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the mice

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  1. Violet Very quick because working on a 5 week trip (including 24 day cruise) coming up in October. You are a bit late in the game to figure out private excursions in some of these ports as they book up early. Have you joined the roll call for your cruise? Newcastle - we had a long, late port day. Originally I wanted to take the train to York. Instead, met another couple, took taxi into Newcastle to save time getting to RR station, train to Durham. Someone on our roll call put together a private excursion that did part of Hadrian's wall, Durham, Angel of the North. Probably the best idea for this port. Edinburgh - spent a week based here in June 2004, so saw it top to bottom including day trips out to Stirling Castle/Trossachs and Glasgow. Great city, but didn't see much of it this time due to torrential rain. If you've never been, see the Castle, Royal Mile, etc. Greenock- took train to Glasgow. Went to Macintosh House and Kelvingrove, walked a lot to see street art mural. Train back to Greenock. As I said, we were here before. Holyhead - joined a BusyBus private excursion arranged by someone on our roll call Dublin - was here for 4 days on another trip, so did a DIY walk of things we hadn't seen. Much to see, depends on your interests. Waterford - did a DIY walking tour of some of the major sites, Waterford factory tour, Bishop's Palace. Small, easy to walk city. Belfast - best day of entire trip. 6 of us taxied to Titanic Museum and were 1st ones in. At 10:45 we were picked up by City and Causeway tours for a day trip out to Antrim Coast and Giants Causeway. Incredible. Sorry, I really don't have more time to provide more info than this as I have a lot to do to get ready for our trip. Enjoy your cruise - great itinerary.
  2. We just did the Myths & Legends (grand voyage) cruise in June that included most of these ports. Not sure when you are going, but here are notes taken from Currents and some notes about our experience. Newcastle - shuttle (independent, arranged by the port) takes you to Tynemouth metro station where you can take the metro into Newcastle. From there you can also get a train to Durham if you want. (Note: we were there on June 11 and there were school groups for end of term in the Durham Cathedral so we were not allowed in beyond the rear portion of the Cathedral but we were allowed into the cloister.). Edinburgh - we were originally scheduled to dock in Leith, so no shuttle, as it is a short local bus ride into the heart of the city. However, poor weather, heavy rains and rough seas meant we had to dock in Rosyth which is almost an hour outside the city. Shuttles were provided and dropped off just near the base of Calton Hill. Greenock was our port for Glasgow. No shuttle. 10 or so minute walk to train station for train to Glasgow. Holyhead - shuttle provided by the local port to these 3 locations: Port Gate, Holyhead Town, and Holyhead Promenade. Dublin - docked in the Liffey on turnaround day and at end of cruise docked at another pier, both in the city. No shuttle. Waterford - shuttle to Berkana Bakery, Custom House Quay. Belfast -shuttle to Donegal Square North (downtown) area - 20 minutes each way.
  3. As already noted, just released pricing is rarely the lowest, Until the airline knows what demand is, the price can fluctuate a lot. As an example, I needed a flight from Newark to Vancouver, wanted the nonstop, and needed to travel on a specific day in October which is low season. I tracked the prices and watched them go up and down. From what I read, the price might drop approximately 3 months prior to my travel date. However, I would be traveling during that time period and I wasn't comfortable waiting that close in to departure date (as I had a flight onward from Vancouver), so when there was a price I could live with at 4.5 months out, I booked the air. I didn't turn off the price trackers, and around the 3 month mark, the prices dropped sharply (about 25%). They moved up and back down for the next month. No one can tell you the best time to book a particular flight. But you can track using things like Google Flights, momondo, etc., Momondo even has a graphic that shows the daily price pattern. I'm sure there are other tools as well.
  4. I posted my comparision of our Azamara Journey and Oceania Nautica cruises over on the Azamara board, since you posted on both. We like both cruise lines. I will say that our more recent Azamara Journey was not as good as our first, and was lacking in some of the areas that people rave about. But service was excellent. Our Nautica cruise was terrific all the way around. We would sail both again.
  5. Yes, Palermo can be "gritty" but according to a number of travel publications, it is improving. There are some wonderful things to see in Palermo: - Capella Palatina and the Cathedral in Monreale have incredible mosaics. Like standing inside jewel boxes. - Teatro Massimo has tours - interesting theatre, good tour. - there is a marionette museum https://www.museodellemarionette.it/index.php?lang=en - showcasing puppets from countries around the world. Amazing collection, and there are puppet shows, too. - the street market is an experience. Probably best to arrange for a guide to enable your touring so you don't have to walk = too much distance, and you can avoid some of the earthiness of Palermo. We walked all over (except for a driver to take us to Monreale), but we had a couple of days here.
  6. This was discussed in another thread on this board. Here is a detailed comment I posted then (comparing Azamara Journey August 2018 to Oceania Nautica June 2019 - both are R ships and we had the same cabin). It is post #28 in the thread. (click on title to go to the thread).
  7. This article explains the differences of TSA Pre, Global Entry, CLEAR and Mobile Passport: https://www.afar.com/magazine/tsa-precheck-versus-global-entry Since it can be more difficult to arrange for a Global Entry interview, possibly TSA Pre and Mobile Passport might be all the OP needs.
  8. Wow! For our cruise in October it is now $1559 per adult! NUTS! (politest word I could use ) In reading the description, I had several thoughts - don't want to miss sailing through the sounds (hope we get good weather), we don't drink so not interested in the winery (we've toured many on past trips) and not interested in the lake steamer cruise, or shopping. And don't want to be riding on a bus. But I can't believe the price for it on your cruise. If have any questions about excursions for this cruise, feel free to post. Or you can email me themice <at> verizon <dot> net. Least I can do since you've been so helpful. Of course, we don't go until October, so I won't have any personal experience of the excursions until I return home in November. BTW, have you seen this cruise report? I found it helpful. https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2487796-photo-review-of-solstice-november-11-2017-new-zealand-amp-australia-cruise/ Most importantly, I hope you are doing well and feeling great! --- Marilyn
  9. Been out all day, but got this in my email today, so wanted to give you some useful information about Global Entry, in case you want to consider it since it is only a small incremental difference from TSA Pre. This article should be helpful: https://thepointsguy.com/guide/things-to-know-global-entry/
  10. For $15 more you can get Global entry which will give you both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry - expedited immigration on your return home. Global Entry fee is covered by many credit cards Google is your friend here - many articles written comparing benefits and what credit cards cover the $100 fee. And yes, you were lucky to get TSA Pre ( we did, too, before we got GE) but the TSA is supposedly cutting down on that for non- members so YMMV.
  11. We have cruised Azamara twice, both times on Journey - way back in 2009 and most recently in August 2018 to the Baltics. We have cruised Oceania three times (2017, 2018, 2019), twice on Marina and most recently in June on Nautica, an R ship. Our most recent Azamara cruise was in the Baltics. We had terrible service the first evening in the main dining room, and my veal chop was a sorry affair. My husband contacted the F&B manager who did not respond in a timely manner, but eventually did and did something nice to make up for the unfortunate experience. Service from the crew was outstanding and they really stepped up after I had a mishap resulting in a broken bone in my foot. The captain Gianmario was very nice, but I did not see much of him or senior officers on the cruise, which is of no consequence to us. (However, Phil Herbert on our first cruise was fantastic and I am glad to see he is still with Azamara). The CD was a little too "exuberant" for our taste. White Night was a washout - was looking forward to this, but since it was held inside, it lost a lot for us. We enjoyed the Azamazing evening which was very nicely done. On our Oceania Marina cruises, we enjoyed the size of the Marina, never had any issues with fast disembarking in ports, loved our verandah cabin and bathroom (so spacious), the 4 free specialty restaurants (and we were able to get additional reservations, too). Both cruises were port intensive so we never availed ourselves of the culinary classes or the art classes. The culinary kitchen set up looked fantastic. On our 2nd Marina cruise we had a B2 extended balcony - so roomy - but poor weather on sea day prevented using it. Would be great on a warm weather itinerary. On the Nautica, we had the exact same cabin as we had on our Journey Baltics cruise - a C1 forward OV with the extra space. So that is the best one to compare to Azamara, especially since these 2 cruises were 10 months apart. The Journey refurb seems to have been half-done - the wood furnishings were old and the bathroom the same as our first time. The Nautica has not yet been refurbished - that happens in June 2020, but it appears from Oceania's refurb of their other R ships that it is going to look a lot nicer. We found the crew on Nautica to be super happy and service was great everywhere. Port intensive cruise with several late nights. Excellent entertainment, too. We were on for 18 days, and the CD did change on the 2nd leg and the main shows repeated - we didn't go the 2nd time, but we had such long days that it didn't matter much to us. We found the food was better than Azamara, with lobster, shrimp, steaks and lamb chops available in Terrace (O's version of Windows) every night. 2 specialty restaurants at no upcharge and again, we got extra reservations in one. High tea on Oceania happens every day and it is outstanding. Waves Grill (by the pool) has great burgers and sandwiches, including filet mignon/lobster. There is self-service free laundry on both but the Oceania one is light and bright compared to Azamara's. It was a challenge to get a machine on Azamara. Never a problem on Oceania for some reason. (On the Marina there are 5 self serve laundry rooms which are huge and bright, complete with sofa and TV!) We enjoyed both lines. My husband prefers the O ships (Marina and Riviera) to the R ships. But, that being said, we have a booking on Nautica for 28 days in the same C1 cabin. Hope this is helpful. Whatever you decide, have a wonderful cruise.
  12. Different airlines have different dimensions, which are specified on each carrier's website, for total length/width/depth including wheels. Many are smaller than the US standard carry-on size of 22 inches. As iancal mentioned, the biggest difference is that many international carriers impose a weight limit. I've encountered this several times (TAP, Alitalia, others) which has forced us to check a bag, instead of going carry on only which we can do on US carriers. They can request to weigh your bags if they look oversized. So you want to be sure that you have your meds, electronics, anything you can't afford to lose, in a bag that meets carry-on or personal item size requirements.
  13. Check out APT Tours. Found them from CC recommendations, and although we used them many years ago and had a great time, I see they are still around and well reviewed on TripAdvisor. https://www.aptours.it/
  14. Hi, The best info I have is what I posted in #207 above. I got all my help via online chat. They were super helpful to me. Especially since calling from NY to NZ wasn't in the budget. As I mentioned, for us, on our date in Yorkey's Knob, there was an option for the tour with pickup marked Cruise ship days only. The online chat person was able to see my order and work with me to get it right. He actually had to make some adjustments on his end IIRC (it was a while ago). It's around 8:30am there - I'm not sure when online chat opens, but be sure to use this website (the official one, not some tour agency - there are a few of those): https://www.skyrail.com.au/
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