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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. Southampton Town Quay is a red herring. It doesn't appear on the National Rail website, it does appear on GWR's website but shows nil availability. There's no such station, and never was - it refers to the inclusion of a bus service called QuayConnect, which runs from Southampton Central station to Town Quay for the benefit of passengers heading to the Isle of Wight on ferries which leave from Town Quay. It's free for Nat Express coach & Red Funnel ferry passengers, but presumably no longer for rail passengers and GWR's website hasn't been updated to delete it. So the station that you want is Southampton Central Princess' usual cruise terminals are Mayflower terminal (berth 105/6) or Ocean cruise terminal (berth 46) There are no local buses to Mayflower - it's a 20 minute walk or a taxi hop.. Ocean is a 30 minute walk from the station, but the QuayConnect bus - and several other frequent bus routes to Town Quay - leave you with just a ten-minute walk. Or a taxi from the rank at the station to either of the Princess terminals is a lot quicker and simpler and will cost about £7 - £8. Use the hourly direct train service from Bath, it's much quicker, simpler & cheaper than the other options. The fare is around £28, but if you pre-book for a specific train time it's around only £12. To stress, those budget tickets are only good for the train time that you booked - if you miss that train your tickets are trash & you'll have to buy full-price tickets. I find the National Rail website far more informative than GWR's . Prices are identical, whichever of those websites you use. https://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk JB
  2. I'd have had to agree with you a couple of decades ago - a time when I was embarrassed to be a Brit abroad. But such football-related grief is comparatively rare now. And of course the few bad apples create an unwarranted reputation for the vast majority of decent football fans. JB
  3. Hi G., I've tried very hard to find comparisons, but it's hard work cos it takes some digging to find if the offerings are actually in the reserves and whether game drives - surely the most important element - are included. At around £100 for two for two nights clearly they're not, but upward of £1,000 some don't mention that they include game drives . Because they dont? Or because they presume that you know that they do? Cheapest safari (en-suite accommodation, meals, game drives) that I could find near Waterberg was Tshwene in Welgevonden private game reserve at £1167 for two people, two nights. Cheapest I could find in Timbavati was more like £1800. Our Timbavati safari was light on game, perhaps the same applies to Tshwene. But on that poorly-researched basis, yes you're right, Waterberg is cheaper than Greater Kruger. But an en-suite bungalow in a Kruger Nat Park rest-camp for two for two nights costs around £140 (more digging here on TripAdvisor reviews etc, cos the Nat Park isn't quoting - one has to e-mail them for prices). Add £80 for two days admission to the NP and the total is around £220. To that of course you have to add food (self-catering or the excellent camp restaurants) & fuel and the accommodation won't be luxurious, but at about one fifth of the cheapest private safari in Waterberg it's a big saving - as well as being unshackled to do your own thing. If you've got 3 or 4 hours to spare wading through the listings, mebbe you'll find better All of which of course is irrelevant to the OP and anyone else wanting to tie-in a cruise and a safari, because both Kruger and especially Waterberg are many many miles from any port, let alone a turnaround port, so there's the cost & time of flying in an out. So a day-trip to Addo or nearby reserves are their only real option. JB
  4. Re John's excellent suggestion for a shared cabin, here's the layouts on Azura - others that he's mentioned may be slightly different but on broadly the same theme. https://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/deckplans/Azura Scroll down to the standard balcony, outside & inside cabins. And here's a perhaps overly-detailed tour of a standard balcony cabin on Azura. (beware some of the detail may be out-of-date, such a bringing aboard as much alcohol as you like) I remember broadly the same layout on the "old" Arcadia - very well-designed. Not as spacious a dressing area as it looks cos the blank wall is a hanging rail for clothes, but yes it's nicely screened-off. It's a layout that's not possible with the very small cabins on some ships, and perhaps with some cabin classes on P&O and Princess. BTW, with most cabins the beds can be configured as a double (linked singles) or as two singles. The steward will probably cotton-on from your names that you want two singles, but if you find that it's a double he can switch it in about ten minutes. Much the same as most hotel rooms. JB
  5. Most modern cruise ships have a very limited number of singles, many of them none at all - so singles pay double-fare for sole occupancy of a double cabin, a very expensive business. But strangely enough the afore-mentioned Norwegian Epic, much-maligned for it's immodest bathroom design, might be a good choice for singles. It has a 128 en-suite studio cabins designed for singletons, plus their own shared communal area. Lots of single cabins on some of their other modern ships too. Or check out older ships, such as those of Cruise & Maritime, Fred Olsen and some of the Marella fleet. They have singles' cabins, but those cabins do sell-out quickly. JB
  6. People have taken this thread way off-topic. To return to the OP's question, we once had an invasion of frogs on our ship. Not as frightening as you might think - we all stood together to watch them, and one of our fellow-passengers captured them on video..................... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PMiP90ntZ8 JB
  7. I think you'll be struggling to find a combo that ticks enough boxes, and you'd probably do a lot better to look on this as two separate bookings (mebbe three incl flights). One of the biggest coach operators in Spain, and with a long pedigree of respectability & reliability, is Julia coaches. https://autocaresjulia.com/en It may be that they deal only with tour operators, but they can point you in the right direction for a coach tour. Most folk tend to simply want to get home at the end of a cruise - if your own feelings were the same at the end of the cruises you've done it's best to take the coach tour first, followed by the cruise. I suggest you check out cruises sailing from Barcelona, choose a few that you like, then find a coach tour that fits the dates - preferably with a couple of days between because this gives you flexibility, a safety net if something goes wrong with the coach tour, and a chance to enjoy the departure port, especially a place like Barelona which is well worth a couple of days.. There are cruise departures from other Spanish ports like Malaga, but Barcelona offers you a vastly greater choice. You'll be responsible for fixing your own local transport, any intermediate hotels, etc, but that's easy enough over the internet, especially with help from people like Cruise Critic members. Most cruise line & specialist cruise agents, and coach tour agents allow a window of about 24 hours to reserve without commitment, so you can be confident that one won't sell-out while you're booking the other. More work than simply booking a combo, but I feel sure you'd get a much better vacation out of it. Just MHO as always JB
  8. OK, but another factor of which I knew nothing until 5 minutes ago is the cost-of-living in Russia. I know that wages and the cost of living are low in most of SE Asia, which is why we westerners find those countries such great value. And a great many itinerant eastern European labourers came to the UK, living as cheaply as possible in shared accommodation and sending the bulk of their wages back to their families in eastern Europe, where it bought a great deal more. Because of Brexit the value of sterling dropped by about 13% - it's had comparatively little effect on people who live in the UK - including those eastern Europeans who've settled here - because foreign travel and imported goods are only a tiny proportion of household expenditure, but for those who sent most of their earnings back to eastern Europe it's effectively meant a drop in wages of close to 13% so in the past couple of years many of the itinerants have switched to working in Euroland. (I recall that decades ago many young Brit singletons did much the same thing working in the middle-east oilfields). I've just done another sweep of the internet - the overall cost-of-living in Russia is 40% to 50% lower than the UK - here's just one of my sources https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_countries_result.jsp?country1=United+Kingdom&country2=Russia That same source shows an even bigger difference compared to the USA. https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_countries_result.jsp?country1=Russia&country2=United+States&displayCurrency=USD So my pounds buy a great deal more in Russia - and your dollars buy even more. (not that we've noticed such huge differences in tourist places ) So the guides in St Petersburg aren't doing too badly. JB
  9. Broadly correct - it varies a little between different European countries, but generally wages in service industries are low but subject to minimum levels, and tips are welcomed but not as of right - they have to be earned by providing good service. And yes, because wages have to be at least at the minimum, the level of tips reflects that - anywhere from rounding-up (though of course rounding-up a large bill to the nearest euro can be an insult) to an absolute max of 10%. But European norms are irrelevant in Russia. I doubt many of us know the wage structures or the tipping norms., I certainly don't. A few years back Alla suggested 10% to the guide & 5% to the driver. Even that suggested 15% total is heavy by UK / EU standards. The 15% to the guide & 10% to the driver suggested to northernrose might be because they reckon that they can do even better these days, or it might be because we were on a Brit ship and they knew that quoting such a high figure might be counter-productive. But isn't a total of 25% high even by north American standards ? Personally I'd reckon 10% for the guide and some coins for the driver very satisfactory, and a quick blast round the internet suggests between 5% and 15%, so my 10% sits neatly in the middle. This of course only for good service - which it always seems to be with all the operators in St Petersburg. JB
  10. Same as Dogs4. I think all tours are the same group & same guide both days. JB
  11. Just my experiences...... Correct, no off-roading in the NP - not even by the park's own tour 4x4's. But never a problem - if folk in front stop you usually have room to go round them or to position your vehicle for a view of what's happening, even on dirt roads. Check out the multiple videos on YouTube. If everyone could go off-road in the NP to close in on wild-life, the wild-life wouldn't hang around and the bush would be wrecked. Not teeming with visitors, but certainly bigger numbers than in the private reserves. We also had a 3-night safari at lodge in a private reserve in Timbavati, adjacent the NP. Cost an arm and a leg, wonderful accommodation & service, but very disappointing - much less wild-life than in the NP, not a single big cat, and - just like in the NP - the lodge drivers aren't permitted off-road My GF & DD & SIL had a couple of years previously been on safari at a lodge in nearby Sabi Sands, acknowledged as the best private reserve. It was her experience that switched me onto safaris. She came back full of wonderful stories & photos. Saw all of the big five on the very first day. Never saw more than two other 4x4's at the same time. Driver frequently went off--road to follow, including a couple of miles of straight-lining at speed thro the bush to see rare wild-dogs following a radio call. She never told me the cost, but she came back with no arms and no legs. So you pay a fortune for the best private reserves, or you get great value out of a stay in a NP rest-camp and self-driving. As I say, just my experiences JB
  12. That was my immediate reaction too. Just a few times we found ourselves in hotels with similar immodest arrangements. Beats me why any provider would think that was a cool idea, though this guy does Note the glass doors to the shower & loo - very demure Other than that I can think of no cruise ship that doesn't have totally private en-suite bathrooms. But nor have I found one that's big enough for those whose pastimes include swinging cats. JB
  13. Agreed. Just type Dock Road, Portland, UK into googlemaps. JB
  14. As the Eagle's post, for a port-of-call day Addo Elephant Park from Port Elizabeth. In fact I don't think there are safaris anywhere near Cape Town, there'll be plenty of other things to see and do at Capetown, and comparatively few other options from PE. https://www.sanparks.org/parks/addo/ Don't be deceived by "Elephant" Park, it's a regular game park with particularly high numbers of elephants but plenty of other animals - wide range of antelopes, warthogs, zebras & such. But don't expect to see any of the big cats cos they're extremely rare in that park. It's about 30 minutes from PE to the southern entrance (Matyholweni Gate) You can rent a car to self-drive to and in the park, or book a car & driver from PE. Addo also offers shared 4x4 tours in the park, but there's no need for 4x4 and it'd be a waste because you'll already be paying for a rental car or car+driver from PE, and park 4x4s are limited to driving on park roads, same as private cars. Park roads are a combination of tarmac and good gravel roads. The experience won't be anything like being based in a Nat Park or private reserve for a few days, but it'll give you a decent taster. A safari in a private reserve is super-expensive, but a stay in a Nat Park s/c bungalow or rondeval (Kruger NP is by far the best) is very reasonable. But of course you need the time and there are the travel costs. JB
  15. For 1/2/3 people, cheapest is by coach https://www.nationalexpress.com/en Direct service from airport to Southampton (note spelling) coach station, then a short taxi hop (£10 or less) to any cruise terminal. Journey time about 2hrs 15 mins. Fare from £12 to £26 pp., depending how far ahead you book and your time of travel. Pre-booking strongly advised, allow a minimum 2 hrs for airport formalities. As Heidi's post, there's no direct train service - it's either taking a train into central London's Paddington station (the opposite direction to Southampton), cross central London (tube or taxi) to London Waterloo station & direct train from there, or a RailAir bus from Heathrow to a mainline station for a train to Southampton. More expensive than by coach and journey time the same or longer, so not popular. But because frequency is excellent & no need to pre-book, it's a useful Plan B if other plans go belly-up. Cruise lines offer coach transfers. Coaches are similar to National Express coaches, and take you direct to your cruise terminal. Ship's shore agents meet you at your airport terminal, and for large cruise ships there are multiple coaches so there's no long wait. And of course once you're in the shore agent's custody getting you to the ship on time is the cruise line's responsibility. But as with most ship-sponsored travel, the value is poor - anything from about $60 pp for Princess to $100 pp for RCI / Celebrity. Journey time about 90 minutes. A pre-booked private transfer will cost you around £100 for a sedan. www.smithsfrairports.com is most-frequently recommended on Cruise Critic, but there are many other operators like those quoted in other posts. Journey time 75 minutes plus. Don't be tempted by the independent coach transfer or Stonehenge tour/transfer offered on the London Toolkit website - because of the vagaries of air travel & airport formalities they actively discourage bookings from those who fly in same-day, the service is designed for those who've over-nited at Heathrow. If you simply take a taxi to Southampton from the rank at Heathrow it will severely damage your wealth. More info at https://www.londontoolkit.com/travel/heathrow_southampton.htm (but the car services they offer are usually seriously over-priced) https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2662148-transfer-southampton—london-incl-lhrlgw-train-car-other/ JB
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