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Everything posted by DougK

  1. My TA has given me great deals in the past, and has always been good on service. Under the current circumstances, I'm going to cut him a lot of slack. I understand that times are very difficult for everybody in the travel industry right now, and I fear that many are going to end up going out of business. I'm willing to pay extra this time both as a reward for the past and to help my TA survive. But if he doesn't return to usual discounting in the future after things return to normal, I'll shop around again.
  2. I don't think I explained it right. The pricing is still below Scenic's listed rate, so there's no point in contacting Scenic. It's just that this TA has always given substantial discounts (roughly 10%) in the past off Scenic's rates, and this time I'm saving less than 1% off Scenic's rates. As I understand it, those discounts effectively come out of the TA's commission. My suspicion is that this year, with business having effectively come to a screeching halt, the TA needs to keep every penny of the commission, or close to it. I totally understand that, and don't begrudge it under the circumstances. I just wish he come out and said that he couldn't afford to give discounts this year; instead, he tried to shift the blame to Scenic by just quoting me the bottom line price and saying that the cruise line had taken a loss and he had seen pricing like this on all the river cruises.
  3. There's no banner on their web site, or any other announcement that I've seen, but 2022 itineraries are definitely available. I ran into this by accident when looking at a cruise for 2021; when I brought up details, it gave me the option for 2021 as well. I think this is a couple of months earlier than Scenic would normally make those itineraries available. It worked out OK for me. When our cruise for this year was cancelled, I looked for 2021 alternatives, and nothing worked for me--but a 2022 cruise does work, so I'm now rebooked for then. The only drawback is that my TA, who has always given me big discounts in the past, was only willing to give me a small discount this time, so even with the 110% vouchers from Scenic it's going to cost me a fair amount more in 2022. My TA tried to blame the pricing on Scenic, but when I look at the math, it sure looks like it's really lack of discounting on my TA's part. Given how much he's no doubt been hurting this year, I can't object too much, but I wish he had been more straightforward about what was going on.
  4. I'm one of many with a cancelled June cruise. I have been trying to rebook, or at least explore options for a 2021 cruise, but my TA has been unsuccessful in trying to reach Scenic for several days now. I understand that they're slammed, but it's still frustrating. An automated online booking system would certainly help, rather than requiring everything to involve reaching an actual person at Scenic, but I guess that's wishful thinking...
  5. I will second that thought. The electric-assist may help some people for casual riding, but it adds a ton of weight to the bike, and detracts from more serious riding. I took a bike out for several hours to do some off-the-beaten track exploring during my cruise in 2019, and found the bike to be significantly less rideable than my personal bike--and it's not like I have an amazing lightweight personal bike. I preferred to ride without the electric assist, but found the assist to be an absolute necessity on slopes that I wouldn't think twice about on a normal bike. That said, it was still wonderful to have the bike option, and explore in ways that I wouldn't otherwise have been able to.
  6. My experience on Scenic a year ago was somewhat different than mj_holiday's experience 4 years ago. Everybody was expected to arrive at roughly the same time (after the port talk), but occasionally some people would come in quite a bit later. And the service wasn't in lockstep. Individual waiter stations generally served each course at the same time to their station, but different stations operated differently. And not just one station always before another, but in some unclear manner, so it was quite possible that our station would get soup before the station next to us, but then they got their entrees before we did. And there were times when even different tables in the same station got served at different times. Basically, I think they do their best to accommodate individual diners while still maintaining waiter efficiency, and it's not clear which wins out at any given time. Overall, it seemed to work pretty well, and I probably wouldn't even have noticed how service was done if I hadn't read a thread on the subject beforehand.
  7. There's no shortage of opportunities in Amsterdam. I'll throw Aneka Rasa into the mix: http://anekarasa.nl. In addition to their regular Rijsttafel, they also have a vegetarian version, which I greatly enjoyed a year ago.
  8. Yes, I know I was very lucky. It was the oddest thing to see, and took me a while to figure out. I would say that I just have an active imagination but the cruise director mentioned it later in the day and asked who had seen them. Very few other passengers had, possibly because it happened fairly early in the morning. The cruise director had never heard of such a thing before, but she asked the ranger on board, and was told that it does happen occasionally. It was just my lucky day. But other wildlife is much more common, and always a treat as well.
  9. I agree that Hubbard glacier can be much more impressive than the glaciers seen in Glacier Bay. I have a video I took some years back that has an embarrassing soundtrack of me just saying "Look at that!" over and over again, while watching huge calving. But I'll still vote for Glacier Bay any day, simply because of the variety of wildlife seen during the entire day. Otters, seals, bear, mountain goats, innumerable birds, whales at the mouth of the bay. I even saw two moose swimming right off the side of the ship this year. That can't be matched at Hubbard.
  10. I heartily applaud this, and just wish it were the standard for all river cruise companies, rather than the exception. It puts the lie to the claim that times can't be listed due to variability of river traffic, locks, etc.
  11. If the German companies can list approximate times, so could Scenic. With caveats, of course, recognizing that conditions may vary. But, as a river cruise, *everything* about the schedule comes with caveats. For example, Scenic has no trouble listing which ports are supposed to be visited on which days--but that all goes out the window in times of high or low water, or lock damage, or .... Why can't they similarly provide their best guess of port times? This basic information would be useful for passengers planning their trip, even if they're not booking private excursions. I'll give you one concrete example. On my upcoming Romantic Rhine & Moselle cruise, the Scenic itinerary has exactly the same type of information about each port, simply saying the day they're visited. My wife and I really want to see the Kroller-Muller museum, so my initial plan was for us to go to that museum on our own during the Arnhem stop, which is fairly close by. It wasn't until I did my own historic research that I learned that while such a plan would be fine if the museum were near almost any other port on the journey, where the ship typically spends 6 or more hours in port, there's absolutely no way to do it from Arnhem, where the ship typically spends less than 3 hours. As a result, we've ended up booking a couple of days pre-cruise in the area of the museum--but I only knew to do that because I figured out the schedule on my own. The fact is that there is far less variability between trips than one would get the impression from reading these boards. For example, over the past three years on this trip, the ship always arrived in Cochem between 5:30 and 7:30, and always left between 6:30 and 8:00 the next day. That's an extreme example, but most ports have low variability, allowing one to approximate arrival and departure points within a few hours. I just wish Scenic would share that information with their passengers...
  12. Regarding the debate about indoor and outdoor muster stations, there's yet a third option: both. I had that experience 15 or 20 years ago on a cruise--don't remember which line--where we were told to go to our indoor muster station, received the lecture there, and then were escorted by crew to our lifeboat station, as we would be in an actual emergency. This certainly took more time than the current drills, but probably also was more effective.
  13. Scenic (and most river cruise companies) are incredibly bad about providing information about port timing. Many apologists on here say that it's just not possible, because of inherent variability due to river traffic, locks, and port officials. My own research shows, however, that there is far less variability than claimed, and it would be pretty easy for Scenic to provide general information about timing. I've gone to the effort to figure out what the real itinerary is for my upcoming Romantic Rhine & Moselle cruise by looking at how it's happened over the past three years, but I haven't done that for Jewels of Europe. If you're interested, I describe this is more detail in the roll call thread, starting around https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/1567152-all-scenic-river-cruises-roll-call/?do=findComment&comment=57804369 I really wish Scenic would provide this information, rather than forcing people to do their own research. But it appears that Scenic thinks that their passengers only want to go on their included tours, and don't need any information to make their own plans.
  14. Because they're such small boats, and a small operation overall, they don't have a fixed schedule. Instead, they work (within limits) with whoever books them first. Arriving at 1:00 is not a problem; that's when we were due to arrive in July, and Jayleen booked us for a 2:00 tour. As it turned out, during the cruise the ship warned us that we would be a little late in arriving, possibly not until 2:00; I contacted Jayleen and she shifted our tour to 2:30. Great customer service and flexibility!
  15. I'll second the recommendation for Jayleen. She was very understanding and cancelled/refunded our planned excursion in May when the cruise ship arrived in port very late due to propulsion problems. We were able to cruise again in July, and that time the excursion with Jayleen went without a hitch. I highly recommend the small boat approach; not only is there no problem with fighting for viewing space, but it's also easy to have a real conversation with Jayleen and pick up her knowledge (of both whales and the area around Juneau), rather than straining to make out more of a canned talk over a PA system. Another big advantage of Jayleen is that her tour runs longer than most others, so you have about an hour of additional time on the water to watch and follow whales.
  16. The question is where one draws the line. One could separate out every component of the cruise and charge separately: all meals a la carte, entertainment, use of loungers and pools, religious services, even housekeeping, and I'm sure the list goes on and on. For each of these, some passengers use them and others don't. For example, I haven't been in a pool other than a T-pool on a cruise ship for decades (if ever), rarely use loungers, rarely go to shows, don't go to religious services, am vegetarian so never have steak/lobster/etc., and would be fine with housekeeping only every couple of days. Yet I pay the same price as passengers who do all of those, so effectively I'm subsidizing them. Why shouldn't they subsidize my internet use in return? I think much of the draw of cruising traditionally has been its inclusiveness, where passengers don't pay separately for each item. Heck, look at the uproar on these boards when HAL experimented with a charge for second entrees--even though most people don't want/need them. Imagine the uproar if they started charging for each item on the menu, or for each show. Personally, I much prefer an all-inclusive system, even though it effectively means I subsidize other passengers who use more than I do--the simplicity and absence of constant upselling is a big attraction to me, and makes up for savings I would get from a true a la carte system. I think a lot of the distinctions between what is and isn't included in the base fare come more from history than from a logical difference between items. If one were starting fresh today, I suspect that internet usage would be considered as much a staple as production shows. But nobody is starting fresh; even new cruise lines have to deal with expectations of passengers based on past cruise lines.
  17. I agree on the reasoning; my point was just that one shouldn't expect good Internet on Alaska cruises. Virtually all of them go to Skagway or other inaccessible places, since the whole attraction of Alaska is the stark nature. On some days the Internet may be fine, but on others it will be bad. I personally found that to be pretty frustrating.
  18. My experience on the Nieuw Amsterdam this summer was much different. Internet was fine on some days, but very slow or nonexistent on others. I think the worst was around Skagway, where there was no connectivity at all.
  19. Some airlines, particularly European ones, don't allow free seat assignments until checkin. Lufthansa is one of those airlines, so the only way you can get your seats now is to pay for them. It has nothing to do with the fact you booked through Flight Ease.
  20. I agree with everybody who says that the statistics are infinitely malleable, as is the presentation, so it's not a particularly meaningful claim. But I'll add this question: Is it even the mark of a good line to have the highest repeater rate? Sure, on the one hand it can be viewed to mean that people are satisfied and want to come back. But on the other hand, it can also be viewed to mean that the line, either through its product or its marketing, does little to attract new cruisers--which in the long term means the line will fail. Perhaps it would be best if the line has a middle-of-the-road repeater rate...
  21. DougK


    This has been recently discussed on the Scenic roll call, and I think this is the consensus: 1) If you arrange your travel and any pre- or post-cruise hotels through Scenic, then transfers are included. 2) If you arrange your travel on your own, but arrive/leave the day of the cruise, then transfers are included. 3) If you arrange your travel on your own, and arrive one or more days early, or leave one or more days late, then transfers are not included. As an example, last year we went on a Scenic cruise, and arranged our own travel. We flew into Amsterdam a couple of days early, and did our own transfer to the hotel we stayed. (On embarkation day, the "transfer" from the hotel to the ship only involved walking around the corner. 😊). In Budapest, we flew out on disembarkation day, and Scenic provided the transfer to the airport. Although we don't have that status yet, my understanding is that when you become a Platinum repeat passenger, Scenic also starts including transfers between your home and airport on both ends of your travel.
  22. The music venues, especially Lincoln Center. Much better than bland production shows. Tamarind--it's so nice to find a cruise line who understands there's more to fine cuisine than steak, seafood, and Italian.
  23. This is very odd. On our Amsterdam->Budapest cruise last year, Scenic had the bikes out and available for use at pretty much every stop, and the bikes were used quite a bit by passengers, for both short trips and longer excursions. This matches the description in their brochure, which says you can use the bikes to "discover on your own." I don't know why they weren't available on your cruise except for the one guided tour. We unfortunately missed the Melk->Durnstein bike excursion on our cruise because we were swapping ships that day due to low water levels. But we're booked on the Romantic Rhine & Moselle cruise for next year, and the itinerary says that during the Moselle cruise day there is an option for biking to Bernkastel instead of cruising during the afternoon, which I might do.
  24. I'm glad that HAL has been able to accommodate your needs--twice. But it seems to me that you should reconsider booking guarantee cabins in the future. The entire point of a guarantee is that you can end up with any cabin within that category (or higher). You should not assume that you will be able to switch cabins if you don't like your first assignment, whether or not it's due to your autism. If you need to get a cabin on a higher deck, you should book a cabin there to begin with.
  25. You've made a good argument for how the package will entice low-spending passengers to spend more, making the cruise line more money off them. But you've missed the flip side, which is that the package also entices high-spending passengers to spend less (by buying the package instead of going a la carte), which means the cruise line makes less money off them. Using the same drink example as above, unlike mr X who decides to skip the $6 beer, mr Y is willing to pay $6/beer, and still buys 6 of them a day (for total of $36). How much will mr X pay for the package? My guess is $15 or less, if he's only willing to pay $3/beer. So if the cruise line finds the package price has to be $15 or less in order to get mr X to buy it , then they're making more money than before from mr X ($15 vs. $0), but they're losing money on mr Y ($15 vs. $36). Plus their costs are higher, since both mr X and mr Y are likely to consume more than if they didn't have packages. So it's a very delicate balance on package pricing, based on estimates of how many passengers are like mr X and how many like mr Y. If they guess wrong, it's easy to see how it loses money for the cruise line. Many passengers, such as 3rdGenCunarder, will do the math, and only opt for the package if it saves them money. Is there any price that will serve to entice enough low-spenders to buy the package but not lose too much income from the high-spenders? I don't know. One indication to me is the current pricing of beverage packages, which is set high enough to IMO discourage all but high-spenders from buying them. Maybe this is seen only though my personal lenses, but I suspect most passengers don't drink enough cocktails a day to make the package worthwhile; it certainly isn't going to entice mr X, who isn't willing to pay $6 for one beer. The upshot is that as long as the package is an option, I don't think it solves the problem.
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