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Damaris1900

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Posts posted by Damaris1900

  1. I'll be watching what Regent decides to do with some interest.  We have two cruises currently booked on Regent, after what was supposed to be our first cruise with Regent was canceled last year.  We were supposed to be on the Splendor Barcelona to Venice cruise at the end of April 2020, and how Regent handled our refund after the pandemic shut cruises down is a big reason why we chose to book with them again rather than with Silversea or Seabourn.  If Regent decides to not require 100% vaccination, we'll be giving serious thought to canceling and rebooking with another cruise line.

  2. 1 hour ago, mrlevin said:

    Now if your governor would just open up the Land of Enchantment!  I am trying to buy opera  tickets for Bastille Day but no joy; not selling any tickets until state figures out their reopening.

    There will be a lot more opening up I understand when New Mexico hits 60% of the population being fully vaccinated.  We're at about 54% fully vaccinated right now, so keep checking!

  3. 24 minutes ago, mrlevin said:

    I'm hoping we're just returning from Manitoba - may the border be open for both of us. 😀

     

    Edited to add:  Jason's video https://www.rssc.com/Regent-Returns

    Thank you for linking that.  I'd say "Sign me up," except my DH and I had already booked 2 Regent cruises in the last few days.  Sadly, the first one isn't until August of 2022, but after the disappointment of the cancellation of our Splendor cruise last April, we're both cautiously optimistic about the restart.

  4. Our son in law travels for his business every week, and in his experience, American does the worst job in terms of mask enforcement, spacing while boarding or exiting the plane, and distancing while on the plane.  He has been impressed with the way other airlines, including Southwest and Delta, have handled these same issues, and prefers to fly with those airlines.  He no longer books with American at all.  Everyone has to decide how willing they are to deal with the risks, but I thought our SIL's analysis was interesting since he has no choice but to fly several times a week, has a child who is at higher risk, and is doing everything he can to minimize the risks of bringing COVID home.

  5. To me, the interesting thing about the Scylla policies is that Scylla is the company used by Tauck for their river cruises, and that Tauck clients are the same demographic as Regent clients: age, income, expectations of luxury and service, etc.  I'm sure that Regent and other luxury cruise lines are looking at something very similar to allow them to resume cruising, so it's worth taking good hard look at the Scylla policies and deciding if that's something that would be a showstopper in terms of our individual willingness to cruise again. Whether Regent and others would actually go to something like this, of course we don't know, but it's an interesting thought.

     

    At this point, I probably wouldn't, but since I have no expectation that a vaccine is going to be available for wide distribution in the next couple of years, or that people in my age demographic would get to be first in line for it, I might feel very differently in a year or so.  By then all those restrictions might look reassuring rather than too restrictive, and I might be desperate to resume some kind of travel. Hard to say at this point.

  6. Thats on Le Champlain, isn't it?  If you have traveled with Tauck before, you know that you will be well taken care of, and if you haven't, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts when you get back.  My husband and I are dedicated Tauck enthusiasts, and really enjoyed our Ponant experience.  We are definitely planning to cruise with them again, and hope you have a fantastic time.  Post a review when you get back!

  7. My husband and I cruised with Tauck on a Ponant ship a couple of years ago, and when I wrote the review I posted it under Ponant.  It was the Land of the Rising Sun cruise (Japan) and if you are interested I wrote a fairly lengthy review that separated out the parts of the cruise that were all Ponant, and the parts that were Tauck.

     

    I agree that Tauck has a product that would appeal to a certain segment of CC members, and that it would be nice if it were easier to find and exchange information about those itineraries.  We liked the Ponant ship we were on, but we also know that a good part of our enjoyment of the cruise came from the way Tauck took care of us, and the quality of the tour guides.

     

     

  8. Taking you more literally than I'm sure you intended, one detailed piece of advice is to choose the downstream direction on a Rhone cruise. The current is very strong on the Rhone [one of the few rivers in Europe to take the masculine article because of its personality], and sailing is much smoother going with the current than fighting it.

     

    Thank you, Host Jazzbeau, that is actually excellent advice, and just the sort of thing that is not obvious when you are choosing dates. Am I correct in assuming that this means starting in Lyon would be better than starting in Avignon?

  9. This has been a fascinating discussion, many thanks to three4rd for starting it and for the many interesting thoughts from other posters.

     

    That said, my DH and I have only been on one river cruise so far, with Tauck, and had some of the same impressions as three4rd: it is an expensive way to travel. Like the OP, we were underwhelmed with the overall quality of the Scylla/Tauck food: it was perfectly fine, but not anything to get excited about. Our drinking habits are usually limited to a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, but it was nice to have the option of an after dinner drink if we wanted it, or a glass (or 2) of champagne as we cruised down the Rhine gorge. What we really feel that we were paying for, and which we definitely got our money's worth for, was the overall level of service and attention from the Tauck tour directors, the comfort and luxury of the ship itself, and the general feeling of being cosseted, and literally not having to worry about anything at all. That was worth every penny, and is apparently a hallmark of Tauck's product. We certainly got the same level of care and attention to detail from our Tauck small ship cruise to Japan, although the food was better on L'Austral than it was on the river boat.

     

    We're thinking seriously about a river cruise on the Rhone for next September, and while Tauck would have been our first choice, as usual they are completely booked, so we are looking at Uniworld, Avalon, and Ama, and this whole thread has been extremely helpful in sorting out which direction we want to go for that trip.

  10. Thanks for the report! We were in Nagasaki in April and it seemed to us then that it was a port where DIY was totally doable. We will be there again in October 2018 and will try to do it on our own.

  11. Keystonetraveler, we actually had fairly good weather while we were there. We brought along umbrellas every day, but only used them once or twice. The first week had some overcast days, but we also had a nice mix of sun, too. Temperatures were mostly in the low 60's for highs while we were there, but a light jacket was all we needed, and several days we were able to leave those on the bus by afternoon. I think your plan to come a week earlier is a good one, in terms of the cherry blossoms!

     

    If you have any other questions, I'd be happy to help if I can.

  12. Thanks Damaris1900. I have signed up for the same cruise next April. Although it starts in Osaka, the trip seems pretty similar. Everything you mentioned only heightens my anticipation. I do hope the date I picked will allow me to see some cherry blossoms.

     

    Keystonetraveler, I hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did! We were in Kyoto about a week past the peak cherry blossoms (we arrived the 13th) and there were still plenty to see. By the time we got to Tokyo there were a few of the late blooming varieties in flower, but the season was definitely passing. On the plus side, as we drove through the countryside, up on the hillsides you could see that some of the azaleas were beginning to come into flower, so even in areas where the cherry blossoms had finished, there were still lovely flushes of pink and white. We also were able to see some of the rice paddies being started. The countryside is really astonishingly beautiful, so you will have lots to see whatever the state of the cherry blossoms.

  13. That was a very interesting and informative report.

    We have been on mass market cruise lines for quite some time, and are giving some thoughts on trying the small ship experience. Your insights will be helpful.

    Thanks for sharing.

     

     

    Sent from my iPad using Forums

     

    easyboy, this was our first experience of a small ship, and it was so different in every way from our previous mass market experiences that it will definitely not be our last small ship cruise. I'm glad you found the report helpful!

  14. Edited to add: I see autocorrect changed "Ponant" to "Pennant" and I don't seem to be able to correct it. Sorry about that!

     

    Tried to post this as a review but for some reason I couldn't manage to get it to post, so I'll try posting it here as a trip report. If anyone has any questions, either on L'Austral or our experience with Tauck, I'd be happy to try to answer them.

     

    My husband and I chose to travel on L'Austral with Tauck because we enjoy Tauck's level of service, and liked the idea of the small ship experience. I had done quite a bit of research on Ponant and L'Austral specifically, and felt that we were well-informed on both the pros and the cons for this particular line and ship. I'm going to divide this review into two sections, the first dealing solely with our experiences on L'Austral, and the second touching on aspects that were primarily Tauck-controlled.

    L'Austral: Embarkation in Osaka was seamless, with our luggage waiting in our cabin. The cabin itself was compact, with space to move around the bed, but not much more. The shower and vanity and separate toilet cubicle were similarly compact, but perfectly adequate. Toiletries were L'Occitane. Beds were comfortable, bedding of good quality but not luxurious. There were several types of bottled water on a tray, and a small refrigerator with an assortment of alcohol and soft drinks. We liked our cabin, were happy that we had the balcony, and thought our room steward was friendly, efficient, and gave great service. There was plenty of room under the beds for our suitcases.

     

    Dining: For the most part, we used the main dining room. We ate one lunch at the buffet restaurant, but overall preferred coming back to the ship and being served by our (very welcoming)favorite waiters. The dining room decor was quietly elegant, the chairs and banquettes very comfortable, and the noise level low enough that it was easy to converse with your table mates without raising your voice.

    Breakfast was a combination of buffet and made to order items. The buffet tended to have the same assortment every day, with some variation in the available fresh fruit, and some of the made to order options. The breakfast pastries were very good, and obviously made fresh--we enjoyed those a lot!

    The lunch and dinner menus had choices for soup, starters, sides and dessert, and for the main course a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian option. The quality of the food ranged from average (some overcooked fish) to very good, with the majority being more towards the "very good" end of the range. However, for people who may have been expecting the variety and selection of some of the larger cruise lines, the food may have been a bit of a disappointment. Having read some of the negative reviews of the food on the Ponant ships, we were frankly surprised and relieved at how good it was. Portion sizes were European rather than American, which also pleased us.

     

    Entertainment: We did not go to any of the shows since those started at 9:30, and after a full day of touring, having frequently left the ship by 8:15am, after dinner we usually headed for our cabin to relax and prepare for the next day. We did see the dancers and two of the singers in the lounge during the cocktail hour, and thought that the little mini-shows were entertaining--but not entertaining enough to make us stay up long enough to attend the longer shows!

    Service: The level of service from the majority of the staff was excellent: the waitstaff and room stewards were warm, friendly, and couldn't do enough for you. As an example, one of the people with whom we usually shared a table had a real weakness for chocolate--I think he had a chocolate dessert for every lunch and dinner--and one evening there was no chocolate dessert on the menu. Without saying a word, our waiter went to the kitchen and came back to the table with a mini-sundae with chocolate ice cream and cookies for our table mate.

    The women in reception were efficient, but not especially warm or helpful. Their coolness was especially noticeable since everyone else in a customer-facing position was so engaging.

    Ship: L'Austral is a small ship, but the public spaces are very pleasant, especially considering the fact that she is really an expedition ship, not a luxury cruise vessel. We hit some rough weather on our first night at sea, and while there was certainly quite a bit of motion that night, aside from that she was very comfortable, and didn't seem to be doing too much bobbing around.

    Tauck: For this particular cruise the Tauck passengers were divided into 4 groups of approximately 30-35, for a total of 120-140 total. This meant that the Tauck-ies constituted a majority of the passengers. I did wonder how this impacted the cuising experience of the other passengers, which, as nearly as I can remember, were a mixture of American, Australian, New Zealanders and about 20+/- French. My understanding is that next year Tauck will have 6 groups, which will effectively be the entire ship. There will also be some other changes in the tour, which this year began with 3 days in Kyoto, and next year will be based out of Osaka, with only a single day trip to Kyoto. We were happy that we were able to go this year, since we loved our time in Kyoto, and would hate to have missed it. As always, the Tauck tour director for our group of 30+ was wonderful, and kept us moving while still allowing for individual exploration and experiences. Our local guides were mostly excellent, and provided context and some nice extras, such as teaching us songs, playing counting games using Japanese numbers, and origami.

    Our hotel in Kyoto was the Granvia, situated on top of Kyoto Station. Two of the tour groups were based here, and the other two were at the Westin, and we had very little contact with them. The Granvia was a wonderful location, with underground shopping and restaurants, a department store, and easy access to both buses and subways which could take you to any part of the city.

    Kyoto sightseeing: Kinkakuji(covered in gold leaf), the Pure Water Temple, Gion, a taiko performance, a calligraphy lesson, and a tea ceremony, Nijo-jo (where we heard the famous "nightingale floors"), a Heian shrine, and a welcome dinner which included a Geisha performance. I'm not sure how much of this will be included next year, but I would have hated to miss any of it.

    The first port after Osaka/Kobe was Tamano. Our group caught a ferry to Naoshima Island where famous architect Tadao Ando designed Benesse House and where other houses in the village have been incorporated into a living art project. In the afternoon we visited Kurashiki which has many 17th century warehouses built along canals, and the Ohara Museum of Art.

    The next port was Hiroshima, where we visited the Peace Park Memorial and museum, as well as the iconic A-Bomb Dome. This was a pretty intense and emotional morning, so as a way of shifting gears, we were taken for lunch to an okonomiyake restaurant, which was truly delicious. In the afternoon we visited Miyashima Island to see the Itsukushima shrine with its beautiful red gate surrounded by the ocean, and where the deer are protected and will eat the paper right out of your pockets.

    Uwajima was next, where we visited a pearl farm, saw a farm where bulls are raised for fighting, and visited the Flying Squirrel Temple.

    Kagoshima--We visited the base of Sakurajima, an active volcano, and the Chiran Kamikaze Museum, where we saw the bunkers that the suicide pilots spent their last night and read their last letters home. We also visited Chiran Samurai village, where there are houses that date back over 250 years, and in some cases still have the original families living in those houses.

    Nagasaki--In the morning we visited the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum. The museum was very well done, and we actually preferred it to the Hiroshima Museum. In the afternoon we visited Dejima, which was the enclosed enclave that was the only place Dutch traders were allowed to live during much of the Edo period. We also visited Glover Garden, built in the mid-1800's for a Scottish physician, and containing the oldest Western style house in Japan.

    The next day took us to Pusan in South Korea where we visited the United Nations cemetery and memorial to the UN troops who died in the Korean War. We also took a trip to the Jagalchi fish market, where we saw fish that looked like something out of an Alien movie.

    Sakaiminato--In the morning we travelled to the Adachi Museum of Art, which has a wonderful collection of modern art, but where the real attraction are the incredible gardens around the museum. Every window in the museum frames another gorgeous view and viewpoint. In the afternoon we visited the Matsue black castle which is one of only 12 remaining original castles in Japan. Most of us climbed the 8 stories after having our photos taken with a samurai posing in front of the castle.

    The next day we disembarked, which was a very smooth process, and were bused to Kyoto where we had lunch in a restaurant in the Gion district before we were taken to Kyoto Station to catch the bullet train to Tokyo. The bullet train was a great experience, and as a bonus, we got a superb view of Fujiyama on the way. Our Tokyo hotel was the Shangri-La, which was everything luxury hotel should be. We were taken on a brief orientation tour of Ginza, and then set loose to enjoy dinner on our own.

    Our last day of the tour began with a trip to the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum (which really needed an entire day to itself to do it justice)and was followed by a "salaryman's lunch" at a wonderful restaurant. In the afternoon about half of the group, including my husband and myself, opted out of visiting the scheduled Meiji Shrine and chose to sightsee or shop on our own. That evening was the closing dinner at Happo-en which featured a demonstration by sumo wrestlers.

    As long as this review is, in terms of the Tauck portion of the cruise, I've really only given the barest outlines of what we did and experienced. Although there was some free time scheduled, for the most part we were kept moving. There seemed to be a larger than usual percentage of people in their mid-70's to mid-80's, and I believe that some of the people on the tour found the pace a bit taxing. My DH and I are in our early 60's and found the pace and activity level to be pretty much what we enjoy. How this compared to what the non-Tauck L'Austral cruisers experienced on their excursions, I have no idea, and I'm afraid I have no information on the quality of the excursions offered by L'Austral.

    Overall it was an excellent trip. We loved Japan, found the Japanese people to be warm, friendly and very helpful, and wouldn't hesitate to go back.

     

  15. Thanks for weighing in Kamloops50, TruckerDave, and em-sk. This is really valuable information for anyone thinking about booking a flight on this route, especially from Canada, or if they are starting from a hub. One of the most frustrating things for DH and me is that for us flights into and out of our city, and the connections that are involved are usually terrible, and cancellations are just a fact of life. Our first choice probably would have been ANA, but we just could not get the schedules to work for us, and there was also a significant increase in price. Flying Cathay Air would have added two more stops onto both the westbound and eastbound portions of the trip, as well as a significant increase in transit time--I think it was around 10 hours each way; the pricing was awful for us, too, just about double. So, while the quality of the airline and service is important, it is not important enough for me to pay that much more, and add that much more transit time to the trip. Someone else might make a different calculation--it's all about hitting that happy medium!

  16. Just a quick update:

     

    After running every possible schedule and airline, we ended up booking with United, but flying into SFO the day before our flight to Osaka so we don't have to stress over the 1hr and 26min connection time. This will give us a chance to eat a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in SFO, too:)

     

    Our flight back from Tokyo into SFO will involve a fairly tight connection, but there are multiple other later flights that could get us back home, so we aren't too worried. Overall, it could have been much worse, and the price we got was one we can live with.

     

    Thanks for all the help, it is much appreciated!

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