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About BellaBeagle

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    Cool Cruiser

About Me

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    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  1. Breslow and Vacationdreamer: I posted a more detailed port review on the Europe boards - We found that all of these ports were very easy to do on our own, and doing it on your own (or making other independent arrangements) was significantly cheaper than booking through the cruiseline. We enjoyed being able to do our own thing and wait for the crowds to thin out at the sights. For us, on our own was absolutely the way to go. As for lunch and shopping recommendations, I unfortunately don't have anything specific! With respect to food, we typically walked until our noses told us that we had come to a good place to stop and our eyes told us that the place was in a great location. For example, in Mykonos we had wonderful gyros and moussaka at a taverna whose name I can't recall, but what I do remember is that it was right on the waterfront and a prime location for people watching and enjoying a sunny afternoon. In Venice, we likewise found a sidewalk restaurant right next to the Rialto Bridge that was amazing. In that case, the food was probably not the absolute best Venice had to offer, but eating dinner in the shadow of the Rialto Bridge was magical. Shopping, however, is my one sad story of the vacation - except for Greek Key earrings and a necklace in Mykonos (which we bought at Georgios on the waterfront), we didn't buy anything. I'm still in shock over that. I don't know how that happened. We were just so caught up in everything else that time somehow slipped away and we were on the plane home before I could whip out my credit card! We'll just need to go back soon I guess. :D
  2. BellaBeagle

    Splendour 5/17 DIY Port Reviews

    Hi everyone, sorry for the delay in responding - I'm paying the price at work for having taken a vacation! :) Beachnative: I use the terms train and Metro interchangeably. I'm not sure there's a difference between the two when going between Pireaus and Athens (although I could be wrong!). When we stopped to ask directions along the way, we always asked for the train station, but I'm sure if we had asked for the Metro instead, we would have been similarly directed. One thing I should also mention that may be helpful - when you get to the train station, you can buy your return tickets as well (saves time on the back end), and make sure you stamp the tickets in the machine before getting on the train each way. Also, in Pireaus, there are two sets of tracks, you can get on either train. They both go the same way. Nodakboiler and Seasport: I posted a quick review of Splendour on the RCCL board, but in a nutshell, we really enjoyed the ship. We found the crew to be delightful, and the ship was in fine shape (she was showing a bit of wear and tear, but I'm not sure I've been on a ship that wasn't to some extent). We also found the food to be excellent, but as I pointed out in my Splendour review, we're not exactly foodies, so I'm not sure how much weight I would give our opinion. :D Basically, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this ship on this itinerary. We would do it again in a heartbeat, and I'm already jealous of everyone who still has their adventure to look forward to!
  3. Hi everyone, I'm just off a fantastic cruise on the Splendour of the Seas (RT Venice, Athens, Mykonos, Olympia, Corfu, and Split). We decided to do the ports of call on our own, so I thought I would post our experiences here in case it helps anyone else. I got almost all of my information from Cruise Critic before we left though, so this is probably just repeating the excellent info already available here. To the extent it helps someone though, here goes. First, here are the answers to two preliminary questions I had pre-cruise: Splendour operates in dollars (not Euros). Also, Splendour does change ship's time to match the local time of the port (good to know when making reservations in Greece, which is one hour ahead of Italy and Croatia) - basically, you can use the time listed in your cruise documents as the local arrival and departure time, no need to add or subtract hours. [U]Venice[/U]: We arrived in Venice on the Thursday before our cruise. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Quarto D'Altino (on the mainland, past Mestre), and while the hotel was very nice (and appeared relatively new), I would not necessarily recommend this hotel because of its distance from Venice proper. The regional train stops at Quarto D'Altino roughly every hour or half hour, and it's about a 25-30 minute train ride to the St. Lucia train station in Venice from there. Not a huge deal in the morning going into Venice, but in the evening, when we were very tired and just wanting to go to bed, it was a bit much to have to deal with the train ride. We picked the hotel mainly because of cost, but in retrospect, it would have been worthwhile to pay a bit more to be closer to Venice. On the morning of the cruise, we took our luggage with us onto the regional train and left it at the left luggage office in the St. Lucia train station. The left luggage office is right at the head of platform 14, you can't miss it. I don't recall how much it cost to leave our bags, but it was very reasonable. We collected our bags around 2:00 that day and took the Vaporetto one stop to P. Roma, where we proceeded to walk to the ship. It wasn't as bad a walk as I had anticipated, perhaps 20 minutes. There were free shuttle buses from P. Roma to the ship, but we just decided to hoof it. As for Venice itself, it was fantastic! The weather reports each day called for periods of rain, but we had gorgeous weather during the day (it did rain a bit each evening). We did the requisite gondola ride, which we all enjoyed, and spent quite a bit of time just wandering the streets of Venice. We found the non-touristy areas away from Piazza San Marco to be especially beautiful. Our guidebook (Rick Steves) recommended that we just get lost in Venice, and I couldn't agree more. We also visited Murano, Burano, and Torcello and enjoyed this trip as well. The trip to the islands in the lagoon took us the better part of the day, but I felt that it was well worth it. [U]Athens[/U] We opted to take the Metro into Athens from the port - it was very easy. As many others have posted, it was about a 20 minute walk to the train station. We got a bit turned around though, even using the excellent directions we printed out from the portreviews.com board that so many here have pointed to, but we simply asked the very friendly locals and were quickly put on the right track again. We got off the Metro at the Monastiraki (sp?) station and wandered up to the Acropolis. For those wondering, as I was, whether the Parthenon is still in scaffolding, the answer is yes. A rather large portion is under reconstruction, but it's still an amazing sight to see! We also had time to explore the Plaka, and the Ancient and Roman Agoras. The Roman Agora was a bit ho-hum (except for the Tower of the Winds), but the Ancient Agora is a must-see in my opinion. [U]Mykonos[/U] Here we had pre-booked a guided tour to Delos at windmillstravel.com, which left at 10:00 am (as opposed to the ship's excursion which I believe left around 1:30). I had an okay experience with windmillstravel.com, but I'm not sure I'd recommend going that route. They basically acted as an intermediary (although this wasn't clear to me prior to arriving in Mykonos), and rather than having a tour through them, we were put on a large tour boat with everyone who was going over to Delos around the same time. Once at Delos, we were broken into tour groups of 35 people. My primary reason for pre-booking was that I was worried the trips to Delos would be sold-out if I didn't have something already arranged. There was no need to worry though, at least on the day we were there. Plenty of people simply walked up to the pier and bought their tickets on the spot. One nice thing about going over to Delos on a non-ship's tour though was that after our approximately 2 hour guided tour there, we could either go back on the next boat, or wander the island at our leisure, taking any number of other boats back (last one was at 3:00). So, for those wanting more time on Delos, an independent arrangement may be the way to go. Once we returned to Mykonos, we simply wandered the town and had a delicious late lunch on the water front. [U]Katakolon/Olympia[/U] In Katakolon, we rented a car from Rent-a-Car Katakolon (often recommended on this board). The car rental location was right up the street from the port (can't miss it), and within 10 minutes, we were on our way. One thing to be careful of when making your reservation is that the ship may or may not tender. When we were there, we were lucky enough to get a spot at the pier at the last minute, but in a tender situation (which would obviously take a bit more time), it might be wise to alert the car rental agency that you may be delayed so they don't give away your car. Olympia was very easy to reach (and very well signed) from Katakolon. We had printed out some information from the internet on the site to take with us, so we weren't going in blind. We did this for all of the ports, and I believe it made them that much more interesting for us. [U]Corfu[/U] We rented a car (from Corfusunrise.com) and again had a great experience. They met us right outside the port entrance and we were off on our adventure in minutes. We first went to Achilleion Palace, but I have to say, it was not well signed from the Port and we got lost (the map provided by the car rental company was fairly poor in this regard). If I had to do it again, I would probably drive to the Paleo area first (hitting Paleo, and then heading up to Lakones and Makrades and surrounding villages) before going to Achilleion because it would avoid having to go through Corfu Town. On the other hand, I might also just skip Achilleion (not very impressive, but everyone talks about it, so we had to take a peek). We had a bit of rain in Corfu, so I don't think we got to enjoy the natural beauty of this island as much as we would have otherwise, but no matter! It was still a fun day! [COLOR=black][U]Split[/U][/COLOR] We felt that Croatia was the true gem of our vacation. What an incredibly gorgeous country. We first took the local bus to Trogir (the bus station is located near where the tenders drop you off - just keep the water on your right and you will eventually end up across the street from the bus station, maybe a 5 minute walk). The bus station does not accept Euros, but there is an ATM right outside where you can get the local Kuna. The express bus cost 15 Kuna one way and took about 40 minutes (probably would have been quicker but for some road construction). Trogir was amazing - postcard perfect in every way. Some of the sights there accept Euro and some don't, but there are plentiful ATM machines if you find yourself in need of Kuna. We took out very small sums twice to ensure that we would not end up with leftover Kuna. We had a bit of an adventure trying to figure out which bus to take back to Split from Trogir - we originally wanted to take the express again, but we ended up on the local bus (#37), which took 50 minutes and was great because it went through many local villages and towns whereas the express bus was all highway. Just note that the local bus will drop you off at a station in the northern part of Split (rather than the main station near the water). No problem, it's the last stop for the bus, so you can't miss it and after a 10 minute walk, you're back in the heart of Split. Then we had plenty of time to enjoy Diocletions Palace (note again that you will need Kuna to get into the basement of Diocletions Palace - a must see in my opinion) and all the wonders of Split. This was truly an amazing port. Sorry for the novel - I'm just so excited about a great trip, and since this board was invaluable to me in planning my vacation, I wanted to help others. :D If anyone has any questions, just let me know!
  4. I'm also just off the Splendour 5/17 cruise (RT Venice, Athens, Mykonos, Corfu, Olympia, Split), and I have nothing but good things to say about this cruise! As several others have noted, leading up to the cruise, I was very hesitant about what to expect given the poor reviews Splendour has received recently. My husband and I (early 30s) were traveling with my parents (late 60s), and before we boarded, I told everyone to lower their expectations and just go with the flow. After our cruise, both my husband and my parents thought I was crazy for having worried - Splendour and her crew are great! We had a deck 7, port side balcony cabin and found it to be (or at least to appear) larger than some of the balcony cabins we've had in the past. My parents had a deck 6 oceanview cabin and were similarly pleased with the size and layout. Both of us had wonderful experiences with very attentive and personable cabin attendants. No smells or any other undesirable issues to note here. As for dinner, we elected second seating (9 pm). Service was prompt and always a pleasant experience. We had a table for four and were done every night by 10:20ish. The food was excellent (but I should probably say here that we're just as happy eating at Subway as we are at a Five-star restuarant, so our views on food aren't necessarily the last word). I was very pleased to see the variety of dishes offered each night, including some excellent Indian-inspired curries as the vegetarian option. Our waiter couldn't have been any better. In fact, each member of the crew that we interacted with seemed to be going out of their way to be helpful and accomodating. This was probably the friendliest crew we've sailed with. In a nutshell, we were very satisfied with our experience. I would encourage everyone who is booked on, or is considering booking, Splendour's Eastern Med. itinerary to go and have a wonderful time! As an aside, we did not participate in any of the ship's excursions. Since there were four of us, we opted instead to save some money and explore the ports on our own. This worked out very well for us also, but I'll post those details on the Europe board. If anyone has any questions, I'm happy to answer them.
  5. BellaBeagle

    PoAM 9/3-9/10 Review

    Sorry, I forgot to answer your question about Hilo. I believe the late Hilo arrival was also blamed on the unnamed "minor" technical issue.
  6. BellaBeagle

    PoAM 9/3-9/10 Review

    I believe they said that the lava cancellation was due to a "minor" technical problem and NCL wanted to make sure that we were able to enjoy a full 2 days in Maui. Rather than arrive late, they canceled the lava. For my two cents, I would have rather arrived an hour or two late and seen the lava since I was very much looking forward to that, but nobody asked me... The reason for leaving early in Kauai was interesting. Apparently they used to cruise by the coast around 9am at full speed, which they said wasn't as enjoyable. They also said the light was better to see the coast in the late afternoon. I will say that the captain took his time around the coast in the afternoon (really early evening by the time you get there at 6:30), and that was quite nice. You could really enjoy it without feeling rushed to get your pictures in. As for the light, 6:30 is maybe a little too late for the best light. There were portions that were in deep shadow already at that time. It was also a somewhat cloudy day though, and that may have contributed to the shadowing. That said, our pictures still look fantastic. If the choice had come down to another 4 hours in Kauai vs. missing the Na Pali coast, I would have said let's go see the coast. More time in Kauai AND the coast would have been ideal in the perfect world that existed when we booked our cruise (sigh), but leaving at 2 and seeing the coast worked okay too.
  7. BellaBeagle

    PoAM 9/3-9/10 Review

    We just returned last Sunday from seeing Hawaii on the Pride of America. Here are my thoughts, and please don't take anything I say as a reflection of how your cruise will be (good or bad). This really is just my perception of my vacation. My husband and I don't have the opportunity to travel very often, so when we do, it takes quite a bit to make us unhappy. With that said, we loved our Hawaiian cruise, even though no, it was not perfect. [u]Pre-Cruise[/u] We did not book our one-night pre-cruise stay in Honolulu through the cruise line. Instead we were booked via our travel agent at the Ohana East, about 2 blocks from access to Waikkiki Beach. Our flight arrived in Honolulu around 4pm the day before the cruise, and we were met at the airport by VIP Trans. I guess it was due to rush hour, but the 8 mile trip from the airport to our hotel took about 1.5 hours. When we finally got there, we checked in and ran straight out to the beach to stick our feet in. It was wonderful. Quick dinner and then off to bed. The next morning (9/3), we were again picked up by VIP Trans at 6:30 am at our hotel. They dropped us off at the USS Arizona Memorial around 7:15 am, and we got tickets to the memorial for 8:20. Perfect! Spent the morning absorbing Pearl Harbor, then back for one last stroll around Waikkiki (and some shopping!), picked up our luggage and were at the ship around 4:30pm. I've seen embarkations go much more smoothly than this one did, but we only waited in line for maybe an hour? It didn't feel like so much of a hardship. And we were given complimentary, gorgeous leis as we waited to board, which still makes me smile. I was so excited about that! [u]The Ship[/u] We were in cabin 9174 balcony aft on the starboard side. It was small. There really isn't much more I can say about it. It worked for two people reasonably well, but it wasn't anything to "write home about" as they say. Our balcony was decently roomy though, and we had 2 comfortable chairs out there with adjustable backs. No complaints there. Our cabin steward was very attentive, upbeat, and always around. Again, absolutely no complaints! Here's where many of you may lose interest. We didn't eat in any specialty restaurants. Nor did we eat in the main dining rooms. We were content with the Aloha Cafe. In fact, we were more than content with it. We loved it. The food is not 5 star, but then again, is it ever on a mega-ship like this? For what it was, we were very happy campers. It certainly compared favorably to our other 3 cruise experiences, and we saw no reason not to keep going back. The service was always with a smile, the staff was quick to clear tables, and there was plenty of seating, any time. Our favorite spot was out on the back deck area. Often the lines out there weren't as long as inside either, and in the mornings, you could get eggs or omelettes custom-made out here as well. Delicious! For dinner one night they had pumpkin lobster bisque..MMMM! I can still taste how good that was! My problems with the ship are relatively minor. We did notice the sewage smell around the 4th floor staircase leading down to the gangway. Not a horrible problem (since we were always just passing through), but it's definitely there. My bigger problem though was the movement on this ship. It's as though it doesn't have stabilizers or something (and it does). I heard several people say family members had gotten seasick that first night, and I myself wasn't feeling so hot. Bonine to the rescue. I took that and never looked back. So word to the wise, pack motion sickness medication if you're even slightly prone to motion sickness. We've never had this much bumpiness on a cruise before, so we were suprised. I never got an explanation for the cause either. [u]Hawaii[/u] We were informed at embarkation that we would be missing the scenic lava cruise-by. I was disappointed obviously, but thanks to this board, I wasn't surprised and was able to just shrug it off. [u]Hilo[/u] We arrived around 10 in Hilo (two hours later than originally scheduled, although they also told us that at embarkation). We had rented from Hertz, and I called for a bus as soon as were docked. It was there when we got off the ship and we were at the airport about 5 minutes later. Hertz, however, had apparently run out of cars, so they shifted us to Avis (which matched our Hertz price, no problem). I wasn't a fan of Avis' service (sloooow), so it took us longer than it should have to get the car (30 minutes), but once we did, we were off. We did Rainbow Falls and Volcanoes National Park, including some off the beaten path roads suggested by the Revealed book. Excellent day! [u]Maui[/u] We rented from Hertz again here with no problems. The bus was waiting for us when we docked (I probably didn't even need to call since so many others had called already) and we were in our car within 20 minutes of getting off the ship. We drove the Road to Hana, stopping at suggested spots in the Revealed book, and instead of turning around in Hana, we continued on to make the complete circle. If your bones can take the jarring, I highly recommend this. We saw some amazing views of Haleakala! The entire round-trip took about 13 hours. Both of us enjoyed it immensly. The second Maui day we spent on top of Haleakala (dress warmly!) and at the Iao Valley. If it's cloudy or rainy when you get to the top of the volcano, wait 15 minutes or so. We were completely clouded in when we got to the top and we were both very disappointed. 15 minutes later the day was as clear as a bell. We couldn't have asked for better weather (did I mention you should dress warmly?). We probably could have died without having made it to the Iao Valley, but since we had a few extra hours we went (it's only maybe a 15 minute drive from the ship), and it was certainly nice. But I wouldn't say it should be a focal point of your day, just my opinion. By the way, overnight parking at Maui is free and is in lots 2 or 10, I believe. The guard at the pier can direct you. No problems here. [u]Kona[/u] Rented from Enterprise in town here since I read on these boards that was closest. Again, called when we got off the tender and the shuttle was there in 10 minutes. Once in our car, we drove through Kona and then south towards the Place of Refuge and on to a Kona coffee farm which we toured for free (Bayview Farms). That tour was excellent. We also spent some time at Hilo Hatties and Maui Divers Jewelry in Kona since it was a little more of a laid back day. No problems getting back to the pier with the Enterprise shuttle. [u]Kauai[/u] We got into Kauai at 8am (earlier than originally scheduled). We rented from Hertz again, and again, the process was a piece of cake. The shuttle was there when we got off the ship. The first day we went to Waimea Canyon and did some hiking. Breathtaking. We also saw some waterfalls around Lihue that were a lot of fun! It's all perfectly described in the Revealed books. The second day was up the north shore (nice lighthouse and Hanalei). We had to be back on the ship by 1:30, so this little bit fit in nicely. Overnight parking is $10 in Kauai and you park either at the Aloha Center (which is within easy walking distance to the ship) or at a strip mall called Anchor Cove (I think?). Anchor Cove is still within walking distance, but there's also a free shuttle. We left Kauai around 2 for the scenic Na Pali coast sail. Absolutely jaw-dropping. If your cabin is port-side and you have a balcony, you're very lucky. There was some jostling up on the upper decks to see it, but I understand if you go down to deck 6, the view is still unobstructed and there aren't as many people either. I guess there's been some talk recently that NCL had canceled this scenic sailing too, but I hope that's not true. It was so worthwile. [u]Post-Cruise[/u] We booked our only NCL-excursion for the day that we arrived back in Honolulu. It was the Highlights of Oahu tour, which had us back at the airport by around 2 - perfect for our 3:50 flight home. We saw some nice sights on this tour, but I was used to having our own car and for that reason only, I wasn't a fan. I had gotten spoiled by being able to see things on my own terms all week. It was a better option than either sitting at the airport or renting a car in crazy Honolulu traffic for a few hours though! :) [u]Conclusion[/u] All in all? A great cruise. We knew going into this that we probably won't ever go back to Hawaii (because there's just too much out there that we need to see!), and I feel like we came away from this vacation with an outstanding overview of what the islands have to offer. It really is a magical place. The very few problems we experienced on the ship in no way detracted from a vacation that I know we'll look back on for the rest of our lives and smile about. And one last thought? I love those cruise port pictures the cruise lines are always taking when you get off the ship at various ports, and by far, NCL's were the best and most fun I've seen yet. They were really well-taken and the props were always different. One day we had a Tiki statue, the next was a surfboard etc...I usually only buy one or two, but this time I bought them all. :D I wish I was still in Hawaii. Any questions, feel free to ask away!
  8. Some of Costa's ships also stop in Egypt. We were on the Costa Atlantica this past October for 10 nights with stops in Naples, Italy; Messina, Sicily; Alexandria (Cairo), Egypt; Limassol, Cyprus; Marmaris, Turkey; Santorini, Greece; and Katakalon, Greece. We also picked this particular cruise because of the Egypt stop, and we were not disappointed. The ship offered numerous excursions to Giza, and the whole cruise was amazing. I've posted additional comments on this cruise over on the Costa board if you're interested in reading more about it. If you have any questions, just let me know!