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Everything posted by new_cruiser

  1. I disagree about Buenos Aires. Some parts of the city are worrying. Before I retired, I would go to week-long international meetings of a group several times a year. Most were in North America, Asia and Europe (moving around to areas most of our attendees come from spread the burden of travel), but we also had one in Buenos Aires. There was a board for attendees to share info about the location and experiences while there to help each other out. There were a number of reports of problems - more than we had in other cities including Chicago, Yokohama and Paris. Most were the scam where someone squirts a victim's back on the street with something that looks like bird dropping and a confederate rushes up to help clean it off so that the distracted victim's wallet can be lifted, but there was also one incident where a person was held up at gun point in a park near the meeting venue. I still walked from my hotel to the meeting venue (at least during daylight), but I was careful to be alert to my surroundings and I avoided going near the park. It is in many ways a very nice city. We had some really good meals there including an unassuming restaurant that we stumbled upon when the one we intended to visit turned out to be closed. But my experience was that crime was higher than most places we visit. Perhaps there was less distance between some nice areas and some dodgy ones than in some other cities. I would visit there as a tourist, but would exercise more caution than usual.
  2. 😊 Windstar posts 7-for-7 specials putting 7 cruises on sale for a week almost every Thursday. They also have sales covering more cruises at least once a quarter. Sometimes they have really good prices especially when bookings for a date are low. I booked our 14-day Captivating Caribbean cruise when it was on a sale last January. The price now is a lot higher than what we booked at and the price shows now sign of dropping. They have a price assurance policy that lets one take advantage of price drops up to 90 days before sailing so when I see a price I'm happy with, I book it. Sometimes it drops lower and I get a fare reduction (or extra OBC to compensate). Sometimes it doesn't.
  3. By the way, most of the stops other than Penang, Malaysia were uninhabited islands that were part of marine national parks so no medical care on them - just an island with a beach and sometimes a ranger. So while the passages may have been less than 12 hours, the only medical care at all but one of the stops was what was on the ship. https://www.starclippers.com/us-dom/search.html?view=itenary&crid=SC091119&ship=Star Clipper If there was a severe medical emergency, perhaps the ship could have diverted to somewhere on Phuket or a fast boat (maybe whatever serves as a Coast Guard there) could have picked up the passenger. Even when there is a doctor on a small ship, medical facilities on board are limited. For example, on a Windstar cruise I was on, another passenger hurt her ankle the day we were at a small island for our beach BBQ day. The next "port" (wet landing via zodiacs on a beach of a small town so not really any port facilities) we visited, the small town didn't have any X-ray machines ns so she stayed on board. (Actually, I happened to chat with a local to ask directions. She mentioned she was a doctor and i asked about X-rays. She said that if they need one, they sometimes use the one at a dentist or at a vet so there are X-ray machines, just not human general medical ones.) The next port had an X-ray machine. Turned out to be a displaced fracture and she needed surgery to set it. That's life if you prefer to get off the beaten track. Sometimes you are far from modern facilities.
  4. No - we had a stop in Malaysia. There are other itineraries such as Singapore to Thailand.
  5. On Star Clipper (140 passengers double occupancy, 70+ passengers on my sailing) in Thailand, we only had a nurse. He was one of the waiters in the restaurant and doubled as the nurse. They didn't say what his level of nursing qualification was. From my interaction with him (cleaning and re-bandaging an arm injured during an excursion the penultimate day of my cruise), I doubt that he was RN level or higher. I have read that they have a doctor when doing a crossing - something with multiple consecutive sea days.
  6. There are exceptions to the 3-1-1 rule for prescription medications. I've traveled with cough syrup under that exception (cough hanging on and causing difficulty sleeping after the cold that caused it is over). https://www.tsa.gov/blog/2014/09/05/tsa-travel-tips-traveling-medication I've seen other articles that suggest that ice packs needed to keep the medication cold would also be allowed under this exception even if they aren't totally hard, but haven't seen anything definitive on the TSA website. They page above has a number to call to ask questions so if in doubt, try that.
  7. There are a number of small cruise ships with a "water sports platform" or "marina" that opens from the back of the ship for access to playing in the sea when anchored. All the Windstar ships have them and Royal Clipper has one (the smaller Star Clippers ships don't but they take water toys to the beach on beach days. They have water toys such as kayaks, paddle boards, small sail boats, inflatable platform/raft. On tropical cruises, they often have a beach BBQ day where they take the water toys to the beach to use them there. They have to be anchored somewhere where the sea is very calm to use them - e.g. a sheltered bay and the local port authorities have to allow it. Our upcoming 14-day on Wind Surf has two port stops where they plan to deploy the platform. I've seen a picture of a small luxury ship where there is a platform coming out from the side of the ship - a rectangle with a rectangular hole in it like a pool but I think that was a concept drawing of a ship they were planning to build, not something currently deployed and I don't remember which line it was.
  8. Since the deposit is fully refundable & you can transfer the on-board reservation to another cruise, could you have booked something on board & then transferred it if the cruise you wanted was added to the schedule?
  9. Star Clippers two smaller ships have 170 passenger capacity - more than the Wind Star & Wind Spirit. Royal Clipper is 227. They do have no single supplement specials on some of their cruises - the one I took had around 70 passengers - a lot of us taking advantage of the no solo supplement. I like sailing on Wind Surf so expanding to 300 passengers doesn't make the ships too large for me. I like some of the improvements. Getting new, more efficient, faster engines is good and the fitness center can use the improvement. My main concern is for cold weather cruises especially ones with scenic cruising. Will there be enough inside viewing space. The Yacht Club can already get crowded when it's cold & people want to watch the scenery from inside. Also inside Veranda seating.
  10. Maybe only on the larger ships? They had announced last year that they were going to start doing it, but there wasn't on on our Wind Star sailing this January. We got the Welcome Home discount (5%) by booking a cruise shortly after we returned from the January cruise.
  11. I already answered your question in post #8 covering which ports were wet landings. Note that there are several Panama Costa Rica itineraries so "how many ports are wet landings" is only meaningful if you know which itinerary. I always found the crew very supportive with help boarding & exiting the tender. You can hand any bag you are carrying first to make it easier. Always grasp the crew member's forearm and they will grasp yours. The hand to forearm hold gives better support than hand to hand. If you need extra help, don't be shy about letting them know. I'm mid-60 & my husband is early 70's. Quepos was one of my favorites because we had so many good animal sightings at Manuel Antonio Park. All the ports were quite good. There are plenty of things to do around Panama City so 2 days there was fine even with already flying in a couple of days before. It is about $10 for taxi from where you tender near the end of Fuerte Amador to Casca Viejo. I would have liked to do an excursion to one of the Embera villages (check the Panama port of call board for recommendations), but couldn't fit that in.
  12. What bothered you about the zodiacs? I like them - nice ride in the fresh air. I'd say that the one downside is that they don't carry as many as the tenders, but they ran enough of them that there was rarely much of a wait. They use zodiacs in Alaska - not for port days but on the scenic cruising days where they run excursions on them to get closer to the glaciers or landscape. They also use them to get from the ship to the kayaks for kayak excursions.
  13. We used Pepe Tours Spain Day Tours told us that they didn't have the group tour available that day but offered to do a private tour for the two of us for a pretty high price. It was odd because Redtravel on our roll call had a reservation with them, but I assumed that it was because their tour was full. Then shortly before the cruise started, Redtravel reported that they received an email from Spain Day Tours that they weren't offering the tour on that day. Seemed kind of flaky though other than that Spain Day Tours has a lot of good reviews. Anyway, I expect that means that they offer the tours when they have a guide and transport available and enough clients signed up - they don't necessarily run every tour every day.
  14. You will be docked in Almeria so you can walk off as soon as the ship is cleared. Ships excursion groups won't delay by more than the time it takes them to scan their ship cards (just a few minutes). However, when we did Spanish Serenade, we had to skip Almeria due to weather. There were high winds that would make it too dangerous to get to the dock there. We stayed an extra day in Malaga instead. No problem for those who had booked the ship excursion to Granada. Around 8 of us had booked the Granada excursion with another vendor. We learned about the change in itinerary around 3 PM. I called the vendor and they had to check around to see if they could make arrangements to pick us up in Malaga instead. After around an hour they told us they could but we would have to cover the cost of the extra van, driver and guide to get us from Malaga (IIRC around 30 euro a piece). Then we had to make contact with the other 6 people on board to see if they were okay with that. Due to the rain (part of the same weather conditions that prevented docking in Almeria), the van driver arrived late and we lost around a half hour of our time in Granada so we didn't have much time to see the town and eat before visiting the Alhambra. We still saved money compared to the Windstar excursion (but that excursion included lunch - something that wasn't clear in the excursion description). I've no idea how common it is for weather to disrupt docking at Almeria. In the circumstances we ran into, the ship excursion would have been worth it to me to avoid the stress we ran into with the non-ship excursion.
  15. I also wear Merino wool socks - not just for travel. They are really comfortable. Thin lightweight no show ones are cool enough for summer, crew height for cooler weather. REI carries a good selection. For cold wet climates (like Alaska on my May crews, wool also keeps it's insulating quality of it gets wet.
  16. We've done 3 weeks in Europe with just carry on. It was on our own using trains between cities. We used travel packs - can be easier than a rolling bag when surfaces aren't ideal or when there are stairs. The ones we used had a very small day pack that zipped onto the back of the larger pack. We also did a 3-week trip in China with the same packs. That was the trip we did with Intrepid Travel. I brought a light weight broomstick skirt for covering up when needed to visit churches. Takes up very little room, easy to stuff into a daypack where it doesn't take much room and easy to slip on over shorts and off as needed. Instead of extra shoes, you could wear waterproof shoes so it doesn't matter if they get wet. I have a pair of Merril Moab WP low top hiking shoes and have used them in wet places like Alaska and Costa Rica. If you prefer a trainer/sneaker type shoe, there are waterproof ones for that too. I wish I could get the waterproof version of my Brooks Ghost shoes, but they don't do the GTX version in wide. Other than the broomstick skirt, I haven't bought special clothes for managing with carry-on only. I'm willing to pay to have laundry done as needed for everything other than bras - I usually hand wash those because I'm concerned that a laundry will use too high a temp and damage them. Sometimes in Europe, you can find a fluff and fold laundry place which will charge by the load or by weight if you don't want to pay hotel by the item rates.
  17. I'm kind of surprised how cool many people leave the thermostat when away, but I live where there are hot dry summer days. In this semi-arid climate, it is rare to have hot nights. The temperature outside can get up to over 100 degrees F, but much of the summer we don't use the air conditioning at all. In the evening or early morning, we open the windows and put on the whole house fan to draw the cool air into the house. The house is well insulated and we have a lot of shade trees so it rarely gets above 80 inside - with the low humidity, we find that temperature comfortable. Rarely, we get a few days where it doesn't cool down at night so we turn on the air conditioner for that. Or when we have our kids and grandkids visiting for a few days - with more people in the house and more going in and out (maybe leaving the slider not well closed) the house heats up more and we need the air conditioning to maintain a good temperature. It's fine when it's just the two of us. We are more likely to travel in the winter, but if we were going away for a long trip in the summer, we would probably leave it off. We haven't turned the water off, but we usually have someone coming by every few days to check on the house.
  18. I wouldn't worry about safety taking a taxi from Panama City to Colon, but you should do some research on the price beforehand & negotiate the price with the driver ahead of getting in. You can ask on the Panama board about hotel recommendations. We stayed at the Wyndham an were happy with it. We arranged for a half day tour & drop off at the Colon cruise terminal with Vincent Scott (vscott03@gmail.com) and were very happy with it. He took us to Portobello, but if you prefer, there are other options such as the Visitor Centers at the locks. At $250, the cost wasn't much more than our Cruise line wanted for a transfer for two. We also did an evening walking tour with him the night before.
  19. Anyone else have feedback on Aruba? Usually, we would at least stay overnight since this will be our first time in the port, but the flights available if we are willing to leave on Saturday afternoon are much better than the flights home on Sunday and Monday.
  20. Our 14-night cruise will end in Aruba. We start in Barbados. This is for January/February and since we are flying from the West Coast with 1 or two stops, I'm planning to fly into Barbados a few days early as a cushion in case there are weather delays. Other cruise stops are Martinique, St Lucia (3 ports: Castries, Pigeon Island and Soufriere), St Vincent and the Grenadines (Bequia and 2x Mayreau), Barbados, Grenada, Tobago, Bonaire and Curacao. Looking at flight options from Aruba, there is a really good connection leaving around 2 PM on Saturday (the day our ship debarks in Aruba). It's one stop, lowest price and close to the shortest travel time. the flight options for Sunday and Monday are much worse. The inexpensive ones on those days are more than 24 hour travel time, 2 hops. Is there something unique in Aruba that we would be missing out on by pretty much heading straight from the ship to the airport?
  21. Have you looked at Star Clippers? They have ships a similar size to Windstar. Their Mediterranean itineraries are significantly less expensive than Windstar (though the price difference is the other way around for Caribbean itineraries).
  22. There is a duo that plays in the lounge or Star Bar. On the Alaska cruises, they have an expedition team of naturalists that give lectures, often based on what was seen that day; lead the expedition excursions; and do wildlife spotting while sailing. On the Asia sailings in 2018, they had a lecturer who gave talks on Asian culture, history, etc. He was also on the Pacific crossing from Asia to Alaska. He gave two talks per day on sea days. We didn't have a lecturer on board for the European cruise or the Panama Canal and Costa Rica cruise I took (though I've seen mention that they sometimes do have one). On the crossing, we had a trivia quiz each sea day with small prizes at the end of the cruise to the top teams. Most of the time there has been one on the sea day of a port intensive cruise, but one didn't have it. Every sailing I've been on has had a crew talent show - I think that's pretty much a constant. There is almost always a deck BBQ (though sometimes it has been held in Amphora due to weather). That often has line dancing and there will be practice sessions before hand for those who want to learn the dances. Caribbean and Panama Canal/Costa Rica cruises usually have a beach BBQ day - water toys are brought to the beach for that. Often there will be other activities offered once during the cruise such as: napkin folding, towel animal, cocktail making, galley tour (the motor yachts have a lot bigger galleys), cooking demo by the chef. Liar's club is fun (officers given odd words to define, only one has the correct definition and the audience tries to guess which one). On the crossing, there was knot tying on the bridge and they attempted star gazing but there was too much cloud cover. There was also a cooking contest of the Captain and Hotel Manager vs. the Chief Engineer and another officer that I can't remember judged by the Chef. That was pretty funny. I agree that it is pretty much the same between the two types of ship. The variations are more due to itinerary and the particular crew aboard.
  23. Some are. Searching for 2020 cruises results in 347 itins (not unique ones since some would be Star Collectors or cruise plus land alternatives). There are currently 174 itins for 2021 so roughly half the schedule is set. Wind Star and Wind Spirit have all or most of the year up. The others have nothing past April 2021.
  24. It says it is for tropical voyages in 2019, 2020 and 2021 which covers all the dates currently posted. Tropical includes: Asia, Australia & New Zealand, Caribbean, Costa Rica & Panama Canal, Mexico, South Pacific and Tahiti.
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