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About TravelerThom

  • Rank
    5,000+ Club

About Me

  • Location
    VA, MD & FL
  • Interests
    History, Travel, Exotic locations
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call

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  1. TravelerThom

    Trip Mate Insurance paid for early medical termination

    to Dr. JP: You win the best laugh of the morning award 😂
  2. TravelerThom


    It will be very difficult to convince me that making me once again surrender my suitcase, submit to another security screening and waiting at yet another luggage carousel 👎 is more convenient than just walking out the door and going home. IMO the designer of CVG was an idiot. Apparentlly ATL used to have a similar system, but ditched it when the Jackson International Terminal opened in 2012.
  3. TravelerThom

    Toll roads in France and Spain

    A couple of questions to make sure I’m on the same page... Did you have to enter your PIN? Is your PIN 4 digits? Did they give you a receipt? Many US rental cars have EZ Pass (or similar) transponders which are then billed to you by the rental car company. Do you see any sign of that option? Someone had reported that French Autoroutes only accepted cards issued in France. Perhaps this varies by which company is in charge of that Autoroute. THANKS Thom
  4. TravelerThom


    Really? While I have cleared Customs in ATL, I have never terminated an international trip there so I suppose you may be corrected. But I have cleared Customs and terminated in a number of airports (IAD, BWI, PHL, EWR, JFK, LAX etc) and I’ve always been able to walk out of those international arrival areas with my baggage.
  5. TravelerThom


    You are more accurate than I am. I could quibble over the word “territory”; in US usage (and I see you are from the UK) territories are not considered an integral part of the home country, while AIUI the 9 EU Outermost Regions (OMRs) are considered integral parts of the home country, are considered to be in the EU, but (most, all?) are not in the EUCU. The EU also recognizes a number (22?) of “Overseas Counties and Territories” which are part of or belong to EU counties but are not considered to be in the EU. Add to this a number of areas that are not in the EU but are in the EUCU and I will quickly admit I know just enough to get confused.
  6. TravelerThom

    Best way to purchase EUROs

    Let me start by saying who I am (retired physicist who travels less than some, but more than most) and what I am not (banker, currency trader, economist, etc). Let me also state that I understand the concept of “loss leader” and that sometimes by necessity or by choice businesses sell at a loss. So anything is possible. Smart consumers avail themselves these loss leaders; I know I do. Interbank exchange rates are not fixed and will change by the second depending on supply and demand, but for major currency transactions they rarely vary by more than 0.01 (1%) over the course of a day, and more typically less than 0.002 (0.2%) per day. I tend to use XEcurrency.com mid-rate (the mid point between buy and sell bids) quote as a reasonable approximation of interbank exchange rate. For yesterday I can get their mid-rate quote for every 10 minutes and I can get their end of day mid-rate quote for at least the last 5 years. I’m not saying XE is the best out there, just that it is what I’m familiar with. I do not have an account with XE; this info is available at no cost to anyone with internet access. I have on occasion used my no foreign transaction fee Schwab debt card within the same hour I have charged something on a no foreign transaction fee credit card and the exchange rates were very close with no clear winner (sometimes ATM was better in the 3rd or 4th digit, sometimes the credit card, but remember the interbank exchange rate is always changing). Then I compared these exchange rates to the XE mid-rate open and close, and on average I was being charged 0.5% (or a little less) for the service. If someone is willing to post 1) the quantity of “no-fee, no mark-up” foreign currency received, 2) the total amount they paid and 3) the date of sale (should be the day they were debited) I can look up the mid-rate open and close for that date. Unless it was an unusually volatile day the exchange rate should be approximately within that range. For practical purposes I’d consider that “proof” one way or the other. If there are Credit Unions or others out there offering genuine no fee, no mark-up foreign currency I’ll try to use that myself, and thank you for teaching me a better way to do things.
  7. TravelerThom

    Best way to purchase EUROs

    If your credit union is indeed selling you foreign currency at the interbank exchange rate they are losing money. It costs the CU for employee time to order the foreign currency, it is expensive to ship the negotiable bills, an employee has to receive and store the foreign currency, an employee has to disperse the foreign currency to you and maintain a record of delivery. If they do all that with no mark up for their services they will soon be out of business. I doubt that your CU can break even with a 4% mark-up. An ATM machine dispensing local to them currency already has the local currency loaded. Your debt is handled electronically at minimal cost. To be sure the local bank has hardware, electricity, maintenance and real estate expenses for the ATM but these are pro-rated over many transactions and the bank can make a profit (and stay in business) charging less than 1% mark-up. I’m willing to listen to proof that your CU has NO mark-up on the interbank exchange rate, but despite regular claims to that effect here on CruiseCritic I haven’t seen anyone able to prove it.
  8. TravelerThom


    Assuming that it is checked straight through (and it should be) then you never see your luggage in AMS - it goes directly from your first plane to your connecting flight. I ALWAYS check the tag they are placing on my checked luggage and make sure that it is going to the same place I am. 99% of the time it is correct but I have caught errors. Know the airport codes (eg AMS, ZRH etc) for your routing. Note that returning to the US all luggage goes through Customs at your first US airport. If you have a connecting flight within the US your luggage will usually be tagged through to your final airport BUT you have to reclaim your luggage within the international arrival area, go through Customs and then drop your luggage for your next flight.
  9. Are you are B2B on ship #1, then B2B on ship #2 and then B2B on ship #3, or are you B2B2B on one ship or are you doing ship #1 followed by ship #2 followed by ship #3. I suspect the last. Assuming you you are on 3 different ships this will be “interesting”. RCI does X-ray checked baggage and it is probable that enclosed liquor will send the bag to the “Naughty Room”; it will be easier to declare it up-front, turn it over and HOPE that you get it back. Do you really want to do this several times? US Customs rules are pretty complicated, but basically every person over 21 gets duty free entry for 1 liter of alcohol once every 30 days. A second liter duty free is allowed from Caribbean Basin Initiative countries, but Cuba is not a CBI country. Additional duty free liquor is allowed in from the US Virgin Islands. BUT if you have returned to the US each subsequent trip within 30 days has a limit of 150 ml of alcohol. US Customs Agents have the authority to not charge duty for small overages but this is getting complicated fast. Added to all of this is that each liter is a kilogram not counting the bottle. Not sure if you are staying in Florida before heading back to England, but if you are note that Florida has some of the cheapest liquor prices in the US. Given issues with RCI, US Customs, weight and breakage my advice would be don’t buy anything unless it is something special that you can’t get at home. IMO it is just not worth the hassle.
  10. TravelerThom


    This is almost correct. Someone flying from the US to Amsterdam to Switzerland will pass through Schengen immigration in Amsterdam and get a Schengen entry stamp in their passport, but connecting passengers do NOT clear customs in Amsterdam. Upon arrival at your terminating airport in Switzerland you and your luggage will have a choice of two exits: Green Lane for entry with nothing to declare (this is the lane for most of us) or Red Lane for entry with items to declare (doesn’t generally apply to river cruisers). Green Lane passengers will generally just walk out the door without seeing anyone, but Customs reserves the right to inspect. Note that while Switzerland is in Schengen it is not In the EU nor in the EU Customs Union (which despite the name does not include all EU members and does include non-EU countries). However the same procedure would apply for connecting flights to any Schengen country, but with the addition of a Blue Lane for passengers originating and terminating within the EU Customs Union. All of of this is essentially transparent to tourists, so no need to worry about Customs except in the unlikely case that you have something to declare.
  11. TravelerThom


    Many of the little shops who are “authorized money changers” give incredibly poor exchange rates, some over 40% less than interbank rates. Don’t be lured in by the large “NO COMMISSION” sign - check their exchange rate before doing anything. A few of the shops might give okay rates, but none of them will give as good a rate as you can get with a bank ATM (which will be within 1% of interbank rates [assuming you have a “no foreign transaction fee” card]).
  12. TravelerThom

    High Water!

    High water need not impede your trip as shown by these photos from 1979. http://nowthatsnifty.blogspot.com/2010/06/tow-boat-sucked-under-bridge-survives.html Tow Boat Sucked Under a Bridge - Survives These are real pictures of an incident that took place at Rooseter Bridge on the Tombigbee River in southwest Alabama in 1979. The photos were taken by a photographer for the Linden Democrat-Reporter. Scenario plays out like this. The captain was dropping 2 of his 4 barges through the east span of the Rooster Bridge, with the intent of running around through the lift span, and then catching the barges below. The captain underestimated the current and got too close the the bridge. He wasn't able to avoid a collision. Through a series of complicated events (read about them here), he was turned sideways, sucked under the bridge, and popped out and righted on the other side, with the boat still running. He was even able to meet up the the barges he had already sent through. Don’t try this at home!
  13. TravelerThom

    High Water!

    Passau is at approximately Km 2230 of the Danube and Budapest is at Km 1646. There are way more bridges than I wish to count, but https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_crossings_of_the_Danube has what is supposed to be a complete list of them. i have done all of this route, some of it three times. I don’t recall any bridges that were low enough to require closing the sun deck (versus say the Main River were the sun deck is closed much of the time, or the notorious bridge in Lyon which often closes access to the Soane during high water).
  14. TravelerThom

    Basel airport vs. Zurich airport?

    IMO it depends. The train direct to Zurich airport is a big plus. If you can fly nonstop from Zurich to your home destination it is a no brainer. However there are fairly limited nonstop destinations out of Zurich and generally more US nonstops from FRA, CDG, AMS or LHR. If you have a choice of exactly one transfer airport I would definitely prefer that airport to be in Europe. Transferring in the US requires clearing Customs at the first US airport and having to recheck luggage and start the security process all over. Most of this is transparent if your transfer airport is in Europe.
  15. TravelerThom

    Curling iron onboard

    That sounds interesting. I was aware these existed. Can you provide a brand name and where it might be purchased?