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GHRAustin

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About GHRAustin

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  1. I just booked 3 weeks, May 6 2-week Spring Crossing, Singapore to Bali, then a week May 20 Bali eastbound. Booked through a travel agent who gave me a nice cabin credit... which will help that single supplement some! Am searching for flights, from Austin, thinking the two hop - Aus - San Fran - Singapore - looks the best, nasty long flights but thinking business class might be required!! I know this will be all new itinerary for them and the first time so it might be a bit rocky, but I think May is better than Oct to avoid the rainy season. Anyone else on crossing or that first week in Bali?? G
  2. Hey there Sassy (I see you are in Houston, almost a neighbor!), I will be on the May 3-17 Flyer itinerary that is in Monte Carlo for the May 10 turnaround (think they sold that trip as a 14 day sail, which I booked, or each week as separate, w/ Monte Carlo as the switch spot), so will try and let you know when I come back. I talked to my sister who had been there a few years ago and they went up to the town of Eze where she said the view over the Med was amazing, lots of quaint shops and open air restaurants, so that might be a fun place to take a taxi to, bus or whatever. I have been around that area on a day trip from Aix-en-Provence and the whole area is gorgeous with wonderful little walled villages (St Paul de Vence is gorgeous if you have extra time to kill, up the road from Nice as I recall). I chose the earlier sail to avoid summer air rates and crowds, and got the ship fare with no single supplement, so that worked well for me, but June should still be lovely. Take care and I will report back after May 19th. Gail in Austin
  3. Randco, you probably want to take a nice dress (cocktail type) for Captain's dinner night, as folks tend to dress up a bit for that. Enjoy,, I am getting ready to start the packing,, where oh where is the travel butler when I need him? Have a great sail. I see the hotels in Cannes are filling up as the film festival is going on there when we disembark and you embark, should be exciting!
  4. Hi Lauren, we just did the Nov 19th Grenadines run on the Royal, and I would report the following (got wordy on this, but do have some strong feelings on the snorkling topic): 1) In general, the sports team did not make any snorkle runs like we experienced in Tahiti - they sometimes were ignorant of the area (that should be resolved now) and generally took the beach toys in but no adoption for snorkling off reef, below Pitons, etc. So don't count on them, I suggested a sign up to snorkle idea like they used in Tahiti to the cruise director and she did not seem interested in pursuing. In general, I found the entire ship was much more oriented to passengers taking the high priced excursions rather than the sports team accommodating passengers to some of the best snorlking locations in the Caribbean. Disappointing to say the least. 2) Captain's Best: this was an ok, not great beach, on Union Island. Not much snorkling there but beach bar had potent rum punch. Obviously this should have been called Captain's Convenience, as they had to clear us in the town on Union island and just went around the corner for the beach. 3) Grenada: We spent way too much time in the town in Grenada, funky, high pressure from locals, go in and buy your spices and hike around, but do find a good beach, or get a local to take you. The tour is one we did years ago and from all reviews, sounds just like it did years ago,,, nutmeg factory, waterfalls, etc, think it was long. 4) Tobago Cays: Sports team took toys to the beach, but no runs to the reef, and you do need a zodiac or something small to do the reefs. Use the locals that will approach you on the island where they set up the barbeque, they will take you around the corner to the turtle reserve for 10USD, and if calm enough, to the reef. Use Captain Scrums, friendly guy in white Coco Channel shades,,, this is where I asked cruise director to arrange snorkling to the reef, to no avail. What a shame, but have heard some of the reefs there have had damage from hurricane last year. FYI the tour that went to Half Moon Bay, etc. was cancelled at the last minute, but honestly, since Tabago Cays are so lovely, did not see the use of it anyway,,, the beach barbeque was, as always, fun time. 5) St Vincent: They took us to the really poor, funky main town (Jamestown?), many of us did not even get off and those who did, many said they did not feel safe. There is a nice botanical gardens there you can go to with taxi. No beach offers from the ship. Shame, as St Vincent has some lovely beaches! 6) Bequai - we did the tender to town, as it is a lovely little town, and they did make a beach run also I believe. THey make wonderful model sailing ships there, well worth checking the stores to the left of the dock, back to water, and the bookstore there is just when you exit the dock, had great scrimshaw, and there is also a turtle reserve or farm there, generally a lovely little town. 7) Martinique - spent time in main town (I think the main area was a hike from the dock, based on what folks said), then sailed to small beach town, but it had just poured so the mud and sewer were flowing into the bay, would not have been a snorkling spot anyway, just swimming. 8) St Lucia - after stopping in Marigot Bay in AM (to let off the excursion folks), and there is no snorkling there,, we sailed late into Suffriere (sp?) and had like 1.5 hours. NO runs to any beach,, we walked to beach left of the dock and it was ok, but around the corner in either way was wonderful snorkling that the ship seemed to have no interest in providing for passengers. I suggest you take a taxi to Anse Chastenet or take a water taxi down to the base of the Petit Piton, which is in front of the HIlton property there for wonderul snorkling. You were in great view of the pitons during the afternoon and as we sailed away, but as stated, no interest from the ship in providing any great snorkling access, they did have the water sports platform out but not in a snorkling area. So, to sum up, we did have a great time, lovely sailing, lovely islands, but I honestly feel the ship is 1) more and more oriented towards making bucks off of tours, and 2) the constant changing of the sports team and the cruise director leave you in a situation where neither knows the area on the first few sails of the season, and they do not seem incented to write anything down for the next team, nor to accommodate snorkling runs as we have previously seen. This was my 8th sail on Star Clippers I think, and I see lackluster performance by the sports team on most sails, and cruise director is the boss of the sports team I believe, but in this case seemed to have no desire to take the extra step to enable snorkling with their facilities in some great waters!! That said, have a great time, and make your own snorkle trip in the lovely areas and don't waste time waiting for the sports team to provide opportunities for you (unless, after more time in the area, they have changed their MO). Hopefully this info will help you and is not too negative!! It should help you manage expectations. Gail
  5. Hey all, I did the transatlantic on the Royal in 2005, and wore my jeans and long sleeves up until the stop in the Canaries, then we headed south and started hitting warmer weather, and most of that ocean part was spent in bathing suit, and sleeveless for dinner, so a little of everything is called for. I packed waterproof pants and big jacket and it was entirely unnecessary, although a poncho or wind jacket is good, generally if it is pouring you don;t want to be on deck anyway! On the exercise front, depending on your crew, the sports team will run early AM exercise sessions daily, walk a mile around the ship daily, maybe yoga, water exercises, and passengers sometimes run yoga, tai chi, pilates, etc. during the crossing, and they often do deck golf tournaments (if you consider that an activity). You CAN come off the ship in better shape than you got on it, and eat desserts the entire crossing. Have fun, Gail
  6. Hi all, I am booked on the Royal for their 11 night Rome to Venice trip, Sat, July 16 - Wed, July 27th. Wondered if anyone else on CruiseCritic was booked on this trip. I have 3 nights in Rome pre-trip, currently booked on points in the Holiday Inn (not great, but free) and then in the Hilton Stucky Molino for 5 nights post trip. Am interested in talking to anyone, especially on Rome pre trip, getting to the ship, etc. and also if anyone is going to be in Venice post trip. Let me hear from you! I am a repeat Star Clippers sailor, have done short trips but love the repositionings. Looking forward to doing my first sailing venture on the Med. GHRAustin
  7. Danny was (I believe) acting as our head bartender, assisted by Joey (sailed many an ocean with both of them) and Darwin and Jerry. Bar, as always, was always open except due to clients late at night,, and great. Have Joey make you a negroni,, very refreshing! Food was per normal,, the lack of snorkling and swimming allowed the cream desserts to take their toll on me, but hey, what the heck! My only observation on the food was the smoked salmon only appeared like first day and last day on the cruise,,, they had smoked trout instead (personal preference). All in all, very good, we had good fish many nights, and my only less than wonderful meal was the lamb one night, but hey, beats what I have been eating since I got back! We drank a lot of the dry Italian Rose at dinner, and it was like 18 E per bottle I think, very good and very reasonable. Sounds like from the southern review that confusion still reigns supreme on the sports offerings and landings,, I likewise always think the ship personnel should have this figured out ahead of time, and not discover on my dime, and I did talk to the chief mate and he told me that the home office sorted out the stops, etc. The overall hotel manager for all ships was onboard our sail, and I never saw him speaking to one passenger, think he might have heard an earful if he had, but maybe that was not his mission. Anyway, as stated, wind and sailing were great! And I came home wonderfully relaxed, managed 6 massages in just under 3 weeks, which suited me just fine!! Gail
  8. Just came back from Costa Rica, full report here. Interesting trip. The ship was in good condition, lots of bartenders and cabin, restaurant crew that I knew from both the Flyer and the Clipper, as they had just moved a bunch of folks from the Clipper over to the Flyer. Herman was our restaurant manager, and our Hotel manager was Axel (new to me, but he left the day we left and Rolando was coming on board). Cabins and restaurant, bars all good. One day the bathroom got all stinky with sewer gas and they fixed that quickly, and one day the water turned nasty brown and was shut off for awhile, but they fixed that quickly too. Nice new shower stands by the swimming pools are a nice addition. Sails were in good shape, we sailed A LOT,, great winds, up to 30 + knots a lot of the time. Captain was Mariusz, very nice guy, but his mates were basically not talking very much, same with ABS team, all from India and only Louis from the last few times on the Flyer. Seemed to be no offerings of sextant reading, passengers taking the wheel, etc. but the NET was ALWAYS OPEN!!! Mostly we sailed at night though, except the first day was all sailing, a great day that was!! The cruise director was Ximena, from Mexico. This was week 3 of the Costa Rica weeks, and we went the northern route, which they had done once before, but they were very poorly organized for anything other than the excursions (which were almost all very long, like 8-10 hours (6 hours in a bus for 2 hours of tour), and very expensive, 60 or 80 Euros or so on many of them. I think folks really enjoyed some of them, the trip to Granada in Nicaragua, and the river float trips seemed to be well received. Ximena went over the excursions, but she spent more time telling us what they were NOT like, and what we would NOT like, or could NOT do, so it was an odd and confusing presentation, to me at least. It had rained a lot the first 2 weeks, so the people from the previous week had 4 days of solid rain, they were a bit cabin bound and happy to see the sun we had. We had good weather and great sailing, big winds, and no rain. I figure the offerings will be clearer once they do them a few more times and hopefully the sports team situation will improve with time also. I did not take any excursions and thought the sports team would be running snorkling excursions, but that was not the case. Sports team was Frederick (diving,, that seemed pretty good, but I don't dive, did hear water was COLD and you had to go down some feet for clarity), and Victor and his sidekick Simon, who was new, but they did not offer much to customers other than their good looks and some zodiac driving. They told me in 15 days they would know where the good snorkling was, which did not help me. They had few onboard offerings, except morning exercise daily. One day they took out the laser sailboat and also did water skiing I think, out of 7 days. High winds prevented activities one day, and other days the excuse was the Zodiacs were in use for transporting folks for the tour groups, so generally we did not experience the beach type activities that we normally are used to. The ship also had Yacko, new Marine Biologist from Barcelona, cute and trying to get knowledgeable to the surroundings, very good humor and he tried to accommodate requests. He was brand new the first day we were there. He took 2 snorkle groups out towards the end of the week, and also did diving, but the waters were not clear, they were very silty and dark, so snorkling was not good. This may be better in the southern route, and/or once water clears from rainy season. We only went to one white sandy beach (Isla de Tortuga) and at noon it was overrun with big day trip boats, (so go early) but it was pretty (it cost $7.00 US to sit in a lounge chair on the beach, and $1.00 to go to the bathroom!!) The ship had no facilities for us on the beach, no beach picnic, no floaty pads, ever! Earlier in the week we went to beaches where the Captain said he would not fill the pool, as the water might be too polluted (San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua). Also at Playas del Cocos the water was like brown mud, and they filled the pool but the water was stinky and brown, so again, no pool and no good beaches there. This may improve with end of rainy season. Another stop for Santa Rosa park, had absolutely nothing, they told us we could walk 10 min to a beach, I think it was more like 50 minutes from some people who went, but I walked over 15 min and no beach, and was alone on a deserted road with men in trucks driving by, so I did not feel comfortable there and went back to the ship. Some women were selling little shell animals and dolls from a card table, good to support the local economy! On the first 2 stops you could go into the little towns but they were small and not much to do, tourist shopping, etc. One guy got his wallet picked in Playas del Cocos I think, and another got bit by a dog,,, but the little towns were much like Mexican beach towns 30-40 years ago). The first sailing day was great, and the Isla de Tortugas day was good too. We also liked Carillo and Samora, two towns close to each other that they ran a bus between, nice beach in each case. The ship never put us on a nice beach with the exception of Isla de Tortuga, in all other cases the beach was funky or they put us off somewhere that we had to hike or ride to a beach, I don't know why. Someone mentioned the Costa Rican govt was very greedy, that or sea/beach conditions or lack of knowledge probably added to the situation. KAT from Thailand was massage therapist on the ship, she was great, I had 2 massages from her. Our passengers were almost all US and Canadians, I think we had 4 Germans, 2 French, and 2 or 4 Norwegians. We shut down the bar at 11:00PM, hardly anyone partied, even during Pirate night! Things were often not well announced or happening at the time stated, so general lack of participation. I felt sorry for the bartenders (Danny, Joey and Darwin and Jerry) due to lack of business - we TRIED to keep up the bar!! Our musician was from Bulgaria I think and did a lot of country songs, Jerry, he was nice, just really into country! We only had 78 passengers I think, and 78 crew, so the ship was over half empty. We did get some dancing going a few nights, and had a talent show (fewer acts than normal). We stayed at a beautiful resort, Villas Caletas, before the sail, north of Jaco, on the Pacific side (they too had a rough beach a mile away, no swimming, but they had a beautiful edgeless pool, it was French and very very nice). We had rooms in the original section, very lovely with great balconies looking out over the bay. Prices were high but service wonderful, views outstanding, saw toucans while having coffee on my balcony, shooting stars at night, free yoga daily, very nice location on top of high hill overlooking giant bay. We stayed at the Intercontinental in Escazu at the end of the trip, very nice suburban hotel, nice pool but too cold to swim, we got upgraded to tower room and had access to the club where we had breakfast and free drinks, snacks at dinnertime. That was a nice addition. I wanted to wear jeans and fleece jacket in San Jose, but all I had was white linen clothes, definitely was freezing there! Great spa tho, in both Villas Calletas and Intercontinental. Evenings were chilly on the ship as well, I was using my pareo as a shawl to stay warm! I guess Dec is a windy month and maybe cooler than normal. All in all a very good time, and I think the ship sports and activity issues will improve with time. That’s the report, all that is fit to print! Other notes: US Dollars accepted virtually everywhere, 26.00 exit tax at airport can be paid in either currency, or on CC I think, and the liquor store in the airport, where you EXIT, is excellent, price wise. The duty free leaving Costa Rica, is not so good, price or quantity wise. The change office at airport was open when we came in at 8PM or so. Also, note that traffic into but mostly out of San Jose is horrible, it took us a good hour from downtown back to the Doubletree Cariari the first day we were there, Escazu was not so bad, but downtown SJ is crowded, polluted and good for a day or two. Gold museum under the Teatro Nacional (which has a nice coffee/lunch café) is wonderful and Jade Museum in the INS building is very good as well. Seems the ship did have internet most places but I was not trying, so not sure if everywhere, and at least in one case a couple was calling home from the back deck, so guess service was available at times. Drinks in bars off ship were very reasonably priced, I hear. Ship drinks usual prices but the tours sure seemed higher than usual. Massage still a great bargain at like 46 Euro per hour, can’t be beat! Let me know if questions, Gail
  9. Forgot to add, when I researched the train it looked like it was no longer in service. If it IS back in service now, I think the docs said they wanted you onboard by 10PM, so I bet we sail at midnight. Train could be fun if it is available!
  10. Kayakbride, Glad to meet you all, there is a rollcall site of the Dec 5 trip under Rollcall > Other Cruise Lines, on this site with a few others on same trip. We will be in Villa Caletas for 3 days before the sail, down by Jaco (thanks Mike) and hitting the Intercontinental (by ship transport) for 3 days post sail. We hired Odyssey tours per various recommendations to do the transport down to Villa Caletas and over to the ship from there, so sounds like we won't be in the same location as you, or would share. I got my docs the other day so getting close! Mike, will let you know if we have some overlap ports of call, since we are heading up to Nicaragua, not south! Gail
  11. Hugh, you should have no problem getting your chocolate fix (daily at least) and while the cheesecake may not be the cheesecake you are used to,, it does appear, along with every creme brulee, flan, etc known to mankind! Those salt water pools do sort of tear up a bathing suit on a repositioning cruise, and don't wear your good one to the Neptune's ocean crossing event,, enough said! I am on the countdown to Nov 30 when I leave for Costa Rica, for Star Flyer Dec 5 Costa Rica to Nicaragua sail,, short but gonna be sweet! Talk to you later, will have to hear how your sail goes, and yes - Austin has become full of not only yuppies, but Californian yuppies,, what can I say?? It somehow falls victem to its own success, but I can't think of a better place in the world to live, except maybe Washington or Oregon in the summer... Waterfall,, maybe Hamilton Pool?? or you thinking intown swimming at Barton Springs?? Gail
  12. Hi Hugh and Roger,, just had to add, for Hugh, the variety of fantastic cream desserts is amazing,, at lunch (buffet style) and then a selection or two or ice cream with dinner,, BUT,, if you hit the salad side of the lunch buffet heavy and the other areas lightly,, and do some of those sponsored or volunteered exercise options, you can actually have 2 or 3 mini servings of desserts daily AND come off the ship in better shape than when you went on!! Climbing up and down stairs all day, doing isometrics 24 hours a day to stay upright (or in bed at night some nights,,) due to sea motion, you will be in fine shape. I don't think the food is spicey at all (of course, I live in Texas, so about half way across the ocean I am looking for hot sauce and jalapenos) so that should not bother you, and I don't think a problem with sauces or gravies either,, you will be just fine! If something is served with sauce, just ask your waiter for sauce on the side, or none, etc. They are very helpful and friendly, and try to meet all your requests. And as Roger said,, new faces on board after x days at sea are noticed and the ships are small enough, low enough passenger count, that you always meet people! Wish I were sailing now,,, Gail
  13. Hi Hugh, I went on Royal transatlantic 5 years ago, and we hit warm weather very shortly after leaving Canaries,, then spent days in bathing suit/cover up,, until evening. Evenings got warm pretty fast too, as I recall, but light jacket would be good. I did not use the big rain gear I took with me, but a light rain shell might do you good if you want to be up on deck in wet weather. We only had a few rough times, lost some dishes one night, nothing too much, maybe 15' waves or so, at the worst. The crowd will vary, there are some repositioning cruises where the bar is lively in the evenings and some that are very quiet after 10PM or so,, just depends. Generally dinner seems to be more popular earlier than later, but depends on the crowd and also how many people on the ship, if full, some folks hang back to avoid the crowd. Sounds like you sorted out the agenda fairly well,, passengers volunteer to lead different yoga, etc classes and some do lectures or presentations, so it is all intersting. Almost everyone is very social and you will meet lots of interesting people. Have fun, Gail
  14. We have gone ahead and booked Villa Caletas for 3 nights prior to Dec 5 Star Flyer sail out of Puerta Caldera. If anyone else is staying there pre-cruise and wants to share transport from hotel to Caldera on Sunday, let me know! I will look for the Rollcall post you put out, NoeHill,, (and MSEm), will have to meet up once we get on board, always nice to know of folks going on! On disembarking, we will probably take the ship transport to San Jose Intercontinental, where we will stay for 3 days before heading back to Austin. Again, if anyone wants to share transport, I think we can get a van for 100. US for the entire van rather than 50. each on the ship transport. Talk to you all on the other post but will ck back here as well. Now I want to book something for spring,,, Gail
  15. There is a wide variety of tea always available at the deck bar, all hours of day and night,, I started making great herbal ice teas (take a big insulated mug) as they only serve ice tea at meals and I am an ice tea drinker. The DVD player plays US music CDs I know,, have never taken anything other than CDs (pre mp3 player, now I just take that and some travel speakers for cabin music). The ship library has lots of free movie DVDs you check out at the pursers office for free (you can set your language on the DVD). Enjoy! Gail
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