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About Hlitner

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    New Cumberland,PA, USA
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    International travel (77 countries at last count(
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  1. Oh my! I think we have been cruising too long. 2200 passengers! 91,000 tons! 900 crew! Nearly 1000 feet long! Small? Oh my. Go figure. Hank P.S. We just came off a 32000 ton, 650 foot, 450 passenger vessel that we thought was too large!
  2. Now you have my interest. What on earth did you see from "outside" the walls. Driving in the area you cannot really see much of the Alhambra or the Generalife from outside the gates and walls. It would be like driving to New Jersey to look across the Hudson to New York City except you would not see as much of the Alhambra. I cannot even imagine driving all that way to Grenada without going inside the Alhambra. The Alhambra is surrounded (on some sides) by a park (and related parking lots) with no close road. A tour bus would not get closer then the parking lot. And I should add that entrance into the Alhambra is governed by timed reservations which usually have to made days, weeks or even months in advance. You either have a reservation to enter or you don't. Same day entrance does exist, but it is a real crap shoot and the number of tickets very limited. If you booked and paid for a tour to the Alhambra it should have included a timed entry. Otherwise it was just a drive to Grenada. Cruise ship excursions and any decent private tour is timed so you arrive at the Alhambra in time for your pre-paid entrance. Here is a link to the official site and ticket policy. https://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/info/accesstothealhambra.asp A visit to the so-called "free zone" or what you can see from outside is really a con since you are not actually seeing anything of the real Alhambra. I am shocked that any cruise line would sell such a tour. Then again, cruise line will also take bus tours to the Amalfi Coast (Italy) and tell them they will "see" Positano. And they do get to "see" that city from the road above since their bus is not permitted to enter into the city. Hank P.S. I posted this as a warning to those planning on going on your own. You do need to plan in advance.
  3. The MSC Butlers head a small team which consists of themselves and usually two cabin attendants (stewardesses). Those cabin attendants are directly under the supervision of the Butler. I do not disparage those that enjoy leaving large tips to lots of folks but personally only give extra tips (above the regular auto tips) to those who provide me extraordinary extra service. In our case, the YC Concierges (plural because there are several) did little except to answer an occasional question. The Maitre'd in Le Muse did nothing special to earn any tip and the wine steward (who once tried to pour Robert Mondavi Woodbridge....until I told him that stuff was not up to any YC standard) did little to earn any extra tip. In fact, it was about 8 or 9 days into our 14 day cruise when I finally complained to the Le Muse wine steward that we had never been shown any kind of wine list or even a list of the included wines. The norm in Le Muse was our waiter asking if we wanted "red or white" and then he would tell us what was available! We were not pleased with the wine situation (it was a disappointment) or the quality of wines included in the package. Or course there were some outstanding wines if one wanted to pay another $60+ for a bottle. Our favorite bar tender (in the YC) was another story as we often talked about various whiskey's and he made several good suggestions. Lots of fun with that gentleman. And any bartender that can make a "Cosmo" that pleases DW is deserving or an extra tip :). Hank
  4. I hope it all works out for you and that you post how it goes :). Nothing wrong with staying in Villefranche, but with a full port day you really should try to get yourself to Nice. Nice is truly nice and there are some decent walks for those who need frequent rests (such as along the Promanade des Anglais) where it is flat and there are benches. The downside to staying in Villefranche is that you will be limited by hills. But the good news is that there are some cafes/restaurants within easy (flat) walking distance of the tender pier and there is much to say for eating and drinking in France :). Hank
  5. I am going to try and tie together the OP's specific question with the issue of personal security. As many travelers are well aware, there is a pickpocket/purse snatching problem in Barcelona and much of tourist Europe. Many of us who try and help folks will often advise that one take some precautions in how you carry valuables and always be aware (and alert) of your surroundings. When you are trying to handle luggage (especially multiple pieces) your hands are busy and you have a major distraction. This makes you a much easier target for street thieves (often Roma or gypsies). And all this to save a few Euros. Our advice is that if moving around Barcelona with luggage, get a taxi! Hank
  6. Adding to some of the other comments, the challenge is if you are on some kind of real schedule. Otherwise, you just get off the ship, wait for the next port shuttle bus, and then later transfer to the local bus that will drop you at the station. Trying to predict how long this will take is very difficult...especially early in the morning. You can get lucky and hop on those buses as they are getting ready to leave. But you could also get off the ship and find yourself waiting for 15 min (or more) for a shuttle bus which might then wait another 10-15 min. And when you arrive at the transfer point (Largo della Pace) you might have little wait for the train station bus...or you could again find yourself waiting 15 min. Keep in mind that the various regional trains do not require advance reservations so it is just a matter of buying your ticket when you get to the train station. Hank
  7. Bill, after my last post I did some more online research on that HoHo and did see a map that seemed to show the bus had a stop much closer to the tender port. But was not convinced that the map is accurate or that a HoHo would even be allowed at that location. If they do have a pick-up down near sea level, and turn out to be reliable, we could see that HoHo as a very popular alternative for the many cruisers who love HoHo's. We are looking forward to your report and would love to see some other posts from folks who have either used this bus or at least have seen it near the port. I am somewhat puzzled as to why we have noticed any posts about that HoHo bus since we are well into the main tourist season and many ships call at Villefranche. It is doubtful that DW and I would ever you use that HoHo…..but the info would be very helpful when we help others. As you are probably aware, just about everything from the tender port is uphill (except along the Quai). Transportation from that flat area would sure be welcomed by many cruisers who have mobility issues. Hank
  8. I do not think that the online EZAIR software can handle such a request. In this situation you should telephone Princess and ask if they would transfer you (or give you the direct phone number) to the EZAIR folks (these are different then the normal Princess reservation clerks. You might get some resistance since the regular reservations folks try to deal with many EZAIR issues but the folks that work in the EZAIR office (this is not the same office that handles the cruise reservations) are air specialists and can often do things not done by normal reservation folks. One advantage to getting all your air onto one ticket/booking is that the US luggage rules would then apply to all the flights including the internal European flights. If you book the intra-European air on your own, be careful to review the luggage rules (i.e. weight, size, price). Some European airlines can actually charge you more for luggage then then the actual ticket :). Hnak
  9. All the ships you mention are part of the "Grand" Class of Princess ships. This design has been around for about 20 years and defines a majority of the Princess vessels. That design has now been replaced by the much newer "Royal Class" which represents the newest vessels (Royal, Regal, Majestic) with 2 more coming in the next year. I will ignore the few older vessels which are no longer as popular in the US market. The new Royal class vessels are gorgeous but do have some unpopular issues such as smaller balconies and the lack of a wrap around Promanade. Personally I do not think one design or ship is "classier" then the others. For us, the real class on any ship is defined by the passengers and crew which really can make or break any cruise vacation. Many Princess fans do have their favorite ship but even those folks seem to have difficulty defining why. Personally I preferred the first few Grand Class ships (Grand, Golden, etc) because they had an all-weather pool (retractable roof). I say this even though our next two Princess cruises (Caribbean and Emerald) do not have the all weather pool feature. We choose our cruises based on itinerary with the knowledge that every ship we have cruised (I think its over 70 different vessels) had its pros and cons. I should add that many of us long time cruisers (we go back to the 70s) might say that the classiest ships were mostly older vessels...now gone. My personal favorite was HAL's Prinsendam (recently sold to a German cruise line) which was old, worn in many places, had its share of rust, did not have many of the amenities found on newer/larger ships, but she was a special vessel to many who walked on her decks. Some of our Princess fan friends put the original Royal Princess (now long gone) into a similar classier class. Hank
  10. I hesitate to give much advice because Nov 1, 2019 is "All Saints Day" which is a National Holiday throughout France. And to make matters worse, Nov 1 happens to fall on a Friday which means you are dealing with a 3 day holiday weekend (the French do love their holidays and they seem to have many). This will mean that public transit (buses and trains) will run on a holiday/Sunday schedule which will impact frequency. So you will want to do some pre-cruise research to find out if holiday closures will impact your personal plans. Normally we would suggest getting ashore relatively early (remember that this is a tender port) and heading to Nice via the public bus (we normally use the #100 bus). In the morning we always like to walk over to the Flower Market which is located on sea side of Nice's old town in the Cours Selaya. But I have no clue as to whether this market will function on Nov 1. It is an outdoor market that is fun to browse (you learn a lot about the regional culture from these outdoor markets) and perhaps grab something to eat. We also love to visit St Paul de Vence, but this involves a pretty long bus ride (the #400 bus) if using public transit. Again, I do not know the impact the holiday will have on St Paul de Vence but suspect that this popular tourist town (even with the French) might be quite busy that day. It normally is a place to go on Sundays but I have no first hand experience on holidays. There are also some excellent museums in Nice and of course there is the pretty famous walkway called the Promanade des Anglais. In your situation I might actually try to contact the Nice Tourist Office (via phone or e-mail) and inquire what is open and happening on All Saints Day. I would expect that many stores/shops will be closed and restaurants (for lunch) will be hit/miss. Hank
  11. It has been said that the implementation of the PC-6 Polar standards will essentially end "drive by" (similar to what is done by HAL) arctic and Antarctic cruises. As to Seabourn, by 2021they will do their last Antarctic cruise on the Quest (which is not a PC-6 certified vessel. But Seabourn is building two new exploration ships (about 220 passenger) that will fully comply with the PC-6 requirements and at least one of these will continue the Seabourn Antarctic tradition. Unlike HAL, on Seabourn you do go ashore (via Zodiacs) and the ship has an onboard staff of experts including Marine Biologists and other exploration staff trained to captain zodiacs and conduct tours ashore. Yes, I am aware that the Maasdam is doing some work with Zodiacs, but they are only used for a small percentage of passengers paying for the expensive excursions. On Seabourn, we were told that most of the Zodiac excursions in Antarctica will be included in the cruise price and open to all passengers. They also talked about some optional excursions that will be quite expensive. The future build Seabourn exploration ship will also have it's own submarine that will be used for passenger excursions. I do not know about Azamara other then the fact that their old Renaissance vessels do not currently meet PC-6 standards. Because of the extra cost of building and certifying a ship to PC-6 standards one would expect that, in the future (2021) nearly all ships visiting Antarctica will be smaller vessels. Hank
  12. You could start a war in NYC with this topic as everyone seems to have their favorite. We are partial to Lombardi's (Spring Street) but there are so many great pizza places in NYC that it boggles the mind. We have had pizza at many of the famous pizza places in Naples, Italy and they do not hold up to what we get in NYC. On the other hand, our Chicago friends "roll their eyes" whenever anyone says NYC has the best pizza. There are also quite a few terrific pizza places in Brooklyn that seldom get mentioned because most tourists don't go to Brooklyn and those who live in Brooklyn keep their secrets :). Since I was born in Manhattan and DW in Brooklyn (and DD lives in Manhattan) you can imagine that the topic is not discussed in the interest of family peace. Hank
  13. In the cruise world space is about space ratios and price. The luxury lines such as Seabourn, Silverseas, Regent, Crystal, Sea Dream, etc. will give you a cruise experience with plenty of personal space, few queues, less regimentation, etc. Many of these higher cost lines have few or no photographers chasing you around for a photo op, very few PA announcements to add annoyance to your day, no cheap tables crammed with junk (like inches of gold) blocking public corridors, etc. Like many things in life, with the cruise industry you do often get what you pay for. So here is a tip for the OP about something called "space ratios." Take the posted gross tonnage of a ship and divide it by the passenger capacity. So, for example, the Oasis of the Seas is 225,000 tons and has a capacity of 5492 which equals a space capacity of about 41 tons per passenger. Now compare that to a ship such as the Crystal Serenity which is about 69,000 tons and carries 980 passengers equaling a space ratio of about 70 tons per person. In a general way you will find those ships with higher space ratios feel less crowded (because that is the reality). There are variations on this theme. For example, the MSC ships do not have a very good space ratio. But those ships have a ship within a ship called the Yacht Club which is closed off from the main part of the ship and is only used by those who pay for that "experience." Go outside the Yacht Club and the ship will feel crowded, deck chairs are crammed against each other (like on Carnival and RCI) and it can be very crowded. But escape back inside the Yacht Club area and it is very uncrowded, there are plenty of deck chairs, no queues for service at the bar, etc. NCL has a similar set-up with their Haven Suite area as does Cunard with their so-called "grill" suites. But like the more spacious luxury vessels these ships within a ship are about paying more money for more space. Hank
  14. We are not permitted to recommend specific cruise/travel agencies. And some major agencies still refuse to deal with MSC (perhaps they were also on hold too darn long). But you might want to simply shop around among a few high volume major cruise agencies and see what kind of deals they offer on MSC. Ideally you should be able to find an agency that will give you 7-10% of the cruise price in On Board Credits. Hank
  15. It broke our heart when Orient went under and sold the Marco Polo. DW and I had planned to go on their Antarctica cruise the following year. Now, we might do it on Seabourn's new exploration vessel (still to be built) but it will cost us 3-4 times what it would have been on the Marco Polo :(. Hank
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