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About Hlitner

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    30,000+ Club

About Me

  • Location
    New Cumberland,PA, USA
  • Interests
    International travel (77 countries at last count(
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  1. Hlitner

    Dinner YC Question

    Somebody mentioned wine sommeliers in the YC (Le Muse) and on our two Divina cruises there were NO sommeliers. The Le Muse waiters would simply ask what kind of wine was wanted (without ever offering a wine list) and you could respond red or white or even mention a grape and they might give you the options (wines included at no extra cost) or some waiters would just bring what they thought was best (which was sometimes not the best). What we found interesting was that near the door in Le Muse they did have a small wine display with "premium" wines that would have been an upsell from the free wines. But during our 21 days nobody ever tried to get us to buy a premium wine and we were never offered a wine list. We found the included (free) wines adequate (except for one evening when our waiter suggested Mondavi Woodbridge. What we found interesting was that at one of our Black Card parties, the ship's wine Sommelier stopped at our table, introduced himself, and said he was always available to help with wine selections. This was the first and only time we ever saw this man. Hank
  2. Hlitner

    Mediterranean cruise

    A balcony is always nice if it is within your budget. As to the cruise line, we would suggest choosing the best itinerary and going with the cruise line that offers the best itinerary/price. When looking at itineraries in Europe you should pay close attention to the times and day of the week in each port. Certain popular tourist sites/museums can be closed one day a week so you need to pay attention to what you want to see...and if it is open on your port day. For example, the Vatican Museums (including the Sistine Chapel) is generally closed on Sunday's. or.....The famous Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. As to the times in port, look for long port days..keeping in mind that some desired tourist destinations can be 1-2 hours from the port. Good examples would be Civatavecchia to Rome (about 1:30 each way) or Livorno to Florence (about 1:20 each way). Also consider a cruise that beings in one port (such as Barcelona) and ends in a different port (like Civitavecchia). In those cases one can often add a few days at either end....which maximizes your vacation with some valuable land time. One can usually find "open jaw" airline deals that handle flying in and out of different airports...without paying much more then a regular round trip. Hank
  3. Hlitner

    Seasick OTC Patches/meds

    Funny, but we just posted this info elsewhere. Bonine is the drug of choice on most ships and is usually sold in the shops or even given away free at Guest Relations. Bonine is actually the drug Meclizine Hcl 25mg which is also available in generic form from many pharmacies for a fraction of the cost of the brand name (Bonine). As to the "patch" which is scopolamine, DW and I have tried this drug and had too many side effects (the worst was slightly bluffed vision which made reading very difficult). Cruise ship physicians can tell you many stories about scopolamine side effects..some of which are quite amusing. One tale, told to us by a HAL physician, was about an elderly female passenger found wandering in a corridor (late at night) totally nude. She was confused and disoriented...and was quite fine a few hours after they removed her patch ). One nice side effect of scopolamine is dry mouth....which is fine if one has a drink package :). Hank
  4. Hlitner

    Disinfecting your cabin question.

    Reading this thread almost makes me feel some empathy for the germophobes of the world. I cannot imagine going through life worrying about those little nasties (many of which are actually quite helpful). I suspect that any possible gains (if any) of worrying about what to wipe down. what to seal in bags, etc. increases the likelihood of illness related to increased anxiety. Anxiety is a very serious problem in our society and likely causes more health related problems then Norovirus. Just saying. Hank
  5. Hlitner

    Bonine or Dramamine for seasickness

    Just a comment about Bonine which is actually the drug, Meclizine Hcl. If you buy Bonine (which is simply a brand name) you will likely pay nearly 50 cents per chewable pill. But if you simply go to a decent discount pharmacy like Target or Walmart and ask the pharmacist if they sell generic Meclizine, you will likely be able to get the same thing as Bonine at a fraction of the cost. The last time we did this at Target we got 100 Meclizine Hcl (25 mg) Chewable (the same as Bonine) for $6 or about 6 cents per pill (a lifetime supply). Hank
  6. Hlitner


    Our 5 * Pin was left in our cabin. DW either tossed that stuff in a drawer or just throws it out so I have never seen it again :). I was once moving some stuff around my dresser and actually found an Orient Lines Pin (it even had a faux diamond) still in its plastic wrapper. One day I stumbled on a pile of cruise ticket folders (vinyl, leather, paper, etc) from the glory days when cruise lines would send you tons of documents in nice folders. The nicest one's were Orient Lines and Crystal. HAL's was not too bad. RCCL was the worst since it was made out of cheap cardboard. I once suggested selling the Medallions and Pins at the onboard auction (they have this on some of the longer cruises) but HAL specifically prohibited the sale of those items (we suspect that if not prohibited many would be up for sale at the auction). Probably the most interesting cruise tidbit was the large solid chocolate cruise ship they gave us on MSC. We actually got 4 of those things (back to back cruises) and each weighs over a pound and is at least 9 inches long. No way were we going to pack that stuff since it might have melted in our luggage...not to mention the extra weight. But I did remark that it made a lot more sense then a pin...since pins just get tossed out....but chocolate can be eaten :). Speaking of HAL pins, for those that actually care about this stuff we noticed that there are all kinds of HAL pins for sale on ebay. One could invest a few dollars, buy lots of pins, and really impress folks if you wear them aboard. Hank
  7. Hlitner

    Noro Virus

    I do feel some empathy for germophobes (a person with an extreme fear of germs and an obsession with cleanliness) and the related anxiety disorders that flow from that type of obsession. Consider the following: Nearly two-thirds of the estimated 40 million adults with anxiety disorders are women. What people with these disorders have in common is unwarranted fear or distress that interferes with daily life. Anxiety also plays a role in somatic symptom disorder, which is characterized by physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, weakness, or dizziness that have no apparent physical cause. Just saying. Hank
  8. The actual ticketing occurs at the time of payment to the airline which is usually between 40-45 days prior to your cruise. The airlines do have a contractual relationship with the cruise line's air folks and do honor the reservation about as much as they honor any reservation (ticketed or not). Airlines reserve the right to change flights, cancel flights, alter reservations, refuse passage even when you have a confirmed reservation, etc. etc. In the USA the consumer has very limited rights when it comes to airlines. There are some consumer groups that have been working for years to get a real "consumer bill of rights" for airline passengers...but they have had little success due to powerful airline lobby groups in Washington :(. I recently had a confirmed (and ticketed) reservation on American that was done about 6 months in advance. A few weeks before the flights AA simply cancelled one of the flights and re-scheduled the connecting flight making our reservation completely worthless. AA's rep said they could get us to our destination the following day, but we would be stuck in an airport overnight or have to pay (out of our own pocket) for a hotel. We demanded a refund which was given....but the reality is that they broke a contract with absolutely no penalty. And its no different when you use EZAIR. In a sense, when you make an airline reservation you are rolling the dice that it will be honored as booked. Until Congress passes a law (not in this lifetime) requiring compensation for unforced changes, the airlines will continue to give the "finger" to the flying public whenever they please. Why not? Without penalties they have no disincentive. We passengers, on the other hand must pay extra fees for everything, outrageous penalties for changes, etc. Hank
  9. Beg all you want 🙂 (only teasing). We have done river cruises in Germany (on both the Rhine and Danube) and loved the voyages (on Viking). However, there were very few children on those river cruises. In fact, on our 14 day River cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest there was not a single child or teen. We have also driven rental cars through a good part of Germany and there is much more to that beautiful nation then what you can see on a River cruise. Compare seeing Germany on an Ocean and/or River cruise to seeing the USA on an Ocean and/or river cruise. Just like in the USA, there is an awful lot of Germany not accessible to those cruises :). Another issue with River cruises is the very brief time in many spots (we once saw an entire country in less than 3 hours). Also consider that many of the best River cruises includes group tours...which are not generally designed for children. Our daughter (now a mother of her own children) still remembers her first European trip (age 9) when we stopped for frequent "Orangina Breaks" not to mention frequent ice cream stops :). Hank
  10. Hlitner

    Disinfecting your cabin question.

    We do absolutely nothing to clean our cabin, the corridors, the floors, ceilings, bulkheads, chairs, cushions, etc etc. How silly to think that wiping down a miniscule part of a huge vessel will have an impact. What we do is wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands....and try to avoid touching our face. Any by the way, those Lysol wipes are really not effective against Noro virus. The cruise lines use powerful effective chemicals in their cleaning/disinfecting procedure. We are quite content to trust the real professionals and go about enjoying ourselves. Having cruised extensively for over forty years (with far more then 1000 days on ships) we have never been infected with Noro on a ship (have had it on land). On the other hand, we sure have had our share of respiratory issues on ships. With many bugs spread by sneezing and coughing that can be hard to avoid. Hank
  11. You have specified a country (Germany) that really does not have a lot of cruise ports. Like many countries in Europe, Germany is best enjoyed on a land trip (we prefer to simply rent a car). A River cruise is certainly a much better option then any Ocean Cruise...but river boats are not well suited for children/teens. When our DD was 9, we took her on her first European trip. Although she had been cruising since age 5, we realized that a European cruise was not the ideal thing for a child. So we flew into Frankfort and ultimately spent our first night in a small time on the Rhine (Assmanhausen). We then used a combination of boats and trains to move up the Rhine to Cologne, over the Amsterdam, and then down to Paris for a few glorious days. Then we trained over to Switzerland for a few days before heading back to Germany and home. Now, having over forty years of extensive travel experience we would probably opt to lease or rent a car for a few weeks since that would give us the maximum flexibility. Hank
  12. Hlitner


    I will address your exact question. We used to really like Aqua and did it on several cruises with OK results. But then we noticed that the quality of cuisine in Blu was gradually declining while the cost of Aqua kept increasing. On one cruise we got tired of all the various braised meats ( i.e. lamb and beef) that all tasted alike. We found ourselves ordering more and more items off the "secret menu" which were MDR items such as Escargot, Onion Soup, etc. that one could get in Blu. So on our last Eclipse cruise (21 days) we booked a much lower priced regular balcony cabin (upgraded to Concierge) and purchased dining packages that covered 14 of our 21 dinners. We had 10 dinners in Murano, 1 in the Tuscan (awful), 1 in the Lawn, and 2 in Qsine. The food in all those venues (with the exception of the Tuscan) surpassed what we would get in Blu. And Murano was about as good as anything we have experienced on any ship. Since we were able to purchase our dining packages during a 20% Off sale, our cost per meal averaged about $25 per passenger day. We saved more then that by not booking Aqua Class, so in a sense we did not pay any extra (over the cost of Blu) for those restaurants. On the Gala nights we ate in the MDR...since those are the nights when the MDR has their best menus. Getting back to Blu...the first time we booked Aqua we thought Blu was terrific. But on subsequent cruises we found that menu items were either the same (which started to get boring) or declining. And consider the silly little things like the crudites and dips would did not change over many years. Or the nightly bread offerings which also did not change over many years. I could mention a quick comparison to being in the Yacht Club on MSC (with its own restaurant) where the bread offerings changed at every meal! And that dedicated restaurant (called Le Muse) was open for 3 meals a day...7 days a week (even when in port)! When compared to cruising in MSC's Yacht Club we found the entire Aqua concept a very distant 3rd class experience. And on a cost per day basis we thought we got a lot more for our money on MSC (which did cost more per passenger day then AQ). We once posted that we thought Aqua Class was worth about $25 more per passenger day then a much lower cost balcony. After our last AQ experience we dropped that number to about $20 per passenger day....which is the value we put on Blu above the MDR. We also thought that many of the AQ cabins were in an inferior location (directly below the pool deck and in the huge shadow cast by the overhang). AQ no longer had unlimited bottled water, the afternoon hors d'Oeuvres had declined to things like melon wrapped in inferior proscutto, celery, and perhaps an Olive. About the only thing we thought was nice were the silly footstools on the balcony (also in Concierge). I doubt if we will ever book Aqua on a future cruise unless it is sold for less then the price of a decent balcony cabin. On the other hand, we do not have any future Celebrity cruises booked (we used to have at least one or two booked at any time). On our recent MSC Divina cruise we had to decide did we want to book another cruise in the Divina's Yacht Club or on the Silhouette (in a Concierge or suite). DW and I talked about the decision for about 5 minutes...and with no hesitation booked another MSC cruise in the same Yacht Club cabin! When evaluating the pros and cons of both cruises/ships it was not even close. Hank
  13. Hlitner

    Cruise Selection - Good Food Critical

    So lets put the OP's post in clear English. They booked a mass market cruise line and got mass market cuisine! It is just that simple. Over the past 20 or so years the quality of food on all the mass market lines has undergone a steady decline in terms of quality, variety, and quantity. Even Celebrity, which was one of the few mass market lines to put some emphasis on cuisine has now cut-back (significantly) under its current CEO who comes from RCI. So where to go? One can certainly spend a lot more money and move to one of the luxury lines (Regent, Silverseas, Crystal, etc). I will be really honest and blunt. We have cruised upon 15 lines so have a decent idea of what is out there in the market place. There is no line, upon which we have cruised, that comes close to a decent land-based restaurant. Murano (on some Celebrity ships) might come closest to a decent quality restaurant, but the price keeps increasing making the "value" part of the equation a big question. And with the attitude of Celebrity's current CEO we would expect the quality of Murano to decline as the prices increase! We hope this is not the case, but everything we have seen on the line over the past 3-4 years leads us to that conclusion. Some folks do speak highly of the cuisine on Oceania, but that is one line upon which we have not cruised. Hank
  14. Hlitner

    BCN airport to port

    My advice on this is simple. Take a taxi from the airport. There is a taxi queue outside the luggage/customs area. Not sure if the cost is still 35 or 40....but so what. The taxi is very convenient and the taxis are clean, They can handle a couple with luggage (for larger parties you can request a larger taxi) some taxis can handle a credit card and others cannot. But since you are in Europe it is best to have some Euros which will avoid the worry. There are ATMs at BCN, There is no need to tip taxis in Spain although many North Americans still do it for some cultural reason. If we pay cash, we will round up and perhaps add a couple of Euros if the driver has been helpful with the luggage. The trip time varies depending on traffic but figure about 20 min. The fare structure is interesting because they get a few extra Euros for picking up at BCN and a few more Euros for dropping at the port..plus they also get another 1 Euro for each piece of luggage put in the trunk (boot). If we really want to use a credit card for a taxi (almost anywhere in Europe including Barcelona) we will make that clear before we even get into the taxi. If the driver says no, you simply try the next taxi. Hank
  15. Thanks for your kind thoughts and DW made a 100% recovery after nearly 4 months of extensive medical treatment (and two more trips to the Operating room). I think that having over thirty years working in the medical insurance industry (government) helped me deal with the insurance company on their own terms. While our situation was somewhat unique, in the medical insurance world there are unique cases every day. Getting to a nurse case manager, who grasped the situation, was key in getting some compromise from the insurance carrier. In a simple sense it was a win-win for them to pay for DW's medical evacuation since it may have saved them a much larger bill (for medical care in Japan). It also benefited DW who was able to get home and go under the care of her regular Orthopedic Surgeon who had some unique skills for dealing with DW's medical situation. Dealing with the medical world is made easier if the patient (or their representative) keeps their cool, works with physicians and the insurers for the best solution, and continues to communicate in a reasonable manner. In our case, I did not argue with the insurer who was willing (and almost begging) to pay DW's expensive one-way last minute business class fare from Japan to home....but would not even think about paying for Business Class for me (I paid that out of my own pocket). This was all about compromise and doing what was best for the patient. We were also fortunate to have a ship's physician who was very helpful (he spent significant time on the phone with our insurance company) and able to convince the insurance company that getting DW home was advisable...from a medical point of view. When I read some posts here on CC, I find it interesting that many cruisers are willing to pay an awful lot of money for lots of insurance that might not even meet their needs. That is why we always suggest that folks first assess their own needs and personal risk tolerance and then shop for a policy that best fits that profile. Buying policies that assume all risks and should (in theory) cover 100% of losses is often not a very good deal. There is a lot to support the idea of self-insuring the smaller risks while loading up on insurance that will cover the big risks. For cruisers, the biggest risk is medical (and related evacuation) and not cancellation. But read these boards and folks are mostly worried about cancellation. Even if one were to lose every penny of the cruise cost they will be no worse off (financially) then if they had taken the cruise. But your potential liability for medical and related costs is darn near unlimited! Losing the cost of your cruise might be nasty, but the cost of uncovered medical can easily bankrupt just about anyone. And yet we have cruisers worrying about covering a couple of thousand dollars in travel expenses but not concerned that the policy they purchase might only cover $10,000 of medical in a world where $50,000+ medical issues are not unusual. Hank