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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. Sorry, but five attempts is more than simply optimistic. I think I'd have put my cruising plans on the back-burner after the very first cancellation. We've knocked cruising on the head for the time being, even for cruises from our home port just 15 miles from our front door. Since the start of the pandemic we've seen the re-start of cruising from Southampton put back, month by month, from mid-June and in the last few days from October to November. Even that is very optimistic. We've also shied away from ferries to Ireland and continental Europe, and been proven wise by travel bans & quarantinings which have been subsequently introduced by both the countries we've considered visiting and by our own government. We've seen Spain & other countries open up to the UK via "air bridges", only for quarantining to then be re-introduced for returning from Spain due to a Spanish spike in infections - that quarantining required even for folk already vacationing in Spain. We've decided to limit ourselves to short road-trip breaks in the UK, but even then only by booking accommodation that has free cancellation with notice of just a day or two, because of localised restrictions which come and go. And instead of booking several accommodations for a round-trip, we'll be booking just one place & travelling daily from there. The UK is tiny compared to the USA, but there are parts we've never visited. If you head to previously un-visited parts of your own country you're far far less likely to face cancellations, and you'll be helping the US economy to make up for the missing international tourists. Our travel insurance now has Covid exclusions, but the grief hasn't cost us a penny. In fact, quite the reverse - our spend has gone down. No cruising, no vacations, no football matches, no concerts etc. And limited visits to restaurants & pubs, which have recently re-opened. Very boring - but no financial losses or contractual small-print. Just our take on a difficult time. JB
  2. The World is berthed at Falmouth, Cornwall, England, where she's been since the end of May (other than the usual forays into the English Channel to discharge foul tanks and to give the oily bits some exercise). She has no passengers, all of whom left the ship in March. I'm presuming that berthing fees in little Falmouth are low enough that there's no need to join other cruise ships using the free parking off-shore. https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/luxury-cruise-ship-world-coming-4156210 JB
  3. The Fox News report might have been worth reading if it had given the number of ships as well as the numbers of crew - and the reason/s why crew are still on the ships, because "stuck at sea aboard hulking ships with no passengers" gives the impression of being marooned like Robinson Crusoe or being held captive by the cruise lines. Patently obvious to all is that some crew are needed for the maintenance of the ships - this includes all ships having to move from time to time (out of port to discharge tanks & avoid high port fees, into port from time to time for bunkering and re-supply). Cheng has given a broad idea of the number of crew-members needed, and simply dividing the number of crew by the number of ships would be helpful - but can't be done without knowing the number of ships / total passenger capacity involved in Fox News' report. And added to the essential crew-members are those who are unable to return home due to closed borders, aborted flights etc, or those who CHOSE to remain aboard After it became obvious that there's be no cruising for many months, the cruise lines did get together to share the responsibilities of repatriating non-essential crew to various ports wherever that was possible. So the cruise lines certainly didn't abrogate their moral obligations. I rate Fox News' report as un-researched & misleading, unworthy of a major news channel JB
  4. A truck driver who used to deliver to my business premises frequently had counterfeit bargains to offer. One time it was "Rollex" watches for £20 ($25). When I pointed out to him that that Rolex only had one "L" he was crest-fallen, thinking he'd never be able to shift them. The following week he was beaming. "Punters think the mis-spelling is a great laugh, I sold the lot & I'm now trying to get hold of more." On vaguely the same subject, a little hint about scam e-mails & websites. Do you see spelling / punctuation mistakes? Think the scamsters are pretty stupid? They're not. Those "mistakes" are usually deliberate - scamsters target folk who aren't well-educated, because they're easier to scam. The "mistakes" weed out responses from those who are likely to be suspicious and to be a waste of their time. Spell-checker is your friend JB
  5. I don't know my stuff on Swiss trains, but here's my four-penn'orth on Switzerland. Zurich is a big & characterless modern city, not my sort of thing. Without a car, I'd rate Lucerne highest. A great full day trip in Lucerne is a combined "Golden Ticket" with lake crossing from Lucerne station/ferry terminal to Alpnachstad, cog-railway up Mount Pilatus, cable-car then ski-lift back down to the Lucerne suburb of Kriens, then short public bus ride back to Lucerne station/ferry terminal. Cost of a round-trip is CHF 103 (cheaper, esp if you have a rail pass, if you substitute ferry for train) https://www.pilatus.ch/en/discover/golden-round-trip/ Lucerne itself is a very attractive laid-back lakeside town, with a wide choice of restaurants etc. Interlaken is a little spread-out, with little of interest in the town. But for someone without a car it's an obvious start point for the Jungfraujoch railway - the Jungfraujoch ticket includes the short local train transfer to Grindelwald or Wengen where you switch to the Jungfraujoch. It's expensive - over CHF 200. Not included in a Swiss rail travel pass, but if a pass is worthwhile for your rail travel in Switzerland it'll give you a 25% discount on the Jungfraujoch. The big problem with that trip is the unreliable weather. In fine weather the views are glorious (un-paralleled unless you take to the air), but the trip is pretty pointless if shrounded in cloud or mist. So you risk a big waste of time and money. https://www.jungfrau.ch/en-gb/ You might want to check out the webcam from time to time https://www.jungfrau.ch/en-gb/live/webcams/#webcam-jungfraujoch-top-of-europe Only been to Lichtenstein once, and that was decades ago. Can't remember it, so clearly it wasn't memorable for us. If you rented a car in Switzerland for day-trips from somewhere like Lucerne or Interlaken or Andermatt (or perhaps for part of the journey to Venice), that opens up a whole new world of glorious Alpine mountain scenery and un-crowded roads & Alpine passes (trucks & through-traffic uses the motorways & tunnels, leaving the old roads & passes for just locals & tourists). If you don't have an aversion to driving, and your trip is late May to early September (passes are snow-bound & mostly closed the rest of the year) then do give consideration to this option. Just MHO as always JB
  6. I must have missed the fact that this was all planned for a single day. And the otherwise-worthwhile suggestion of adding Churchill's War Rooms (yes, just around the corner from Big Ben and Westminster Abbey) compounds that. Yes, Dover castle and Canterbury are more than enough for a single day !! If your time is short you might want to abandon ideas of Dover castle and Canterbury and spend that time in London. In which case also save the expense of guide and car by simply taking a direct train from Dover to a choice of stations in London, drop your bags at the hotel & get out in the afternoon to see the sights. If Dover castle & Canterbury are high on your to-do list and you want to be in London that evening, then a driver or guide as far as Canterbury can make sense because of your luggage - both the hauling and the storage. Then at the end of your visit to Canterbury ( I guess around 5pm) get the driver to drop you at the station (Canterbury East or Canterbury West, depending on train time & preferred London station) for a direct train. Journey time 90 minutes to 2 hours, fare £25.80 per person. If required, add taxi fare from the London station to your hotel. The cost will be massively lower than extending the driver / guide's time taking you to London when it'll be too late in the day for any worthwhile guiding in London, and at that time of day by train is generally much faster than by road. Trains are very very frequent at that time of day, and relatively un-crowded - they're much busier in the opposite direction, taking commuters home from the big bad city. BTW, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Churchill's War Rooms (plus Whitehall, 10 Downing Street, Horseguards Parade, Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, and a host of other sights) are in a compact & easily walkable area. Easy enough to visit independently, or if you wanted a guide there's no need for a car or driver. Plus a London-based guide (especially a blue-badge guide) would be so very much more knowledgeable than a guide based away from London (such as a Dover or Canterbury-based guide) Just my opinion, as always. JB
  7. Approx. 15% is the norm in the UK, and has been for years. You overlook the fact that TAs offer a wide range of cruise lines, so folk can compare offerings in a single physical or on-line visit, and if a cruise line isn't amongst those offerings many prospective cruisers - particularly new cruisers - probably either wouldn't know about that cruise line or wouldn't hunt around the web. In other industries - insurance, utilities, etc - the trend is in broadly the opposite direction. ...... Many providers actually require potential customers to buy through comparison websites in order to get their best prices - that was the case when I changed my gas & electric supplier. My motor insurance is with a company (you'll know which one because of its name) that stresses that it isn't on any comparison sites. It was marginally cheaper (but nothing like 15% cheaper) than the comparison sites, so I reckon that most of the savings by not using agents are spent on their necessarily large TV advertising budget. We always use agents' websites to get the best deals on flights - one-stop shopping, and lower prices than booking direct. Back to cruising..... with most cruise lines (Thomson / Marella is the big exception) we get better prices or perks by asking one agent to improve on another agent's offer, perhaps coming from the agent's commission.. The web is very useful, but the phone is invaluable in getting the best deal. I appreciate that 15% is a big chunk, Gerry, but it's worthwhile to the cruise lines. Their bean-counters aren't daft, if cutting out the middle-man were worthwhile they'd have done it years ago. As others have said, cutting out agents means extra staff and other overheads and that eats into the 15%. Add the increased advertising which would be required, and any savings would be negated. A worthwhile suggestion Gerry, but no cigar JB
  8. If you plan to spend just a few days (up to about 144 hours) in China pre- or post-cruise and you arrive & depart through a limited choice of gateways your visit might qualify as being "in-transit" and therefore visa-free. Very broadly you must arrive from one country (eg fly in from USA) and depart to a different country (eg cruise out with the first port in South Korea), and your travel within China is limited to the (large) area near that Chinese city. The terms are very specific, and if sailing in to a Chinese port you will need to check with the cruise line that they'll permit you to disembark using the 144-hour visa-free exemption. And for a short visit to Hainan Island (eg port-of-call at Sanya) this too can be visa-free, subject to conditions. When asking about visas & such it's always best to quote your nationality because answers are different for different nationalities (mebbe add your location eg city or state or country in your header?) Both of these visa-free options are available to nationals of most countries incl USA, Canada, Aus & most European countries, Visa-free needs checking before relying on it, because circumstances can change. And there's a degree of bureaucracy - but nowhere near the cost or bureaucracy of arranging a tourist visa. JB
  9. We overnited in Jerusalem a few years back, same as you intend. We went to the walled city in the evening - big mistake, it was dead, deserted, everything closed and shuttered. We struggled to find somewhere to eat on the walk back to our hotel. Despite being a jumble of poorly-lit alleyways we didn't feel at all unsafe. Just bored. So unless things have changed (which I doubt), don't make the same mistake - instead perhaps head for the modern city centre, or ask hotel staff. The walled city is vibrant, historic, iconic, and fascinating during the day - but it's very easy to get lost in the maze of alleyways.. We took a free (just tip the guide) walking tour of the walled city, which covered all the important sights. After the tour we explored by ourselves and were totally lost in less than five minutes https://www.neweuropetours.eu/sandemans-tours/jerusalem/free-tour-of-jerusalem/ JB
  10. In the 1940's Queen Mary (the original, now at Long Beach), was known as "The Grey Ghost" due to her wartime grey paintwork when she and her sister Queen Elizabeth were requisitioned as troop-ships. JB
  11. Most ships sail out of Le Havre mid-to-late evening, which mitigates the long journey time to Paris. But by scheduled bus still takes too much time out of your day, and there's the risk of delays in the Paris suburbs and on the peripherique (Paris ring-road). By private transfer carries the same risks of travel delays, and self-drive adds big Paris navigation and parking issues. I wouldn't recommend any of the above. If you want to get to Paris by train........ The direct train service from Le Havre to Paris (St Lazare station) is broadly hourly. There are more trains, but with a change of train at Rouen - connection times vary, but of course add to the journey time and create a complication, so stick to the direct service, for which the journey time is around 2 hrs 15 minutes. Fares vary according to time of day - for a cruiser's timetable the cost out-and-back is around €40. You need to add about 35 minutes walk or taxi fare between ship & Le Havre station. St Lazare station is tolerably in the centre of Paris (eg 20 min walk to the Louvre). But you'd be very wise not to rely on the last suitable train back to Le Havre, so plan to use the second-to-last & leave the last train as a safety net. That takes about an hour out of your time in Paris. By train also means having to use local transport (usually the metro) in Paris because the sights are well-spread. That also will cost you precious time. So, although ships' Paris tours (or their "Paris on your own" transfers) are grossly over-priced and you're herded like cattle, it's one time I'd bite the bullet and consider booking thro the ship. If you DIY and miss the sailing out of Le Havre, the English Channel is a little too cold for swimming to your next port Paris is worth far more than one trunkated day, so a couple of other thoughts....... 1. If you're likely to have the opportunity to visit Paris at some other time in the future, consider putting Paris on the back-burner and instead visit the D-Day beaches and sights (nearest British sights 1hr20 mins, nearest US sights 2hrs, all by road tour or self-drive) , or have a lazy day in the little fishing/tourist port of Honfleur (about 30 minutes from your ship), or rent a car and explore the Normandy countryside & coast. 2. If your next port-of-call is convenient from Paris and not on your bucket-list, consider jumping-ship at Le Havre and catching up at that next port, giving you a longer day plus evening plus morning in Paris. Provided that you seek an OK from them in advance, most cruise lines permit this (NCL apparently don't). You also need to consider the reliability of the next port. JB
  12. Much the same in the UK. People still eat - if not on cruise ships or restaurants or other food service outlets, then they eat at home. Wastages mentioned by other posters are almost-all down to logistics (pickers, drivers, processors) compromised by Covid-19, not to reduced demand. Pubs and restaurants re-opened a couple of weeks back. Limited capacity due to social distancing hasn't been a problem in most establishments, because folk are still wary about dining / drinking out. To kick-start the normalising, tax on catering is down from 20% to 5%. And for August the govt is subsidising 50% of the check - the customer pays 50%, the establishment gets the other 50% from the govt. Sadly that doesn't include alcohol sales JB
  13. TESCO ~ Important Covid-19 notice JB
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