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  #1  
Old December 27th, 2013, 04:25 PM
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My wife and I have only been on ocean cruises and never really considered a river cruise. But the Christmas Markets cruises have been recommended and we want to make this trip in Dec 2014.
I have looked at all of the RC companies for costs over 8/9/days and all in all it averages around $3000 per person without airfare. There was one company Grand Circle Cruises who were well below that average?
Knowing what we have paid for our ocean cruises with longer itineraries, the costs for a RC seem a lot higher.

I was wondering if others who have done both types of cruising could point out the benefits of paying more for the RC than we would have normally paid for ocean cruises, and why there is a big difference from all the others to GCT?

Thanks
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  #2  
Old December 27th, 2013, 04:39 PM
Barrheadlass Barrheadlass is offline
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I just returned less than 2 weeks ago from "Christmas on the Seine" with GCT.
One huge difference is GCT has "murphy beds" that fold down from the wall. During the day there are very small couches below to sit on. I have also cruised twice with Uniworld, which was significantly more expensive, as you mention. It all depends on what is important to you. Want total luxury and everything included? Choose Tauck. I didn't see a big difference in food when comparing GCT and Uniworld. However, our Uniworld cruises had balconies and French balconies, GCT has neither. There were 105 people on my Seine cruise, 72 of the passengers had traveled with GCT at least 3 times (including me). They certainly aren't as fancy, but they do have their market. I should also mention that I found the murphy beds very comfortable and could not tell the difference from a regular bed. I think if I were you I'd choose something like Uniworld or AMA for my first cruise, as I did...have a wonderful time. If you use the search option, you'll find LOTS of comparisons of the various cruise lines. Edited to add: the river cruises include wine with dinner, some companies also include it at lunch. Lots of walking tours are included. Gratuities are more on river cruises, and we found the suggested gratuities were totally in line with the service we received.

Last edited by Barrheadlass; December 27th, 2013 at 04:42 PM.
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  #3  
Old December 27th, 2013, 05:15 PM
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The reason all river cruises cost more than ocean cruises is that river ships have only 100-200 passengers. Dis-economies of (small) scale.

It's difficult to compare river and ocean cruises, because they are as different as Caribbean resorts from ocean cruises. Some people who love ocean cruising also love river cruises, because they appreciate both types of travel. Other ocean cruise lovers hate river cruising. [We love both, but would hate being stuck at a Caribbean resort for two weeks. YMMV]

So what do we love about river cruising that makes it worthwhile paying so much?
• the small ship environment means you get to know lots of people, and if you're lucky you get to know some people really well
• as with ocean cruising, you unpack once for the entire cruise
• there is no risk of seasickness
• the food is usually tailored to match the countries you're cruising through [quality of the food may vary with the cruise line - you get what you pay for]
• wine and beer is free (and freely poured) at meals [quality of the wine varies with cruise line - and the most expensive lines include alcohol at all times]
• shore excursions are free [or most are free - again it varies with the cruise line]
• the Cruise Director (aka Program Director) will be a constant and personal presence throughout the cruise, handling all the details and able to respond quickly to requests and problems
• the itineraries are places that you can't visit on an ocean cruise (except via a long bus ride) and cover a region in depth
• in many cases the ship docks right at the edge of town and stays late or overnight so you can walk in on your own


What might be a problem with river cruising?
• the small ship environment means you can't avoid obnoxious people, especially if they are in an obnoxious group
• the ships have relatively few public spaces, so there's not much chance to find a quiet spot to be alone (except your cabin)
• the cabins tend to be smaller than on ocean ships, and there are few real balconies [French balconies or Juliette balconies are sliding glass doors that give you a full view and can open to give you half-width fresh air, but there's a railing right on the other side of the door so you can only lean out a little]
• if you don't like your Cruise Director, it can have a major negative impact on that cruise
• tipping guidelines are higher than on ocean cruises [gratuities are included on the most expensive lines]
• many excursions go to a neighboring town and some people are shocked that they have to ride a bus (after all the talk about docking right in town)
• the ship is unable to leave the river, so it's hard to avoid weather or water-level problems

As you have noted, river cruises are expensive. But we enjoy the experience and appreciate the aspects that can't really be done any other way.

Hope this helps.
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  #4  
Old December 27th, 2013, 06:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barrheadlass View Post
I just returned less than 2 weeks ago from "Christmas on the Seine" with GCT.
One huge difference is GCT has "murphy beds" that fold down from the wall. During the day there are very small couches below to sit on. I have also cruised twice with Uniworld, which was significantly more expensive, as you mention. It all depends on what is important to you. Want total luxury and everything included? Choose Tauck. I didn't see a big difference in food when comparing GCT and Uniworld. However, our Uniworld cruises had balconies and French balconies, GCT has neither. There were 105 people on my Seine cruise, 72 of the passengers had traveled with GCT at least 3 times (including me). They certainly aren't as fancy, but they do have their market. I should also mention that I found the murphy beds very comfortable and could not tell the difference from a regular bed. I think if I were you I'd choose something like Uniworld or AMA for my first cruise, as I did...have a wonderful time. If you use the search option, you'll find LOTS of comparisons of the various cruise lines. Edited to add: the river cruises include wine with dinner, some companies also include it at lunch. Lots of walking tours are included. Gratuities are more on river cruises, and we found the suggested gratuities were totally in line with the service we received.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzbeau View Post
The reason all river cruises cost more than ocean cruises is that river ships have only 100-200 passengers. Dis-economies of (small) scale.

It's difficult to compare river and ocean cruises, because they are as different as Caribbean resorts from ocean cruises. Some people who love ocean cruising also love river cruises, because they appreciate both types of travel. Other ocean cruise lovers hate river cruising. [We love both, but would hate being stuck at a Caribbean resort for two weeks. YMMV]

So what do we love about river cruising that makes it worthwhile paying so much?
• the small ship environment means you get to know lots of people, and if you're lucky you get to know some people really well
• as with ocean cruising, you unpack once for the entire cruise
• there is no risk of seasickness
• the food is usually tailored to match the countries you're cruising through [quality of the food may vary with the cruise line - you get what you pay for]
• wine and beer is free (and freely poured) at meals [quality of the wine varies with cruise line - and the most expensive lines include alcohol at all times]
• shore excursions are free [or most are free - again it varies with the cruise line]
• the Cruise Director (aka Program Director) will be a constant and personal presence throughout the cruise, handling all the details and able to respond quickly to requests and problems
• the itineraries are places that you can't visit on an ocean cruise (except via a long bus ride) and cover a region in depth
• in many cases the ship docks right at the edge of town and stays late or overnight so you can walk in on your own


What might be a problem with river cruising?
• the small ship environment means you can't avoid obnoxious people, especially if they are in an obnoxious group
• the ships have relatively few public spaces, so there's not much chance to find a quiet spot to be alone (except your cabin)
• the cabins tend to be smaller than on ocean ships, and there are few real balconies [French balconies or Juliette balconies are sliding glass doors that give you a full view and can open to give you half-width fresh air, but there's a railing right on the other side of the door so you can only lean out a little]
• if you don't like your Cruise Director, it can have a major negative impact on that cruise
• tipping guidelines are higher than on ocean cruises [gratuities are included on the most expensive lines]
• many excursions go to a neighboring town and some people are shocked that they have to ride a bus (after all the talk about docking right in town)
• the ship is unable to leave the river, so it's hard to avoid weather or water-level problems

As you have noted, river cruises are expensive. But we enjoy the experience and appreciate the aspects that can't really be done any other way.

Hope this helps.
Thank you both so much for the excellent advice

It does seem that everyone has a favorite cruise line to go on, for us I think the itinerary is going to be the most important. My wife seems to be leaning towards the Danube with trying to incorporate visits to Prague/Budapest and hopefully Vienna?

Once again many thanks for getting back to me.
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  #5  
Old December 27th, 2013, 07:16 PM
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Chelsea Cruiser, keep in mind the referral program that most of the cruise lines offer. If you are going to book a cruise and mention a past cruiser's name and customer number you both get a referral discount. Usually the referral discount is around $100 per person for both parties.

Grand Circle is running a special $250 pp off a new referral until the end of the month.
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  #6  
Old December 27th, 2013, 09:20 PM
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I truly believe that when it comes to river cruising you get what you pay for. If you want more out of your cruise then you'll pay more. That's why I think it's important to use a spreadsheet to look at all the aspects of a cruise that you want, the itinerary that you prefer and then compare what you want to what the various companies offer. If you don't want or expect an all-inclusive fare then you'll be able to eliminate companies as you go BUT always be aware of what extras you have to pay with some companies to get what others offer as a part of the price.

I always have fun in the researching of a river cruise holiday and I'm sure you will too. Have a good time doing your research and enjoy what ever itinerary and company you choose.
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  #7  
Old December 28th, 2013, 07:32 AM
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After tons of research, we too decided on the Danube for our fist river cruise (coming up).
Be sure to check out this review:
http://www.thepreismans.com/amalegro.htm

As an aside, don't be fooled by a popular river cruiseline's "2 for 1" special pricing. It's nothing more than a marketing ploy - they offer it all the time.
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  #8  
Old December 28th, 2013, 09:16 AM
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I did a spreadsheet over the summer & since we were looking at different itineraries, I made sure to calculate the per diem rate so as to best compare apples to apples. Cabin size was also somewhat important to us, and we had a pretty specific itinerary in mind so only 3 lines were options for us. An in-cabin fridge was also an important amenity for us (I am married to an avid homebrewer who views a trip through Germany as a chance to try as many beers that are not imported as possible) I laid out all the options, we discussed - and booked a Nuremburg - Basel itinerary on Avalon for December 2014.

Do be aware that MANY cabins are already sold out for Christmas Market 2014 cruises. (when we booked in August, half the cabins in the category we wanted were already sold out - and we had to get 2 sets of our parents to book on the same itinerary with us - fortunately everyone was on the ball and we made it) If you are flexible with itinerary, timing, and cruiseline, you'll be less likely to be disappointed. But just a note that - due to limited space as noted above - river cruising is NOT like ocean cruising in terms of last-minute discounts etc. (they're available if you're not picky, but if you are...)

This will be our first river cruise - I never wanted to do it, my husband always has - but I love Christmas Markets so I was willing to try that itinerary. My in-laws have been on 5 Uniworld river cruises throughout Europe and are excited to try a different cruise line as well as the Christmas Markets - my FIL especially has always wanted to see them but my cold-fearing MIL never would in the past until the peer pressure worked this time My mom has never been on a river cruise and her husband has never been on any type of cruise at all, but he's been working in Saudi Arabia for the past year and just wants to vacation with us anywhere that isn't desert

I hope you find something that you will like!!! This forum is full of information, but also full of cheerleaders. I tend to only ask objective questions (what time is lunch served)- subjective questions (how is the food?) will get you responses from all over the place that don't tend to be helpful for me.
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  #9  
Old December 28th, 2013, 09:41 AM
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Hello chelseacruiser,

as Hoyaheel has pointed out, the Christmas market cruises for 2014 have many cabins sold out already. So many people in America seem to book far in advance. However, a company you might not have looked at yet is Arosa, based in Germany. They had a good review (by a professional reviewer) recently, the link is somewhere here on cruisecritic. They have a website for the American market.

http://www.arosacruises.com/cruises/home.html

But the German website with different itineraries has an option to switch to English language, as well.

Just a tip from me, I have only seen the ships from a distant, yet.

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  #10  
Old December 28th, 2013, 03:07 PM
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GCT does not use travel agents so much of the cost savings is there.

I'm pretty much a GCT/OAT cheerleader having traveled with them 20 times (including 9 river cruises) since 2001 with 3 trips booked for next year. I travel as a single and try and get the most for my precious dollars. GCT is not for everyone but they do have a tremendous repeat business.

Last edited by rogerdawhip; December 28th, 2013 at 03:08 PM.
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Old December 28th, 2013, 03:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rogerdawhip View Post
GCT does not use travel agents so much of the cost savings is there.

I'm pretty much a GCT/OAT cheerleader having traveled with them 20 times (including 9 river cruises) since 2001 with 3 trips booked for next year. I travel as a single and try and get the most for my precious dollars. GCT is not for everyone but they do have a tremendous repeat business.
Where are you going?
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  #12  
Old December 29th, 2013, 09:01 AM
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Well, while realizing that we may have left it late in trying to make up our minds, its looks as if its a choice between the 12 day Prague- Budapest Christmas cruise on Vantage or an 11 day Prague-Budapest on AMA.

The Vantage cruise is less costly than the AMA itinerary, but as this is the first time we have done a river cruise is less better?
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  #13  
Old December 29th, 2013, 09:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozjohnno View Post
I truly believe that when it comes to river cruising you get what you pay for. If you want more out of your cruise then you'll pay more. That's why I think it's important to use a spreadsheet to look at all the aspects of a cruise that you want, the itinerary that you prefer and then compare what you want to what the various companies offer. If you don't want or expect an all-inclusive fare then you'll be able to eliminate companies as you go BUT always be aware of what extras you have to pay with some companies to get what others offer as a part of the price.

I always have fun in the researching of a river cruise holiday and I'm sure you will too. Have a good time doing your research and enjoy what ever itinerary and company you choose.
I agree completely. GCT would not be for us as we prefer an upscale experience, including hotel beds.

There are inclusions offered by some lines that are of no value to us (transfers, hotel stays, additional excursions) as we are independent travelers and prefer to plan our time, transfers, additional excursions and hotels on our own. We also like the option of tipping according to service received.

We have river cruised 6 times so far with two lines and AMA is our favorite. We really enjoy the total experience they provide and have two more booked with them.
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Last edited by caviargal; December 29th, 2013 at 09:13 AM.
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  #14  
Old December 29th, 2013, 09:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chelsea Cruiser View Post
Well, while realizing that we may have left it late in trying to make up our minds, its looks as if its a choice between the 12 day Prague- Budapest Christmas cruise on Vantage or an 11 day Prague-Budapest on AMA.

The Vantage cruise is less costly than the AMA itinerary, but as this is the first time we have done a river cruise is less better?
It might be that AMA includes alcohol at lunch, and some optional tours, which you might pay extra for on Vantage. If this is not important to you, read the reviews for the Vantage sailings here on Cruise Critic. I seem to recall that Vantage has a high customer satisfaction rate. Also, keep in mind that some folks have a different level of standard of living. It is not about being able to afford it, it is what makes you happy. I rather have some money left over to make purchases in the ports, I don't care about extras on the cruise. For us, getting from one port to the next in an enjoyable, relaxing manner is why we appreciate River Cruises.
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Old December 29th, 2013, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by H2Otstr View Post
Where are you going?
In January 2014, I'm taking GCTs (used to be OATs) winter Adriatic cruise on one of their 50 passenger coastal ships. I was on one in July 2012 and fell in love with coastal cruising. GCT has 3 coastal ships. Their cabins and balconies are huge compared to river ships. In July 2014, I again taking a cruise on one of GCTs coastal ships. This time it is their Riviera trip. Lastly, I have their Rhine Xmas cruise booked for December 2014.

I also have a deposit down for a spring 2015 on GCT's new river Bordeaux river cruise.

Last edited by rogerdawhip; December 29th, 2013 at 12:19 PM.
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Old December 29th, 2013, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rogerdawhip View Post
In January 2014, I'm taking GCTs (used to be OATs) winter Adriatic cruise on one of their 50 passenger coastal ships. I was on one in July 2012 and fell in love with coastal cruising. GCT has 3 coastal ships. Their cabins and balconies are huge compared to river ships. In July 2014, I again taking a cruise on one of GCTs coastal ships. This time it is their Riviera trip. Lastly, I have their Rhine Xmas cruise booked for December 2014.

I also have a deposit down for a spring 2015 on GCT's new river Bordeaux river cruise.
I took the winter Adriatic cruise with OAT several years ago...it was terrific. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Alan was our program manager and he was wonderful...
Planning on the Riviera trip in 2015, and hoping to do the Rhine in Dec. 14!
(I'm taking a GCT land tour in Italy in Sept. '14).
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Old December 29th, 2013, 05:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Got2Cruise View Post
It might be that AMA includes alcohol at lunch, and some optional tours, which you might pay extra for on Vantage. If this is not important to you, read the reviews for the Vantage sailings here on Cruise Critic. I seem to recall that Vantage has a high customer satisfaction rate. Also, keep in mind that some folks have a different level of standard of living. It is not about being able to afford it, it is what makes you happy. I rather have some money left over to make purchases in the ports, I don't care about extras on the cruise. For us, getting from one port to the next in an enjoyable, relaxing manner is why we appreciate River Cruises.
That is very good advice, and as my wife doesn't drink at all and I only have a glass of wine at dinner, the drinks are not important to us. The itinerary and the satisfaction of the cruise line we book with are the priorities for us.

Just one more thing, with gratuities is it similar to the ocean cruise lines?

Is the airfare worth booking with the cruise line? I guess that was two more things

Many thanks for all your help
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Old December 29th, 2013, 06:15 PM
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The very top river lines include gratuities in the price. The others have guidelines -- which are higher than those on ocean cruises. Because there are fewer passengers, the tips don't add up as quickly as on an ocean cruise. And the Cruise Director is often an independent contractor who isn't paid at all by the cruise line, so the guidelines for his/her tip are very high (but worth it for the impact the CD makes on the cruise experience).

Airfare is the same as with ocean cruises: sometimes they offer a bargain, sometimes not. You (or you TA) need to compare and take the better offer. But beware of really cheap cruise line airfare because these aren't regular coach tickets (which you can get the airline to upgrade, or rebook as necessary) but highly restricted NONEND or NONRER tickets that become useless if there are weather delays.

Finally, in answer to the third question you didn't ask: don't be too quick to dismiss those lines that include drinks in the price even though you don't think you'll be getting value from that. Drinks inclusiveness seems to go hand in hand with quality of cuisine, ambience, and the number and quality of included shore excursions. So instead of saving money on a non-alcohol fare, you end up getting less of everything else.
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Sailed:
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Old December 30th, 2013, 08:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzbeau View Post
The very top river lines include gratuities in the price. The others have guidelines -- which are higher than those on ocean cruises. Because there are fewer passengers, the tips don't add up as quickly as on an ocean cruise. And the Cruise Director is often an independent contractor who isn't paid at all by the cruise line, so the guidelines for his/her tip are very high (but worth it for the impact the CD makes on the cruise experience).

Airfare is the same as with ocean cruises: sometimes they offer a bargain, sometimes not. You (or you TA) need to compare and take the better offer. But beware of really cheap cruise line airfare because these aren't regular coach tickets (which you can get the airline to upgrade, or rebook as necessary) but highly restricted NONEND or NONRER tickets that become useless if there are weather delays.

Finally, in answer to the third question you didn't ask: don't be too quick to dismiss those lines that include drinks in the price even though you don't think you'll be getting value from that. Drinks inclusiveness seems to go hand in hand with quality of cuisine, ambience, and the number and quality of included shore excursions. So instead of saving money on a non-alcohol fare, you end up getting less of everything else.
Jazzbeau, to say you end up getting less of everything else is quite subjective. There are many of us here on Cruise Critic who use the less than what you consider "top lines" on River Cruises and are quite happy with the experience. You make it seem if one does not choose the top lines then it will not be an acceptable vacation. That is not helpful to others trying to make an informed decision. Everyone has their own personal preferences and values. jmo

An analogy can be made by comparing ocean cruise lines. Let's say Royal Caribbean and Crystal Cruiselines. Will you have a more luxurious experience on Crystal? Of course. But, you still have a wonderful time on Royal and see the sights you want to see, and if you want extras you can purchase at your discretion. You won't feel deprived by sailing Royal, the same as you won't feel deprived by using a moderate River Cruise Line. It is up to the individual to decide if the extra cost is necessary for them to have the travel experience they are seeking.
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Last edited by Got2Cruise; December 30th, 2013 at 08:40 AM.
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Old December 30th, 2013, 08:49 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Originally Posted by Got2Cruise View Post
An analogy can be made by comparing ocean cruise lines. Let's say Royal Caribbean and Crystal Cruiselines. Will you have a more luxurious experience on Crystal? Of course. But, you still have a wonderful time on Royal and see the sights you want to see, and if you want extras you can purchase at your discretion.
We disagree on this.

I have not cruised with Crystal but would love to. I have sailed with RCI many times, but stopped ocean cruising on the mass market lines years ago. It is not enjoyable to me and I would rather do a land based trip - or stay home - than be on a large ship with big crowds, lines for everything, nickel and diming at every opportunity, overpriced drinks (even water) kids running everywhere, photographers in your face constantly and mediocre banquet food.

Different strokes.
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