Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About talyanka

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
  1. talyanka

    Inverness-Short Sunday Visit

    We had approximately the same time in this port last year in August. We took a tour with Nigel to Dunrobin castle - beautiful place and later drove with him around to see local lochs and fleets, visited a small town Dornoch and had a nice day all together. He also offered to visit a whiskey distillery but we didn't go there as we have visited another distillery the day before. This tour was perfect for our time in the port. Go on the tour to see Highlands. The shops in UK often are closed on Sundays so there wouldn't be much fun to spend a day in Invergordon.
  2. talyanka

    Celebrity-RC Asia Shore Excursion Experiences

    We were on this April cruise on the first leg from Hong Kong to Shanghai. We booked private tours in most places and were very lucky to have very good and great guides. We were glad that we had private tours just for 2 of us as my husband developed some walking problems and being in the group wouldn't let him participate in these tours. But with private guides we managed to see almost all places that we planned in advance as they were very flexible and accomodating. We had great, very knowledgable and enthusiastic guide with a strong sense of humor in Hong Kong - Dicky Woolard from DoGoSee Hong Kong and spent 4 days with him dicky.woollard@dogosee.hk. It was really hard to find any English speaking guide in Taiwan but almost at the end we found a wonderfull guide James Huang from RoundTaiwanRound james.huang@roundtaiwanround.com . With him we went to Yehliu geopark and old villages Shiufen and Jiufen. It was a great experience to see local Taiwan. His English is very good and he is also very knowledgable. In Busan we used Diskover Korea company with very positive experience. Contact person Victor discoverkorea@gmail.com. He also can arrange a tour in Jeju. We didn't do it with him and were punished for that. We corresponded with Mr. Won, that had quite good recommendations on Tripadvisor and he kept e-mailing me that this toor is booked but it turned out it wasn't and when I e-mail him from the ship he started to tell me that I am not on his schedule and it's hard to find a big car in Jeju. We ended up going with a local taxi. In Beijing we had a very good guide Mark mark520bj@hotmail.com who picked us up from the port and spent 3 days with us. And at the end of the cruise we were lucky again to get a great guide Harris in Shanghai. We had extra 3 days in Shanghai and went to see neaby Hangzhou and Suzhou. Harris is also very knoledgable and enthusiastic guide and just a nice person that through all our tour he gave us a feeling that we are travelling with a good friend gharris0313@yahoo.cn
  3. talyanka

    Gibraltar -- Ship Tours

    We were in Gibraltar in September. Because of the Portuguese port pilot strike our ship had to make serious itinerary changes and we arrived to Gibraltar in different time that was previously scheduled. We booked our tour with John Lopez from http://www.gibraltar-rock-tours.com/. He was very accommodative when we asked him at the last minute to be in the port at 8:00 am instead of 2:00 pm and was waiting for us just outside the cruise terminal when we got out of the ship. We had a great 3 hour tour around Gibraltar. It looks that we visited all possible tourist places during this time. As we started our tour in the opposite direction that organized tours usually go we were pretty much alone in the Apes Den, St. Michael cave, Hercules Pillars, Great Siege Tunnels. At the end of the tour he just asked us if we want to stay in the town or want to go back to the ship. We decided to stay in the town, but Main Street was so packed with people that pretty soon we turned back and took a local shuttle minibus to return to the ship. In general before the cruise we didn’t expect much from Gibraltar port and were pleasantly surprised that we loved it. It is very clean and interesting port. I am sure that people can do Gibraltar on your own, it all depends how much you would like to see in the short port stop and how long are you ready to walk. We wanted to see as much as possible without kilometers of walking as we had two people with some mobility issues and we got exactly what we wished for.
  4. talyanka

    Has anyone heard from Anne Gordon lately?

    I see that people booking tours with Garceth Cunampio and interested to here opinion about his tours. We were on the tour with Garceth Cunampio in November. He goes to the same village where Anne Gordon takes her groups. We saw her group in another canoe going to the village and later in the village. Garceth is native Embera and very enthusiastic about Embera culture. It was very nice tour -fun and at the same time introduction to the different culture that still can live without electrisity, computers, telephone. Funny, they actually have a telephone buth in the middle of the village but it doesn't work. We had a ride in a comfortable van to the river where we got into motorised canoes. We had 8 people in our group. Canoe ride was about an hour. There are 3 Embera villages along this river and we visited the last one. Ship tours usually go to the closest village. I didn't follow Garceth's recommended to wear special water shoes but was perfectly fine in running shoes.There were very little water in the boat mostly from splashes. In the village Garceth introduced us to local people and they told us how they make their crafts from leaves, wood, nuts and how they build their huts. Later we had an opportunity to shop on the small crafts market for souvenirs. We had lunch - fried fish, plantains and fruits. At the end of our visit local people performed their dances and invited us to participate. We were welcomed to walk around the village and people were very friendly. Local healer offered us to go on the tour to the jungle where he could show us different medicinal plants. But the soil there is red clay and after the rain it was slippery so we declined this offer. If anybody worries about moscitoes - I haven't seen any. I had moscito repellent with me but didn't use it. So if sombody looking for Embera Village tour and couldn't book it with Anne try Garceth. I think you won't be disappointed. www.emberatourspanama.com
  5. talyanka

    Tour to Antigua from Puerto Quetzal

    I found information about a few Guatemala guides but nobody actually replied to me except Carlos Mijangos. www.guatemalanguide.com So we booked tour with him to Antigua and neaby coffee farm.
  6. talyanka

    Awesome Tours

    Here is Awesome Tours cancellation policy as for the last season: At least 60 days prior to the tour departure date, 90% of the tour price is refundable. 30-60 days prior to the tour departure date, 80% of the tour price is refundable. 10-30 days prior to the tour departure date, 50% of the tour price is refundable. Less than 10 days prior to the tour departure date, no refund is made. Once the tour has commenced, no refund is made.
  7. talyanka

    Port Arthur Visit

    Port Arthur is an interesting place and if you time is not limited you can spend a day there. We had limited time so we had to cut our visit to 2.5 hours. That was enough to visit most of the ruins of old buildings and go for the cruise around the islands. During this cruise we were introduced into Port Arthur history. We didn’t have time for land tour as it moved with a very slow pace. You don’t need special tickets to visit most of the buildings on the site and you can buy only entrance ticket or add a half an hour cruise. It didn’t look that you can see a lot on the islands but you can actually get on and off from the boat if you wish. We didn’t go to Port Arthur with a ship tour as it was cancelled. We met our friends in Hobart and they took us there and to Tasmanian Devil Park and showed some other interesting places along the coast.
  8. talyanka

    Awesome Tours

    Actually the owner of Nature Wonders who took us for this tour around his farm gave us binoculars and pointed where we can see penguins. We saw a lot of sea lions, cormorants, one small blue pinguin hiding under the rock and a couple of albatroses flying. But would you see these birds flying or not depends on the weather. If there is no wind they can't fly.
  9. talyanka

    Awesome Tours

    We did a tour with Mark last winter. It was a great tour and we loved it very much. Nature Wonders is amazing place. The owner of this place takes a great care preserving nature even this is an operating ship farm. We didn't see yellow eye penguins close, because in nature they are hiding in the tall grass during the day. We could see them only in binoculars, but that how they live in nature. We also saw cormorants and sea lions there from very close distance. It was fun to have a ride on all terrain buggies there and the views where spectacular. We also visited Larnach Castle, Boldwin Street and Railroad Station and because with our schedule we did everything in opposite direction with big tour buses we never had a crowd around. Mark was very competent guide and a nice person to be with.
  10. talyanka

    Has anyone picked up tours in the ports?

    I think the reason that New Zealand does not offer a lot of tours for cruise ship passengers is that number of cruise ships visiting these ports in compare with other parts of the world is still very limited. So tour operators are more oriented for land tourists. In Napier for example our guide told us that only 30 ships visited town in the last season and this season lasts from November till March. And that already considered a lot. New Zealand ports usually do not have special terminals for cruise ships. In most ports our ship was docked somewhere on the outskirts near cargo ports where tour operators won’t go unless they have special permission and the tour is booked in advance. Actually the only place where we saw tour service in the port was Dunedin. There is a Tourist Information Kiosk just behind the fence of the port security zone. With some luck you can buy tickets for Awesome Tours tour there if any spaces left. Mark has a van for 8 or 10 people and if not all the van is booked in advance you may have a chance to get there. So if you prefer private tours do your works in advance otherwise take ship tours.
  11. Honestly I do not remember if we tipped anybody in New Zealand. Usually we provided credit card information at the time of booking but were charged after the tours. So it was mostly credit card transactions. We didn't have a seperate driver on our tour in Tauranga. Des Harris was a driver and a guide himself. But we had another guide in Whacarewarewa village - a woman from local residents and a couple that operated a river boat. Everything was included at the price of this tour so we didn't buy any extra tickets and didn't tip. Although they might appreciate if you do it. This American habit spreds around the world quite quickly and I doubt that somebody will refuse to accept your tip if you offer.
  12. talyanka

    Has anyone picked up tours in the ports?

    Hello Ontario Cruiser, I look at your address and see that we are almost neighbours. We live in Keswick on Lake Simcoe. I try to answer your question and share my experience with arranging private tours in New Zealand. We were there last January with Nautica, Oceania cruise line. I started my search on line well in advance and found a few tour operators in every port we visited. We were in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Napier, Tauranga and ended up in Auckland. In compare with other parts of the world I found that tour prices in New Zealand are pretty high, usually tour operators ask to pay in advance with no refund cancellation policy and they give you a quote for relatively big group. If you have only two people and unavailable to find companions on roll calls I doubt that you will be paying this money. So I continued my search until I found a few tour operators who had reasonable prices and quoted them per person, not per car. They also accepted reservations just for 2 people and their tours included sights that we wanted to see. Actually our interests were quite simple: we wanted to see interesting natural places, wildlife and learn a little about Maori culture. We also preferred to stay away from the routs where big tour buses go to avoid crowds. So if this is also your interests you may try these tour operators: Dunedin Mark Dixon from Awesome Tours , Otago Peninsula and Nature Wonders Tours http://www.awesometours.co.nz/ We had a nice tour that included an hour stop in central part of Dunedin, visited famous railway station, steepest street in the world, Larnch Castle and wonderful place Natural Wonders, where we enjoyed great views on Otago Peninsula, had a ride on all terrain vehicles and saw some seals, cormorants and penguins. Wellington John McKinney, Seal Coast Safary http://www.sealcoast.com/ This was amazing safari tour if you won’t mind to have a ride on a jeep through huge private farm spread over mountains to the sea shore. The views were breathtaking, the road had many hairpins going up and down and at the end we drove along empty sandy beach until we reached colony of New Zealand seals. Our Guide was a young man Billy. He told us a lot about this area and wildlife here and he was a great driver as well. This tour wasn’t very long and we had time to visit Te Papa Museum after it. Touranga Dea Harris, Indigenous Trails www.itrails.co.nz If previous tours were dedicated mostly to nature sightseeing here we combined nature and Maori culture. We visited Orakei Korako Valley, Whakarewarewa thermal village – amazing place, and Gideon Valley. I don’t want to repeat description of this tour as I already did it once and you can find it here. http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=796612 This 3 tours I would qualify as excellent. We saw what we wanted in the comfort of a small group and got a lot of information and plenty of opportunities for photo stops. Napier Another tour we had in Napier, but may be the area there is not so fascinating so I qualify it as good. Ferg's Fantastic Tours. www.fairwaytours.co.nz We toured through Art-Deco town Napier visited nice New Zealand aquarium and then travelled to Te Mata Peak from where you can see a great panorama of Hastings Bay. I think it was the best part of this tour. We had a few stops in the vineries, tasted local cheese and strawberries. All in all it was a nice day but morning was rainy and foggy so I guess it affected on our tour rating as well. Christchurch Here my attempt to arrange a private tour completely failed. I found tour operator with a promising introduction into Maori culture. I actually made reservation with Dave Brennan in advance. But when it came close to our departure I was unable to get any confirmation of this tour and nobody met us in the port as we agreed. So we had to do sightseeing there on our own. We had a ride on historical tram in the centre of the city, visited Air Force Museum and use Gondola to go on the hill to see Christchurch panorama. www.katoro.co.nz Auckland We took a full day tour that included morning bus tour around the city and afternoon tour in a small van to beeches and forests. First part you could easy skip, but afternoon trip was very nice and interesting. www.relaxingjourneys.co.nz And the last tour we arranged with New Zealans Turs was a tour to Waitomo area to see glow worm caves with Spellbound. http://www.newzealandtours.net.nz/nzterms.html http://www.newzealandtours.net.nz/auckland/akws1.html There are many different tours going to Waitomo caves and there are many caves there. Some of them are pretty crowded and have so much light that you can’t see glow worms properly. Spelbound takes you to a smaller caves with a group of 8 people. But the effect of seeing this glowing little stars on the roof of the cave and their reflection in the water is absolutely fascinating. Report turns out to be quite long but it might help you. Actually references for some of these tours I found on this board. If you have more questions you can e-mail me at tatyanal @ rogers. com
  13. We had a tour with Des Harris in Touranga last January. I think our tour didn’t have a special name at that time and was offered as Tour for Cruise Passengers. We were experimental group for this tour and Des Harris wanted to know if we liked it. Yes, we did. It was a great tour, very relaxing with a chance to avoid major tourist crowds and a possibility to learn a little about Maori life. That was exactly what we were asking for. We started our tour on the recently restored 100 years old historical boat and sailed along picturesque Waikato River through thermal valley Orakei Korako. Boat owners prepared a wonderful lunch for us. Then we visited thermal village Whakarewarewa, where we strolled on the hot ground and saw how local residents cook their vegetables in the hot pond in the middle of the village. We also had a chance to see a short concert of Maori dances and songs performed by local youth. Whakarewarewa village located on the other side of the fence from Te Puia Museum, but it’s a real living village. After thermal village we went to Gideon Fields – a spiritual place where we met the Chief of Maori Tribes and heard his colorful greeting speech. Then he took us for a short tour through the forested valley to the waterfall. On the way back to the ship we made a few stops to take pictures and saw our ship docked in Mount Manganui from far distance. I think if you don’t like this program and have different interests you have to contact Des and ask him what would be the best tour to accommodate your interests. He was quite flexible and tried hard to accommodate all our requests that were possible to fit in one day.
  14. talyanka

    Vantage Imperial Russian Waterways cruise

    General Tours offer a new ship for 8 days cruise from moscow to St. Petersburg. http://rivers.affordabletours.com/General/MS_Volga_Dream/Staterooms.html This will solve a hotel problems at both ends of the cruise as you can book them separately. This ship looks nice and the itinerary is interesting. They include island Valaam in Ladoga Lake - the great place to visit. This island has unique ecology and interesting history. So far I haven't seen that any other cruise line included this stop into their itinerary.
  15. I would like to hear from somebody who cruised on the ship MS Volga Dream from Moscow to St. Petersberg. They offer a better ship and food and itinerary is slightly different from most similar cruises. It's only 8 days and they visit island Valaam in Ladoga and Petrozavodsk in Karelia. It looks that this ship is quite new and I couldn't find any reviews about this cruise.