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Everything posted by Psoque

  1. I started cruising in my early thirties, and I just turned 50 this year. My first Crystal cruise (probably my first "upscale" cruise) was a 11 day Panama Canal cruise on Crystal Symphony when I was 36. On that cruise, we only met one adult person who was my age or younger (I'm sure there were a few more, but I managed to speak to just one of them.) It appears that as I continued to age, Crystal has become more "younger people welcoming," which I think is a great approach. The funny thing is, this trend with more shorter cruises, more relaxed attires, and more "comings and goings," did not negatively affect my on-board experience at all. In some ways, I like the changes Crystal is making. I suspect those minority of people who really find that the "shorter segment people" are affecting their cruise experience negatively ("less relaxing," "too busy," "rushed," etc.) are not happy mainly because things have changed, and sometimes change is hard to some of us.
  2. I've never done a cruise longer than 11 days on Crystal, and I've never done a Crystal cruise that was subsequently broken into a segment shorter than what I took. I have, however, been on a 7 day segment of a cruise that was also sold as a longer cruise. In my experience, it made no difference to me if our 7 day cruise was part of a much longer sailing. I have no idea how it "feel" to be on a longer cruise with people getting on/off every 5-7 days. I've read that some people (most likely a minority, I certain hope) who feel the comings/goings of people every 5-7 days during their longer cruise is disruptive in some way or another. I don't understand that sentiment. I am just using my imagination here, since I've never been on a cruise longer than 14 days, but if I were fortunate to be on a much longer cruise on Crystal with people coming/going during my stay on the ship, I would feel thankful for the opportunity to meet even more people than just the shipful I began the cruise with. Happy Holidays!
  3. We visit my family in Japan, usually once a year, so I have been reading about the newly created 50 arrival/departure slots at Haneda. Until now, most of the flights from US land in Haneda at really inconvenient times of the day (either really early in the morning or fairly late at night). Our ANA flight to Haneda (first time we are actually taking a flight to Haneda) this November lands there at 8:30 PM. It's OK for us, since we know where we are going, and we don't need to, say, get our Japan Rail Pass validated. If we had to do that, it would be really inconvenient. I'm looking forward to increased flights into Haneda. I'm also hoping that some, if not all, of these new slots will be utilized even beyond the summer of 2020. But my guess is that the airlines would have to drop some of the flights into one of the Tokyo airports after the Olympics are over. The big questions are: Would they continue to fly out of both airports? and Which airports will keep more flights? Another issue is that Narita, though located in a inconvenient location for those visiting Tokyo, serves as an important hub to/from other Asian airports. Delta is apparently abandoning Narita (at least for now) but flying all of their Tokyo flights out of Haneda starting mid 2020. American and United are still flying to Narita and Haneda. On a different note, I highly recommend those flying to Japan to try one of the two Japanese carriers. I have flown on both ANA and JAL, and they are, in my opinion, superior to American/Delta/United.
  4. As far as I know, the airlines are silent about how long they are going to continue to operate the increased flight frequencies beyond summer of 2020. I know that the Japanese government's official party line is to increase tourism to Japan (permanently, beyond the Olympics year), but as you know, airlines are not obligated to use all of the new slots, especially if the flights do not fly full after the Tokyo Olympics. I don't think we can predict what the airlines will do, but as we all know, airlines are constantly making changes to their schedules.
  5. From what I read, more slots were created by few methods, including relaxation of flight restrictions in the airspace above the US base near Haneda, introduction of a new flight path over populated areas in central Tokyo (Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Shinagawa areas), as well as scheduling of additional international arrivals/departures during the day (until recently most international arrivals/departures were restricted to either late evenings or early mornings).
  6. As I posted earlier on September 6, there will be 24 more flights to Haneda from US airports. Half of them will be operated by US airlines. The other 12 flights will be operated by either All Nippon Airways or Japan Airlines. And there will be about 26 more flights to Haneda from the rest of the world.
  7. The captain will be dressed in a huge turkey suit, mingling with the guests before dinner. The entire crew will be wearing brown hats with big brass buckles... Just kidding. But we have been on Crystal ships on Thanksgiving time, probably twice or more. We love to cruise during this time to escape the holiday madness. What we enjoyed most is the slow progressive addition of holiday decorations throughout the ship during that week.
  8. I think you should look into Hoshinoya hotel. I haven't been there yet, but I heard really nice things about it. If you are only going to be in Tokyo for a few days, this will definitely give you more of a traditional Japanese experience in a way that is more accessible to most of us here in the US.
  9. Beginning around of May of 2020, there will be a lot more flights to Haneda. As far as I know, there will be at least 50 more flights to Haneda, and 24 of them will be from US airports. What I don't know is if all of these new flights are already loaded into the reservation systems. Also, I have no idea how long would these new flights would remain in operation after the Tokyo Olympics. Also, it is worth noting that the Airport Limousine Bus (the orange bus) from both Narita and Haneda are a lot nicer than any bust I've ever taken in other countries. Also, in our experience, the bus driver/hotel people took very nice care of our luggage. As soon as we arrived at our pick-up area at Narita, we did not really handle our bags until we arrived at Conrad, where their bellhops took over. I'm not trying to encourage you to not get your own transfer sedan/taxi, but I really think the bus from the airport is very nice. I'm not sure where you are staying, but the bus stops at a lot of hotels of various price ranges. Personally, I highly prefer taking the bus vs. Narita Express train, unless the our schedule do not fit the bus schedule, or if the hotel we are coming from/going to is far from the bus stop. We also usually stay in hotel that the bus stops at/departs from. Also, nobody will help you with your luggage if you take Narita Express in contrast to the bus.
  10. I have no idea why Avalon has said to you that you "need" a PIN-enabled credit card. Are you sure that's what Avalaon said? Or did Avalon say that there might be a rare occasion a PIN-enabled credit card might be necessary. The fact is that, most vendors would take a non PIN-enabled credit card as long as they take credit cards. Only exception would be some of the automated vending machines, especially for public transit. I needed a PIN for buying a metro ticket from a machine at Amsterdam Airport. However, I could have also bought a ticket from a human-occupied kiosk there.
  11. Thanks for your numerous suggestions. We are still leaning toward starting the cruise in Basel because: -We would like to fly home as soon as the cruise is over -We would like to arrive at the city of embarkation at least 2 days in advance -We would like to spend more time in Basel -We don't need too much time in Amsterdam, since we have done most of the typical sights there already -The cruise will overnight in Amsterdam, so we will have time to see Amsterdam I guess we answered our own question.
  12. Hi. We recently did a 7 night Danube cruise on Crystal Mozart and had a great time. We are contemplating to do an another Crystal river cruise, perhaps in 2021. We think we would like to cruise on the Rhine next, probably in the fall (before the Christmas Market prices kick in). We are thinking about the 7 night Amsterdam to Basel, or the reverse. It appears the ports of calls are identical whether it is southbound or northbound. Has any of you done one or both of these cruises on the Rhine? Is there a not-so-obvious pros/cons of the southbound vs. northbound? Our initial thought is that we would prefer northbound because then we can spend a few days in Basel (where we have never been) before the cruise, and am hoping that there are more convenient flights out of Amsterdam (where we have done most of the typical sights before) if we want to fly home at the end of the cruise.
  13. No...Garam Dock is a little more than a few hundred feet from the Parliament. It's more like 6,500 feet from the Parliament. I think you are thinking about another dock.
  14. I also second that both ships are great. However, I think the layout of the Avenue Saloon is superior on Symphony.
  15. So you are abandoning Crystal Cruises because, if I understand what is going on, Crystal has a policy preventing someone who already booked a non-interline fare to later re-book with/price reduce to interline fare? I guess that's just your decision. However, before you permanently fire Crystal Cruises over this, you may want to contact them directly, to make sure that's actually their policy. Perhaps you have a completely honest TA, but I would think that some TAs would do everything to make sure his/her commission will not be reduced. I've had TAs like that, and they are no longer my TAs.
  16. Actually, I think you probably made the best decision, in terms of booking a cruise ship which is a "known quantity." I know I'm late to this conversation, but my advice to you is to pick your cruise on your availability, the itinerary, and the season, with the cruise line/the vessel simply as a tie breaker. Trying to compare two ship that have not sailed is not really helpful or informative. If you are comparing cruises with similar itineraries (London-Lisbon route), I personally would prefer early fall/late spring sailings instead of summer sailings. The temperature would be more comfortable and there will be smaller crowds. And in my opinion, many places are just much prettier in spring and fall.
  17. In the Fall of 2017, we did sail on the smallest cabin aboard Esprit. We were told on the phone when we were assigned that cabin, that bed is not queen size, and all of the cabins (at that time), including the smallest cabins, were furnished with king sized beds, despite what the website says. Our cabin, when we boarded, did have a king size bed. However, I would still ask the shoreside Yacht butler about your exact cabin if you have any questions.
  18. Maybe I am totally clueless, but my understandings were: 1. Crystal Mozart will be re-branded under another brand owned by Genting HK. Or was I reading one of those "fake news?" 2. I thought, most of the cabins on Mozart are at least slightly larger than that on the other Crystal river vessels, as well as most of European river vessels in general. 3. I thought the Toto toilets are also installed on the other Crystal river vessels.
  19. Yet you have stated that you are not a fan of the remaining Crystal river boats. I assume you will no longer be river cruising. I'm not sure if I am one of the so called "Crystal cheerleaders," but based on my (perhaps very limited compared to those who cruise a lot more than we do) experience on Crystal Mozart as well as our brief walk-throughs on standard-width river vessels (both Crystal and non-Crystal...just happened to be an AMA vessel recently), here's my current OPINION about this topic: I really liked the set-up on Crystal Mozart. I especially liked the fact that the stairways were not spiral. Though they look nice, I don't really like walking up/down in a spiral. Also, I really enjoyed the roomy public spaces on Mozart. And I also have to mention that we enjoy the good service on Crystal vessels, and I thought the service was even better on Mozart compared to Symphony and Serenity, the two ocean vessels. That was the case with our cruise on Esprit as well. I thought the service on Mozart and Esprit was just a more enhanced version of the good service we have received on Symphony/Serenity. Obviously, I have not done a full cruise on either the non-Mozart Crystal vessels or AMA vessels, but I am sad to hear that Mozart is leaving Crystal. I wish we could have done more cruises on Mozart. Given that: Would I still consider taking a river cruise with Crystal? Yes. I liked Mozart, but that does not mean I totally hate the other Crystal river vessels. Would I consider taking a river cruise with another company? Probably, especially if we want to do an itinerary that Crystal do not offer. Would I seriously consider AMA simply because it offers a double-wide ship? No, IF other things are not right for us, we would not choose AMA, even AMA Magna. For me (and I'm sure it is the case for many others), we choose a cruise based on more than one factor (in this case, the width of the river vessel). I have limited vacation time, and I'm not swimming in money, so I have to choose my cruises very carefully. We look at the level of service, cost, time of the year, in addition to the ship size/itinerary. We all have our own reasons to choose our cruises, and it is rather presumptuous to say that someone is making sense or not.
  20. I am also wondering the same thing about a casino. I'm not an expert on the socio-economics of mainland Chinese and Chinese diaspora, but my rough understanding is that a big piece of profits from cruises geared toward the Chinese (both from China and elsewhere) are derived from the gambling activity onboard, and that's how Genting has made its fortune. So, I would think they would definitely want to add a casino to Mozart if they want to cater it to that population. However, I have no idea what are the legal/taxation status of river vessels on the Danube.
  21. There are a lot of things to see in Budapest, and obviously, it is impossible for a hotel to be close to all of them, but compared to most US cities, Budapest is rather compact, so nothing is "too far." First thing you want to do is to identify those attractions you want to be close to, then pick a hotel that is located conveniently to them. We stayed at the Marriott, on the Pest waterfront, close to the Spring/Easter Market, some of the shops, and a short tram ride to the Parliament/Chain Bridge. We enjoyed the stay there. I'm not sure which Hilton is recommended by Viking, but there are two in Budapest. The one on the Buda side is practically adjacent to Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion, in the old part of town. The "City" Hilton on the Pest side is by the train station, somewhat removed from the river and perhaps not as conveniently located for walking to some of the sights. Four seasons is close to Chain Bridge/Parliament. I would look at the map and decide on your own.
  22. When we took our Esprit cruise from Dubrovnik to Athens about 1.5 years ago, the shore excursions manager also served as the future cruise booking person.
  23. We just returned from Crystal Mozart cruise between from Budapest to Vienna. We had a wonderful time. Now that we did this segment, we are sort of interested in the lower Danube cruises (Budapest and downstream, for example, Budapest to Bucharest). I know that a few lines do this, but I noticed that some lines, including Crystal do no do this route. Is there a good reason some lines avoid this region?
  24. We were just informed that, in regard to our upcoming river cruise on Crystal Mozart, we are going to be embarking the vessel at Garam Dock in Budapest. According to the map, this is located a little upstream the Danube from central Budapest, just across the river from the Margit-sziget island. I'm assuming that this is easily accessed by a taxi. It looks like it's more like a pier on the river, and it is accessible from the street. Is my assumption correct? Thanks. Naoyuki
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