date (moved house, so different MOT testing station) It passed - but I noticed that the expiry date was in 12 months time, so I queried why the two weeks hadn't been added. It's all computerised at the Min of Transport and printed from their site, and it turned out that the date on the windscreen was the date it was last tested, not the date it expired. That year I had booked it in 3 weeks early. Add the two weeks early that I'd booked it in this year and it was tested 5 weeks before the old one expired. Re-testing up to 28 days before due date adds up to 28 days to the validity. Re-testing more than 28 days before the due date nullifies any extra days. Two rants for the price of one post
  8. Right, no problem. Use these network maps https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/maps.aspx Some are skeletal with significant stations for broad planning, some are more complex & show all stations for more detailed planning. Many years ago the trains were run by the government, nowadays they're privatised, and different franchisees (train operators) cover different parts of the country, which makes life a little complicated. Simplest railway timetable to use is https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ This covers the trains of all the operators on the rail network (including routes which cross different franchises), the fares shown are the same as on the individual franchisees' websites. Fare pricing is also complicated - on many routes the fares are much higher at popular times of the day (for instance trains into London at commuter times) , and there are significant savings by travelling at "off-peak" times rather than "any time". Even greater savings by buying "advance" tickets - these are available from about 8 weeks out but you must travel on the train time that you selected - if you miss that train your tickets are trash. Railcards, which cost £30 and are good for a year, knock a third off most (but not all) of the quoted fares. On that web-page click on "passengers and railcards" and you'll see a plethora of card types. More detail of the ones which are likely to be of benefit at https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/46540.aspx The "Two-together" card is likely to be the best one for you - even if you are seniors. The senior railcard is good for seniors travelling alone and has the same benefits as the two-together card - but you'll be travelling together so one two-together card (£30) is better value than two seniors cards (2 x £30) To see as much scenery as possible without a car ................ This website (and others by googling "scenic rail journeys in Britain) suggests the more-scenic routes https://www.scenicrailbritain.com/ I chose this website because it differentiates between the network routes and the "Heritage Trains". Heritage trains, often pulled by steam engines, are good for day-trips but not for getting from A to B. They are run by local volunteer groups. There are many throughout the UK, some using disused network lines, others - like "the little trains of Wales" - are narrow-gauge lines built for industrial use eg carrying coal or slate from source to port. These are attractions, not part of the network. They don't appear on national timetables, Railcards are of no use on these routes and they tend to be expensive. But if your itinerary takes you near one, it will probably be a good day out. Also check on coach or minibus (van) tours offered from big cities and tourist destinations. They'll take you to places impossible to visit by train. Happy hunting JB
  9. My thought exactly. Wear long-sleeved shirts (good luck in finding a garment that's cool s well as long-sleeved ). Closed shoes of course, and tuck socks into trousers. JB
  10. https://www.askthe.police.uk/content/Q367.htm Legal in the UK, SRF. It's radar-jamming devices that are illegal. But detectors are illegal in most of Europe. JB
  11. Smiths are best-placed to tell you - at that time of day I'm sometimes going to the big bad city, but never coming from it. So tell Smiths what time you want to be in Southampton and ask them to quote a pick-up time. Tell 'em it's not a deadllne like it is for, say, a morning sailing, or they might be a bit too cautious. I'm guessing mebbe 8.30 / 8.45, but they're the ones with experience. BUT - are you sure you want to arrive by 11am ? You might have to hang around at the cruise terminal til noon. Which means leaving the big bad city long after 9am, when most of the lemmings are sat behind their desks, knocking as much as 30 (?) minutes off your journey time. JB
  12. Typo, SRF? The police (?) are very open about the location of fixed cameras. There are maps on the web showing their locations, the cameras are always prominent and painted yellow and grey, and yes, most GPS warn you of an up-coming fixed camera, on the GPS screen and an audible warning. Some also warn you that you're too fast approaching the camera. All perfectly legal - the object being to slow drivers down, not to catch them out. Mobile cameras (manually operated, usually from a white van), bus lane cameras, cameras for red-light jumpers, etc aren't so obvious. And just to catch out locals who know the locations of fixed cameras & who speed, but slow down past the camera then speed up again, the police often locate a mobile camera half a mile past a fixed camera. I can testify to that There's a degree of tolerance in the camera speed settings. Something like 2mph plus 5%. Our local motorway has long-term road works with average-speed cameras (ie they catch folk who get from camera A to camera B too quickly). The speed limit is 50mph - but unless there are workers in the area I average 55mph without a worry - and others push their luck even further. If a vehicle triggers a camera (any camera) the registered owner must be notified and the name of the driver requested within 14 days. If not, there's no case to answer. But of course if you're renting it can take another week or two before you hear from the rental agency.. When I was driving coaches I used to take great pleasure in triggering a fixed camera on the way back from Brighton. It's on a dual carriageway (divided highway), where the speed limit for cars is 70mph,. That camera was set to trigger at about 60mph but was aimed high in order to catch only large vehicles - targeting speeding trucks (their speed limit 50mph). Coaches also being high, they too trigger that camera - but the limit for coaches is 60mph so no worries. How do I know about these things? I plead the Fifth Amendment JB
  13. I've been working on that......................... "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give our team this day ............." (still working on the rest of it) JB
  14. Can't add anything to that. Thank you, Scottbee, for saving my typing finger JB
  15. The "port area" is the city of Southampton, about 80 miles from London. Waterloo is best-placed for trains to Southampton, and also easily walkable to the London Eye, Thames cruises & waterside walks & restaurants, etc, Westminster Bridge & Abbey, Big Ben, Churchill's war rooms, Horse Guards Parade. Accommodation is mainly in large chain hotels eg Hampton by Hilton Waterloo https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ London Waterloo to Southampton central. Walk-up fare around £40, but advance tickets as low as about £15. Those advance tickets not available until about 8 weeks out. Victoria is best-placed for National Express buses (coaches) to Southampton, and also walkable to Buckingham Palace and a marginally longer walk to those other places. Wide range of accommodations from family hotels to major chains. eg Doubletree by Hilton Victoria https://www.nationalexpress.com/en London Victoria coach station to Southampton coach station Fare as low as £5 in advance, and because the coaches often sell-out advance booking is strongly recommended anyway. You also need to consider travel to hotel from your London airport. Direct train service from Gatwick airport (LGW) to both Victoria train station and Waterloo East rail station (adjacent the main Waterloo station). Direct coach service from Heathrow airport (LHR) to Victoria coach station, Waterloo area is less-convenient from LHR. JB
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