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Bruin Steve

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  1. From the OP's posting history, it sure looks like they are on the NCL Bliss--which means cruising out of SAN PEDRO, not Long Beach...and they are only coming in on a Saturday for a Sunday cruise. And, it appears from other threads, they were even considering hotels in places like Torrance. Personally, if getting in just the day before, I would stay in San Pedro for the optimum in convenience. For longer pre-cruise visits, I would consider other locations around the area...but, day before, keep it simple...You can get an Uber or shuttle from LAX to a hotel in San Pedro and relax...knowing that you have no more local transportation or traffic to deal with...There are two hotels I would stay at in San Pedro--the Crowne Plaza or the Doubletree...the nicest and most convenient hotels in the area. CP is the closest of the two to the port--even walking distance for most (about three blocks, flat walk, mostly along the waterfront through the terminal parking area)...but they will also shuttle you to the front door of the terminal. Doubletree is a bit farther, but in a pleasant location and they will shuttle you anywhere in the area for free. For those who think these two are pricey (though theyt are not by LA standards), the Best Western on Gaffey is a nice enough hotel, it's just the location is not quite as nice and restaurants are a bit away.... Past those, "cheaper" hotels in San Pedro have a few issues--which would take them out of the range of consideration for me. Long Beach, at least the tourist area of Long Beach, is nice...and has some very nice hotels--but they're about equal in price range to the San Pedro hotels...and you have a longer Uber ride from LAX and an extra Uber ride back to the pier. But, if you had a slightly longer pre-cruise visit and time to tour the Aquarium and the Queen Mary, they would be an option and the extra expense might be worthwhile...but, with little time, save the added troubles. "Bargain" hotels in Long Beach are often not in good locations--either bad neighborhoods or far from the port... Other locations in the area approximately between LAX and the port can run the gamut between very nice and highly questionable...AND, you are likely adding to your ground transportation costs and adding extra traffic time and considerations getting to the port the morning of your cruise. And, the nicer hotels in better areas can be pricey just the same. Hope this helps...
  2. Of course, I've got my own "generic packing list" for a seven night cruise. I wrote this many years ago and posted it on Cruise Critic at that time...Over the years, some things have changed (ie--end of "formal nights", greater luggage restrictions on airlines, etc.), but the concept is still the same...and, yes, nowadays, everyone has to add "chargers", "adapters", "devices", etc. *************************************************** standard packing list ************************************************* For a seven night cruise: Men: One small carry-on size rolling bag. 7 pairs undershorts 5 pairs socks (Don't need them for at-sea days) 4 T-Shirts (we'll pick up a few more as souvenirs along the way) 1 pair shorts (They're good for at least a week)... 1 pair long pants (only because they make you wear them in the dining room) 1 pair shoes 1 Swim suit NO Suit or Tuxedo (Rent it on the ship so you don't have to schlep it all the way there and back) Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Razor Camera Women: One large suitcase for Casual clothes One Large Suitcase for Formal clothes One large duffel bag for shoes One suitcase for toiletries, cosmetics, creams, shampoo/conditioners, lotions, etc. One suitcase for purses, accessories, grooming equipment, travel irons, steamers, etc. One carry-on with hairbrushes, vitamins, pain relievers and other prescriptions, cosmetics that they forgot to put in the suitcase, last minute items needed past packing of other suitcases. One purse the size of a suitcase filled with all the usual junk: lipstick, chewing gum, mints, keys that she can't even remember what they go to and don't need on the cruise anyway, photos of the kids, credit cards for every department store and shop known to man, even ones no longer in business, gym membership card she never uses, hair pins, loose change, old candy wrappers, mints from the restaurant she ate at a month and a half ago, that bag of peanuts from the flight in on Southwest...and so on ad infinitum... Specifics: 14 panties (one pair each day plus one for evening) 20 hose or pantyhose (accounts for 7 evenings as at least half or more will run while putting them on) 7 casual skirts and/or Bermuda shorts (something that covers the knees and most of the imagined cellulite) 7 casual blouses or tops...actually, make that 14 as most "outfits" require a top covered by a blouse hanging over it) [NOTE: One can never be seen wearing the SAME outfit TWICE!!] 7 pairs of "casual" shoes...as each "outfit" must be particularly coordinated with the precisely perfect pair of shoes 5 dressier skirts and/or pairs of slightly dressy slacks for casual evenings 4 formal gowns (Yes, I know that there are only two formal nights, but one won't look exactly right and she'll need to put it back and wear something else...and a second won't fit right anymore by the end of the cruise) 5 more pair of slightly dressy shoes...and... 4 pairs of "formal" shoes (again, each "outfit" must be coordinated with the proper shoes) [NOTE: All formal gowns and formal shoes MUST be purchased special for the cruise. God forbid someone on the cruise MAY have been at your niece Jessica's wedding in June and has already seen you in that gown!!] Assorted (meaning at least 10 of each) belts, scarves, etc. A woman needs to "accessorize"... 14 purses (again, must match the "outfit") At least 70 assorted pieces of Jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, earrings, pins, rings) of various types from diamonds down to cheap costume jewelry (again, the accessories must complement the particular outfit being worn) 6 swimsuits, though she'll never actually make it up to the pool deck...besides, "I can't be seen in public in a swimsuit" 6 "cover-ups"...just in case she braves wearing a swimsuit... Toothbrush Toothpaste Deodorant Eye Shadow Eyeliner Blush Foundation Lipstick Lip Gloss Eyebrow pencil Nail polish (At least 4 or 5 shades of each variety of make-up) Make-up remover Moisturizer Face cream Cold Cream Anti-wrinkle cream Body lotion Cotton Balls Q-Tips Razor Shaving Cream Tweezers Hairbrush (at least three varieties) Suntan lotion Sunscreen "Feminine Products" (though most often the item forgotten or not packed enough...just so YOU will have to go running around the streets of Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas looking for drug stores and trying to explain this to a clerk who only speaks Spanish) Hairdryer (even though they supply them on the ship--it's a reflex motion...but the excuse is "I don't like theirs") Curling iron Iron (even though the ship says they're forbidden..."I NEED it") Steamer Sewing Kit (like she's going to actually sew) Eyeglasses Sunglasses Contact Lenses Contact Lens solution Advil Midol Dramamine Pepto Bismol Tums Rolaids Campo-Phenique Pepcid Metamucil Any other possible medication for any other real or imagined malady which MAY arise during the course of the cruise--which they obviously don't sell anywhere but here at home... Hair dye (just in case the roots start showing during the cruise) And, this is just off the top of my head...I KNOW I'm leaving off lots of stuff... It's a good thing airlines allow you two fifty pound each pieces of luggage plus a carry on each... REVISED NOTE:...(Or they used to...maybe now with a small fee!) All of YOUR stuff can go in your carry-on, while hers MAY neatly fit into the four allowed pieces of luggage plus her carry-on... Even with the extensive packing, know that there are simply things not accounted for which now MUST be acquired in port...Besides, some of these ports are just great "shopping towns" ...After all, how important are a bunch of old churches and museums when each port has so many nice stores?
  3. We’ve done back-to-backs in the same cabin before...and! Just a few weeks ago! Got off the Reflection after back-to-back 12-nighters...But, for various reasons, in different cabins this time. With the change of cabins, we were told to pack most things, but to leave the items hanging in the closet...and no need to leave baggage outside the night before, of course. Our old cabin steward and new cabin steward coordinated everything and moved our stuff in the morning, even hanging the clothes in the new closet. And, we had access to our new cabin well before cabins were released for the new passengers. Just as in those back-to-backs with the same cabin, we did NOT have to leave the ship. We were taken down to where the scanners were set up for the gangway and we scanned the old cards as checking out and then the new cards checking on. As back-to-back guests, we were invited to lunch in the MDR (same as the Concierge class perk). For next summer, we have booked back-to-back cruises! July 5 and 12 on Infinity...mostly because, though we prefer longer (14 night) cruises, they just don’t have many on the schedule...Doing those two back-to-back, there is only one repeat port—Kotor, Montenegro...We’d rather they stopped somewhere else on one of the itineraries...but, we do like Kotor (been there a couple of times before) and we’ll just try to find something different to do there each time... And, yes, we’ve had lots of repeating shows and repeating menus on back-to-backs...Actually, on that most recent back-to-back, changing cabins alleviated that since we were in Concierge class the first cruise (MDR) and Aqua (Blu) the second... Oh...one bit of advice: Check in with the Guest Relations Desk and with your cabin steward and make sure everyone knows you are on back-to-backs...
  4. Interesting that another company has co-opted the moniker "SPB Tours"... There is one longstanding, well respected tour company named SPB Tours in St. Petersburg that we and others have been dealing with for many years--the one found at: https://www.spb-tours.com/ The woman who owns it is named Viktoria Rother and she runs the operation along with her husband, Steffen Rother. We have met both of them. In fact, when I saw her again at the pier in St. Petersburg this summer, she greeted me warmly...like an old friend. We met her husband Steffen, in Warnemunde during our previous Baltic cruise. I really don't have a problem giving them my credit card information--they've had it from three different tours over several years--and it never resulted in any problems. Being Russian doesn't bother me. This is not the Russian Government or the KGB...It's just a small business. You give out your credit card information to people you don't know EVERY time you use your credit card--all over the world. There is always the opportunity for thieves to use that to steal from you...even when using the card in places other than the internet. Doesn't stop me from using the convenience of a credit card. As I said, we've never had an issue nor have we heard of any security breaches related to SPB Tours. Actually, the only time in recent years we've had anyone misuse our credit card account resulted from using the card for an in-store purchase from a camera shop in Hong Kong. (Which, thankfully, after a little back-and-forth, we were able to work out through Capital One). But never had a problem using the card in Russia--or with this or other tour companies.
  5. And now I have canceled the reservation in Wengen--and changed to a hotel in Lauterbrunnen. Makes that trek out of the area a little simpler--not having to deal with the train and retrieve the car...
  6. I've now made some hotel reservations: 26 June--Lugano 27-28 June--Lucerne 29-30 June--Wengen 1-3 July--Porto Venere 4 July--Civitavecchia The only really long day of driving appears to be between Wengen and Porto Venere--which Google Maps estimates at 6 to 7:50 hours (and I, personally, have found their time estimates to be fairly accurate). Being a Californian, I can deal with that--we are accustomed to long car rides. They do show an alternate route--about 40 minutes longer--driving via the Wasenhorn, Ente Parco Nazionale della Val Grande and driving along the Western side of Lake Maggiore rather than backtracking through Lugano... I am second-guessing Wengen a slight bit...The hotel looked just entirely too cool...and the views extraordinary...But, the problem is that you can't exactly drive to the hotel. You've got to park the car in Lauterbrunnen and take a short train ride up the mountain...and then, back down again...Is it worth it? Or are we better off staying somewhere less scenic but more accessible?
  7. As of right now, this looks to be the tentative itinerary: Friday, June 26: Arrive at MXP (Milan) at 4:30 pm. Figuring we get luggage and pick up rental car and clear the airport around 6:00 pm local time, we won't want to travel far, I've booked a hotel in Lugano for the night. Per Google Maps, it's about a one hour drive. Saturday, June 27: Drive to Lucerne. About a 2-2.5 hour drive, though we could make several stops or detours and take longer. Stay in Lucerne. Sunday, June 28: Spend a second night in Lucerne. Monday, June 29: Drive to Interlaken (1-1.25 hours). Spend night in Interlaken. Tuesday, June 30: Second night in Interlaken. (Or, would it be better to depart Interlaken in the afternoon and drive to someplace like Montreux, Aosta or even back to Lugano in order to break up the long drive the next day?). Wednesday, July 1: Depart Interlaken early and drive to La Spezia/Portovenere (5-7.5 hours). Hotel in La Spezia/Portovenere. Thursday, July 2: Visit Cinque Terre. Stay in La Spezia/Portovenere. Friday, July 3: Visit Cinque Terre. Stay in La Spezia/Portovenere. Or, should we depart that evening and stay somewhere else on the Italian Coast between La Spezia and Civitavecchia? Saturday, July 4: Drive from La Spezia/Portovenere and to Civitavecchia (3.5-5 hours). Check into hotel in Civitavecchia, return rental car. Sunday, July 5: Board Celebrity Infinity. (Drive times are all per Google Maps. In most cases, I figure we might take a bit longer, making a few stops for meals, gas, restroom breaks, photo stops, etc.). What tweaks, if any, would you make to that itinerary? Thanks...
  8. I just booked my Rome hotel for next July post-cruise... For the fourth time, we’ll be staying at the Residenza Farnese...near the Campo Di Fiore...small four star hotel with surprisingly reasonable room rates. Walking distance to almost everything...
  9. The prior time we went with SPB, we were able to pay in US cash at the end of the first day...But, this summer, that changed...I think it’s something to do with Russian government crackdown on “black market” cash...
  10. For the visas, you input your passport info onto their website--they set up a page just for our private tour group...Then, you print out a "tour ticket" from the website..When you disembark the first day in St. Petersburg, you go through "Passport Control"...They will ask to see your tour ticket and passport...THAT is all you need....After that, there is nothing you have to do...It's absolutely seamless... For payment, you need to either pay by credit card in US Dollars 30 days prior via their website (what everyone in our group did) or in cash, in Russian Rubles, on the first day of the tour...We also gave our guide and driver tips in US Dollars, in cash, at the end of the tour.
  11. I've now done four Baltic cruises. Took the cruise line shorexes the first time...and never again. Last two visits, including just a few weeks ago, we used SPB... We arranged our own group with other posters on our Cruise Critic Roll Call...limited it to EIGHT people. SPB put together a tour for us that visited far more places than the shorexes ever could...included everything--including sit-down lunch both days, all admission charges and all visas. And, yes, we visited the Hermitage while it was closed to the public and virtually empty!) We were able to adjust the itinerary to include our own special requests. With eight, the total cost per person for the two-day tour was only $320. We had a wonderful, knowledgeable guide. SPB was right at the gangplank to greet us promptly each day...with the comfortable van waiting...and brought us back to the ship promptly each day. They also have optional evening tours...We took one last time--a canal boat/vodka trip, but we passed on it this time in order to just go back to the ship and relax after a full day... I highly recommend them.
  12. And...we've now done that... I was able to switch the reservation from Zurich to Milan Malpensa (arriving 4:30 pm)...and saved almost $600...Airfare went down from $1277 to $983 per person...AND, I was able to rent a car directly from Hertz--a Fiat 500 automatic--for $451 total for the full time--June 26 to July 4...with, importantly, the ability to drop it off right in Civitavecchia...believe it or not, a much better deal than I could find with any of the consolidators... So, now we are able to proceed with planning a route by car, leaving the airport in Milan late afternoon on Friday the 26th and ending in Civitavecchia on Saturday, July 4...Looking at the map, it's about an hour drive to Lugano, 2:45 to Lucerne. Of course, we're getting in late in the day after a long plane ride...So, perhaps, Friday night we stay close...Stay in Milan? Or make the short hop to Lugano? ...and continue to Lucerne for Saturday night...and Interlaken Sunday? Use that as a base? Or keep moving around? Still looking for help on the itinerary...
  13. Kemwel and autoeurope were actually higher... But it looks like another alternative might be to fly into Milan instead...rental cars from there to Rome FCO have a much lower one-way charge...so a VW Golf with auto would be around $618 for 8 days--26th through the 4th...We'd have to drop it off at FCO and take the train back to Civitavecchia on the 4th... but, that may allow a little more flexibility to loop up through Switzerland, then down past the Cinque Terre and to continue down the coast to FCO...
  14. We're now within11 months, so I am able to flesh out the trip a little more... As of right now, using Celebrity Air, I have "cancellable" flights...We will arrive in Zurich at 3:15 pm on June 26...and fly home after the second cruise on July 21 from FCO. I have reserved my favorite hotel in Rome for the two nights post cruise, so that is taken care of. For the pre-cruise, I have booked the #1 rated B&B in Civitavecchia (per TripAdvisor) for July 4...Which leaves me June 26-July 4 to plan out. My original instinct was to rent a car in Zurich and return it in Civitavecchia. We've done one-way rentals many times in Europe before, but today's pricing was a culture shock--Every source we looked at (Kemwel, Hertz, Kayak, Expedia) is showing incredible one-way dropoff charges...bringing the price of any automatic transmission vehicle to close to $2,000 or more for the mere 8 days!!! Add in the cost of gas and it's downright crazy. My second instinct was to replace a lot of the driving with trains. A five day Eurail Pass would cost us $574 for two of us...and we could use that to travel around Switzerland for 4 days, then down to La Spezia/Porto Venere...Then, rent a car in La Spezia for one day--June 3-4--which would cost $112 (much smaller drop-off charge, but we'd have to drop it at FCO and take a train back to Civitavecchia). Plus, the train ride from Anywhere in Switzerland to La Spezia would be several hours and involve at least two changes...and my wife dreads schlepping heavy luggage on and off trains... So, the current thinking looks like this: Rent a car in Zurich for one week ($327 for an Alfa Romeo Giuletta or similar...no drop-off since we'd return it to Zurich Airport)...Pick up on June 26, return July 3...Book a flight from Zurich to FCO on Alitalia on either July 3 or 4--11:00 am flight, arrives FCO 12:30 pm (cost for two on a rate that allows a 50 lb. checked bag each--$437 or $397). If we flew out on the 3rd, we'd either extend our stay in Civitavecchia an extra night--or just stay near FCO. If we fly out on the 4th, we'd probably still turn n the car on the 3rd, late afternoon and just stay near the Zurich Airport in order to get to the airport early morning for the 11:00 am flight... So, the big question that would remain IF we go that route, is how to plot out an itinerary for June 26-July 3...My wife loves Lucerne--We were there on our honeymoon, albeit many years ago--and wants to stay there at least the first night. She would also love to visit the Cinque Terre--if that still works in some sort of a 7 day loop from Zurich...The rest of the time, we'd like to spend in Switzerland. With a car, we figure we have some flexibility--though having to backtrack to Zurich takes away a little of that edge. So, the question is: If you had those 7 days to work with, what route would you take and where would you stay each night? Thanks...
  15. Well...I called Celebrity and made what is tantamount to a tentative reservation...They were able to get me on the Swiss Air nonstop to Zurich on June 25...and on an Air Canada return via Montreal on July 21...The price is a little high--$1277 pp...BUT, the agent thought the cost might be a little high due to limited inventory since the return is still just a little over that 330 day mark. But, the reservation is fully cancellable ...So, we'll keep it there as a hedge against rising prices, then check back in a couple of weeks. If we can improve on the price and/or get a better return flight combination (rather have a nonstop--or, if a stop, have it be in Europe so we don't have to clear customs until we get back to LAX), then we'll just switch it. The one good thing about the Air Canada flight is that it doesn't depart Rome until 11:35 am--so we don't have to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to Fiumicino...
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