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Posts posted by TAD2005

  1. On a recent Westerdam cruise that was Med/TA we had many sea days, including 8 straight days crossing the Atlantic. Obviously, the Lido deck was very crowded around noon. The captain did his daily position report, weather, and expected sea conditions for the night and next day. A lot of people would (should) listen to the announcement because it will tell you if the seas will be rough, and the precautions to take if it is. But, we also experienced the usual people who, when hearing the captain's announcement, just jack up their voices even louder so they can continue their (I'm sure) critically important conversations over top of the announcement, which lasts maybe 4 or 5 minutes. I understand what a great sacrifice it is to quiet down for 4 or 5 minutes, but the information they may hear could impact their comfort and safety that evening or through the night. We had one fairly rough night, with 24 ft seas, and the captain advised people to avoid using the stair towers, no high heals for dinner, and take any breakables off of the desk, counters and bathroom shelves to avoid breakage. That is important information that a lot of people missed because they felt their conversations were too important. And asking people who are eating lunch or have snagged one of the rare free tables available in the lido deck, to vacate their table and find another place on the ship to hear a 5 minute announcement is inconsiderate.

    I don't think it's too much to ask for people to pause their conversations to listen (or allow others to be able to hear) the captain's noon announcement. You should't have to ditch your lunch, abandon your table, and run back to your cabin to hear a 5 minute, sometimes important announcement. The same type of rudeness also happens on airplanes when the captain makes an announcement. Some people continue their conversations, and even raise their voices to override the PA announcement.

  2. To clarify.... There is no "discount" for purchasing the SBP online, ahead of the cruise, that is a marketing pitch from HAL. The price has been $44.95 per day for a long time (plus 15% SC), purchased online or onboard. Only last January, 2017 did HAL impose a $5 per-day PENALTY for purchasing the SBP onboard. They want you to use your cold, hard cash to buy the package online. They do not want you to use your HAL issued OBC to buy it. If you have sufficient OBC, then go for it. But that OBC could be used for your HSC or some shore excursions. If you can do it, buy it online ahead of the cruise and save the $5 penalty.

  3. Thanks for the link. The beverage package might be the way to go even if you don't hit the 15 drink a day . I'm guessing cost average kicks in a bit below that number.


    The break even point is way below 15 drinks. That 15 drink limit is the one thing people quote as the reason why they would never get any value out of the SBP. The usual quote is "I'll never consume 15 drinks a day". Do the math. $44.95 per day plus 15% service charge = $51.70, which is the cost of the SBP purchased online or the value of it if you get the SBP through Explore-4. With the average mixed drink price around $8.25, the break-even point per-day is 5.4 drinks. After that, you are drinking free. A typical $8.25 drink, purchased without the beverage package will cost you $9.50 with the service charge. Divide $9;50 into $51.70 and you get 5.4 drinks. Naturally, beers and other beverages are less than $8,25. The only way I have seen people hit the 15 drink limit is by drinking doubles. Yes, you can order a double of anything, and they will be happy to serve it, and it is covered by the SBP. It just uses up 2 of your 15 drink allotment. Specialty coffees, sodas, beers, bottled water, wines by the glass, are all covered. But nothing from the mini-bar in your cabin, including the 2 bottles of water placed in your room. Also not covered, bottles of water at the gangway, cocktails delivered by room service, and drinks on HMC.

  4. I am not happy allowing utilities, and other bills to automatically deduct their payments from my accounts. Our cruises are usually over 30 days and we have all of our bills coming in by e-mail. About 2 or more times a year, I get some kind of crazy charge on one of my utility bills, or other billings. I do not want to automatically pay those bogus charges, and then have to fight to get the overcharge refunded when I get back home. So, I use the internet to access those bills and manually setup the payments in my bank's bill-pay program. One company I will never allow to automatically withdraw funds is my local cable company. They constantly have erroneous charges on my bill. We always have plenty of sea days to do that little bit of housekeeping.

  5. I have spoken to 2 different ship service representatives and received conflicting information.

    Could someone please tell me what the real answer is?


    Is there any advantage/savings in buying the Elite Beverage Package before we sail?


    The fist rep told me we would save $5 PP per day on either package if purchased at least 3 days prior to sailing.

    The second (just now) said the only savings is with the Signature Drink Package, that the Elite is the same cost beforehand or onboard? :confused:


    We just got off the Westerdam. The current policy as of November is the regular package (SBP) is $44.95 per cruise day if you purchase it online at least 4 days prior to your cruise. If you purchase it onboard, the price jumps up $5 to $49.95 per day. Both prices plus 15% service charge. The Elite package (EBP) is $10 more, $54.95 per day, plus 15% service charge, but they do not increase the cost if you buy it onboard. Only the SBP has that $5 penalty for waiting to purchase it onboard. Some have suggested they are trying to discourage people from using their OBC to purchase the beverage package. They would rather have you use HAL provided OBC for items that have a much higher markup than beverages., eg shore excursions, spa treatments, photo packages, etc.

  6. We ran into a very strange interpretation of the signature beverage package rules on a recent Westerdam cruise. As specified above, a regular Bloody Mary is $7.95. But we always ask for a Bloody Mary with Absolute vodka. The waiter said it will cost an extra .50 cents for the "call brand". We said OK, no problem, because that raises the price to $8.45, which is still under the $9 limit. We were also told that by ordering a "call brand" that drink would count as 2 of our 15 drinks for the day. We objected to this, and we were referred to the bar supervisor, and finally the beverage manager. They all agreed that any call brands in a mixed drink counts as 2 drinks of your 15 drink allotment. We have never heard of this before, and there is nothing in the fine print description of the SBP that addresses "call brand" drinks. I asked the beverage manager that if we ordered a shot of Absolute vodka, with a splash of Bloody Mary mix, would it be considered one drink ? The answer was yes. But if we ordered a mixed drink, and specified a call brand alcohol, then it counts as 2 drinks.

    Absolutely crazy. I sent a message to HAL Seattle about this weird policy and received no answer as of today. The beverage manager admitted that it sounds a little strange, but he blamed the problem on the computer system. If you order a call brand, it is added to the drink ticket as a second beverage in addition to the main mixed drink you ordered. That is why it counts as 2 drinks even though you are only getting one shot of alcohol. We never approached the 15 drink limit, but it's hard to tell anymore, because they do not give you receipts unless you request them. Here is another example of the ships and Seattle not communicating on policies.

  7. Just off the Westerdam, 25 days Med/TA Venice to FLL. There are only 2 options now for internet. Purchase for 24 hours or purchase for the full cruise. Because our cruise was a Collector's Cruise, (Venice to Rome, 12 days and Rome to FLL, 13 days) we had to purchase a new package on the first day of each segment. Once you decide to go for 24 hours or the whole cruise, then you select what type of internet service you need. They have 3 options. The basic service is strictly social media. The Enhanced service is social media, e-mail, banking, connecting to your office, and most website browsing. The Premium service includes all of the lower package capabilities, plus it allows Skype, and other VOIP services, video and music streaming.

    We took the premium package for the first 12 day segment ($199) and the service was very good. Good, reliable Skype calls. I ran an Ookla speed test and I was getting 8 mb/s download and 1.5 mb/s upload. The ping rate is pretty bad, 210 ms, but that is due to the satellite connection. There's no getting around the transit time from earth to space and back again. That ping rate might cause problems for people who want to play interactive video games, but who would want to do that on a cruise ?

    The Enhanced service was more than adequate for everything we did on the 2nd leg from Rome to FLL, 13 days and $149 for the segment.

    All of the services utilize Carnival Corp's Miami portal. If you check "What's my IP", you will appear to be in Miami, no matter where in the world the ship is actually located. That's a good thing because some US banking websites get a little upset when you try to log in from a foreign IP address.

    HAL blocks all VPN tunnels, anything that appears to be adult content related, online gambling sites, and other websites that they find objectionable.

    This appears to be a major improvement from the minute-based services of the past. The service is unlimited, for the time period you purchase. But you cannot purchase anything less than a full cruise or cruise segment, unless you purchase 24 hour blocks. But, naturally, that is the most expensive option they have. Also, there is no pro-rating. If you decide to purchase the package halfway through your cruise, they do not discount the price based on the number of days left in the cruise.

  8. We just disembarked the Westerdam after 25 days from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale.

    I agree with all the posts about the Explorer's Lounge. The old circular bar is now a combined bar and the specialty coffees. Yes, they do have the usual pastries, free, of course.

    There is a smaller wood floor area that could be used for dancing, but during the whole 25 days, we never saw anything about a band there. No Black & White ball, which would have been perfect for Halloween. They had a costume contest in the BB-King area.

    Internet is definitely unlimited. You have 2 options, buy it for a 24 hour period, or for the whole segment. Also, there are 3 levels of service. Basic is strictly Facebook, and social media. Enhanced will allow e-mail, web browsing, banking, and most other services. The premium package allows Skype, music and video streaming, and other methods of VOIP. The enhanced package was around $149 for the 12 day segment from Venice to Rome, and $159 for the 13 days from Venice to Rome. Most times, the service was reasonably fast.


    The MDR food was good, but there was a lot of repeat selections on the 25 days. The Lido dining seemed to have too much pork belly and lamb entries. Loved it when they had roast turkey. Very moist, tasty white meat. I wish I could get my turkey to be that moist.


    Billboard Onboard had two different pairs of musicians. Venice to Rome was a talented pair of guys, and Rome onward had a girl and guy pair. They always accepted requests, but only on their last set of the night, usually around 11:00 PM. Many of the requests I asked for were rejected because "Billboard Corp doesn't allow us to play those songs". This was told to us by the musicians. They have a list of around 180 songs they can play. These restrictions cause them to fall back on playing the same songs night after night. Billy Joel has maybe 35 very good songs that everyone knows, but what do they play ??? You guessed it.... Piano Man, almost every night. Same with the Beatles, Elvis, Jimmy Buffett. How many times in 25 days can you hear Margaritaville ? We're still fans of the intimate, personal piano bars and talented artists like Jimmy Maddox.

    The ship was in good condition, a very smooth Atlantic crossing, thanks to the captain's wise decision to take a more southerly route rather than the usual Great Circle routing. There was a big storm north of us and we passed south of it, experiencing only 1 day of rain and clouds. No rough seas anywhere.

    I know it's a unsolvable problem, but the lack of available tables during lunch (noon to 2:00 pm) in the Lido pool area is a continuing problem. There's plenty of tables, but about 30% of them are not available for lunch because a single person will grab a table early and sit and read a book or browse the internet for hours, and hundreds of passengers are walking around with plates of food from Dive-In or Lido, looking for a place to sit down and eat. There are planty of other places on the ship to sit and read, especially during the busy lunch time on sea days.

    Disembarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was the usual morning from hell. They separate US and non-US passport holders into different lines after you collect your luggage. But there are only 6, double-sided booths for immigration clearance. When we got off around 10:00 AM (was supposed to be 9:00 AM), they only had 5 agents working the US line and 4 working non-US. There was a lot of Canadien guests onboard, so that line was very long and slow moving. It took about 1 hour to clear immigration and customs. A bad way to end a great cruise.

  9. HAL's onboard internet is satellite delivered to Carnival Corps headquarters in Miami. If you do a search while connected to HAL's internet on "What's my IP", you will see that it is an IP address from Carnival Corp in Miami. Usually banks and credit card companies do not start getting curious if your originating IP address is from the US. That is what I have experienced sailing through the Mediterranean and trans-Atlantic.

  10. I have a real problem with some CC posts classifying anyone who buys the Signature Beverage Package as a "heavy drinker". Please do not label people based on your own adult beverage consumption standards. I enjoy a hot chocolate or two first thing in the morning at the Explorations Cafe. Then, most of my shore excursions are half days, so I enjoy a few (2 or 3) beers with my Dive-In burger for lunch, then a pre dinner cocktail in the Oceans Bar, then a glass of wine with dinner, and maybe an aperitif in the BB-King or Billboard Onboard. Then I get a few bottles of water or ginger ale to take back to the room. I have easily exceeded the $44.95 daily rate, so many of my drinks are free. I am never inebriated and I am on vacation, so I enjoy a few adult beverages. The SBP has always worked out to our advantage, and not all of our cruises are Trans-Atlantic. To each his own. Let people decide on their own how much they usually consume when on vacation. Don't classify anyone who purchases the SBP as "heavy drinkers" based on your personal habits.

  11. The $55 per day drink package you mentioned is the Elite package for folks who must have that VSOP brandy & cognac or the best wines. There is the regular package at $44.95 per day (plus 15% service charge). It all comes down to how much you expect to drink, and that 's not just adult beverages. Regular coffee and tea (iced or hot), tap water, and juices at breakfast are included in your cruise fare. Anything else wet that you drink will cost you.. The average mixed drink is around $7.95 plus 15%. Based on that price, paying as you go, your break even point is about 5-1/2 drinks with the package. After that you are drinking free. You can get specialty coffees in the morning, sodas, all beers and cocktails all day, limited wines, and after dinner drinks. Plus bottles of water. If you have a very port intensive cruise, and you will be off the ship most days, then the package may not be for you. If you have lots of sea days, then it may work out for you, do the math based on your normal beverage consumption when on vacation. Hey, you're on vacation, you're not driving, so enjoy yourself.

  12. The Signature Beverage Package (SBP) used to be $44.95 per day (+ 15% service charge) purchased online or onboard as late as December 2016. HAL decided they didn't want guests purchasing the SBP with free HAL OBC, so they increased the price by $5 per day is you wait to purchase it onboard. So, there's no "discount" by purchasing it online, ahead of your cruise, that $44.95 price was the standard price for a long time. That $5 increase is a penalty to discourage people from using OBC to purchase the package onboard. Funny.... they don't have the same "penalty" for the Elite Beverage Package (EBP) at $54.95 per day, same price, purchased online or onboard. Of course we all know there is a markup on drink prices, cruise lines have to be competitive with land based bars and other lines, but no where near the markups on Spa treatments or shore excursions. So, HAL would rather you use your OBC to do a day in the SPA or purchase shore excursions. They want you to purchase the SBP with hard cash ahead of the cruise due to the relatively lower markup on drink prices.

  13. With the Signature Beverage Package (SBP), either purchased outright, or received with the Explore-4 promotion, your maximum is 15 drinks of any kind at $9 each. If you purchased those drinks without the package you would spend $8.95 X 15% service charge = $10.30 X 15 drinks = $154.39. The SBP is worth $51 per day, so if you really like your drinks, you can really make out. In other words, if you drink 5 drinks at a menu price of $8.95, you are breaking even, and anything over that is free, up to the 15 limit.

  14. Any OBC coming from your travel agent or purchased by you, or gifted to you by a friend will be credited back to your credit card if unused. Any OBC given by HAL must be used on board, not online prior to the cruise. Use it or lose it !! I have heard that you can use the slot machine trick to credit a portion of your OBC into the machine, do a few pulls and cash out later. However, in the detailed description of the Explore-4 OBC given to suite bookings ($100 p/p) HAL says specifically that it cannot be used in the casino. But I don't see how they can regulate that. All of your OBC, from your TA and from HAL is all dumped into your on board account. Once it is intermingled with your cash, how can they tell the difference ?

  15. I think it's despicable that cruise lines still call on ports that have been devastated by hurricanes. Yes, the ship may legally be able to dock, but what will you see on the island ? Miles of totally destroyed shops, homes, stores. Yes, these islands desperately need tourist dollars, but at what price on the people trying to rebuild while thousands of tourists are riding around in air conditioned buses, gawking at their misery in the sweltering heat with little or no food, water or power for air conditioning. Give these people a break and let them recover. The food and water used (and mostly wasted) by tourists are desperately needed by many people on that island, but the tourists will pay much more for it, so that's where it goes.

  16. Almost no ports allow ship's casinos (or shops) to be open while they are in port. The whole idea is for you to get off the ship and spread some $$$ around in the local towns. San Juan has a casino, but that makes no difference. No shops, no casinos until the ship is under way, usually when the port pilot is dropped off. And the other posts are correct, San Juan will not be able to accept cruise ship calls for many weeks after November. Key West just accepted its first RCI ship, but hurricane Irma did not hit Key West directly, so some of the shops and bars were open. I still think that RCI port call was a good bit pre-mature. But greedy shop owners in Key West control the island, and I'm sure they guaranteed RCI that there would be some things to see and do around the town.

  17. Costa Rica is in Central America and does not qualify as a 'distant' foreign port. EM


    Not true. Any port that is not US territory is considered a "distant foreign port". Does Costa Rica fly the US flag.... no. Just because it is located in Central America does not mean it is a United States port. How about South America. Do you think that all of the countries in South America don't qualify as a "distant foreign port" because the continent they are located in has the name "America" in it? Only the continental US, and it's territories and possessions count as US ports. Anywhere else in the world, even Bimini island, 50 miles off the coast of Florida qualifies as a "distant foreign port". And the Bahamas are part of North America.

  18. Any cruise that starts and ends in a US port (same or different) must stop in a foreign port somewhere in its itinerary. Perfect example is the Hawaii cruises that start and end from San Diego, Long Beach, Seattle, or San Francisco. Most, if not all, stop in Ensenada, Mexico, either on the way to Hawaii or on the way back. That short stop meets the requirements of the law. Same for cruises from Seattle to Alaska. They all stop in Vancouver. Some Hawaiian cruises stop at Fanning Island. The cruise lines know the laws and work them.

  19. We booked a future cruise while onboard the Oosterdam in November 2016. We booked a Sept 2017 cruise of 21 days. We paid a $100 P/P deposit and we got $400 P/P OBC. After we got home for a while, we found a better cruise of 26 days in Oct 2017. We had transferred the first 21 day cruise to our TA during the booking process. We asked our TA to transfer our 21 day cruise booking over to the 26 day cruise. She got it done, we kept all the OBC, and kept the $100 P/P deposit. Later on, we also got free HSC thrown in because HAL changed a promotion and my TA grabbed it.

    So, we are very happy with booking onboard. You do not get the double OBC if you simply make a deposit for a non-specific future cruise. You only get the double OBC if you actually book a specific cruise. So, do your due diligence at home before you leave, and you can book a future cruise. If you change your mind, you can transfer it to another cruise and keep the benefits. Of course, if you book a 26 day cruise and get $400 P/P OBC, and then cancel and rebook a 7 day, don't expect to keep that $400 OBC.

  20. Congrats on your choice for a great honeymoon. There are 2 beverage packages (we're talking adult beverages, not soda packages). One is the Signature Beverage Package (SBP), and the other is the Elite Beverage Package (EBP). Both work the same way, with the exception of the per-drink price cap. Each will provide you with 15 beverages per day, and that is just about anything liquid you can drink. Obviously, water (not bottled), fruit juices at breakfast, iced tea, regular coffee are all free. The SBP and EBP cover all beers, wines, cocktails, shots, liquors, sodas, bottled water, and all specialty coffees in the Exploration lounge on deck 10. Any beverages from the mini-bar fridge are NOT included, nor are drinks on HMC and room service drinks. Also, if they are selling bottles of water at the gangway, some ships don't have the ability to scan your cabin card, so you must sign a slip for that bottled water and it will be charged to your room account. If you are going on a shore excursion the next day, pickup a couple of bottles of water from any bar before bedtime the night before, and put them into your fridge for your shore excursion.

    We have found the SBP to be more than adequate for our needs. Just about any cocktail you would want, all beers, and most liquors will fall under the $9 price limit. And don't concern yourself about the 15% service charge. That has already been paid, if you purchase the SBP or get it included with your cruise fare. So, just look at the bar menus and anything under $9 is up for grabs. With the EBP, the price limit jumps to $15 per drink. The big difference that many people find between the SBP and EBP is the wine selections available. You can't get a bottle of wine with either package. It's only by the glass. The wine selections in the SBP @ the $9 limit are OK, but not great. But for all other adult beverages, you can order most everything. Tequila is a bit limited, about half of their selections are above $9. Don't concern yourself about mixed drinks. Even Long Island Ice Tea with 5 different liquors is included in the SBP. A White Russian for example has vodka (your choice, even Gray Goose) and Kahlua and cream. It is included for $9. Some of the VSOP brandies are not.

    One thing to remember, a $7.95 drink (regular cocktail price) will cost you $9.14 with the 15% service charge, IF you don't have the SBP and are paying by the drink. The SBP costs $51.70 per day purchased in advance, online. That includes the 15 % service charge. If you divide a typical mixed drink price of $9.14 into $51.70, you get 5-1/2 drinks. That means the 6th drink you have, on your honeymoon will be free and everyone after that, up to the 15th drink. If you think you are approaching your 16th drink and you are in BB-Kings, just wait until after midnight for that 16th drink and it will become your first for the next day. Of course, if you have had 16 drinks, you may need someone to roll you back to your cabin, and that would be a bad way to start a honeymoon.

    Enjoy !!

  21. For the longest time, Cruise Critic has been one of the few websites that I can go to and get cruise information, hints, good ideas, and a general wealth of useful information about cruising. Now, we have some people turning it into a political bashing site. PLEASE STOP IT. There are plenty of site you can go to to vent your political views. Please keep Cruise Critic out of that cesspool. Thanks.

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