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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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?
  13. 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).
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. From more than 30 years of traveling (much of it to week-long meetings gathering around 1000 people from around the world), I've found the biggest factor in whether I get sick is getting adequate sleep. It can be easy when traveling to burn the candle at both ends and time changes can disrupt sleep. Now I take care to get adequate sleep and rarely get sick on a trip.
  18. If the price is the same as what you booked at, then you should try to get the current deal. If your booking is through a TA, then you need to contact your TA to see about getting the special, otherwise you contact Windstar directly. Note that $1000 per cabin is for premium suites and probably only applies to cruises 14 days or longer (there is a discrepancy on the Windstar site - the figure on the page advertising the deal also says $1000 for shorter cruises, but the description on the formal terms and conditions page says $400 for shorter cruises - so until they correct that, one could try to argue for the higher amount). Premium suites are: Owners suites, Classic Suites, Wind surf Suites, Bridge suites. For other cabins, the OBC is $400 for 14 days or longer and $200 for shorter cruises. Our January cruise is currently about $700 pp higher than our fare and our fare included free gratuities, $200 OBC or free wifi from the special they had last January. And we got another ~ $300 pp off the fare from the Yacht Club Alumni discount and Yacht Club Welcome Home Offer. If the fare did drop below what we have now, I don't know if we would keep the Welcome Home discount on the booking. I've had the fare adjusted before and they have always given the Alumni discount. So far, it seems we are unlikely to find out this time as the fare has been holding up and a lot of categories are Call for Availability.
  19. Santa Apollonia is what they usually use, but it's possible that they don't always use the same one. Before our cruise, I checked the port's website: http://www.portodelisboa.pt/portal/page/portal/PORTAL_PORTO_LISBOA_ING/CRUZEIROS Click on Forecast for Ship Calls.
  20. There is an option in your account settings for whether you see signatures. You probably have signatures disabled if you aren't seeing it. To change the setting, click on the down arrow next to your login name near the top of the page and then click Account Settings in the drop down menu that opens. Click "Signature" and then click View Signatures.
  21. Yes, assuming that you are also in Balboa on Friday. The itinerary shows arriving there on Thursday and being there for the day on Saturday but it leaves out Friday.
  22. I didn't take a census, but I as far as I know just about everyone got off the ship in wet landings. No one I spoke to had stayed on the ship. I suppose there may have been times people had to wait when they were off-loading groups for tours, but I never had to wait long. When going back to the ship, most times I was able to take the next zodiac that came. There was one time that there was a line and I had to wait for the second one. It wasn't a long wait as they were running at least two zodiacs and the trip is short. I was on Wind Star so that's not quite as many passengers, but they may compensate for the larger ship by running more zodiacs.
  23. A couple of pairs of light weight slacks can be nice for keeping off the sun while staying cool. Some days I prefer that to having sunscreen and bug repellent on my legs. And they can be worn in the evening too. We went in January and it wasn't remarkably hot and humid. Definitely beach weather, but not miserably hot and humid like Florida (or Tokyo or Wuhan) in the summer. (I'm used to dry hot summers and can be comfortable with that, but hot and humid can make me pretty miserable.) Jeans can be nice for the days you fly. I didn't take any - one of the pairs of slacks was more versatile.
  24. Most restaurants I've been to in Paris have an English menu available if you need it. Generally, you can find someone to help you in English too - though I've found people are more helpful if you at least make the effort to acknowledge the local language by using some tourist French - even just the small effort of saying bonjour and merci. I started traveling alone long before cell phones. Smart phones make it a lot easier. With Google maps or a maps app, you need never be lost. (But you might want to take along extra power by carrying an external battery as apps using gps tend to be power hungry.) If you are still hesitant to go on your own, you might look into small group trips. I used Intrepid Travel in China and the trip was wonderful - a good balance of planned time and time to explore on our own. Max group size was 15 but our group had 7 plus our trip leader. I was with my husband; the others were solo. That company will pair same-sex solos sharing a room so may attract more solos than ones with a high solo supplement. The trip leader would give us an orientation to each city as we arrived and would help with advice or arrangements if needed - it was very enabling. I've heard good things about Road Scholar. They have small group trips (though I inquired and they said their max small group size is 24 which is a bit larger than my ideal).
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