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Bruin Steve

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About Bruin Steve

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  1. Ahhh…an “At Sea” day…Slept in late, had brunch…It was a warm, sunny Mediterranean day…High of 85 Fahrenheit, not a cloud in the sky. So, we got a couple of drinks at one of the bars and headed back to the cabin and sat out on the balcony…Did a little reading and some crossword puzzles, then headed down to the Rendezvous Lounge for back-to-back Trivia and Music Trivia. Before we knew it, it was time again for pre-dinner drinks…then dinner… Show was a magician…lots of fun…Then we hit the Karaoke. NOBODY on this ship can sing worth a darn… Amazing how these “At Sea” days just flow right by…Time to go to sleep—tomorrow’s an early arrival in Kotor…
  2. ...showed up in my account today on the X website... Now, I am only 2,005 points from Zenith!! Maybe I'll make it by the age of 96 rather than 97?
  3. Answer is simple: NO I lifted and shifted two cruises from July 2020 to July 2021... Airfare (Booked on Celebrity Choice Air and paid in full) was REFUNDED. Lift and Shift applies only to the cruises themselves. ADD: BTW, I had a great fare--round trip LAX to Rome non stop there...$710 pp. When flights start becoming available for my 2021 dates...in about 4-6 weeks, we'll see where fares are at...I assume we will be paying a bit more for those next year.
  4. Well, today was Malta. I got up early and headed up to the top deck to get some of the best views of the sail in to port. Arriving in Malta is truly fantastic…past the breakwater and in to the medieval fortifications. Really a sight not to be missed. In port, we arranged for a private guide. Went to the prehistoric Hagar Qim…a bunch of interestingly arranged rocks—sort of Malta’s version of Stonehenge. Went all through the Medieval city of Mdina and the capital of Valetta. Saw the unbelievable Crusader church—St. John’s with the floor covered in unreal tombstones—lots of skulls and skeletons inlaid in marble. Stopped at a glass factory, where, of course, Beth bought a large colorful glass vase to be shipped back to our house. Another long and fascinating day on what has to be one of the coolest islands anywhere. Then it was back to the ship, change of clothes and up to the lounge on Deck 11 forward for the Elite Drinking hours. We’ll head to dinner around 7, then to the show…Tonight it’s a production show with the singers and dancers. Thankfully, tomorrow is an “At Sea” day—the only one on this first leg. We are going to need it…I am tired already…and we have some great port days ahead.
  5. Today we stopped in Messina, Sicily. The ship did not get into port until noon, so we had a pleasurable morning sleeping late, then a nice leisurely breakfast--no reason to rush. We did a shore excursion here, trying to use up some of our massive onboard credit. This one was fairly aggressive—as long a shorex as they could fit in—going to both Mt. Etna and to the town of Taormina. The visit to Etna was interesting, even if a little dull. We stopped in a parking area with a very touristy gift shop, but first took a walk up and around a volcanic crater (There were some more craters further from the bus parking, but we had limited time here). About halfway around the crater, there was a guy with a card table selling jewelry—allegedly authentic volcanic stones found in the crater—though I suspect the stuff may actually be made in China! Anyway, Beth could not help herself and bought a necklace. It’s okay if it’s not authentic—it cost a whopping 15 euros. Then, at the gift shop, I purchased my souvenir—a bottle of bright red liqueur—“Fuoco Dell’ Etna”…looked too cool to pass up. Then we headed down to the town of Taormina where we had the opportunity to walk along the main street—a very touristy collection of cafes and souvenir shops. Bought some gifts here—embroidered kitchen towels. Women sat in front of the stores with sewing machines customizing them for you. (So, the recipients can't return OR re-gift them!). Time flies. Soon we needed to be back at the bus for the drive back to the ship. Just got back to the ship (it’s about 7:30 pm local time)--a little late for our usual drinks and dinner, but it was worth it…after a nice full day touring in Sicily. Looking forward to another full day tomorrow in Malta.
  6. Sunday July 5 CIVITAVECCHIA , ITALY 5:00 PM Monday July 6 MESSINA, SICILY, ITALY 12:00 PM 8:00 PM Tuesday July 7 VALLETTA, MALTA 8:00 AM 6:00 PM Wednesday July 8 AT SEA Thursday July 9 KOTOR, MONTENEGRO 7:00 AM 5:00 PM Friday July 10 ZADAR, CROATIA 11:00 AM 8:00 PM Saturday July 11 RIJEKA, CROATIA 8:00 AM 5:00 PM Sunday July 12 VENICE, ITALY 6:45 AM Monday July 13 VENICE, ITALY 5:00 PM Tuesday July 14 SPLIT, CROATIA 9:00 AM 6:00 PM Wednesday July 15 KOTOR, MONTENEGRO 8:00 AM 5:00 PM Thursday July 16 CORFU , GREECE 9:00 AM 6:00 PM Friday July 17 AT SEA Saturday July 18 NAPLES, ITALY 7:00 AM 6:00 PM Sunday July 19 CIVITAVECCHIA , ITALY 5:15 AM
  7. Nicole and Pete, We have cruised quite a bit with Princess...mainly when we are unable to find a similar itinerary on Celebrity. For the most part, for us, this is on cruises here on the West Coast of North America--an area largely ignored by Celebrity/Royal Caribbean. All but one of our Princess cruises have been either in or out (or both) of Los Angeles. For us, it is just convenience. My overall opinion of Princess, is that it is a nice, middle-of-the-road sort of cruise experience. The ships have none of the bells and whistles one finds on a cruise line like Royal Caribbean, but they are well-equipped with bars and lounges, restaurants, etc. The main lacking, compared to Celebrity, is in space and comfort--Princess ships have less space per passenger, and, therefore, some venues tend to get a bit crowded. For example, the show rooms are much too small for the number of passengers--so, the caveat is to get to the showrooms EARLY--like at least a half an hour prior to the show lest you are unable to find seats. Shows like Magicians and Comedians are often held in a smaller lounge with even more limited seating--so definitely show up very early. That said, we have found a lot of the entertainment--not so much the singers/dancers but more the specialty entertainers --have been VERY good. The food is generally good--good quality, nice variety...of course, "food" is a very subjective thing. Good or bad food is not the same to everyone....but, yes, we have enjoyed it. The service IN the dining room, once you are seated, is very good. The only problem we've encountered is in getting seated with Anytime Dining...the layout of the ships is disjointed with four separate main dining rooms--which makes it hard for them to distribute the crowds. Also, at times, we've encountered the problem that unlike Celebrity, who check your dining assignments going in on the computer, Princess doesn't--and often there is the problem of a lot of folks with assigned traditional seating blowing off those assignments and clogging up the Anytime rooms. Once, we actually had Traditional seating and found our dining room always two-thirds empty though the ship had sailed full. The specialty restaurants, just as a note, are only about half the cost as on Celebrity. The cabins are another difference which is a peeve of mine. Although they claim square footage similar in size to Celebrity, the cabins FEEL quite a bit smaller...and for good reasons. First, there are different standards for measuring square footage. 180 square feet for one line is not the same as 180 square feet for another. Also, Princess tends to include the balcony in their measure. But, more important is that the Princess cabins do not make good use of the footage. Unlike Celebrity, bathrooms and closets are off a hallway--which takes away valuable square footage. Hence, the actual bedrooms have no room for a sitting area--no sofa or loveseat, no coffee table...often not even a chair. To get a sitting area, you need to move up to a "mini-suite" (Except on the Royal/Regal where we were able to get a sitting area by going to a Premium Deluxe Balcony). As compared to Celebrity, the cabins do have better storage--important in longer cruises but wasted on a shorter cruise. Another note, beware "obstructed" cabins on Princess. Unlike Celebrity where it means a lifeboat below your balcony railing, on Princess it most often means a lifeboat smack in front of your window, blocking the entire view. The Captain's Circle benefits don't come close to what one gets with Celebrity's Captains Club...and, as noted, far harder to get to Elite (only to find no free drinks), but, in your position, it won't matter anyway. And, overall, it's still an enjoyable cruise...especially if you like the itinerary, enjoy eating and drinking and being entertained. Just, again, make sure to get to shows early...and go to dinner at a less popular time (like not between 7:00 and 7:30). Have fun...
  8. Please bear with me…This is what I hope will be a detailed review of our back-to-back Mediterranean cruises onboard the Celebrity Infinity through the virtual world that exists in my mind during this Covid-19 Pandemic. We are cruising for 14 magnificent nights round trip from Civitavecchia in the wonderful world of imagination—our only way of experiencing this trip without leaving our home in Southern California. 😉 After a long and satisfying pre-cruise trip through Switzerland and Northern Italy, today we finally boarded the Celebrity Infinity in Civitavecchia. We flew in, ten days ago to Milan, Italy…a long and exhausting trip, losing nine hours worth of time zones in the process, rented a car and drove straight to beautiful Lugano, Switzerland. After a night there, it was on to Lucerne for two nights, then Lauterbrunnen for two nights, then down to Portovenere, Italy for three nights to visit the Cinque Terre. Finally, we drove down to Civitavecchia yesterday, turned in the rental car and spent the night in a delightful little bed and breakfast. After breakfast, we checked out and caught a taxi to the port. We arrived at the Infinity around 11:30 and found virtually nothing in the way of lines. Of course, we had express check-in anyway and had done most of the check-in on line at the Celebrity website months ago. We were able to go to our cabin immediately as, apparently, the cabin had not been used on the prior cruise. We have a beautiful Concierge cabin, midship on deck 8…so, we dropped off our carry-on luggage and proceeded to the Main Dining Room—as a sit-down embarkation lunch is one o the benefits of the Concierge class. Remarkably, the dining room was empty, so, service was VERY good. After lunch, we headed back to the cabin to unpack and take a nap before the muster drill. The muster drill, also, was remarkably empty. I guess many of the passengers must be late arriving to Civitavecchia from Rome. After the Muster Drill, it was on to the Martini Bar for pre-dinner drinks. We have the drink package as a perk, so why not take a little advantage? Bartender was great…got all of our orders immediately. Then it was off to dinner. We have Select Dining, so we thought we may have to wait for a table…but, as has been typical this cruise, the dining room was very quiet and we were seated at a table for two almost immediately. Had a nice dinner, then off to the Show Room for the “Welcome Aboard” show…Met the Cruise Director and then had a short set by the comedian, followed by a couple of numbers by the singers/dancers. Then headed back to the cabin for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow, at 12 noon, we arrive in Messina, Sicily. Looking forward to a tour to Mt. Etna followed by a visit to Taormina. It’s going to be a great cruise. I’ll check back in tomorrow evening.
  9. What nobody knows...and it makes a BIG difference in where all of this goes from here is WHEN and HOW the pandemic comes to a halt. Preferably, the end comes because there is a viable vaccine in widespread supply. If that happens, then, at that point, all bets are off and everything is quickly back to normal--no major concerns about running half empty ships or other out-of-the-ordinary precautions. Obviously, cruise lines still need to care about normal communicable disease outbreaks--things like those Purell dispensers around the ship, maybe they care a bit more about having servers dish things out in the buffet rather than allowing everyone to handle the same stuff...but, other than that, I think it's full speed ahead... The second scenario that MIGHT bring about a resumption in cruising is if there is 1) a reasonable treatment protocol that lessens the effects of the virus AND, 2) numbers are WAY down EVERYWHERE. The problem there is that though many countries have really made an exerted effort to decrease the numbers and have results showing minimal cases and a low number of deaths, other countries have NO national policy to combat the pandemic and have far too many people interacting at close range with no policy toward distancing or masks or other methods of combating the spread...and are inconsistent in enforcement from one area to another within the same country or region of a country. Without a strong, consistent policy, it becomes nearly impossible to stop the spread. And it is absolutely ridiculous to go back and forth with shutting things down and opening them back up for ECONOMIC and POLITICAL reasons rather than medical and scientific reasons. As long as ANY areas where cruisers come from and/or ANY areas where cruise ships will travel to have any large number of cases/deaths and things are clearly not completely under control, you just cannot open up the cruise and travel business--Doing that will clearly just infect or reinfect new areas and spread and increase the disease. So, it's either a VACCINE or a consistent INTERNATIONAL policy over an extended period of time with demonstrated results needed in order to return to a cruise industry as we have come to love it in the past. Because certain world leaders have demonstrated zero intent and desire to do what they should do to put the second scenario in motion, we can, apparently, only hope for the first--the Vaccine. And, when that happens, we shouldn't have to debate any of this...Cruising will return, the cruise lines will take a few days to deploy the ships from wherever they are to wherever they need them to be (where they've booked the cruises from) and every ship will be needed...
  10. First...I have cruised a lot...on 9 different cruise lines...and a lot in Europe...on four lines... ALL cruise lines do a lot alike--they take you to various ports, provide food in a dining room or specialty restaurants or in the buffet, have nightly shows and other entertainment and activities, provide various services, offer shore excursions, have spas, pools and casinos...and so on... The differences are often subtle...and tend to go unnoticed by many... That said, let me say I LOVE Celebrity...and prefer it to other lines for a variety of reasons (though I think Oceania is also a good choice, but it tends to be a bit pricier and it's small ships are quieter). The main thing I love about Celebrity--which some people may or may not notice...is that its ships are more spacious--better space-per-passenger ratios. The result is that many venues are more accessible--much easier to get a seat for the nightly shows, for example--with no need to show up way before showtime as on a lot of other lines...bars are also less crowded, same with the pool deck, etc. Service tends to be a bit better with a better crew-per-passenger ratio... As far as the differences between cruising Europe as opposed to the Caribbean or Mexico, the itineraries tend to be more important--most are cruising to tour and experience the history, art, architecture and culture rather than to just head to a beach and enjoy the sun as tends to be the case in the Caribbean...Likewise, the ship's amenities tend to play a secondary role...You will find yourself touring for long days in port...so, when you get back to the ship, you just want to have a leisurely dinner and to lounge in a relaxing bar...so, you don't need waterslides and zip lines and rock climbing walls, etc. On Celebrity, the balcony cabins are quite nice...ample space with a nice little sitting area (a sofa and coffee table or a loveseat and coffee table depending on the category). All of the balcony cabins are fairly similar--the main difference between the "standard" verandahs and the Concierge or Aqua class are in the amenities, not so much the room...Aqua eats in its own dining room, for example...Past that, the only real differences between different balcony cabins are 1) some are "obstructed view"--but don't worry much if you got a really good price--the obstructions are little more than a lifeboat or stanchion BELOW the level of your balcony railing--it's definitely live-able for most of us...or 2) Certain cabins--mostlyu the ones on the slant have BIGGER balconies...and some of those are even lowly standard obstructed view verandahs! Okay, I will assume that this...or something similar...is your itinerary: Day 1, Sat, Sep 18, 2021 SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND Departs: 4:00PM Day 2, Sun, Sep 19, 2021 AT SEA Day 3, Mon, Sep 20, 2021 OSLO, NORWAY 12:00PM Day 4, Tue, Sep 21, 2021 OSLO, NORWAY 4:00PM Day 5, Wed, Sep 22, 2021 COPENHAGEN, DENMARK 9:00AM to 7:00PM Day 6, Thu, Sep 23, 2021 AT SEA Day 7, Fri, Sep 24, 2021 AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS 9:00AM to 8:00PM Day 8, Sat, Sep 25, 2021 BRUGES,(ZEEBRUGGE),BELGIUM 9:30AM to 6:30PM Day 9, Sun, Sep 26, 2021 PARIS (LE HAVRE), France 8:00AM to 10:30PM Day 10, Mon, Sep 27, 2021 SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND Arrival: 6:00AM It is not my favorite itinerary...but, OTOH, for me ALL of the European itineraries are pretty nice...I'd take any of them... For this one, my first bit of advice is to fly into Heathrow EARLY...Spend at least a couple of nights in London so...1) You'll get a chance to see it and also to enjoy it...and 2) because, after flying all that distance and losing all those time zones, your mental clock will be off and you will need time to adjust, recuperate and rest. Then head down to Southampton the day prior to the cruise. It's a fairly long ride from London to Southampton and London traffic can be horrific. In Southampton, we've always stayed at the Holiday Inn on Herbert Walker--which is right next to the cruise terminal and also has a nice shopping mall across the highway... but there are other hotels in the area as well. I wish the ship spent two days in Copenhagen or Amsterdam instead of Oslo--because there is much more of interest in those cities...Oslo is a nice, pleasant town, but not really the highlight of the itinerary. Copenhagen is outstanding with a lot to see. Make sure you fit in a canal boat ride at some point, walk the Stroget, have a beer at picturesque Nyhavn. My wife loves the Glyptotek Museum (Art--lots of Rodin) and there are some nice palaces as well. Amsterdam has a lot as well--squeezing it all into one day is hard. I recommend getting a private tour or joining one on the Roll Call here on cruise critic--The Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum both often have long lines and require reservations...a good tour guide can arrange priority visits for you...and there is so much more...You'll really want to go back for an extended stay. Bruges is the most charming and picturesque little city in Europe. You will never forget it. They say Paris for LeHavre--but Paris is really a VERY long bus ride away. We actually took a tour into Paris last visit to LeHavre--mostly because we hadn't been in awhile and we've been to the area around LeHavre a lot...But there really wasn't much time to see much of Paris. Consider instead visiting Rouen and Giverny or a tour of the D-Day beaches and WWII sites or spending time in Le Havre and Honfleur... Enjoy the cruise...and then schedule your next European cruise!
  11. Then there was THIS news story from yesterday: https://www.cruisehive.com/pullmantur-ships-heading-back-to-royal-caribbean/40392
  12. I have actually seen conflicting reports in different places. One website had a report yesterday that said Royal Caribbean would use the three ships for short cruises when they start operating again. The "for sale" notice from yachtworld.com is actually three weeks old...and from before the most recent developments with Pullmantur. The stuff about the ships being "stripped" I have only seen on message board posts--and wonder if the reports are rumor--or from actual knowledge. Obviously, if they ARE, in fact, being stripped, it would indicate a likelihood that they are being scrapped...However, it also depends on what they are being stripped of...If it's all valuable materials that might be sold or used elsewhere, that's a clear indication of scrapping...However, if it's being stripped of things like Spanish Language signage or items peculiar to Pullmantur's operation, then it could just be an indication that the next step is a minor refurbishment. It would be nice to hear--or read--some indication directly from Royal Caribbean as to their intent with the ships.
  13. I found this to be VERY different... For our Transpacific for April 2021, we booked a one way nonstop flight from LAX to Tokyo (Narita) on JAL--only $368 pp...Slightly more than half of a round trip, but not bad...Others on our Roll Call booked flights from Vancouver--nearly twice the cost.
  14. I just got a notification that someone just reacted to this thread...So, I figured I'd reopen the discussion a bit...because, obviously, things have changed!! Yes, JB, that WAS supposed to be two back-to-back cruises...and, of course, now, they are not going to happen... We looked into "Lift-and-Shift" possibilities and, also unfortunately, the exact itineraries (with Zadar and Rijeka) aren't there for 2021... But we DID end up doing a Lift-and-Shift...Now, in July 2021, we are doing a "sort of" back-to-back--on two different ships... We are now on the July 10 Apex and the July 19 Infinity...So, we will end up with THIS itinerary: Day 1, Sat, Jul 10, 2021 BARCELONA, SPAIN Departs: 5:00PM Day 2, Sun, Jul 11, 2021 VALENCIA, SPAIN 7:00AM to 9:00PM Day 3, Mon, Jul 12, 2021 IBIZA, SPAIN 8:00AM to 10:00PM Day 4, Tue, Jul 13, 2021 AT SEA Day 5, Wed, Jul 14, 2021 NICE (VILLEFRANCHE), FRANCE 7:00AM to 8:30PM Day 6, Thu, Jul 15, 2021 PROVENCE (MARSEILLE), FRANCE 7:00AM to 5:00PM Day 7, Fri, Jul 16, 2021 FLORENCE/PISA (LASPEZIA)ITALY 7:00AM to 6:30PM Day 8, Sat, Jul 17, 2021 ROME (CIVITAVECCHIA), ITALY Arrival: 5:00AM –Hotel Rome Day 9, Sun, July 18-- Hotel Rome Day 10, Mon, Jul 19, 2021 ROME (CIVITAVECCHIA), ITALY Departs: 5:00PM Day 11, Tue, Jul 20, 2021 SICILY (MESSINA), ITALY 12:00PM to 8:00PM Day 12, Wed, Jul 21, 2021 VALLETTA, MALTA 8:00AM to 6:00PM Day 13, Thu, Jul 22, 2021 AT SEA Day 14, Fri, Jul 23, 2021 KOTOR, MONTENEGRO 8:00AM to 5:00PM Day 15, Sat, Jul 24, 2021 SPLIT, CROATIA 8:00AM to 5:00PM Day 16, Sun, Jul 25, 2021 TRIESTE, ITALY 10:30AM to 8:00PM Day 17, Mon, Jul 26, 2021 VENICE, ITALY Arrival: 6:45AM Essentially, we'll have a one-way cruise, starting in Barcelona and ending in Venice...We actually prefer that--and it will allow us to spend a few days in Barcelona pre-cruise and take a side trip up to Andorra and the Pyrenees...then, after the cruise, we can disembark in Venice, rent a car, drive up through the Alps to Switzerland, then fly home from Milan... Though I'd prefer to stay onboard one ship and stay in the same cabin and not pack and unpack, this one will allow us to head into Rome for two nights between the two cruise legs... This all works out quite nicely as there is a variety of ports with no repeat ports plus we can spend 3 or 4 nights in Barcelona, hire a guide for a day trip up to Andorra on one of those days, spend 2 nights getting a little more time than on a typical port stop in Rome and to take a multi-day driving tour from Venice to Milan--which is NOT a lot of driving time but a great way to enjoy two very different countries in a short time with not a lot of wasted travel time (We actually did a similar trip as a pre-cruise a few years back in the other direction--flying into Milan, spending a night there, then heading by rental car up to Lake Como, St. Moritz, Merano, Verona and Padua before turning the car in upon arrival in Venice and jumping on a ship). This is a great way to see a lot of Europe, relax and enjoy a cruise, see several ports for just port days and spend a lot of time in others where you get to eat the local cuisine and absorb the local culture both day and night...
  15. Well, my situation got a little bit stranger today... I received another three credits from Celebrity--two in the amount of $30 each and one for $86.98... Good thing is that these actually match up to the amounts that I paid for the Tuscan Grill and for a shore excursion beyond my OBC on one of the cruises... OTOH, it also means that I have received credits for an excess of over $562 beyond what I thought I was getting... But, I have developed a theory... I had booked TWO July 2020...I had asked that they do a "Lift and Shift"--but my lift and shift sort of violated the rules. One of my cruises was switched to the 2021 cruise that was directly similar to the 2020 cruise--ports slightly different, but same ship (Infinity), same approximate dates (a couple of weeks later), same start and end ports, same exact cabin...That cruise was the one without the airfare and with the Tuscan Grill reservation and the shorex overage. My thought is that the second round of credits was attributable to that cruise specifically--and was entirely correct--with the amounts paid other than the Tuscan and Shorex being lifted and shifted directly to the 2021 booking. The other "lift and shift" was the oddball that violated the "rules". What had originally been a 7-night Venice to Rome cruise on Infinity in 2020 became a Barcelona to Rome 7 night cruise on Apex. The original booking included the now-cancelled LAX to Rome RT airfare through Celebrity Air. Originally, I was told no on the lift and switch, but after some negotiation, we got it done. But, at the time, Celebrity was also offering a 125% FCC...and, my understanding was, if we went that route, that the taxes and fees were to be refunded and the remainder credited to the FCC. Somewhere during the discussions, we talked about accomplishing the Lift and Shift through the use of an FCC since Lift and Shift wasn't supposed to be available. It actually would have fit into the 125% but we would have lost some valuable perks, so we didn't want to do it that way. But, now, with the strange refund number, it has occurred to me that they may have just accounted for it that way...(and just restored our perks to keep us happy). The refund amount appears to be what would be appropriate for the airfare plus fees and taxes--so, maybe that is why the amount of the refund? And then it seems they might have taken the resulting FCC and applied that, as payment in full toward the Apex cruise...included the perks and called it a day? I could be wrong, but the numbers do make some sense. IF SO, I am REALLY happy with the result...as we come out with the cruise we wanted--at a better price than we expected to pay...assuming all of this pandemic stuff goes away and we can actually take those cruises next summer!
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