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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. The risk of a significant delay from LHR or LGW to Southampton is very very low. Most trans-Atlantic flights arrive at LHR or LGW before noon, leaving very decent wiggle-time for any delay travelling to Southampton (about 90 minutes from LHR or 2 hrs from LGW , excluding delays). The vast majority of folk living in London and beyond travel down to Southampton on sailing day. And apart from very occasionally lodging near the airport for a flight at daft o'clock in the morning, we travel from the Southampton area to LHR or LGW on the day of our flight. The risk of a flight delay is greater, but still low for a direct flight. For a US ship, many hundreds (mostly from N America) take the cruise line's sail-day transfer from LHR or LGW to Southampton, and it's a fair bet that the vast majority of them have booked their own flights rather than cruise-air. Add those who make their own same-day travel arrangements from airport to ship and that's a significant proportion of the ship's passengers who fly in same-day. I don't see threads about folk missing sailings from Southampton. So I'm with Bob - the risks are over-played, and even flying in a day earlier won't entirely negate them. But if work commitments etc allow, giving yourselves that extra day will make it easier to sleep in the days ahead (especially after reading this thread ) and give you the opportunity to sample the attractions o Southampton or the surrounding area, or a couple of days or more will allow pre-cruise time in London. Just MHO as always JB
  2. Well-spotted, Simon. But cheapish pre-booked train tickets are still available...... from the operator, South-West Trains http://tickets.southwesternrailway.com but I find the National Rail website much easier to use. https://www.nationalrail.co.uk Pre-booked tickets are available from about 6 weeks out. Those cheap tickets (£15 on a random mid-October date) are only good for the train time that you booked - miss it and you'll have to pay full fare (around £44) for the next train JB
  3. Agreed. People generally accept chip--and-sign. Machines generally don't - same as many US gas pumps won't accept without a zip-code. You'll get by without chip-and-PIN, but since you're in the market for a card, I suggest that you get one with. JB
  4. Details on the Gib port website https://www.gibraltarport.com/schedules Port websites are (almost) always more reliable than independent websites like cruise-mapper, crew-center, cruisett, etc. A large proportion of visitors are day-trippers who arrive by the coachload from the resorts of the Costa Del Sol. But November is a quiet month for those resorts JB
  5. Aqaba to the Dead Sea resort used by most cruise lines is about 3 hours (170 miles) e/w - over an hour more than to Petra. (77 miles). Haven't done it - but ship-mates weren't impressed. Essentially a resort hotel with private Dead Sea frontage. We have since visited the Dead Sea on the Israeli side - very much more worthwhile. Two-day port-of-call at Ashdod, rented a car, drove the Negev Desert Masada fort, bathed in the Dead Sea-, overnight in Jerusalem, walled city am, back to the ship pm. Yes, there's a fair bit of walking at Petra, and some of the ground is uneven. But the only strenuous part is the walk back up the siq - about 1/2 mile of the one-mile walk back to the buses. There are two-wheel, two-passenger horse-drawn buggies available to get you up the siq, not cheap but the price varies according to how busy they are, and how gullible or knackered you look. If I can't persuade you, to change your mind about Petra, go to Wadi Rum. 40 miles & something under an hour from Aqaba). At the visitor centre (not much to see there, but an opportunity to use the rest-rooms, buy a drink etc). Here you change to 4x4 trucks (begging pardon, make that 4x4 utes), about 6 to 8 in the open back plus a seat next to the driver for the physically unfit but usually empty. Usual routine is across the high desert to Lawrence of Arabia's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, weaving between bluffs, a few interesting stops here and there, ending at a tented encampment of Arabic nomads. (if the truth be told, they're probably no more nomadic than you or I, and are there for tourists - but still good fun). About two hours in the desert IIRC, Then back the the visitor centre & return on the bus. We did it as an afternoon ship's excursion. I guess it can be done privately but you'd need a group of about six - including one expert haggler. Some energetic posters on Cruise Critic have squeezed Petra and Wadi Rum into one round-trip (Wadi Rum is a few miles offf the road to Petra). Doesn't sound like you - or me. . But we've done the Wadi Rum excursion twice on cruises ! JB
  6. Or fly from LAX to Ireland, road trip ending in Dublin, fly Dublin direct to Southampton (or ferry plus train costs time but you'd get a taste of Wales), cruise out of Southampton, jump-ship on the last full day of the cruise in Le Havre, explore the D-Day sights, Paris & Disneyland Paris, fly home to LAX from Paris. That'd be the most economical on your time & pocket. Direct open-jaw return fares from LAX start at around $1398, or $450 with one aircraft change each-way JB
  7. Sorry, can't help with that. If you don't get any worthwhile replies, mebbe start a new thread with "Oman visas" as the heading JB Edit. Oops, you already did
  8. There's very little difference between those cruises - or indeed any of Crown Princess' British Isles cruises during the season. Main difference is that some visit Portland (England's south coast), others visit Kirkwall (Orkney Isles, north from Scotland.) May and September are shoulder seasons, and although you can never predict the weather in the UK (here on the south coast we're currently experiencing an Indian Summer, those months are less likely to be good weather than mid-summer. And, again its by no means always the case, but the weather in the south is generally far better than in Scotland. So if circumstances dictate those months, I'd be inclined to pick Portland over Kirkwall. And altho these are quoted as British Isles cruises, there are no Welsh ports, or any ports accessible to Wales. And they're remarkably light on English ports - just Southampton plus sometimes Portland. I think that to a degree the cruise lines reckon most folk board in Southampton and will spend some time pre-cruise or post-cruise in London or elsewhere in England. Since you' boarding in Le Havre, that's not possible for you - another reason for choosing Portland over Kirkwall. You'll still have 2 or 3 Scottish ports. BTW - Stonehenge is very much closer (32 miles vs 62) and easier by road or rail from Southampton rather than from Portland. It's also cheap & easy to DIY by taking the train from Southampton to Salisbury (half-hourly service, 35 minutes, about £11 return fare) and the ho-ho from Salisbury station to Stonehenge. Subject to ship's hours in port, you should also have time to look round Salisbury's historic city centre & magnificent cathedral http://www.thestonehengetour.info/ There's plenty to see much closer to Portland, altho other than ship's shuttle to the Victorian seaside resort of Weymouth you'd need a tour. One other thought - if you have the time both pre-cruise and post-cruise. .......... Book air to London and back from Paris - book as "multi-city" (aka "open-jaw" ) return flights, and book the cruise to start in Southampton. Spend a few days in London pre-cruise. Arrange with Princess to leave the ship at its last port-of-call, Le Havre, (Princess do allow this)rather than completing the cruise next day in Southampton, spend post-cruise time in Paris and fly home from there. Just MHO as always JB
  9. You need to change your T/A. Or your cruise line. I doubt that Ashland's $6 is out-of-date. The cost of a visa on-board is somewhere under $15 but as Bpos' post, Princess fleece their passengers somewhere around $50. (I'm not anti- anti-Princess, for instance their transfers London or its airports to Southampton are significantly cheaper than other cruise lines). Visas provided on-board are not regular tourist visas - they're only good for arriving and departing on the ship. So for instance someone planning a mid-cruise visit to Siem Reap (Cambodia) & catching up with the ship on Vietnam would need a full tourist visa. But any cruise line providing a ship-bought Vietnam visa only for those taking ship's tours is something I've not heard of. Either this is a new policy, or your T/A has got it wrong. Phoning Princess from Turkey may be expensive, but an e-mail should do the trick. BTW, I think (I haven't checked) that Princess' $55 is about the same cost as a regular govt-issued Vietnam tourist visa for Americans - probably the reason Princess hit on that figure. So by providing visas only for those on ship's excursions would be shooting themselves in the foot - passengers could get a full govt-issued tourist visa and no worries about having to take ship's excursions. Net loss to Princess of about $49 per independent passenger. So I suspect that your TA has provided duff information. (No Vietnam visa needed for Brits ) JB
  10. From the Nat Express coach station to the Premier Inn West Quay is an easy level walk of about 1/3rd of a mile, about 6 to 7 minutes. https://goo.gl/maps/GpFFQE3ZEttnUNtm6 JB
  11. Freeport seems to be winning this competition hands-down. I've never been there, and this thread has made sure that I won't. The only two ports in the Caribbean that I'd counsel against are La Guaira, Venezuela and Colon, Panama. We're not risk-averse, but we rate both dangerous - and the experiences of others on those cruises bear this out. La Guaira (and Isla Margarita, which we liked) seem to have disappeared from cruise itineraries - they were always cheap places for ship's fuel but I guess that the politics and unrest have taken their toll. Awful port, but a worthwhile ship's excursion to Caracas. Colon is aptly-named. Police turned back those who wandered away from the port area, passengers who took a shuttle to the city centre caught the next shuttle back, a cycling excursion was attacked & had to be rescued by the police. But convenient for ship's excursion thro' the Canal by local boat. Had a 2-week land vacation in Jamaica (Runaway Bay). Out & about exploring by open jeep most days. Felt a little uncomfortable a couple of times, but IMHO Jamaica isn't as bad as its reputation. Ditto South Africa. In much of the world local hawkers can be too persistent, but not a big deal. Can't think of any ports that weren't worth visiting (even La Guaira or Colon, because they're gateways to much better), but there are plenty where I wouldn't choose to live. JB
  12. Corby has commented about the number of junks, and that has perhaps created misconceptions - so for balance I'll post about our trip around 6 years ago. Clo's "15 junks or less at the cave" mirrors ours On our first afternoon in Halong Bay, a dozen of us who'd hooked up during the cruise negotiated with a tout at the tender jetty for a six-hour junk cruise for the next day. Crossing the open bay took about 40 minutes, yes there were quite a lot of junks 'though nothing like the numbers mentioned by Corby. But we'd heard about the crowds at the cave, so we went right past and sailed in amongst the limestone karsts. Within a few minutes we were alone, and from then until the sail back we hardly saw another junk. It was misty - very common in Halong Bay. Whereas elsewhere mist might spoil a trip, in the eerie silent watery moonscape of Halong Bay it actually added to the surreal experience. The important factor - and judging by Corby's comment even more important now - is that a two hour cruise won't give you that experience. And if you do it on a ship-sponsored cruise your junk (same size as the one we had for 12) will have 40 or more passengers. You need a 4-hour cruise bare minimum, 6 is better, or 8 hours if your ship's itinerary allows it. Or if you really want to push the boat out, an overnight cruise. Like most ships visiting Halong Bay, we were there for a day & a half (or more accurately in our case, a half day and a day). The main choices are (1) a worthwhile overnight trip to Hanoi or (2) a decent junk cruise or (3) a combo of a two-hour junk cruise plus a rushed tour to Hanoi. Hanoi is about 3 hours e/w by road - if we'd decided to do that it's one of the rare occasions that we'd take a ship-sponsored overnight tour. We're glad that we opted for a decent junk cruise. I'd counsel against the combo - Hanoi involves a long bus ride for the short time there and the 2-hour cruise won't do justice to Halong Bay. Just my own experience and MHO as always JB
  13. That was the case for us too JB
  14. But that's not the case for Cambodia or Vietnam. When we've cruised to Cambodia & Vietnam the visas have been provided on the ship & the cost charged to our on-board account - and I've read the same for many many other cruisers on many other cruise lines who've commented on Cruise Critic. The cost of the visas are pretty nominal, under $10 a-piece though some cruise lines (Princes the most-guilty) have charged up to $50. No obligation to take a ship's tour or private tour, in both countries you can just walk off the ship & do your own thing. One ship-issued visa for Vietnam covers all Vietnamese ports. You might be asked to provide two passport-size photos - reports on that are mixed. These are not regular tourist visas, they're only good for arriving & leaving by ship - so no good for breaking your cruise to visit Angkor Wat.. And I don't think you can stay overnight in a hotel with those visas - anyone planning to overnight in Saigon or Hanoi for instance, needs to check that out. From a few years back, Brits have not needed a tourist visa for Vietnam (even for flying in) - most cruise lines are aware of that & don't charge Brit cruisers. JB
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