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Hlitner

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Everything posted by Hlitner

  1. Having been an avid cruiser for more than 45 years we have witnessed the industry go through quite a few changes. In the past 5 years a big change has happened with suites and "ship within a ship" concepts on several lines. But Princess (and HAL) has really lagged behind the industry with suite perks. It is one reason why we do not book anything more expensive then the lower cost mini-suites which come with no amenities. Even moving up to the Club Suites (just a mini-suite in a different location) does not seem worth the extra money (at least to us) to dine in a part of the MDR with an extra item on the menu. On the new Celebrity ships you get a separate dining room with its own menu, on MSC (Yacht Club) you get an entire section of the ship (including private dining room), private sun deck, private lounge (with nightly entertainment), etc. NCL has something similar with its Haven Suites. RCI has all kinds of amenities with its suites (on some ships). Cunard has its "grill" suites which also come with a private sundeck. But Princess gives you very little other then a larger cabin. And here is the shocker. We can sometimes book suites on luxury lines (such as Seabourn) for not much more then the cost of a comparable suite on Princess plus drink package and tips. This just leads us to book the luxury lines although we still book some cruises on Princess and other mass market lines. Hank
  2. So that begs the question, why on earth do you even book direct with a PVP? Perhaps you should be looking around for a decent discount cruise agency :). When we see potential savings from a refare we simply send a quick e-mail to our cruise agent and ask her to check out the situation. Within a few hours (sometimes a day) we will get a response with all the options. If there are savings to be had she will quickly lock-in on that deal. Hank
  3. After reading that article there does not seem to be two sides to the story. The entire story is that HAL screwed up, did not notify their passengers, admit they do not have a clue as to how this happened, etc. etc. To make matters worse it seems that even HAL employees did not have much of a clue. Nothing in the story would lead anyone to think that the passengers did anything wrong. Bottom line was that HAL took payment for the cruise and never bothered to tell those poor folks that the cruise no longer existed. Hank
  4. I would add my standard advice which is to check with both your airline and government of the appropriate place (in this case Italy) for the latest requirements/restrictions. These days the rules can change from day to day and it is incumbent on the traveler to keep up with the latest info. Check-ins can take longer then normal since the staff must now check and verify that each passenger meets the necessary COVID rules for their final (and transit) destinations. Hank
  5. We shall see :). I can live with smaller cabins (when we were young and poor we booked the smallest inside cabins and have also cruised in a small yacht) and we do not hold that against any cruise line since it is our choice to book those cabins. But the pricing of "Os" R ships does cause me to question the value of the product. The newer ships like the Marina seem to be more in line with what one would expect (cabin size wise) for the pricing. I have a lot of respect for FDR who we know was an important cog in the old Renaissance organization (broke my heart when that company failed). If we ever get on that darn cruise (December) we will find out of you are a hero or goat 🙂 Hank
  6. You are right about X pricing. Just this morning we priced out a small Sky Suite on one of the newer Edge Class ships and the cost was in the $450 per person/day range. This is actually more money then an upcoming (next month) Seabourn cruise and Celebrity on its best day is no Seabourn. That is why we (and quite a few others) have recently posted a lot about seeking "value" with our cruising and travel as opposed to just saving money. The entire cruise industry seems to be out of whack (for lack of a better term) with pricing. I think much of this has to do with the tremendous amount of Future Cruise Credits that were issued because of COVID cancellations. The cruise lines have effectively devalued the FCCs with big price increases. A smart strategy if they can fill their empty berths. Hank
  7. So we are going to hang this thing onto Flatbush Flyer who has been part of the reason why we finally decided to book a cruise on "O." In the past I have not been convinced that "O" was a good value and just could not see paying $300 per person day for a cabin on an old "R" ship which has very ordinary cabins. But the Marina did get our interest and a good opportunity came along (now we just have to hope that our cruise is not canceled by "O"). But we remain "equal opportunity cruisers" and just today booked another MSC Cruise (Yacht Club) which we have really enjoyed in the past. The big negative for MSC is their cuisine but the Yacht Club makes up for this shortfall with many other advantages. I only mention this to again emphasize that we have found that each cruise line has their pros/cons and DW and I love the variety. So in one year, COVID permitting, we have bookings on "O," Seabourn, HAL, and MSC. And perhaps we can toss in a few more voyages :). But now the pressure is on "O" to prove Flatbush Flyer right. Hank
  8. Ok, so forgive this "O" newbie but some thoughts from a guy that is not a big fan of Celebrity (we are Elite Plus with that line). Celebrity has changed in the last 3 years and is now essentially an all-inclusive mass market line. Unlike "O" Celebrity now includes drink packages and Internet with nearly all bookings. With "O" I must deal with "O Life" decisions, upgrade a drink package once aboard if we want mixed drinks included, book alternative restaurants well in advance of our cruise at a specific date/time or likely lose out on the best times, etc. And paying $100 for dinner for two in a Celebrity alternative restaurant seems to be a bargain when compared to the price of some of the special dinners on "O" that can run hundreds of dollars per person! I am not saying this to criticize "O" but just saying there are pros and cons to every cruise line. One can choose to enjoy a particular cruise line (lately we have become very fond of Seabourn) without degrading the competition. One big criticism I have of "O" is their air program....especially when it comes to Business Class. In fact, with the exception of MSC, I am not aware of any other cruise line that has such an awful air program. If I book with Seabourn, Princess, HAL, etc. I can simply go online and access their air booking engine, price out all kinds of options (in any class) and book with Flex Air (no payment necessary and no extra charges). And on those lines we can usually get some amazing Business Class fares (sometimes about 1/2 the normal Bus Class price) or excellent Premium Economy fares. So, even before we get to board the Marina we see a lot of room for improvement with "O" Air. Hank We are looking forward to our first "O" cruise and will then be able to evaluate if we think "O" is a good value when compared to their competition.
  9. Am happy if they have no casino and use the space for something more worthwhile :). Viking seems to do fine without casinos. Hank
  10. A few of the joys of cruising on a luxury ship is there are no photographers, no art auctions, and no sale tables of junk taking up space. Hank
  11. Night light! Although some ships (such as with Seabourn vessels, some Celebrity ships, etc) have some type of night light, most ships and many hotel rooms do not. Trying to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night without waking your partner or breaking a toe is good motivation. Hank
  12. We have used ours (pre covid) in Spain with no problem. My question for the OP would be when this happened did you try turning off your phone (essentially rebooting). We have had a few problems in other countries where, for some reason, my phone would not properly connect to the local cell provider. A shut down and restart quickly resolved the problem. Hank
  13. This seems to be a complaint on most of the boards (not just HAL) where loyalty benefits have been reduced or made redundant. The new cruise line mantra is why give something away that we can sell. And this now includes what used to be loyalty perks. Hank
  14. Going back a few years ago we learned the answer to the question, "when is priority not really priority." We were in Port Everglades boarding the Prinsendam (our favorite HAL vessel of all time) for their Grand Med cruise. In those days there was no Club Orange but 4 and 5 Star Mariners got priority as did those in the big suites. When we got inside the terminal we were directed to the "priority line" for 4-5 * Mariners and the line was pretty long. There was a separate line for suites which was somewhat shorter. But then we noticed the regular lines which were nearly empty. So we ducked under the ropes and got into the regular line where we were immediately checked-in and directed to the gang plank. As we passed the still long priority line we overheard a woman say something like "I worked hard to get into this line and I will not move to the regular line." DW and I laughed all the way up the gangplank. So the quick answer to when priority is not priority is when nearly everyone else is priority Now that cruise lines (not just HAL) are selling "priority" like a commodity it has lost a lot of its benefit. Hank
  15. Sounds wonderful. We saw the beautiful new Apex in Pireaus (it would be more beautiful if they lost that erector set magic carpet thing hanging on the side) and would have been happy to extend our Greece trip to join the Apex. That being said, when reading your post I think you did a good job of describing what it is like on most of the small ship luxury lines (i.e. Seabourn, Silverseas, etc). This is the norm on those ships in that there is no crowding, no lines, great service, etc. What you experienced is essentially a "mass market cruise ship" without the masses. Fruit for thought. Hank
  16. Which ship (or class of ships)? Hank
  17. Masks and face coverings for added protection from the coronavirus | San Francisco Do you see an end date?
  18. Yes, that is true for domestic trips to some places (but do not go to San Francisco where masking has become a permanent part of life unless you are the Mayor). And if you decide to go to NYC for a vacation be prepared to not only wear masks but to also show your vaccine card to get inside restaurants, the theater, and other venues. Another problem with domestic travel is the awful service found in many venues primarily due to the lack of enough employees. But for international travel testing and masks are pretty common. And returning to the USA requires testing. I have previously pointed out that our 3 week trip to Greece (including a 2 weeks cruise and island hopping) did not require much masking and restrictions although we certainly had our share of tests (4). Overall, our visit to Greece was among the best trips we have experienced in many years. The service and quality on our cruise was beyond our expectations and our time island hopping was met with many motivated Greeks who could not do enough to provide good service along with a terrific friendly attitude. Hank
  19. What is missing from the comparison is price! And there are some huge differences. For us, a big attraction of the Yacht Club was the pricing (used to be $300 a passenger day but now at least $360) which was significantly less expensive then comparable deals on X. And keep in mind that the YC folks get an entire section of ship (which is protected by electronic doors) which does give a real ship within a ship experience. Hank
  20. I just wonder why folks think that mask and test requirements will be eliminated in the near future or even the next few years? COVID is here to stay and I fear we are into a new normal that most of us do not enjoy. Our choices are to sit tight and hope that some day (perhaps in our lifetime) the normal will be something close to what was the old normal. On the other hand, how long are folks willing to wait? Perhaps it is because DW and I are seniors with the clock ticking that gives us the drive to deal with the current issues and seek out the best options. For us, sitting and waiting (perhaps forever) is just not a good option. I do agree with Sanger that the current environment is "difficult." On the other hand there are times when the tough get going and those that aren't just sit and dream about going. Hank
  21. Most certainly a "goer." Had a terrific late July-Aug cruise on the Seabourn Ovation in Greece and an upcoming (3 weeks) cruise on the Seabourn Odyssey. We then hope to be on Oceania in early December. I mention all this because cruises are happening and some of us are taking advantage. The key to any travel, these days, is flexibility and booking things that are likely to happen...not cruises that are doubtful. As to all the whining about restrictions, on our Seabourn Ovation cruise there were no passenger restrictions onboard or at any of our ports. In fact, passengers were not even required to mask. The upcoming cruise from Barbados does have port restrictions (cruisers can only go ashore on cruise line sanctioned excursions/activities, but we see that as a small price to pay for spending a couple of weeks on this terrific cruise line. Hank
  22. I will keep this short although I could write a chapter on the subject. But Congress passes Laws (statutes) and does not ever issue "waivers." "Waivers" are a tool used by the Executive Branch and Administrative Agencies. While this seems like a silly distinction it has huge ramifications within our legal system. What Congress did (last year) to the PVSA was to amend the actual Law (Statute) which was then codified in the US Code. The Executive Branch was then free to issue regulations based on that amendment. What Senator Murkowski is proposing is another statutory change to the existing Law. Hank
  23. When we went on our first Seabourn Cruise I walked into the Colonade (Lido) for my first lunch as was greeted (by the hostess) by name! Being a newbie I let it pass and just acted like it was expected. After a few few days on the ship (when we got to know the hostess) I finally asked her how she knew our name which got a laugh. So down in the crew deck they have everyone's picture with names. Ok, that is fine. So I asked the hostess how she could memorize over 400 pictures names and she said "it is part of my job and easy." A few weeks ago we were on the Ovation and when we boarded we went directly to the Colonade for lunch. And yes, we were greeted by name. It is a Seabourn "thing" and it does add to the entire wonderful atmosphere of the line. This is part of the schtick of Seabourn and just one tiny example of what sets this line apart from the masses. Hank
  24. I cannot imagine you would find any tour guides at Pompeii other then those licensed to take groups into the ruins. But I am a little confused by your post since you indicate your DW would not want to even go to Pompeii. When you take the train to Naples you will be in Naples....not Pompeii. You can simply walk out of the train station and start to enjoy Naples (at least for those that do enjoy Naples). While you might be able to stumble on a guide at the train station we would never suggest hiring anyone at the train station (you have no clue what you are getting). If you want a tour guide in Naples you might want to look into "Tours by Locals" or seek out some tour recommendations on Tripadvisor's dedicated Forum for Naples Italy (note that Tripadvisor is a sister company of CC). If you do go to Pompeii you could easily take the Circumvesuviania Line train back to Naples and then spend some time in that city. Naples can also be toured on one's own and you can get lots of help from a decent guide book such as the Rick Steves guide.
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