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simplyrubies

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  1. When we were in Ketchikan, we walked along the port area (the shops) and visited Creek Street and the Southeast Alaska Discovery Centre. While we haven't seen a lumberjack show, it sounds like a great way to spend part of your day! Ketchikan is very walkable. I don't think you need to take an excursion, but it wouldn't hurt to make a plan for the day instead of just wandering (though that can be fun too!)
  2. Best pick a ship without a skating rink so they aren't too tempted 😂 In all seriousness, when I was on RCCL's Independence of the Seas, the rink there wasn't very big and the ice quality was pretty poor. I'm not sure if there'd be room for figure skating tricks (or if your daughter would even be allowed!) and I don't recall seeing hockey advertised, only free skate events. Sounds like your kids are pretty active - would they be satisfied with having one pool and one basketball court or do you think they'd need more space for active activities?
  3. On our recent Med cruise, there seemed to be quite a few kids on board but I didn't really see them until the last sea day when they all seemed to be in the Lido Pool! Even on the newest ships, there don't seem to be as many amenities that kids would enjoy as other lines (eg. RCL). There were only two pools on the Koningsdam, only one of which allowed children (the Lido Pool). Aside from the basketball court and whatever the kid's club offered, there wasn't much else. If your kid is adventurous and enjoys trying different amenities like the skating rinks, surf machines, rock climbing walls, and arcades that other lines offer, HAL might not be right for them. The shows offered at night could be things that a kid would enjoy, like a magician or a singer, but HAL tends to draw on a much more classic repertoire. Unless your son is into the Beatles, Elton John, or other musicians of their time, he may not enjoy the shows. The only kid-appealing main activities (not part of kid's club) I remember seeing on our itinerary were the kitchen tour and towel animal demonstration. Perhaps he enjoys cooking demonstrations or port lectures? It also depends on how many kids are onboard and if your son enjoys kid's clubs. Even the mix of kids or the counsellors on board can really affect the experience - which of course, can't really be anticipated. Truthfully, even though I was a more mature kid who thoroughly disliked the kid's clubs, I don't know if HAL would have been suitable for me as a kid cruiser. I was definitely an introvert (still am!) and wouldn't have minded seeing a cooking demo or port lecture with my parents, but with only one pool and no other "cool" amenities on the Koninsgdam, I would've been pretty bored.
  4. Koningsdam June 1 - I don't remember there being any special celebrations in the MDR. The celebration was limited to BB King's Club.
  5. In my previous cruising experience, I did not remember seeing mass advertised daily, yet I saw it advertised every day on the When & Where. Additionally, HAL seems to offer more religious centred excursions than other cruise lines we have been on. Perhaps it was due to the sites that we visited (eg. Ephesus in Turkey) or what was offered to HAL by local tour operators, but I have never seen biblical excursions on offer before. Though it does not personally affect me if religious services are offered or not, I do hope that there are services available to all that may require them on board, from all religions. If there is mass being offered to Catholic passengers, I hope a mosque is made available to Muslim passengers, and that an nondenominational service is available to all. However, I do wonder what the attendance levels to such services are. Perhaps attendance is such that HAL can no longer justify having someone on board specifically to perform these services, and this is why they have asked the congregation to lead the service?
  6. This site has a few ideas but personally, I think the area outside of the Public Market is nice! You can choose to sit closer by the street. In the day time, buskers often perform. Alternatively, you can sit closer to the water. There are benches where you can eat, as well as outside seating. This way, you don't have to go too far to enjoy your meal.
  7. My vote's for the market! The good thing about the market is that it is pretty flexible - no need to worry about not having dishes that suit everyone's tastes or budgets and you can eat whenever you are hungry. If the weather is nice, perhaps you could take the food outside and have a mini picnic. Beware of the birds though, some of them can be quite aggressive! While you're there, I'd definitely recommend a donut from Lee's Donuts. They are not in the "food court" area, but their donuts are delicious! While I'm not sure what their stock will be like later in the day as they are quite popular, they are definitely worth checking out. Longliner Seafood and Seafood City both offer candied salmon. A local treat and a great snack. Bon Macaron does nice macarons with lots of different flavours. In terms of meal material, as a kid, I always liked the Market Grill. They do burgers and hotdogs - nothing too fancy, but it's a nostalgic go-to of mine. You can try Montreal style bagels and smoked meat at Siegel's Bagels. A La Mode does all sorts of pies - I personally like their chicken pot pie! In addition, there are many vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables. For dessert, you could always try some local fruit.
  8. If the tour guide and/or driver have done a good job, we will give them a few dollars to show our appreciation. There definitely have been times where we have not tipped the tour guide or driver. There was one guide who was very poor at keeping track of her group. It was a miracle that she did not lose anyone! Moreover, we found her commentary to be lacklustre. Thus, we opted not to give her a tip. Or there were circumstances where the driver only drove us for a short length of time - say, only 10-15 minutes. In this circumstance, we personally do not feel that a tip is warranted. We have given tips in Europe and the Caribbean. Some drivers have a small tin for tips that they leave at the front of the bus. Usually, we give the tips directly to the driver or guide. A tip is definitely not necessary but we feel that it is a good way to thank the guide and driver for doing an excellent job.
  9. We did not have an issue with this - we were able to hear the TV fine sitting on the bed. Sorry to hear that you were having issues with your TV.
  10. I definitely sympathize with you! Personally, I don't know if I'd be able to keep my mouth shut if the discussion got too political. At an excursion in Sorrento, our large group was portioned into smaller tables. The table across from us was in a deep political discussion that was almost completely opposite from my own views. I was glad that the tablemates of the man who was leading the discussion seemed to be somewhat aligned with his point of view and that they were offering diplomatic responses. Enough to indicate interest, but not enough to encourage continuing the discussion further. In your situation, I would simply steer the discussion elsewhere. What someone did today and what they plan to do tomorrow tend to be good jumping off points. By giving non-committal responses to people, hopefully they'll get the hint that you're not interested and move to a different topic of discussion. Or, a firm "I'm not interested in discussing politics on my vacation" will likely do the trick. And, if your tablemates continue, ask to be put at a different table the next night. There are lots of people on board, and many likely share the same views on politics at the table as you do!
  11. If it helps at all, HAL has an excellent in-room movie selection. They have lots of recent blockbuster movie selections, including many Oscar nominated films. We especially liked their section of films dedicated to the area in which you were cruising. For example, on our Med cruise, there were lots of movies set in Greece and Italy. This is the first time we watched so many movies on a cruise. With such a packed itinerary, it was nice to have time to unwind in the room. The late night buffet at the Lido didn't have that many takers (beginning at 10:30pm), so I suppose that should be a sign of HAL's nightlife. Mostly officers and a few people coming in and out, but not nearly as busy as I thought it would be considering the excellent selection of food!
  12. There is a ferry option through Brittany ferries (Portsmouth to Le Havre or Le Havre to Portsmouth). Looking at their website, it seems to be about a 7 hour ride. You can book a seat or a cabin with beds (for an additional cost). However, if you're looking to go to London, I'd recommend doing the Eurostar instead. Take the train to Paris to Gare Saint-Lazare and transfer by metro or taxi to Gare du Nord. Le Havre to Paris is about 2.5 hours by train or 3 hours by bus. You could take the train into Paris and enjoy an after cruise experience there. You can take a taxi from the cruise terminal to the train station (or walk, if you desire). No need to worry about taking a connection either! If you opt to stay in France, you'll most likely be flying out of Paris anyways so it may be worth it to stay at least a couple of days in Paris. Honestly, I think it's much easier to take the train than to drive to Paris and worry about having to navigate the roads in an unfamiliar country, especially if you don't know the language. From Paris, you can take a day trip out to Versailles (less than an hour's train ride), to Disneyland, or to any French city you like! It's the main hub for transportation. You could opt to make Paris your home base and take day trips by train. Another option would be to stop in the town of Rouen, which is on the Le Havre-Paris line - takes about 1.5 hours. Rouen is the place where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake and features a beautiful cathedral and museum. It reminds me of what Le Havre would have been like had it not been bombed during WWII. From Rouen, you can take a regional train to go to Vernon and visit Giverny, where you can see Monet's gardens (including the famous Japanese bridge and water lily ponds). That would make an excellent day trip! It should be noted that you can visit Rouen and Giverny through Paris. There is a direct train from Paris to Vernon and from Paris to Rouen, so you can absolutely do these as a day trip if you like. You could also rent a car and go tour Normandy. The D-Day beaches are excellent if you're interested in history. Seeing the Bayeux tapestry in Bayeux is another wonderful experience! However, these sites are not easily accessible by bus or by train so renting a car is really the best way to go about it. You'll be able to pass by cute little fishing towns along the way like Honfleur. Mont St. Michel is another beautiful and unique town to visit. There is a train from Paris to Mont St. Michel but it is quite infrequent so driving from Le Havre may be easier.
  13. We paid $47 extra (per person) for De Librije on our most recent cruise on Koninsgdam. I believe $69 is the price of the dinner including wine.
  14. We found Allure of the Seas (5,400 at double occupancy) to be too big for us. Though we liked that there were many amenities available, sometimes it just felt too crowded. We liked the size of Koningsdam, but don't think we'd like anything smaller as this would further limit the amenities available on board.
  15. On the Koningsdam (June 1), it was hosted in the BB Kings Club. Waiters came around with different Dutch treats (similar if not the same as what you can get in the Grand Dutch Café) and the cruise director made a small speech. There was also a special orange cocktail on sale. The cruise director and other officers were there. There were a fair amount of people in orange, but not everyone. Lots of people were dancing after the people from the bar hop earlier ended up at the Orange Party and the people seemed to be having a blast! It's a fun event but nothing big. It's confined to the BB Kings Club.
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