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rj59

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Everything posted by rj59

  1. It's the huge demand and limited labor/boats. Alaska has huge cost of living, so attracting enough workers/boats during the summer season with possibly thousands of passengers visiting Juneau each day means having high prices, especially with a cruise line cut. I've gone whale watching in Puget Sound and out of Victoria, where prices are under $100. I've seen dozens of humpback whales for free on return trips, the day of a Victoria visit, since there are a lot of them near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As soon as you see Vancouver Island, look outside on a balcony or the promenade--I go back and forth to each side of the promenade, and on a Princess cruise a few years ago saw a dozen or so humpbacks right next to the ship, splashing and frolicking in the water, and then playing in the wake. In the winter, I get free whale watching sailing into Cabo.
  2. The best way to see Mendenhall is to buy a ticket for the Blue Bus when you get off the ship, where there are tour kiosks. It will take you to a park where you can go on a short hike to see Mendenhall, as well as a waterfall. Mendenhall is at the end of a lake and is receding quite a bit, so the best option, I'd say, is to just visit the park and see it that way, with the added beauty of the lake in front of it and the waterfall and hiking in the woods. The advantage of the Blue Bus is that it runs every 15 minutes or so, so you can just return when you want and not be tied to a schedule. They also have a tourist center in the park, different offshoots of the trail to get different views, and if it's later in the summer, there's a creek by the parking lot where you can see salmon returning.
  3. I've seen the seafood feasts on Princess and Celebrity and Cunard, and the people look a little silly, sitting there in bibs. I really do miss the pea soup on an open bow, even if it's freezing, and I really love that HAL makes such an effort to provide excellent regional dishes (and now entertainment) based on itinerary. So on Koningsdam recently I was happy to see lots of local dishes, although I also remember pre-Covid that they did a huge Mexican buffet night once, as well as a deck salmon cookout in Alaska, and in Mexico they'd have 'Mexican ambassadors' along to do language classes and dancing/singing
  4. I'm happy it's still around, but irritated I haven't been invited to one since restart. Before shutdown, all 1-star and above were invited, and it was a special occasion and really fostered loyalty, with free drinks and tiles handed out, and a speech from the captain. I've mostly done Koningsdam since restart, so maybe on a larger ship they only invite higher loyalty levels, to keep crowds down. I have Noordam in 10 days (if I clear standby) and Zaandam multiple times, so maybe on a small ship they'd have one for even 3-star peons like me.
  5. The buffet will have decaf round-the-clock, and you can bring some sort of thermos if you want to keep it hot wherever you're at (I like Zojirushi tumblers). Just make sure you pour into a coffee cup and then into a personal bottle. The two cafes both have excellent decaf lattes and other drinks, and one perk of their loyalty program is a discount on espresso drinks. If you're a serious coffee connoisseur, then you could bring your own coffee and an Aeropress, and then just get hot water from a machine or room service. It just leaves a puck of coffee you can push into the garbage, so no real mess. My practice is also to visit local coffee shops in Mexico and Alaska, which are good for local ambience, resting after a day of walking, and free wifi usually.
  6. The OP is talking about doing a cruise search, the follow-up screen shots are showing selecting number of passengers once a cruise is selected. I just noticed the same thing, since I've searched Princess cruises easily in the past by a drop-down selection for number of passengers. That made it easy to find cruises with reduced single supplements, such as one on Sapphire this May for $260 or so, and for N/S Alaska ones that are under $600. Now I can't do that, which is a slap in the face to solo cruisers, just as is Celebrity/Royal charging solo passengers more than twice the double-occupancy rate. I had 4 Mexico cruises booked with Princess, but instead I'm going with studio cabins on Quantum of the Seas, and 11 nights on Zaandam for the same price as 7 on Discovery, with 2000 fewer passengers. HAL has also implemented a really solo-friendly option, a $49/nt standby program with no single supplement, so I went in January for $350 and was given a last-minute deluxe suite. I'm Elite on Princess and they were my main cruise line after restart, but I just see better value and experience elsewhere now.
  7. They've been steadily diminishing over the past decade or so. When I started on HAL, they had an all-you-can-eat lobster feast on formal nights in the buffet, now you can't even get free lobster on board. Then they decided to go for corporate partnerships, and got rid of singers/dancers, because they cost too much and only performed a few times per cruise. They signed up for any corporate partnership who would give them money, which resulted in banal sameness for every music venue--same program, every ship, every cruise. Then steady food cutbacks, like smaller portions, one lunch menu, cutting out cold soups, making creme brûlée a secret request item, taking out the nice snacks at the coffee shop (I used to sweet-talk the baristas into saving me chocolate-covered strawberries every evening). It's like airlines, though, in the relentless push to be profitable they raise revenue by any means and cut costs. For new cruisers, it probably all seems great, and that seems to be the hugest market, as well as younger people and families. Those of us who have been on HAL longer feel the cutbacks more, just as those who have been flying for 30 years remember blankets and pillows and free luggage, seat selection, and meals on most flights. Personally, I switched from HAL loyalty 5 or so years ago for Princess, but now they've made cutbacks and increased fares, while HAL has introduced a solo-friendly standby program, so I'm back to HAL. Being stressed by overfull ships has also made the smaller, quieter HAL ships more appealing now, whereas before they were just too boring. I'm really looking forward to non-corporate entertainment, too.
  8. Do you not have enough money for a taxi from your hotel to the ship? Why would you add hours to getting on the ship and huge hassles of loading luggage and people on a bus? They also don't let buses go until they have enough people to fill one, so you might be sitting in the airport waiting for flights to arrive, instead of being on the ship. If you want an even more pleasant time, stay in Haarlem the night before your cruise, which is a lot cheaper and less crowded than Amsterdam and has a lovely downtown. It's also closer to the cruise port than Amsterdam or the airport. When I took a Rick Steves tour, we stayed in Haarlem and just took the train to Amsterdam, which was cheap and easy.
  9. Once they assign a room they usually send you upgrade offers. If you don't like your cabin, you can also call them and see what they can offer, or try it when you board. The problem is that most lines have paid upgrade or bid to upgrade programs now, so they don't have an incentive to upgrade you right away, if they can make money out of it. That's especially true with full ships now--I was on Koningsdam in January and they had a sign at the front desk saying 'we're full, no upgrades'.
  10. Just enjoy a day in Vancouver and catch the evening train to Seattle. I booked the San Diego-Vancouver leg and they sent me a notice specifically saying I couldn't continue on to Seattle. From what others told me on Eurodam when I left Vancouver last fall, it was just full of partiers trying to scarf down as much booze and food as possible on their day on board.
  11. It depends. I always travel solo, and get military and shareholder OBC, a minimum of $150, which has always covered gratuities. The only cruises I've seen that are comparable to standby are Pacific coastal ones, which I've done at least 20 of over the years, since they've usually been under $100/nt for a solo inside, and last fall I was on Eurodam for 4 nights at $220 or so. There are also some Zaandam to Alaska for decent solo prices--I'm going at the end of May for $750, with $200 OBC, or could go standby for $350 and and no OBC, so gratuities wouldn't be added on. I'm going standby on Noordam for 5 nights on April 30, already paid for Zaandam before standby for Alaska was announced, so I like having certainty for that cruise, but that also leaves all summer open for other standby attempts, since I live between Vancouver and Seattle and am retired. It creates interesting problems, though, since normal fares for Westerdam/Eurodam from Seattle are sky-high and will be full of kids, as will Koningsdam, but Zaandam has the lowest fares, meaning lowest demand, but also only 1400 passenger spaces. So I'm trying to gamble and guess on which ship and time to go, whether I want to repeat Zaandam and have smaller crowds and Glacier Bay and inside passage, or try bigger ships with potentially a higher chance of someone canceling.
  12. In my experience, you might not want to check in too early. The problem is that once you go through security and customs, the waiting areas for boarding are quite small and limited, so every time in the past when I checked in before 11:30 boarding time, they made everyone sit in rows shoulder-to-shoulder, close to the people opposite you, with luggage cluttering everything, so it was uncomfortable. I'm not sure if they changed that post-covid. If you're 4-star or higher or in a suite, I think you get a different waiting area. there are lovely outdoor spots next to Canada place with views of the bay, and the "Flight over Canada" flying simulator on top of Canada Place cruise terminal is enjoyable. There's also a big food court across the street, with a Tim Horton's and lots of ethnic fast food and wifi, so a nice place to hang out.
  13. That's weird, I applied in Stockperks and was denied. It said it was a promotional fare not eligible for stockholder OBC. The same thing happened on Carnival several years ago, when they started randomly denying stockholder OBC, since the CCL shareholder page says anyone sailing at a 'reduced rate' fare isn't eligible. I think I got denied once, which made me cancel some cruises, so they evidently figured out angering loyal shareholders isn't a bad idea
  14. HAL is the worst ship for entertainment, because they don't have any production shows at all, just a few dance shows. Their food is good, far above NCL, although they followed their cost-cutting measure of having a single lunch menu in the dining room for sea days. They also got rid of on-board lecturers in favor of corporate TED talks, where the cruise director reads a script from a teleprompter. If you want decent entertainment, good food, and a huge number of guest lectures, try out Cunard. They have an older crowd, like HAL, the only one with a strict dress code on formal nights, but they usually have 2 different lecturers on board. They have things like dance classes, a fancy afternoon tea, a really excellent pub, and a 2-story library with thousands of books, which no other line has now. Their ships are very similar to HAL ships, so when I went on it I mostly knew where everything was. They have pretty good 10-night Alaska itineraries, some out of Florida, and of course their classic ocean liner between England and NY on the Queen Mary 2.
  15. August starts to get rainy. April and October will be very rainy and cold, so mountain activities will be difficult. All ships in Alaska have kids now during the summer, with huge demand, especially out of Seattle. The best option to avoid kids and crowded ships and get more glacier and port times is to do a north-south cruise. I recommend leaving out of Whittier in Alaska, because it visits the majestic Hubbard Glacier, as well as Glacier Bay. Alternately, I'd recommend Zaandam out of Vancouver, which has a max of 1400 passengers so probably fewer families and smaller crowds and better viewing of wildlife and glaciers. Weather is changeable in Alaska, so it can rain for a week and then be warm and sunny. Personally, I'd just tour on my own in Alaska for several days, and then catch a cruise back to Vancouver from there.
  16. Last dry dock was October 2019--I was on the first sailing after it, which went from Vancouver to Australia. I remember the new TV in my room didn't work and I didn't have hot water the entire time until I got off in Hawaii. It also had to spend an hour or so doing circles outside Vancouver, to get its gyrocompass or something synchronized.
  17. They use tokens, except for Discovery, where it's free all the time. After restart, Majestic just left bins of tokens out, because they didn't want to keep stocking token machines. If you're Elite, you can ask the front desk for tokens for free, and keep them for future cruises.
  18. I bought one on HAL, marked down after the Alaska season. It's a complete gimmick, because neither side is warm enough, with just a coating of fleece and then nylon on the other side, and it's not the same material across the coat on either side, so it feels uncomfortable and has no waterproofing. So definitely try on board before buying, and don't get seduced by the urge to buy or brand loyalty, since there are probably better options. You would get hypothermia in half an hour standing in Glacier Bay in such a coat--I use thermal jackets or fleece under a good raincoat.
  19. I think most lines are having an identity crisis, but that's to do with changing generations and the surge in cruising demand, people just want to go on any ship, anywhere. Lines are also getting aggressive about reducing debt and expenses, to justify their very high stock prices now. I've done mostly HAL and Princess, which are getting more young people, more families, more diverse crowds, and the old-timers hate it, and want Tradition upheld (they get really upset when people aren't forced to dress up for Senior Prom nights). I did Solstice in Alaska, and several times out of LA, and really loved the vibe and layout and art, although it felt sometimes just like every other cruise line, albeit more aggressive about drinks pricing, pushing packages and upgrades, and begging for good reviews, but I learned to adjust (no I'm not going to order a $5 latte if you're going to give me a package pitch too). Then I tried Apex in March, and it felt very upscale, and even the large number of teens felt reasonably well-behaved, even the boys I spotted climbing all over railings in the Retreat (I wish my parents were that generous). I thought, cool, upscale, younger line, edgy ships (pun intended), great shows and theaters, and then I booked Reflection and it was...same old thing, emphasis on old. Full ship, bickering couples (I even heard 'if you want a divorce I'll give you one!' shouted in the buffet), complaining, sea of white hair boogying at atrium parties. Maybe fewer carts and sticks and walkers than on Princess or HAL, but still very old, but also with redneck partiers and remarkable acts of rudeness, like people screaming and laughing and chatting over a captain's speech at the loyalty reception, and an entitled Karen refusing to go to the end of a line at embarkation when getting off an elevator. So I think part of it is full ships, older ships, Florida demographics, and more strained service, cutbacks, as well as some shows getting repetitive on the older ships, as well as MDR and buffet food getting underwhelming and overfamiliar and buffets getting scaled back at dinner. I loved Celebrity after restart, especially sailing out of LA on Solstice with under 1000 people and getting a solo inside for $300 or so, sometimes with all-included, so I put down deposits on 7 or so cruises. But after Reflection and reflecting, it just doesn't seem right for me, as a predominantly West Coast cruiser, especially with the really egregious discriminatory pricing for solos (I thought of Edge going from Hawaii in May for $550 pp for 9 days or so, but it was $2400 for a solo...really?). I'm really grateful to X for getting me to buy RCL at $40, though.
  20. Most ships from Seattle go the outside passage either because of ship size, but also to make ports more quickly, especially the final-evening Victoria stop. They also probably need to have a pilot on board for the inside passage. This one is a scenery-intensive cruise, so inside passage both ways make sense. One benefit of the outside passage is that I've seen dozens of humpbach whales near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca--I also pick up a US cell signal most of the way along the WA coast.
  21. Celebrity and Royal post menus before the cruise. You don't see on HAL or Princess until you're on board, and usually day by day. You can look at this as a positive, because it allows for flexibility and pleasant surprises, like maybe trying a new item, bringing back an old one, or the locally-themed dishes--I was impressed by the Mexican and Alaska regional items. I found they also started a daily breakfast special, like a tempura chicken and waffle that was splendid.
  22. There used to be Adagio piano/violin duos, who were able to play what they and the audience wanted. One Ukrainian pianist learned a Mozart sonata, just to please me. Every duo was unique, some bored, some inspired. It's what cruise ship music should be, full of variety, not playing the same sets from an ipad on every ship, every cruise, If they come up with an alternative to the three possible Step One dance shows, even better. It just gets as boring and repetitive for repeat HAL cruisers as the one lunch menu.
  23. It sounds like HAL is tweaking the program to increase revenue potential. Another poster and I received suites on a January Koningsdam sailing, but not they appear to be giving people insides and then offering upgrades, just as they really push HAI. That's actually good for me, used to being solo on an inside, because those who can't contemplate the uncertainty or spending a week in an inside cabin might not be competing with me for a spot. I'm on standby for Noordam on April 30, which should be easy to make, since it's only 5 days so low demand, but I'm not sure where to try later in the summer for Alaska. Zaandam is lowest in fare now, most families will probably choose Koningsdam, Eurodam/Westerdam are much more expensive out of Seattle, so I figure that they're more likely to be sold out and even over 100%, with families. So I think I might try Zaandam, despite the 1400-pax limit, since it would be less crowded, visits Glacier Bay and goes the calmer inside side of Vancouver Island, and doesn't make the evening stop in Victoria on the way back. I live an hour away from Vancouver, so can keep trying if I don't make it at first. I'm already booked on Zaandam, since it was only $750 for the end of May, plus $200 in OBC, plus certainty, so it makes an interesting trade-off and calculation. All the other Mexico cruises I like have simply skyrocketed in price for a solo, due to huge demand, so the standby program really offers me a way to maintain my habit of 8 or so cruises a year.
  24. It's not a good move to not do anything meaningful to gain the loyalty of Mariners. I used to love the Mariners lunch, the captain speaking, the simple menu and free drinks and meeting people and getting a tile. It made me feel valued, as did Mariner cocktail receptions where officers would mingle, as still happens on Celebrity and Princess. As a 3-star, they just hand out sparkling wine and that's it, so I stopped going. Also, getting a 100-cruise day medal also made me feel special and valued. Cutting costs might be appealing, but if your competitors are still providing the benefits, then you could lose market share and end up worse off. The most glaring example would be the amazing shows I've seen on Royal, Celebrity, NCL, and even one on Carnival I saw a few weeks ago, and even traditional song-and-dance ones on Princess and Cunard at least are better than interpretive dance shows that are the same on every ship, every cruise. One year I went on the Westerdam 7 times, to Alaska and Mexico, because I loved their shows, the loyalty events, treats like chocolate-covered strawberries in the coffee shop every evening, and there was a piano guy and a classical duo of Ukrainian babes I liked. I even recognized a Westerdam singer now on Celebrity Apex, doing amazing shows in 3 different venues, and he agreed how sad that HAL abandoned singers and dancers and shows.
  25. I think you made the right choice. For one thing, Zaandam has a wraparound promenade next to the sea, which is perfect for viewing wildlife, whales, ice floes in Glacier Bay, or just doing laps on sea days--on Koningsdam the views are blocked by lifeboats mostly. Also, the buffet on Koningsdam is too busy and chaotic, with not enough seating, and the same can go for the dining room, with long waits, beepers, etc. In Alaska during the summer, the ships will be packed, so small is definitely better, I'd say. Koningsdam is also horrible for upper-deck viewing and navigating, with entire areas blocked off for crew smoking areas and restaurants, whereas above the Lido on Zaandam you can easily find viewing areas for glaciers and move around. The only virtues of Koningsdam are a two-level covered Lido deck, a Rolling Stone lounge, glass showers, and a bigger theater in the round, but since HAL doesn't have shows, just dance shows and lectures, it doesn't make any real difference. Zaandam has Canaletto and Pinnacle Grill, and I wouldn't go on Koningsdam just for sushi or Asian fusion (HAL has good Lido sushi at lunch). Finally, getting on and off the ship in ports is much easier, as is embarkation/debarkation on Wednesdays--Canada Place can be a zoo, and with a larger ship leaving on Saturdays, it's just nightmarish. I'm going on Zaandam at the end of May, and again in December to Mexico for 10 days, because in the era of mega ships and all lines building bigger and builder, there are few options for an older, smaller, quality ship. Oh, and Zaandam has better art and artifacts, like a guitar signed by Lou Reed and David Bowie and a sax signed by Clinton, as well as an odd Egyptian head. To me Alaska is more about the destination, so a smaller ship with great views is more important than amenities of a more modern ship, especially with only two sea days and evenings in a lot of ports (with very long daylight hours in May).
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