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John Bull

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  1. An old adage oft repeated on this forum........ Write down how much cash you need and how much luggage you need. Then double the amount of cash (plastic now makes that less-important), and halve the amount of luggage. Very much as per the hints from Kate, Janie & others on this thread. If you insist on bringing more than fits in the usual 1 x checked + 1 x carry-on, add another case rather than switch to a bigger one. About 50lbs max per case - the crew have to haul your bags in and out of elevators and along narrow and convoluted corridors. You will have to store your bags in your cabin. Under the bed is normal. If it's a hard-shell case, in order to fit it'll need to be stored open but that also makes it useful for storing stuff that you don't need frequently. X-ray machines shore-side or on the ship are similar to those at airports. Carry-on luggage which doesn't fit is very unpopular but normally accepted, but you face the wrath of those waiting in line behind you while security go thro the contents. Most folk are aboard well before their cabins are available - bear in mind that you'll have to look after your carry-on until you have access to your cabin. Keep on your person or in your carry-on ............. travel documents, cash, valuables, medications, at least one change of clothes (in case your checked bag turns up late at your cabin or goes AWOL), and pool-side / swimming stuff if you hope to take a dip soonest. And anything fragile (eg bottles of booze) or formal clothes - longshoremen are not known for their gentle touch. There are proprietary products which will help remove travel creases. Or use your cabin's shower as a mini-steamroom by hanging shirts etc on hangers from the pull-out line across the shower cubicle - ten minutes with the curtain across & the shower on hot usually does the trick. No, folk aren't interested in the brand of your luggage, sturdiness is way more important than brand. But if it concerns you, distress your bags & paste on a few appropriate luggage labels - now you're a traveller, not a tourist. JB
  2. I decided to stop being lazy, checked the name on Googlemaps, it's Tanger Med (that's not a typo). And yes, very much for those with their own vehicles JB
  3. The pinch-point for cruisers is getting from the tender pier up to Fira (and back down again), because the alternatives are very limited.. Last season Celebrity trialed tendering all passengers to the ferry port at Athinos, where those on ship-sponsored excursionists of all (?) cruise ships are usually tendered because the road comes down to the sea. Other ships could offer the same as an option (mebbe with a payable shuttle-bus service from Athinos to Fira), and that would considerably ease the bottleneck. Offering tenders to Athinos would not, however, ease the crowds in either Fira or Oia - which are busy and would be more than a little difficult to comply with social distancing, but there are several factors to bear in mind..... 1. I doubt there'll be any cruises calling at Santorini or elsewhere in Europe this season (and that has the knock-on effect of reducing crowding for other holidaymakers). 2. There's little demand or supply for cruisers or other holiday-makers during winter months, so I don't see a potential problem until next season. 3. Social distancing in Greece has been reduced to "1.5 metres where practical". By next season it might be down to one metre - or even abandoned. In the past four months Europe has seen the virus arrive, peak, and decline. There's ten months before next season's influx, mebbe there'll be a winter spike, mebbe there'll be a reliable, affordable & widely-available vaccine, mebbe the virus will have mutated to pretty harmless or disappear. Cruising can't respond as quickly as other vacations, so cruise lines would need to be fairly confident several months ahead. But who knows? (that's not the same as "WHO knows") JB
  4. Moth-balling, yes. But the breakers' yards? Upkeep is pricey, but scrapping super-expensive ships is much more costly. And if (perhaps that should read "when") a cruise line goes belly-up, there'll be buyers - at knock-down prices perhaps, but way above scrap value. Mebbe for some different purpose. Floating hotels, fixed or transient. Accommodation for universities, big building projects, trade fairs & such. Or even conversion of the hull and the oily bits for some type of commercial vessel. Lots of options ahead of the cutting torch. Queen Mary - currently in financial troubles solely because of the upkeep due to her age - has been kept in service for decades after she tied-up for the last time. Ditto - after years of squabbling - QE11. JMHO as always. JB
  5. It's worth checking whether 7am is the time for arrival or for gangway cleared for landing. And I'm presuming that for a 7pm sailing, the latest back-on-board time will be 6.30pm. I doubt HMS Victory worth the travel time / cost - if you're in England again it's simpler and better to visit from either Southampton or London. But if you're still keen .............................. Your ship will dock in Portland Harbour. It's a secure port (Royal Navy), no taxis on-spec at the port, you need to fix any transportation in advance. Your ship will likely offer an excursion to Bath and another to Stonehenge (both involve a long coach ride). It won't be offering an excursion to Portsmouth. It will also offer a shuttlebus between ship and Weymouth, 4 to 5 miles, 10-15 minutes. If you want to go to Portsmouth you'd need to take ship's shuttlebus to Weymouth then a 20 minute walk to Weymouth rail station. Hourly train service to Portsmouth Harbour station (£40 round-trip) involves a change of train (very simple same-platform change) at Southampton Central, total journey time 2 hrs 30 outbound and 2 hrs 45 return. Portsmouth Harbour station is less than a 5-minute walk from the Historic Dockyard (HMS Victory and so much more). https://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/ Using the current train timetable for monday thru saturday, and assuming the first shuttlebus from Portland to be about 8am you should have no problem making the 9.20am train and you'd be at the Historic Dockyard just before noon. But you'd need to leave Portsmouth Harbour station on the 3.23pm train, again a same-platform change at Southampton Central, then take a taxi from Weymouth station to the ship in order to be back at the ship by 6.30pm, but you have no wiggle-room for any delays. So you'd have only about 3 hours in the Historic Dockyard - time enough for HMS Victory but precious little else. https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ You could pre-book a local taxi to meet you at Portland harbour gate (only a short walk from the ship) to take you to Weymouth station, which should allow you to catch the train an hour earlier. That would give you another hour at the Historic Dockyard, or more wisely allow you to return an hour earlier giving you wiggle-room for any delays getting back to the ship. Alternatively book a local taxi service for the day to take you the approx 85 miles to Portsnouth & to bring you back. Drive-time is about 1 hour 45 minutes. An 8am start would see you at the Historic Dockyard before 10 am, and a 4 pm return would allow wiggletime for the journey back to Portland. - hence about 6 hours in the Historic Dockyard. I'll hazard a guess at about £250, with the chance of halving that if you find sharers via your cruise RollCall. You don''t want to rent a car, but its not practical anyway because there are no rental agencies convenient to the ship or the shuttlebus drop-point, and that would eat into your time. And rental fee would be in the order of £50 (the suspiciously low charge quoted by the agency linked by Bob is the daily rate for a minimum 7-day rental), plus hefty chunks for zero insurance excess and fuel. For taxis in Portland / Weymouth, and alternative ideas for your day, browse these threads https://boards.cruisecritic.com/search/?q=Portland&quick=1&type=forums_topic&nodes=148 JB
  6. By ferry from Algeciras isn't the way to go, even if you're lodging in Gib or the Spanish costas. Some years ago, the Algeciras ferries switched from porting in Tangier to a purpose-built port (called Port Mediterranea or somesuch), in the middle of nowhere and about an hour from Tangier. Shuttlebus from the port to Tangier is included in the ticket, but the journey time plus waiting time & getting to & from the bus stop in Tangier takes 3 hours or more out of your day. The fast-ferry from Tangier is the way to do it - berths close to the port gate, Souk, etc in the heart of Tangier. And for little more than the cost of the ferry ticket you can book a day-trip which includes a coach from the Spanish resorts (but not from - or near - Gib), a walking guide in Tangier (you need a guide to ward off the wannabe guides in the port), a reasonable lunch, and a coach trip which takes in sights outside the city. But from a 9-hour port stop in Gib, it's not an economical use of time or money JB
  7. I'm in the same camp as cruisemom - the itinerary is more important than the ship. But while Covid is still a significant risk, we'll skip cruising entirely and do our exploration by land - much less risk of being quarantined, refused at ports etc, and we'll have more flexibility to change our plans as we go rather than the captain's choice from very limited options. JB
  8. John Bull

    Vietnam Visas

    Like every other cruise line that I'm aware of, Celebrity will indeed provide "visas" for Vietnamese ports - issued on the ship and to all nationalities. Same applies to Cambodia (Sihanoukville). You might be asked to provide a couple of passport-size photos, but no need to do anything else ahead of your cruise. The cost will be added to your on-board account, it's not expensive - one or two cruise lines cream their passengers ($50+), but Celebrity has always charged somewhere around $10. The one "visa" is good for all Vietnamese ports. The reason I've put "visas" in inverted commas is that they're not "visas" in the true sense of the word - they're "landing cards". They do the same job as tourist visas, except that they're only for arriving & departing on the ship - if for instance you join or leave the cruise at a Vietnamese port or take a side-trip to Siem Reap (Cambodia) you will need a pukka tourist visa. You also need a tourist visa if you overnite in a hotel (eg overnite in Saigon instead of returning to the ship, or take an overnite trip from Halong Bay to Hanoi). But Brits do not need tourist visas for Vietnam, hence no need either a landing card or a visa. Celebrity ships' crews are aware of this, so shouldn't issue a card or charge your on-board account. A few other nationalities might not need visas, but unless things have changed that doesn't include Canadians or Americans. If you want to get confirmation from Celebrity you'll need to go beyond reservations staff, who deal with all nationalities and all destinations so can't be expected to know the ins and outs of visas, inoculation requirements, etc. Some reservation staff give such matters their best guess , others will check with a more-knowledgeable department or at least admit that they don't know. Great part of the world for cruising, and you're not going a minute too soon - SE Asia is rapidly westernising. With the exception of Cambodia - which is stuck somewhere between the 18th & 19th century JB
  9. This information from a visit several years ago ...... I'll add my voice to those saying it's best to visit the Vasa first. It gets very busy, and after about 10.30 you'll have to join a line to enter (one out, one in). The regular ho-ho boats operate in a clockwise direction. If you're berthed at Stadsgarden, the ho-ho boat goes via a couple of stops on Gamla Stan, Nybrokajen, etc before Vasa, which is almost the last stop before the boats complete their circuit - BUT early to mid-morning they also operate boats direct from the berth to Vasa, taking only about 10 minutes. I THINK you can buy just a one-way ticket Stadsgarden-to-Vasa without having to buy an all-day hop-on/off ticket. Enquire of the ho-ho staff at the berth. If you're berthed at Frihamnen I feel sure there'll be a local bus which will take you most of the way. BTW, Dogs4 mentions that Vasa is on an "island" - but it's just a few yards off-shore & connected by a bridge. It's just like a river or harbour crossing. It's about a 25 minute walk between Vasa and the Royal Armories https://goo.gl/maps/fME9vuPrGXQ3bVi47 This info from a few years ago, things may have changed JB
  10. Not an "indefinite" ban - they merely have yet to set an end-date. https://www.worldofcruising.co.uk/travel-to-spain-cruise-ship-ban-extended/ (no pay-wall) JMHO but it could be until the 2021 season. JB
  12. Thanks for the info.👍 Yep - sounds like anti-cruise ship rather than anti-water usage. JB
  13. In the UK we've been through a period of homes being fitted with water meters rather than charges being based on the size of the property - they want to make sure we pay for every drop, even though my apartment is quite a lot smaller than a cruise ship. Don't ALL ports meter the water supplied to ships? They can set their own rates, with high rates in places where there's a water shortage. If the shore rate is too high, can't ships simply use their own? Hopefully you'll know the answer to this - when sailing overnight, do they have the capability to make enough water to see them through the next day in port? Nowhere does the article claim that Majorca has a water shortage - which is surely the only reason why there should be grief over cruise ships' water consumption. Otherwise selling water to cruise ships is good business. So I'm inclined to agree with Babs - unless they overlooked mentioning water shortage, this is quite possibly the Majorca Daily Bulletin not wanting cruise ships for a variety of reasons and using the water as a tool. As did some who commented on the article. JB
  14. Sorry for not replying sooner, folks - I keep forgetting about this thread up in the stickies. Plenty of car rental agencies near the port, incl Hertz, National, Europcar, Alamo, Enterprise. With luggage best to take a 2 to 5 minute (£7 to £10) cab ride from any cruise terminal. Do check their hours, some don't open on sundays. But Avis is the odd-one-out - their Southampton depot is out of the city at Southampton airport, a 20 minute (£20 to£25) cab ride away. Its one small advantage is that it's close to the motorway system, so no city driving at the start. --------------------------------------------------------------- There are no buses to Southampton from St Pancras. National Express buses leave from London Victoria coach station. Choice of a 4-mile 20-minute taxi ride from St Pancras (£20-£25?) or there a direct tube route (Victoria line) then 10 minute walk from Victoria tube station to Victoria coach station. Nat Express buses are excellent value at about £10 to Southampton, journey time about 2hrs 15 mins. Direct trains to Southampton from London Waterloo. No direct tube line from St Pancras, it involves one change. Or a taxi, £15 - £20? for the 3.5 mile ride. There are a couple of potential problems in using public transport..... Unless it's a weekend, an arrival at St Pancras at 5pm puts you right in the middle of commuter time. That makes the tube to Victoria a bit of a challenge with luggage, and I'd be even more wary of the tube to Waterloo because of having to change tube trains. Also, commuter-time traffic might add to a taxi fare - London's cabs are charged by both time and distance. Nat Express buses to Southampton are infrequent and if your Eurostar is late, or your cross-London slow, you might have a long wait for the next bus. And altho pre-booking the Nat Express isn't a requirement it's strongly advised - and your booking can't be transferred to a later bus. Vaguely similar with the trains from Waterloo. About 3 trains per hour, journey time about 90 minutes, no requirement to pre-book, so that all looks good. But the walk-up fare is about £40, so 2 x train plus 1 x taxi takes the cost toward that of a simple door-to-door private transfer. From about 8 weeks out you can buy advance train tickets for as little as £12 - £15, but those tickets are only good for the train that you book - miss that train and your advance tickets are trash & you'll have to pay the walk-up fare for the next one. That's fine for folk lodging in London, but you are dependent on Eurostar and crossing central London during commuter-time. A private transfer resolves those problems - at a cost. Some transfer operators charge waiting time if your train is late, some don't. The cost for the drive is fixed - if there's traffic grief it won't cost you extra. The £160 you've been quoted is at the upper end of reasonable, but it might have been loaded because of the time of day. Can I suggest you get quotes from Smiths for Airports, West Quay Cars and Aquacars (all based in Southampton) and Blackberry Cars (London-based) - all are recommended by Cruise Critic members, see earlier posts for links. Remember to check if there's a waiting time charge should Eurostar be late. Hopefully those quotes will be a little lower, and the experiences of CC members give you confidence in them. Altho some cruise lines offer transfers to / from St Pancras, that's only on the morning of sailing-day. It's a difficult one - pros & cons with all choices. JB
  15. You'll know that 3* Premier Inn prices are friendly on the pocket, but you'll need deeper pockets for 4* Novotel - for any food or drink at the hotel as well as the room rate. That said, the facilities at Novotel are superior (eg it has a pool) and I rate the value-for-money about the same. Novotel is more convenient for the train station, Premier Inn West Quay more convenient for the shops, pubs, restaurants & the city's few historic sights. But it's only a 10-minute walk between the two, so not a major factor. If one is offering promotional rates for your dates, perhaps choose that one. But IMHO you'll not be disappointed with either. JB
  16. True - tho it's actually "North American residents" - so includes Canadians, and Brits (& other non-US citizens) with a US address. Applies to some but not all US cruise lines. To get round that stipulation, some folk use the address of friends or relatives in North America and some US agents use their own address. I've not heard of that giving anyone a big problem, but that's not to say it hasn't, or won't, happen. That policy was adopted by cruise lines some years ago, I'm not up-to-date whether it's still relevant JB
  17. That sounds very much like the arrangements with the horse-drawn buggies. No problem getting one to take you down, and silly-cheap too,because demand to go down is low - they mostly go down empty. They make their money bringing folk back up, for which demand - and cost - is much much higher. But I don't know about the golf-carts, which have been introduced since we were last there. BTW, we too try to avoid ships' excursions.............................. For Petra we negotiated a price outside the port, way cheaper than ship's coaches even though we were only two. But the entrance fee for Petra (included with ships' tours) was - un-beknown to us - very very high . Taking that into account our trip worked out about two dollars cheaper than ship's, and ship's included a sumptuous buffet lunch whereas ours included a dubious-looking muddy cup of roadside coffee . Some you win, some you lose If you search this forum you'll find that plenty of folk have happily gone to Petra on a pre-booked private excursion (incl excursions shared with others on their RollCall). Some have even managed both Petra & Wadi Rum in one excursion - Wadi Rum is just 12 easy miles off the route to Petra. But if you're quoted a transfer-only price for Petra, do check the admission price before deciding. Probably Wadi Rum would be cheaper by ship's excursion, plus in your case the availability of a cab seat in the 4x4. And the grief of large coach groups (yes, I know what you mean) only applies to the transfers there and back - and no chance of folk wandering off or getting lost. JB
  18. I'm a local, but don't know Blue Keys. It's in a reasonably quiet residential area between the city centre and the Common (huge park). A 15 - 20 minute walk to the nearest part of the city centre, more like 30 minutes (or a taxi ride) to the best-known restaurant areas of West Quay, Town Quay or Oxford Street. So not a convenient location, but I don't know the hotel itself. The city centre hotels, including the three Premier Inns as mentioned by Wowzz (Premier Inn West Quay is also convenient to cruise terminals & very popular with cruisers), are on the thumbnail map at the bottom of the page on https://www.londontoolkit.com/travel/southampton_accommodation.htm Not trying to put you off Blue Keys cos I don't know it, but it's some distance north of that map - and I think they have a cancellation policy with 48 hours notice. JB
  19. Hi Terry, My, you do like to travel in comfort. That's a whole lot better than the long walk down (and especially up) the siq, and a lot safer than the two-wheel buggies. Much needed for those with walking difficulties. Can be hired on-the-spot, like the buggies? And fixed price or bargaining? Hi Windsor. You say "not Wadi Rum". There's certainly no significant walking involved - you travel to Wadi Rum by car or van or tour bus - it's easiest and not overly expensive to do it as a ship-sponsored excursion. At Wadi Rum you transfer to 4 x 4 vehicles to drive across the high desert past Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", with a number of interesting stops including a nomadic village. The 4 x 4 jeeps have open backs with about 6 - 8 to each jeep - it can be a bit of a climb into the back of the jeep, but you can alternatively travel in the cab alongside the driver. Folk much prefer to be in the open back, so no problem if you do it as a ship's excursion (probably six or seven jeeps per bus-load, and no more than a couple of cab seats taken), or as a private tour. There aren't many options besides Petra & Wadi Rum .................. Aqaba is pretty grubby and uninteresting. You can get a day pass into the Movenpick resort hotel, but that's not really "Jordan" The Dead Sea is further than Petra, but those who've done ship's excursions there rate it unworthy of the cost or time. Best to leave the Dead Sea til another time, on the Israeli bank and coupled with Herod's Castle near Ein Gedi or the Dead Sea Scrolls or Jerusalem. The sites of Sodom and Gomorrah are reputedly on the Lisan Peninsula close to the southern end of the Dead Sea, but I doubt there's anything to actually see. Aqaba is only about 6 miles from the Israeli border crossing and a further 3 miles to the Israeli resort town of Eilat. But it's not a simple drive - taxis can't cross the border, you have to walk across & hope there's another taxi on the other side. I've not mentioned it to you as worthy of consideration, more to put you on your guard if you were thinking of doing it. Not impossible, but you'd need to fix it up in advance. You'd also need to check whether Israeli immigration officers stamp a piece of paper to put with your passport (as they do at Israeli ports) or stamp your passport (which could cause you problems in some middle-eastern countries. Do re-consider Petra in view of Terry's update, or Wadi Rum (which is great, but not iconic like Petra) JB
  20. Pretty-well all the major cruise lines offer cruises which end up at the start point, in fact I'd say that's the majority of cruises . And I know that includes sailings out of Sydney. But we prefer one-way cruises, for much the same reasons as Flatbush. (except instead of bizclass flights it's cattle-class ) We also used to enjoy the "Grand Voyages" of now-defunct Voyages of Discovery, which meandered around the globe like a tramp, rarely repeating a port for up to a year. You could book segments of 2-3 weeks, much like legs of a Round-the-World. We once managed about 5 weeks, but met folk who'd been on the ship since our previous cruise on her. A budget cruise line, elderly ship, visited off-beat ports and well within our pockets. Sadly, yet to find an equivalent. JB
  21. As dentists start seeing customers at last .............................. JB
  22. There'll be few knowledgeable Paris guides based in Le Havre, and because of the parking difficulties in central Paris you'll be poorly served by a driver/guide who will mainly have to stay with his/her vehicle and unable to join you on inside visits. Best bet for a guided tour from Le Havre is to book a vehicle plus driver from Le Havre, and separately book a Paris-based guide to meet you in Paris. Driver & guide can then co-ordinate where to drive and where to drop you for inside visits and collect you afterwards. This gives you a very wide choice of Paris guides, and you're only paying for the guide's time in Paris & not the four to five hours driving time. Alternatively take the train to Paris and book a guide to meet you a Paris St Lazare station. You can then tour Paris with your guide by metro, bus and waterbus. With both options you can seek sharers via your ship's RollCall - a shared van & meeting your guide in Paris more than negates the cost of having both a driver and a guide. JB
  23. The in-port times quoted by Miaminice are pretty typical - half-day followed by full day, or full day followed by half-day. One difference - 10pm is a much later departure time than most . That's likely to allow for either a decent amount of time in Hanoi for the long drive (3.5hrs each-way), or a combo of Halong Bay cruise on day one and a long day-trip to Hanoi (6 hrs+ in the city, much like the available time in the city on most overnites). For us, seven hours in a bus is too long to visit a city of limited interest. So the first afternoon we banded together with others on the ship to fix up, for the next day, two junks to sail amongst the limestone karsts of Halong Bay - one group settled for 4 hours, the rest of us for 6 hours. It's also possible to share an overnite junk. Halong Bay is magical - away from the crowds sailing thro the surreal watery moonscape. The weather is usually fine but misty - elsewhere mist detracts from enjoyment, but here it simply adds to the eeriness. Phahg Nga Bay in Thailand is the only place we've been which compares. Book a junk privately, ideally with about a dozen others. Ship-sponsored junk cruises will fill junks to capacity - about 30 to 40 people. And don't go for less than four hours - a two hour cruise achieves little more than sailing across the open bay before reaching the karsts in the most crowded part. Junks don't sail in the dark - they're back (or, for overnites, they're moored) well before 6pm. Most folk have to choose between Halong Bay junk cruise or Hanoi. But with your late sailaway you also have the choice of a decent junk cruise on day one AND a decent Hanoi day-trip on day two. There are pros & cons for all three of those options. If you choose to go to Hanoi (overnite or day-trip), I'd recommend ship's tour. We generally avoid ship-sponsored excursions, but Hanoi is a long way on busy, sometimes congested, roads. And tourism is still in its infancy. We found that a tour of Halong City was a complete waste of a couple of hours. But members have posted that they enjoyed countryside tours from Halong, so that's another option for your first afternoon. All MHO as always JB
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