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About Guindalf

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  1. Shoot me an email and we can talk from there. I don't make a habit of this... gand at post dot com
  2. TA lied, or is at least ill-informed. There is a possibility that you may be charged sales tax (VAT in Spain or other European countries), but you will NOT be charged gratuities on every drink!
  3. The Expedia story... The TL:DR recap is in the last paragraph for those who don't want to read a book! I booked independently of the cruise, which was considerably cheaper than trying to book through Choice Air, plus I got to pick my travel times. My booking was made way back in February. Flight times were 4:00 PM from Atlanta, traveling via LAX to Vancouver. Return was 11:00AM from Vancouver with a stop in Toronto. The fun started several weeks ago, when I got an email changing the outbound flight to 4:20. No big deal. A few days later, I got an email saying my return flight had changed to 8:00AM and they had confirmed it for me, so no need to contact them! Of course I was pushing an 11:00 flight and there would be no way I could make an 8:00AM flight, so I immediately called and told them the time was not acceptable and they had to change it. After much sweating and discussions, the flight was changed to 1:10PM, stopping in Seattle, and I received another change email confirming the same. No worries, right? Wrong! The fare was what Expedia calls a 'Hacker Fare', which means they are two one-way flights, in order to obtain the best price. They were actually flying with WestJet, a partner of Delta Airlines. Twenty four hours before we were to fly, I tried to check in. I wqs unsuccessful and the message I got when it failed was to contact an agent at the airport, which I did. The flight out was late. We sat on the runway in Atlanta for just about an hour while two storms rolled through. No-one to blame and we had a two hour layover in LAX, so we were still ok. When we got to LA, the next flight was delayed an hour, so although we didn't get to the hotel until the wee hours, there was no panic and all was ok. Then we come to the return. We had plenty of time to check in for our return flights, so we had breakfast in the MDR before braving disembarkation, which was a breeze. A cab ride later and we were at the airport by 10:00AM, plenty of time for a 1:10 flight. We went to the check-in desk (it also failed online) for WestJet and after a 20 minute wait, we were at the counter, only to be told that this was a Delta flight and we had to make our way to the Delta check-in desk, which we did. Another 20 minute wait and we were in front of the Delta agent, who weighed our two bags and charged us $30 CAD each for them. Then, something went wrong and she was unable to issue the tickets, saying something about the booking wasn't completed properly and we had to contact Expedia. So off we went to find seat and call. I got through to Expedia and spoke to an agent who decided the best thing to do was blame the airline! Once I had convinced him that they told me to contact the TA, he went to great lengths to explain every step in insane detail every time he put me on hold. I told him I needed it to be resolved and didn't need to waste the time for infinite detail every time he did something. He did offer me a $100 coupon for future travel as compensation, but as I pointed out, it was useless as I would not be using Expedia again. I asked for it to be credited as cash and he told me that wasn't possible. He put me on hold and the next thing I knew, there was a supervisor on the line. After over an hour on the phone, she eventually got the tickets issued and told us to go ahead and check in, which we did. The new agent weighed our bags and told us it would be $50 per bag. I told her it should be $30 and we had already paid. She told me the other charges would drop off, and accepted my $30 explanation. We boarded the plane, thinking our nightmare was over, which as far as Expedia was concerned, it was. We sat on the runway a while, which was a little concerning as we only had 45 minutes in Seattle to board the aircraft for the final leg. The flight was going to take 28 minutes and the schedule had allowed 75, so even with the 30 minute delay (which was because the ground crew's scanning gun was broken and they had to even out the weight of the checked baggage), we still had plenty of time to make the connection.By the time we took off, we would have something over 30 minutes to make the flight, so even though we were a little concerned, we should still be ok. As we were landing, the aircraft suddenly increased in speed and took off again - an aborted landing! The Captain came on the intercom and said there was no problem and we'd be on the ground in 15 minutes. When we eventually did land, we had just 15 minutes until our next plane was due to take off! I am unable to run due to neuropathy in my feet and hands, so my DW went on ahead and made it to the gate, telling the staff that I was coming. We just made it and we were the last people to board. We had accepted that our bags probably didn't make it, but we were happy to be on the way home! When we arrived in Atlanta, we went to baggage claim to wait until the checked bags had been sent to the carousel before putting in our claim for the lost luggage and, much to our surprise, the bags had made it! So, to recap: Expedia had changed our flights several times, resulting in the booking not being completely correct, leaving us stranded in Vancouver without a confirmed flight (but confirmed by Expedia!). We were unable to check in both ways and had to do this at the airport. We were told it was because it was an international flight. Expedia managed to screw up the booking, making ticketing impossible, so we had to call and spend over an hour getting seats on the plane for our return! Add to that the often-encountered delays and an aborted landing, we eventually made it home! Thanks for reading, if indeed you made it this far! Take this as a warning to be sure of with whom you're booking your flights or, in fact, any travel.
  4. OK, story coming, but first, some observations from the MDR, one at dinner, one lunch and one, breakfast. We only ate in the MDR twice as we had a large amount of OBC and purchased the five meal specialty dining plan to use a small amount of it up. Sitting across from us on the second visit was a mother and daughter, both very attractive and could have been sisters. They were finishing their starters using plastic utensils and on paper plates. It was hard to distinguish what the waiter brought for their main course, which looked like some kind of veggie/ratatouille dish, served on paper plates and covered with foil. There were several plates of what could have been cous-cous, but being nosey, I had to ask. Of course, it was special diet and the mother told me it was kosher vegan! Then one dayat lunch, the brother and sister sitting across from us were obviously Indian (Asian, not native American!). Again, we struck up a conversation with them and they had ordered an authentic Indian meal. Now, I grew up in England and I absolutely love curry, so they shared a couple of their dishes with us, which were amazing! Apparently, they were prepared by the ship's Indian chefs and were something special. Finally at breakfast also in the MDR, towards the end of the cruise (may even have been the last morning), an English couple sitting near us had ordered the Eggs Benedict, which must be one of the best breakfast items available. The wife called the waiter over, claiming the eggs were raw and demanding a new plate with the eggs 'cooked'. I looked over and the eggs were perfectly cooked, as they had been every time we ordered the dish throughout the cruise! I can only assume that this was the first time they'd ordered Benedict and didn't realize that the eggs should run when cut into! I have to admit to laughing silently and admiring the resolve of the waiter and the Maitre 'D, both of whom addressed the issue without even saying a word! Expedia story coming tomorrow.
  5. Thank you for taking the time to post your review. I, for one, am very grateful for the insight into the same cruise I was on and it prompted me to post more information than I ever have before (in 18 cruises)! I tried to PM you to tell you that I would love to sail with you both again, but the system won't allow me. If you feel the same, then please feel free to message me and we can arrange our next cruise together! ]
  6. As with anything, it's important to know what you're buying. There was a new, 7th generation iPad launched this week, that also comes with one year of Apple TV+ included. The new model has a 10.2" screen as opposed to the 9.7" one one the older model. I mention this because they are both the same price currently, but the 6th gen should be discounted, but that may not be the case on the ship. Same goes for the new Series 5 Apple Watch.
  7. Not a problem. When we first started cruising, my DW had the same fears and we always booked through the ship. Then I discovered CC and started joining private group tours from our Roll Call and never looked back. We generally save on average 20-25% by booking direct and have actually been on the same tour with guests from our ship who paid more! Now we always book using a combination of recommendations and price. I can recall one occasion where the ship was cheaper than booking direct, so we went with that option. The only caveat is if you are taking a tour that is dangerous or has a possibility of injury. I took an introduction to Scuba tour in Cozumel and scraped my leg on some coral, which was messy and very painful. After enduring the 'you hired a scooter and fell off, didn't you?' calls when getting back to the ship, the shore excursion team sent me to the medical office, where I was taken care of for free. Had it been a private tour, I would have gotten a bill!
  8. Not much to add to this. It was a day of goodbyes and relaxation. Sadly, it was just today that we met Friendswithdave and his better half. I wish we could have met earlier in the cruise as we had a great time together. I'd love to stay in touch and maybe arrange to cruise together at a later date. We ate in Murano and didn't make it to the final show. We'd seen it before on Equinox, so we weren't too worried. We had a 1:10pm flight the next day so we were able to take our time in the morning. Little did we know of the horrors that were about to transpire! For now, let's just say I will NEVER use Expedia again! If anyone's interested in the full story, I'll be glad to fill you in. I'd like to say that, following our Alaska cruise in 2009, which was near perfect, we went into this one not expecting it to match up. However, we had excellent weather and great company, not to mention experiences that met and exceeded that first trip! It's now a toss-up as to which was best! Once again, thanks to Friendswithdave and the other friends we made on this cruise (John & Suzanne, Erica & Fletcher, another Erica and many others). We would be happy to sail with any of you again.
  9. Gibraltar is not in Spain (or Portugal). It is actually a UK dependancy!
  10. I thought I already did! https://icystraitwhaleadventures.com/
  11. No, we went with Icy Strait Whale Adventures, booked through TripAdvisor.
  12. We were in ISP two weeks ago and saw plenty! There was a mother and calf who both put on a show of breaching and managed to breach at least 15-20 times. Then we followed a family of Orca for a while and then headed to another spot where we witnessed a pod of at least five humpbacks, rolling and flipping tails! There are no guarantees, fo course and we were extremely lucky to see the breaching. In fact, our guide said that this was the third tour of the day and the only time they breached - and usually, it's just the calf, not the mother as well! We booked direct and our sightings were guaranteed - no whales, full refund. This is NOT true of the tours booked though the cruise line, although it's extremely rare to not see whales.
  13. We had a retired pastry chef on our Alaska cruise two weeks ago. She held lectures about food mostly. We went to her first one, which was titled something like Alaskan Food: Not Just Salmon. She proceeded to tell us about the five different types of salmon and then went off on a tangent and spoke about the gold rush. I think I actually fell asleep and my DW, who usually loves things like this, did the same. Save to say we didn't go to any others!
  14. I was wondering what happened to you! Glad you came back to continue your review. I didn't want to be seen as trying to upstage you, so I waited. We also had a relaxing time in the morning, knowing we had the Baring Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour booked in Ketchikan. The boat was on the same pier as us, so not far to walk at all. We got on the Aleutian Ballad and set off for the tour. All the time, the crew were talking and entertaining us, telling us stories of some of the things that happened during their many years as crab fishermen in the Baring Sea. Anyone familiar with the TV show The Deadliest Catch, which the Aleutian Ballad was featured during season two, will be aware of how difficult the conditions can be, but thankfully, we were in calm waters! We went to an area owned by the native Indians, who granted special permission to this boat, meaning there were no others around us. Pots were pulled, the first containing box crabs, which we were invited to hold. Then some very large prawns were hauled in, followed by a king crab pot. In keeping with the preservation of wildlife, the crab in the king pot were plastic, but there a few in a tank on the deck! A nice touch was the myriad buoy tags that were attached to the king crab pot. There had messages from previous visitors who were kind enough to donate something toward families who had lost loved ones at sea. We were happy to be included. It was time to feed the eagles! The crew threw large pieces of fish over the side of the boat and we watched the bald eagles as they swooped down for a meal. Spectacular! The final creature brought up from the depths was a large octopus. Our meal tonight was a second go around in Tuscan Grill. An excellent meal spoiled by a clown of a waiter! He kept getting things wrong or bringing the food out at the wrong time, spoiling the meal a little. For example, DW had ordered a salad and I asked for pasta. He insisted on bringing the pasta later with the meat course and placing it in the middle for sharing, even after repeatedly being told that is not how we wanted it. He ended up having to return my entree to the galley for them to re-make it when I was ready (you can't re-heat medium rare lamb chops!).
  15. There is no OBC for prior cruises, especially those taken on other lines. Azemara and RCI are the same company as Celebrity and Crown and Anchor status above a certain level can be reciprocated, but no extra cash is awarded.
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